Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (9.7) 4G review: Samsung does a lot more with a lot less
A great tablet, but is it good enough to draw customers using an Apple iPad?
- 9.7-inch Super-AMOLED display
- Thin and light form factor
- Octa-core CPU
- Refined finger scanner
- Proficient 8-megapixel rear camera
- Aluminium chassis
- Lacking distinctive character
- Build not as premium as Apple's iPad
- Fewer hardware features, but still priced to compete against Apple's iPad
Price$ 749.00 (AUD)
Updated: This review was updated with battery results on 18 September, 2015.
Samsung has a stronghold over the smartphone space, but its grip on the tablet market isn’t as tight. That market belongs to Apple, and making a tablet as good as the iPad is not enough for customers to be lured across to Samsung — the Tab S2 has to be better.
The second generation Tab has more in common with Apple’s iPad than Samsung’s previous tablets. Compare it to last year’s Tab S and the Tab S2 will look less attractive in screen size, resolution and pixel density. You’d be forgiven for thinking Samsung has taken a step backwards.
Now its specs place it on par with Apple’s iPad Air 2, as the Samsung slate has a screen that spans 9.7-inches, a resolution of 2048x1536 and a density of 264 pixels-per-inch.
Method can be found behind this perceived regression. Screens demand the most from a tablet’s battery and last year’s display was good enough to rival premium televisions. Exercising some restraint with the Tab S2’s screen has allowed Samsung to use a smaller 5870 milliamp-hour battery, all the while still promoting the tablet’s ability to loop videos for twelve hours.
A smaller battery results in a tablet that weighs less. The Tab S2 weighs in at 389 grams for the Wi-Fi version and 392 grams for the LTE version. It is a thin 6mm and, with its metal chassis and a rear material that bears the texture of rubber, is an absolute delight to hold.
Noticeably separating the display of the Tab S2 from that of the iPad Air is the use of a Super-AMOLED panel. Organic light emitting diode (OLED) TVs are all the fuss in the television space because individual pixels can be switched on and off. A touch-capable version of this technology has been used in the Tab S2, and it reaps rewards for anyone interested in using a tablet for reading or watching media — particularly at night.
Reading the graphic novel Batman: The Long Halloween on the Tab S2 was an immersive experience. Other slates have a panel dedicated to shining light on every single pixel. This results in blacks — a colour distinguished by the absence of light — being well backlit, and it ultimately discounts the overall experience.Read more: Samsung takes a page from Apple's winning handbook with its Galaxy Tab S2
The graphic novel’s noir-style illustrations were rendered in a shade of black that was absolute. Outlines were exceedingly sharp, as was the lettering. Trying to discern the tablet from the dark bedroom was difficult because many of its pixels were switched off. Coloured pixels stood out prominently against the black canvass. The result is a tablet that shifts the attention away from itself and onto whatever it is you're reading, looking at or watching.
Speakers would flank the screen of the older Samsung tablet. Now stereo speakers have been relocated to the S2’s base, in an arrangement familiar to Apple’s iPad. The location of the speakers, along with the 4:3 aspect ratio of the screen, shifts the Tab S2 away from multimedia and towards productivity. It is better suited for browsing the Internet or checking emails.
Other changes place emphasises on its productivity focus. The omission of an IR blaster means it cannot be used to control a home entertainment system, while the 8 megapixel primary camera is no longer supported by an LED flash. These features are largely redundant anyway: use a smartphone for both causes, because this tablet has bigger ambitions, and Samsung is more intent on making sure these few ambitions are wholly realised.Read more: Sony Xperia Z5 Premium versus Samsung Galaxy Note5 - In photos
Software and hardware work together to make the Tab S2 both simple and sophisticated. It has ample RAM and a multi-core processor which, along with the Android 5.0 operating system, allows it to juggle applications with ease.
Premium Samsung handsets can minimise application windows — just like a PC — so that two or three apps can be used simultaneously. The feature never resonated on Note phablets because a 5.7-inch screen simply isn’t big enough, but here, with 9.7-inches, it downright excels. There’s enough screen real estate to perform two or three tasks simultaneously, and to do so comfortably.
Powering the tablet is an octa-core processor that is composed of a 1.9GHz quad-core CPU and another 1.3GHz quad-core CPU. Joining it is 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage and a microSD slot that’ll take cards up to 128-gigabytes in size.
This year’s processor appears to operate at the same capacity as last year’s model, while the RAM too has stagnated. Not that the Tab S2 is wanting for performance. It runs fast and brings to mind Intel’s core M processor — used in thin notebooks — because it finds a balance between operating speed and the longevity of its battery life.
Running 3DMark’s ice storm unlimited benchmarking software returned a strong score of 19,588. This puts Samsung’s tablet among the most powerful; however, the score is lesser than the 21,607 scored by Apple’s iPad Air 2 and the 24,651 scored by Sony’s Xperia Z4 Tablet.
The Tab S2 being reviewed by Good Gear Guide is the 32GB LTE variant. Equipped with a Telstra SIM in our North Sydney office, the tablet recorded a maximum download speed of 82.5Mbps and maxed its upload speed at 24.5Mbps.
Built into the enclosure is a non-removable 5870 milliamp-hour battery. The tablet will last approximately two days with conventional use — basic Internet browsing, gaming, and video playback. We’re currently performing a looping-video test and will update this review with the results.
Update: The results of our video looping test are in. We set the brightness to max and kept the Wi-Fi enabled as we looped a 1080p movie until the full battery ran flat. The Tab S2 ploughed on for an exceptional 10 hours and 33 minutes, which is significantly longer than the results of Sony's Xperia Z4 Tablet, although Sony's slate has a larger, higher screen resolution.
The biggest problem with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 is the ease with which it can be compared to Apple’s iPad. Older Galaxy tablets were undeniably Samsung. People who owned one would argue their Samsung tablet was better than an iPad until oxygen became scarce and their face boiled red. The people who buy this tablet won’t be able to argue anything because the two tablets are incredibly similar.
Levelling Apple’s iPad is a feat. Fortunately, there is another tablet on sale bristling with performance, innovative features and the kind of character that will turn the most passive of tablet owners into a loud advocate.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Google Daydream VR headset
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Lexar® Portable SSD
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Acer Swift 7
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Huawei Mate 9
Dell XPS 13 laptop
Surface Pro 4
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Oppo R9s Plus phone: Full, in-depth review
- 2 Samsung 2017 QLED Q7 TV: Full, in-depth review
- 3 HTC U Ultra phone full, in-depth review
- 4 Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen AM4 motherboard review
- 5 Venom Blackbook Zero 14 laptop review
Latest News Articles
- More iPad screen sizes unlikely to stop slump
- Samsung's Galaxy Tab S3 is like a giant Note7
- Cisco's Spark Board looks like an iPad -- and acts like one
- Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Tablet modules add features but limit functionality
- Slump continues as tablet markets records worst quarter since 2012
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- And the 2017 winner of the Formula 1 Best Pit Lane Boom Gantry is...
- Behind the scenes with Team Walkinshaw at V8 Supercars Melbourne 2017
- First look at the Formula 1 2017 pit lane in Melbourne, Australia
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTSocial Media ExecutiveNSW
- FTBusiness Development Manager -Wealth/Funds Management SoftwareVIC
- FTApplication Team Lead - ERP & Microsoft TechnologiesNSW
- CCWintel Engineers - NV1ACT
- FTSenior Java DeveloperQLD
- TPSenior Business AnalystQLD
- FTFull Stack Software DeveloperQLD
- CCPega TesterVIC
- FTSenior AGILE Business AnalystNSW
- FTMS Dynamics DevelopersNSW
- FTFull Stack Web DeveloperNSW
- CCSenior Developer - Oracle - TelcoVIC
- FTJunior-Mid Level Implementation CoordinatorQLD
- FTService Desk Consultant - Entry Level / GraduateNSW
- TPDigital Platforms ManagerVIC
- FTKey Account ManagerVIC
- FTDevops EngineerVIC
- FTSecurity Lead / ConsultantNSW
- FTInfrastructure EngineerNSW
- FTSenior C# Analyst Programmer, Product & MarketsNSW
- FTDatabase DeveloperVIC
- FT.Net Solutions DeveloperSA
- FTSeeking all Java Developers!VIC
- CCMicrostrategy DeveloperVIC
- FTInfrastructure ArchitectVIC