Samsung takes a page from Apple's winning handbook with its Galaxy Tab S2

Our first impressions of Samsung's 2015 flagship tablet

Many features are missing from Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2. This year’s model has a smaller screen, a lesser resolution and packs fewer pixels into each inch. The lack of an IR blaster means it can’t be used as a remote control, and night photos are likely to struggle with no flash. These were all features found in the original Tab S, and from over here, the year-old tablet might look like the better buy.

But that’s not the case.

Ditching the features we rarely use means the 2015 tablet only packs those that are relevant. Every part of this tablet focuses on meeting two specific needs: multimedia and productivity.

Mobility must’ve been a concern paramount to Samsung’s engineers. The 32GB, LTE Tab S2 we’re reviewing is thin at 6mm and weighs 392 grams, making it easier to carry than the iPad Air 2 and putting it on par with Sony’s Xperia Z4 Tablet.

Older Samsung slates had look-at-me designs that would compete against the Android OS for attention. The understated design of the Tab S2 differs by diverting eyes towards the display.

Last year’s model has a better screen, but the difference is small enough to be negligible. The Tab S2 formats a 2048x1536 resolution to a 9.7-inch screen. Each inch of the display packs 264 pixels, which is only 24 pixels shy of its predecessor.

The display specifications of Samsung’s tablet mirrors that of Apple’s iPad Air 2. The screens share the same size, the same aspect ratio, the same resolution and the same pixel density. Only one specification separates them and it is one that makes all the difference.

Beneath the Gorilla Glass coating is a Super-AMOLED display; screen technology that negates the need for a backlit panel because it can switch individual pixels on and off. A rivalling tablet shines enough light on black pixels for it to be used as a makeshift torch. The Tab S2 differs completely. Trying to figure out where it stops and the night starts is difficult. Press play on a Netflix video and everything in a darkened bedroom will go black, the tablet disappearing into the emptiness, sans for the red loading wheel leading up to video playback. Then it is followed by bold strokes of bright colours.

Screens rate among the most energy demanding features and a Super-AMOLED panel bodes well for economy. Following suit is the octa-core processor powering the slate, which alternates between two quad-core CPUs — one running at 1.9GHz and another at 1.3GHz — in an effort to balance performance with efficiency.

Joining the processor is 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage and a microSD slot that’ll take cards up to 128GB in size.

The Tab S2 has an 8MP rear camera and a 2.1MP front camera
The Tab S2 has an 8MP rear camera and a 2.1MP front camera

The battery in this tablet has dropped some capacity. Built into the tablet is a non-removable 5870 milliamp-hour battery. Samsung claims shaving power use from here-and-there allows the Tab S2 to playback video for 12 hours straight.

Holding the original Tab S back was its cumbersome TouchWiz software and a finger scanner best described as temperamental. Both of these shortcomings have been addressed.

Pricing for the Tab S2 competes against that of Apple’s iPad Air2. Often it undercuts everybody’s favourite tablet by twenty or thirty dollars, depending on the variant.

Making a tablet as good as Apple’s iPad won’t win customers over. The Tab S2 has to be better, and we endeavour to find that out in our upcoming review.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 pricing

9.7-inch model

  • Wi-Fi, 32GB – RRP $599
  • Wi-Fi and 4G, 32GB – RRP $749

8-inch model

  • Wi-Fi, 32GB – RRP $499
  • Wi-Fi and 4G, 32GB – RRP $649

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