Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review

This ultra-light Android tablet is an iPad challenger

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Our Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is an upgrade in size and name only. It has a thinner and lighter profile with a new 4:3 aspect ratio, but the specs bump is small and battery life is short.


  • Thinner, lighter design
  • New 4:3 display
  • microSD card slot


  • Small specs upgrade
  • So-so battery life
  • Camera is mediocre

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 arrived to take on the iPad, and while its spec sheet was more impressive, Apple's proposition still came out on top.

[Update: The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 may be rather long in the tooth now, but that means it can be had at a rather affordable price - it's dropped so low it's even made it into our best cheap tablets list!]

When I first wrote about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, my dad remarked of the news story, "So, I heard Samsung is making a new iPad?"

This perfectly sums up how average consumers view tablets as a product category. Apple now makes the Kleenex or, in the UK, Sellotape of tablets, and they're called iPads.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 doesn't do much to differentiate itself, aside from running Android, with two new screen sizes that match the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Prices were also identical, launching at $499 (£399, AU$599) for the 9.7-inch tablet, and $399 (£319, AU$499) for its 8-inch mini equivalent. However, you can find them on discount in the US starting at $399 and $299, respectively, and Samsung's devices start at 32GB of space, while Apple's entry-level models are still a paltry 16GB.

Meanwhile in the UK the Tab S2 models have managed to hold their launch prices pretty well.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 specs

Weight: 389g / 392g (LTE)
Dimensions: 237.3 x 169 x 5.6 mm
OS: Android 5.0.2 (upgrades to 6.0.1)
Screen size: 9.7-inch
Resolution: 1536 x 2048
CPU: Snapdragon 652
Storage: 32/64GB
MicroSD slot: Yes
Battery: 5,870mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 2.1MP

Regardless of the price changes, they're still a lot a like. It's really no wonder as to why there's mainstream confusion. Samsung and Apple are making phones that mirror each other more, if you look at the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7.

The good news is that, once I got to hold the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 in my hands, I discovered some differences that favor Samsung's new tablets, and a few that do not.

Weight, design, and software features make the new Galaxy Tab one of the best tablets to date, even though the slate looks like it's doing its best impression of an iPad, and isn't too different from previous Samsung tablets.


The Galaxy Tab S2 feels nicer to hold in two hands than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 and its sibling, the Galaxy Tab 8.4. In fact, it's now light enough to comfortably clutch in one hand.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review

Weighing just 389g for the 9.7-inch tablet and 265g for the 8-inch version, it sheds the extra weight of its Samsung tablet predecessors, and it's also noticeably lighter than Apple's entire iPad line.

That's a big deal, believe it or not, because holding the larger Tab S2 in its ideal position – in bed reading Flipboard while holding the tablet in the air – isn't a strain over long periods of time.

Similarly, if you throw this tablet in a backpack it feels like no extra weight has been added. It's easy to store and effortless to hold, even with its near-iPad dimensions.

The 9.7-inch version measures 237 x 169 x 5.6mm, and the 8-inch model 199 x 135 x 5.6mm, beating Apple's sub-pencil-thin thickness of 6.1mm.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review

The Samsung Tab S2 is lighter in part because it's backed by a soft-touch plastic cover instead of an aluminium shell. Metal edges outline the tablet instead of a plastic frame this time.

The entire device may not be metal, but it does feel smooth. It's better than the dimpled plastic of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, yet remains just as grippy.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Two small, springy buttons are embedded into the back of the Tab S2, but they're meant for clipping a cover onto the tablet and aren't releases to pop off the back. It's all sealed shut.

There is, however, a microSD card slot on the frame to optionally boost the 32GB and 64GB configurations with an additional 128GB of expandable storage.

Alongside this same rail are a solid-feeling power button and volume rocker. Stereo speakers, a headphone jack and an off-center micro USB port line the bottom of the tablet.

The Tab S2 has a physical, fingerprint-sensing home button in front with the usual oval shape, and two capacitive buttons on either side. These keys light up by default every time the display is touched.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

The beams of light are a bit distracting when scrolling and reading text near the bottom of the screen, and turning them off in settings doesn't help orient your fingers in the dark. This wider tablet isn't like a narrower phone, where you know the exact location of these keys.

The latest Galaxy Tab comes in three colors: Black, White and Gold. Gone are the fancy names like Dazzling White and Titanium Bronze, reflecting Samsung's minimalist design with this year's ultra-thin tablet.


Samsung has the best displays among smartphones with its Galaxy S6 and Note 5 handsets, and the same is mostly true of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review

It boasts a bright Super AMOLED screen with vivid colors and a 2,048 x 1,536 resolution that matches the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4. That's good, but not the best from Samsung.

The Galaxy Tab S slates had a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 with more pixels per inch. The Tab S2 is technically a step down, even if you can't notice at first glance.

What happened? While the S1 sported a narrow, movie-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio, the new Tab S2 is wider, with a letter paper-sized 4:3 aspect ratio. It's more suited for web browsing.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Samsung dialed back the resolution in its rejiggering of the screen, but that the pixel count shouldn't concern you as much as the aspect ratio, especially for widescreen movie watchers.

The Galaxy Tab S2 display is still really sharp and vibrant, but has a different objective that's bent on three things: web surfing, Flipboard reading and iPad rivaling.