Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is one of the two new tablets that the South Korean company launched last Friday, June 13, during the Samsung Galaxy Premiere 2014 event. And after giving you guys a quick preview of its exterior, we think its time familiarize ourselves with the other aspects of this 8.4-inch tablet in our full review.
Design and Construction
While most of the recent devices that Samsung released has a faux-leather posterior that started with the Galaxy Note 3, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 inherits the Modern Flash design concept of the Galaxy S5, as well as its perforated back panel. The tablet also has a Silver Metallic accent which adds a touch of class to what would otherwise be a plain-looking tablet.
The front of the tablet is almost all-screen, leaving Samsung with only a small real estate to put in other external components like the Fingerprint-Scanner-equipped Home button which is sandwiched in between two soft buttons, front-facing camera and a bunch of sensors placed just above the screen.
Although the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is mainly intended to be used in Portrait Mode, the placements of the buttons and ports, as well as the loudspeakers suggests otherwise. All the buttons, which includes the Power button, Volume rocker, as well as two slots for Micro-SD and Micro-SIM card are ideally placed on the right side of the tablet which can easily be accessed even when the tablet is in Landscape mode.
Meanwhile, the Micro-USB port and the Audio jack are situated at bottom portion of the tablet. Around the back is where you’ll find the tablets’ 8MP camera which is smacked right in the middle of the top section of the posterior and is neighbored by an LED flash. The only other thing worth mentioning in this area is the pair of circular perforations which are used to attach accessories like the Book Cover and Simple Cover to the tablet.
Around the back is where you’ll find the tablet’s 8MP camera which is smacked right in the middle of the top section of the posterior and is neighbored by an LED flash. The only other thing worth mentioning in this area is the pair of circular perforations accessories like the Book Cover and Simple Cover will latch on to.
Display and Multimedia
Both the Galaxy Tab S 8.4, and its 10.5-inch counterpart, are outfitted with a pixel-packed S-AMOLED display which has a 2560×1600 resolution. Call it overkill, but this has got to be one of the most gorgeous screens on a tablet we’ve ever laid our eyes on.
But it’s not just the sheer number of pixels that’s impressive about the GTS 8.4’s display, rather it’s the combination of various factors such as color accuracy, outstanding viewing angles and all the display tweaks that Samsung has added that creates that truly immersive viewing experience. Oh and that goes for both indoors and outdoors, thanks to the adjustments that Samsung made on the tablet’s display to automatically adapt to the current condition that the user is in.
As such, we think that the tablet will definitely appeal to movie buffs, as well as professionals such as graphics artist and photographers who require a mobile device that has the highest possible display quality.
Despite of its rather small size, the two tiny loudspeakers placed at the top-left and bottom-left portions (when the GTS 8.4 is upright) of the tablet can provide some serious sound output. The bass is not that pronounced and could definitely use a little bump, but the overall sound quality is better than most tablets that we’ve used in recent times.
OS, UI and Apps
As you would expect from flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 ships with Android Kitkat preinstalled. But since it’s a Samsung device, another thing you would’ve anticipated from the tablet is that it comes with a few bloatwares, not to mention the company’s proprietary UI that’s laid on top of Google’s latest OS.
The overall look and feel of the tablet’s UI deeply resembles that of the Galaxy S5 with a few subtle alterations to make it more tablet-friendly. Apart from a few Samsung bloatwares that most users would probably like to get rid of but can’t, the tablet is actually pretty bare which leaves more room in the tablet’s 16GB on-board storage.
Speaking of apps, one of the things that Samsung put emphasis on during the tablet’s official debut are additional apps that offer rich selection of contents that consumers wouldn’t normally get on other Android tablets. Sadly for us, some of those contents are not available locally, so instead we’re stuck with apps like Netflix and Paper Garden that we can’t use but can’t uninstall either.
Performance and Benchmark
One of the things that startled us during the launch of the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 was the company’s decision to use Snapdragon 800 for the LTE version of the tablet. I mean the processor is not by any means a push-over in terms of performance, but given the fact that newer and more powerful processors from Qualcomm are already starting to show up on other high-end devices, it’s rather peculiar why Samsung still went for the older chipset.
Well that’s water under the bridge, and even though they’ve used a slightly outdated SoC, we can’t really complain much with the performance we got out of its engine. The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 was able to breeze through anything that we’ve thrown its way and doesn’t even seem to break a single sweat when we tried playing games like Asphalt 8, GTA: San Andreas and Duels of the Planeswalker.
Quadrant Standard: 20,536
Vellamo: 2373 (Browser) / 1351 (Metal)
Just like the Galaxy S5, the GTS 8.4 is also equipped with a fingerprint scanner as an added security feature. Unfortunately, we think that there’s still a big room for improvement on the implementation side before we can even consider this as an actual feature rather than a nuisance.
As we pointed out on our review of the Galaxy S5, the built-in scanner is a little fiddly to use as it requires users to swipe the entire finger on to the sensor in order for the device to pick it up. To make matters worse, the swiping gesture needs to be painstakingly precise for it to work which causes most users to just dump the entire fingerprint authentication idea and just go for the much easier Password/Pattern method.
Tablets, in general, are not the first device you’ll pull out when you need to take a quick picture of something/someone. But if you really don’t have any other device with you other than your Galaxy Tab S 8.4, we’re glad to report that it can take impressive snaps thanks to its 8MP rear camera.
[fancygallery id=”100″ album=”104″]
Not only were the images we took have great detail and nice contrast, the autofocusing system of the tablet was also super quick and pretty spot on almost every single time. Furthermore, there’s also almost no noticeable lag time in between shots when we took sequential pictures which is another testament to the processor’s ability to handle these sort of tasks.
In addition to taking great pictures, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4’s 8MP rear camera also performed well in recording 1080p clips as seen in the sample video.
Connectivity and Call Quality
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is one of the rare tablets in the market (for now at least) that offers both 4G/LTE connectivity and full phone functionalities including text messaging and voice call. Although it’s rather awkward to use a tablet as big as this for taking/making calls without the use of a headset, the phone functionalities will certainly be a big plus for consumers who are looking for an all-in-one device.
Speaking of voice calls, we must say that although it’s not one of its main features (or at least not as heavily advertised as some of its other features), we didn’t have any issues placing or taking calls using this tablet. The voice calls are crisp and clear while SMS messages are sent and received promptly without delays.
During our Galaxy Tab S 8.4 vs iPad Mini 2 comparison, one of the few things that the iPad Mini 2 has an advantage over Sammy’s new tablet is the battery capacity.
To be honest, we were a little disappointed after knowing that Galaxy Tab S 8.4 only has a 4900mAh battery pack to boot, and we had a hard time believing Samsung’s claim that it can last up to 11 hours on a single full charge when used to play 1080p clips.
So in order to see if there’s any truth to their claim, we fully-charged the tablet and looped a video with 2K resolution for as long as we could, and below is the screenshot of how long it took for the battery to reach 6% from a 100% state:
File Type: MP4
Display Brightness: 50%
Audio Level: 0%
Device State: Airplane Mode
Result: 8 Hours, 20 Minutes and 6 Seconds
Yes, it’s not the claimed 11 hours that Samsung was boasting during the Galaxy Premiere 2014, but do note that the movie we played was not 1080p but 2K, which means that our mileage could’ve been longer if the file was only Full-HD.
True enough, the battery did last longer when we played a 1080p contents on it. Using the same test parameters we averaged around 12-13 hours on single full charge, and while we’re at it we also tried replicating other things that consumers usually do on their tablet and measured how long it’ll take for the battery for the battery to give in. Here are the results we got.
1080p Movie Playback: 12 Hours and 30 Minutes
Gaming (Asphalt 8): 5 Hours and 50 Minutes
4G/LTE Wireless Tethering: 9 Hours
Watching Videos on YouTube over 4G/LTE: 6 Hours and 30 Minutes
*Note: The values listed above are only extrapolations of the actual time it took for battery level to drop by 10% while performing the test. As an example, we got 5:50 on Gaming by multiplying the duration in which the battery level to drop down to 90% (35 minutes) by 10.
Truth be told, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 doesn’t actually differ much from the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 which the company unveiled back in January of this year. In fact, the only three differences between the two tablets are the display type, the materials used on the back panel, and the fact that Samsung has shaven some of the excess fats on their new slate to make it thinner and lighter.
This begs the question why the South Korean firm still felt the need to release another tablet with a near-identical specifications as the last one just five months later.
But regardless of what the folks over at Samsung might be thinking, it doesn’t change the fact that the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is the complete package. There’s not a lot of things that we can complain about the tablet; its got marvelous display, its engine performs well even under heavy pressure, the camera is great and, to top it all up, the battery life is very impressive.
Needless to say, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is a keeper. The only question now is how much will Samsung Electronics Philippines retail this bad boy in the local market, but considering that it has almost the same configuration as the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, we guess that it’ll be retailed for around Php19,000 – Php21,000.
What we liked about it:
* Thin and light form factor
* Crisp and vibrant display with 2K resolution
* Impressive sound output
* Respectable cameras and autofocus performance
* Impressive processing performance
* Long battery life
What we didn’t like about it:
* Same old, boring design
* Slightly outdated chipset
* Somewhat clunky Fingerprint Scanner
* Some features/apps are not available locally