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Galaxy Tab S: The screen's the thing with this iPad rival

Blake Stimac | June 25, 2014
Samsung's tablet lineup can feel a bit crowded--it already offers Tab and Note devices, each with its own Pro version. And the Galaxy Tab S announced earlier this month adds another tablet to the mix. Good thing, then, that the Tab S 8.4 and 10.5 are among Samsung's best tablets yet.

The design of the Tab S line doesn't deviate much from the aesthetic of the Galaxy S5 smartphone, but Samsung introduced a few changes to provide a more premium look and feel. The same perforated plastic of the S5 adorns the back and provides decent grip. Colors are limited to Titanium Bronze or Shimmering White, and on both of them, the edges are lined in a copper metal finish. The end result really does make the tablets look like premium devices, and not like run-of-the-mill, cheap-looking Samsung hardware.

Rather than try to woo customers with hardware alone, Samsung has struck deals with content providers. From a free 3-month subscription to Marvel Unlimited to a year's worth of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, buying a Tab S gives you a wealth of content. Looking for a good magazine to read? Head over to Samsung's Paper Garden app, and you'll find some of Condé Nast's best offerings. GQ, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and other popular magazines can be found here, all of which look great on the high-resolution display. 

If you just want to curl up with a good ebook, Samsung has you covered here, too. Kindle for Samsung is a customized app for the Tab S, and not only brings you the massive ebook store from Amazon, but also one free ebook a month via Samsung Book Deals.

The software experience on the Tab S line isn't going to surprise anyone. The custom interface on Samsung's latest tablets is a tweaked TouchWiz, focusing on a magazine-like experience designed with larger screens in mind. The software is hardly perfect, and can lag a bit from time to time, though not often. Given the heavy customization in the user interface, the tablet's 3GB of RAM will likely be put to good use.

The Exynos 5 Octa processor powering the Tab S provides a snappy and fluid experience, though it's been known to be a bit of a battery hog at times. Luckily, even with the insanely bright display on these tablets, the battery sipped power gracefully when I was using either device. After about four hours of heavy use on the 8.4 inch Tab S, the 4,900 mAh battery had only gone down to 84 percent with the screen brightness cranked all the way up. Streaming HD video had an obvious impact on battery life, but nothing dramatically different from the competition. The 10.5-inch Tab S fared slightly better in similar use (it has a larger battery to accommodate its larger display)

The bottom line

The Tab S offers a double threat, first with its high-res Super AMOLED display and then with an incredibly thin profile. Add to fact that both the 8.4- and 10.5-inch versions are lighter than the iPad Mini and iPad Air, and Samsung's latest flagship tablets are bound to turn heads.


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