Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review

The only iPad Pro competitor out there

null

Design and display

After Apple iPad Pro 10.5, Samsung has upgraded this year's Android tablet with a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display, erasing a noticeable amount of needless bezel around the screen.

Samsung has eliminated the physical home and capacitive navigation buttons on the front, allowing it more space for a bigger 10.5-inch super AMOLED display over last year's 9.7-inch. Like its phones, the tablet now gets an edge-to-edge treatment but it's not completely bezelless. 

The on-screen buttons work great, just like they do on the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, and the HDR display is punchy and bright.

The iris scanner that replaces the fingerprint sensor works fine if you’re in front of the tablet at a good angle. We were using pin code to unlock the device most of the time. But there's a lot more forgiveness here as you don't open up the tablet a lot of times in a day like your smartphone.

Holding the glass and metal Galaxy Tab S4 remains easy, even with slight bump in the dimensions that the Tab S3. Of course, the glass back is fragile and prone to smudges, you might want to buy the book cover keyboard case with it. 

If you are looking for a third party case, make sure it's not blocking the four-sided AKG-tuned speakers which sound great. 

Samsung’s new Daily Board software means that while the Tab S4 is an Android 2-in-1 tablet by day, it can turn into a photo gallery - and information-filled nightlight - by night. 

It displays the weather, time, and calendar at launch, along with a slideshow of your photos. Sadly, we found photos are currently limited to on-device pictures and it doesn’t connect to something we are more accustomed to, like Google Photos. 

Battery life and performance

The battery life on the Tab S4 is stellar. Its 7,300mAh battery capacity is a step up over the 6,000mAh battery we got in the Tab S3, and in this way it’s much better than an iPad.

In our on-screen battery test, we were able to run a 60-minute looped HD video with full brightness on WiFi and only experience a 10% battery drop. 

The Tab S4 supports Fast Charging, and our tests shows that it recovers 18% of its battery life (from 0%) in just 30 minutes. That’s a lower percentage than the S3, but keep in mind that this is a much bigger battery. 

So fast charging is confirmed and you’ll have a full all-day battery in 3 hours and 16 minutes from a fully depleted Tab S4. No surprise, that’s faster than iPad charge times, and thankfully, Samsung includes the fast charging equipment in the box.

Like we in the beginning of this review, the specs are just numbers in this case. The same applies for the 4GB of RAM. Samsung has always held back on the specs for its tablet, but the performance here is okay.

Something similar goes for the front camera as well, as your tablet camera usage is or should be limited. After all, you have to live in a society which will shun you if you're found clicking photos with a tablet. Especially, in public. 

There’s a 13MP camera on the back and an 8MP on the front. The rear camera records video in 4K and the front is at 1080p. 

The front camera is good enough for video calls, as long as the software allows for screen rotation. We have already mentioned our annoying experience while using Google Meet.

While other apps like Skype worked fine, it's still going to be difficult to convince your entire organisation to switch to the software which works well on YOUR tab.

Verdict

The 10.5-inch display, longer battery life and Dex make te Galaxy Tab S4 an upgrade over the Tab S3, but it comes with a higher price and big claims to do so much more. 

The core idea behind Samsung Dex for its desktop interface is likeable, but it still feels unfurnished because of the non-touch-friendly UI. Although we really liked the quality and form factor of the keyboard cover, it still felt cramped and we did miss a trackpad. The shift from a Mac or a Windows laptop to this keyboard isn't smooth either. 

As much as we like re-sizable app windows and a heaven-sent app dock and mouse support (Apple should learn from this), the software, including Google software, isn’t optimized well enough for this tablet.

However, Dex is a great blueprint for iPads and all the other Android tablets coming in the future.

We would like to see a more touch-friendly interface, a more naturally adaptable and intuitive keyboard with backlit keys.

First reviewed: November 2018