Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review

The only iPad Pro competitor out there

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Our Verdict

The Galaxy Tab S4 is an attempt to push Android tablets to the next level with 2-in-1 desktop-like software, and while it's what we want to see from even the iPad, the idea doesn't automatically make it the best tablet. It has a premium price tag, the touchscreen response needs work in Dex mode, and too many apps aren't optimized.

For

  • PC desktop-like Dex interface
  • Comes with the S Pen stylus
  • Large 10.5-inch screen

Against

  • Dex touchscreen detection is off
  • Keyboard design is unintuitive
  • Expensive for what it delivers

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is the only Android tablet that can be labeled as a true 2-in-1 that serves as a tablet and offers laptop-like mobility. Notably, it's not as affordable as other Android tablets in the market either, reason being its high-end hardware and abundance of productivity features. 

But it still costs as much as Apple iPad, which is considered to be the best productivity tablet around. Precisely, it takes on the iPad Pro 10.5 with a bundled S Pen stylus, 64GB inbuilt storage and 4GB of RAM. All this comes at a premium cost of Rs 57,900. 

The key selling points over the iPad here is the bundled S Pen (Apple Pencil is sold separately) and the option for memory expansion using a microSD card. Additionally, the new built-in Dex mode, which mimics a desktop interface and has second-screen capabilities. Samsung has done a fine job at putting this laptop-like mode with re-sizable windows, system tray and task bar without adding any bulk to the software. 

Although it's an useful feature, the Dex still feels like work in progress. For instance, the touch interface isn't as touch-friendly, and for laptop like operations you need to invest in the optional keyboard cover which does not have a trackpad. You need to pair a Bluetooth mouse to navigate through the Dex interface. 

The specs lie a little bit: it actually doesn't matter that the tablet is underpowered on paper with an early 2017 chipset that’s easily outpaced by Apple’s laptop-rivaling chip speeds.

Anyhow, the truth is our biggest issue with all tablets has little to do with stagnant specs and hardware performance. It’s that they’re always confined by restrictive mobile-first apps and interfaces. Samsung Dex tries to make good on that 2-in-1 promise with a real system dock so you can quickly switch between apps like on a laptop.

They may not be refined but the Tab S4 introduces a lot of futuristic ideas that look like heading to the right direction. Since we don't have the Microsoft Surface Go or  Chromebooks in India, Samsung still has a huge market to tap in. But is it worth the asking price?

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 release date and price

The Galaxy Tab S4 is launched at a price of Rs 57,900 and will be available from October 18, 2018 onwards in Black and Gray colors on Samsung Online Shop and  leading offline retail stores. It will also be available on Amazon, online exclusive partner from October 20, 2018 onwards.

As an introductory offer, you can buy the device and get Rs 5000 cashback on HDFC Bank Credit Cards, and EMI on HDFC Bank Debit Cards and Consumer Durable Loans.

Galaxy Tab S4 customers on Jio 4G, would be entitled to get instant cashback of Rs 2,750 on recharging with Rs 198 or Rs 299 plan. They would also get double data benefits on every recharge for the next 4 recharges, giving them the freedom to enjoy streaming cricket, music, video and much more.

Samsung Dex, Android and apps

Samsung’s new built-in Dex mode is a hit and a miss. It transforms the normal Android look into a desktop-like interface. Meaning, apps are left-aligned (like on a Windows PC), clicking on an app opens re-sizable windows, and there’s an app dock and system tray at the bottom to flip between open apps and configure all sorts of quick settings.

Ideally, all of this should work seamlessly on a 10.5-inch display, but the experience tells a different story. Resizing app windows and touch detection is a bit off. It makes simple tasks like tapping the close button (X) in the top right corner bit of a chore. 

It's simple, you either need the S Pen or a Bluetooth mouse to operate the Dex mode without an issue. Samsung’s core software works fine, but apps as popular (and as standard) as ones from Google should work without crashing. Google Docs crashed several times while we wrote this review on the Tab S4.

Another issue we faced while using Hangouts Meet is that we’re sideways to everyone else whenever the Tab S4 is in landscape mode and docked on the Book Cover Keyboard. The simplest fix is to turn the tablet to right ourselves, but then it turns other people on the call sideways on the screen. 

We did connect a Bluetooth mouse to get the best out of productivity, and to be honest, it worked well in both Dex and normal modes. However, it's not ideal on a commute or at a tight space. 

The idea behind the Dex mode is really cool, but Samsung has to work on fixing the design flaws to get better to let its users make most out of the productivity features available. 

S Pen and Book Keyboard Cover

As a standalone tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is a fine experience. But the moment it docks with the optional Book Keyboard Cover, things get messy even though the setup looks like a dream. Especially for those who work on the go. 

Given the size size of the tablet, the keyboard feels slightly cramped until you get used to it. It isn't backlit either, which means you have to use the light from the display in darker conditions. 

The layout is slightly different from Mac and Windows keyboard. We advise you to invest in the keyboard only if you have tried it and are ready to deal with the learning curve involved. 

Samsung includes a tablet-appropriate S Pen (larger than the Note smartphone S Pen), and this one is more rounded and feels more natural to hold than last year’s Tab S3 pen. 

There’s a tiny metal protrusion in the middle of the stylus to prevent it from rolling away. There’s also a stylus holster that clips onto Samsung’s keyboard and it requires no charging whatsoever to use.

This contrasts really well with the Apple Pencil, which does require charging, has no holster on the iPad keyboard, and rolls away each and every time we set it on a table.

S Pen functionality is typical of a Samsung tablet or Note phone. You can draw, jot down notes, annotate screenshots, translate text, and new this year (on the tablet at least) is the ability to send Live Messages. 

Sadly, the Air Commands (shortcuts to use these features) don’t work in Dex mode.