Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 User Review

* This device is a loaned review unit from Samsung Malaysia Electronics *

I was just thinking to myself that my hands are sufficiently itchy to get myself a new 8-incher tablet. I have been using the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 pretty much since it was available. There’s no real problem with it, really, but I just wanted a change.

Samsung has been crazy with their “gadget spam” and I almost was lost with what tablets they have in their portfolio – from Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8.0 and 10.1), Galaxy Tab 3 Lite (7″), Galaxy Tab 4 (7.0, 8.0 and  10.1), Galaxy Tab Pro (8.4, 10.1 and 12.2), Galaxy Note (8.0 and 10.1), Galaxy Note Pro (8.4, 10.1 and 12.2) and now the Galaxy Tab S (8.4 and 10.5). *phew*

See Also : Samsung launches Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8.4″ and 10.5″) tablets in Malaysia

Each series of tablet have slight variations and difference fom each other. If you’re not scrutinising the specs and feature list closely, you’d be rather confused with the actual difference between these devices. From Samsung’s point-of-view, their justification is that they have a tablet that suit every individual preference. Whether you like thin and light, you want better display, you just need an affordable tablet, a bigger or smaller screen, a powerful processor for heavy video watching, a longer battery life for day-long use; Samsung says there’s something for everyone.

The difference with this latest Samsung Galaxy Tab S series though, is that it’s their first Super AMOLED display tablet and it’s the thinnest and lightest in their current arsenal of tablets. Better display quality and thinnest for better portability.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwpfT9jtsMk

Just a quick refresher, here’s a high level technical specs overview of the Samsung GalaxyTab S 8.4″:-

  • 8.4” WQXGA Super AMOLED display (2560 x 1600)
  • 1.9 GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos 5 Octa processor
  • 16 GB internal storage (expandable microSD up to 128 GB) + 3 GB RAM
  • Powered by latest Android 4.4 “Kit Kat” OS (with Samsung TouchWiz UI)
  • 8 megapixel rear camera (with LED flash), 2.1 megapixel Full HD front facing camera
  • 6.6 mm thin, weighing only 298 grams
  • 4,900 mAH non-removable battery
  • Connectivity : 4G LTE/3G HSPA+, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, IR (Infrared) remote
  • Available in 2 colours : Titanium Bronze, Dazzling White

For more info, check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Malaysian Product Page at http://www.samsung.com/my/consumer/mobile-devices/tablet/tablet/SM-T705NZWAXME or the Galaxy Tab S microsite at http://www.samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxytabs/

When the folks from Samsung Malaysia contacted me to review the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4, I was honestly  quite excited. I was personally looking at upgrading my current tablet to the new Tab S. I’ve always much prefer the 8″ (or thereabouts) dimension than the bigger 10.1″ version tablets. Much more portable to pop in my handbag. The Super AMOLED display would be awesome for my video watching and the thin and light profile for a tablet is always sexy.

So, after using this tablet for a couple of weeks, here’s my honest to goodness lengthy review to see if the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 was a worthy replacement to my current Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.

 

Hardware – Design & Build Quality

My review unit didn’t come to me in the official box packaging, so I didn’t get to capture the unboxing and contents. I would assume you’d get the usual suspect of the tablet, the 3-pin power adapter charger and a USB to microUSB cable and the assortment of user manual and warranties.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 - Front & Back
Front and Back of the Galaxy Tab S 8.4

Just like with all Samsung tablets, the front and back profile looks just the same.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4  Dimpled back

Following the introduction of the dimpled back in their flagship smartphone, Samsung Galaxy S5, you see the same treatment here with the Tab S tablet. While it still  looks like the “band-aid” plaster most tech journalists complain about, the textured back does provide a good grip in your hand.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 - Top & Bottom
Top & Bottom

You have the front-facing 2.1 megapixel camera in the front, along with other ambient sensors and the speaker grille. The bottom houses the traditional Samsung physical “Home” button and capacitive “Back” and “Multitasking” button.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 - Hardware & Ports
Ports and Buttons around the Tab S 8.4

At 6.6 mm thin, the device certainly looks sleek and light at 298 grams.

Looking around the sides, you see a small speaker grill at the top and bottom left of the tablet.

The Power On/Off button is on the right, along with the volume rocker and also where all other buttons and most ports are. You see the tiny Infrared blaster in the middle (to configure as a remote control to your TV) and flaps for microSD and microSIM slots.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 - Flaps
Flaps to access microSIM and microSD slots

The headphone jack port and microUSB charging port is at the bottom.

Around the tablet, you see a nice, slim and premium looking aluminium band around the sides. In my white coloured tablet, this metal band looked more rose gold coloured, than a more predictable chrome colours. I actually like this rose gold treatment better.

Dots at the back for official case

I noticed 2 dots at the back,  right side of the tablet. I was initially confused with what this is. Until the helpful Samsung representative at the Samsung Experience Store explained to me that this is the magnet connector to the official smart casing for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S series tablets.

*Image Source : Gizmodo

He was also nice enough to demonstrate how the flip and book case snaps in place with these magnetic locks. Cool!

 

Hardware Comparison with Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 8
(Left) Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Right) Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4

Side by side with my Note 8, you’d notice that the Tab S 8.4 has lesser  rounded corners. The screen size is slightly bigger, of course (8.4″ vs 8″) but barely noticeable. The slimmer side bezel on the Tab S is much welcomed, giving the tablet a sleek and tall design and more premium and less clunky feel.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S - Thickness
Tab S is way thinner, of course

As the Tab S is the thinnest and lightest in Samsung’s current lineup of tablets, it’s no surprise that it looks much sleeker than my Note 8. Side-by-side, the Tab S does my my Note 8 look real chunky and old school.

 

Stunning Super AMOLED Display

The biggest selling point of the Tab S is the high resolution Super AMOLED display, clocking in at 2560 X 1600 resolution.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S vs Note 8 - screen resolution
Hands down way better pixel density and display quality

Side by side with my Note 8, visuals are sharper, clearer and much more impressive. Simple test of loading my websitee will show you that the Tab S loads a much better layout of my website than the low-res 1280 X 800 resolution on the Note 8’s TFT display screen.

No comparison!

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
Bright & Crisp display

The high res Super AMOLED display is hands down the best display screen in the market today. Not just for Samsung devices, but for all smart devices in the market from all manufacturers. Once you start getting used to Super AMOLED, you kinda can’t go back to any weaker display.

Samsung even did a campaign to test regular users on the vibrancy of their Super AMOLED display vs other screen quality. It’s true, you know – images on a Super AMOLED display does look way nicer.  Food look much more delicious and mouth watering, fur texture was softer, and everything else mentioned in the video above. Hehe.

There’s no other way to say this – the Super AMOLED display on the Tab S is absolutely stunning!

I am spoilt with the Super AMOLED display and really don’t wanna go back to my sub-par screen on my Note 8. 🙁

 

Software & Features Overview

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 runs on the latest Android 4.4 “KitKat” OS, with Samsung’s TouchWiz interface on top.

Tab S - Software
Sasmung TouchWiz on top of Android 4.4 OS

If you’ve used any Samsung devices before, you’d instantly be familiar with the user interface of the Tab S. However, because the Tab S is a tablet built for multimedia consumption, Samsung included a quick shortcut to “My Files” on the bottom left of the homescreen, which immediately launched the File Explorer to browse all pictures, videos,  documents and other files on the tablet, as well as connection synced to your cloud storage like Dropbox.

Tab S - Notification & Toggles

As pointed out before, when you pull down the Notification Shade, you gain access to the latest notifications and alers, along with toggles and shortcuts.

I always get overwhelmed by Samsung’s incredible addition of way too many toggle icons – way more than the typical Bluetooth, screen rotation, sound/vibrate, WiFi. Samsung has toggles for their features like Screen Mirroring (share your tablet screen with other Samsung devices), Smart Stay (screen timeout when you fall asleep while reading), Reading Mode (adjust screen brightness to be less strenuous on your eyes when reading), Download Booster (maximising mobile data and WiFi for uninterrupted & faster downloads) and much more.

In the Notification Shade, Samsung also added additional shortcuts for “S Finder” (Voice activated search) and “Quick Connect” to wasily search & connect to nearby devices for file sharing.

Tab S - Settings & Features
Settings where all features, bells & whistles can be managed
Tab S - Pre-installed App
A slew of pre0installed apps – some useful, some bloatware

One of my constant complains  about Samsung devices, be it tablets or smartphones, is that over the years Samsung has continuously added more features and functions to the device. They might be handy for some, but for the average Joe, most features are buried deep in the settings and usually never discovered.

Similarly with the Tab S,  all these features are present. It requires some digging, but you would be happy to see that it includes Hancom Office (MS Office viewer), “Private Mode” to manage a shared device and different user logins, “S Voice” voice assisted personal assistant ala Siri on iPhones and Google Now. Then there are a bunch of what I deemed as bloatwares like SideSync (connect & share files / screen between Samsung devices) which can easily be confused with Screen Mirroring and Quick Connect.

Tab S - Peel & RemoteTV
TV remotes, Remote PC

Then there’s some nice looking features like Peel Smart Remote which uses the Infrared port on the tablet as a remote control for your TV. And Remote PC that allows you to take over your PC desktop when you’re away from your desk. While all these can be handy to some, I don’t see these features being useful to majority of the users out there.

So, are they killer features that will make you decide that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S is a “MUST BUY”? Unfortunately, I think not.

Tab S - MyMagazine
MyMagazine – Samsung’s branded version of Flipboard

There are some slight changes to the MyMagazine pre-installed app (errr… feature). Previously, this is essentially a Samsung branded version of Flipboard, that allows you to manage yoru news articles and subscriptions. As more devices are released, MyMagazine became a lot more refined. Not only can you manage news and articles subscription, you also get quick glances of your Calendar appointments, notes and reminders, Emails and more. It’s looking more like HTC BlinkFeed.

Tab S - Galaxy Apps & Free magazines
Galaxy App & Free Magazine Subscriptions

In case you’re unaware, on top of Google Play Store, Samsung also includes their own App Store called “Galaxy App” in their devices. Here, you get to download some Samsung specific apps and updates, highlighted 3rd party apps as well as download free subscriptions of selected digital magazines that comes included with the purchase of the Tab S.

I was pleasantly surprised and thankful for the free editions of Businessweek and more. 🙂

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 in hand

There’s actually a “Fingerprint Scanner” feature embedded into the Galaxy Tab S. This was completely lost on me throughout my review, and only hit me after I returned the review unit.

Security is as easy as the simple swipe of a finger. The embedded sensor provides features, including ‘Lock & Unlock the Device’, ‘Replacing ID & P/W’, ‘Multi-User Mode Login’, and ‘Hiding Private contents’.

Technically, the screen can be used to scan your finger to enable enhanced security, especially if you use the tablet as a family shared device, ala “Living Room tablet”. You can technically control access for multi user and configure it to lock / unlock based on the programmed fingerprints and user access.

I was rather disappointed that I completely missed reviewing this feature. Although I chalk this down to unclear Marketing message (coupled with confusion on which Samsung tablet is which) and I got confused… :S

 

Camera & Image Quality

Samsung Galaxy Tab S - Rear Camera
8 megapixel shooter with Flash

Unlike my existing Note 8, the Tab S 8.4 comes with a good 8 megapixel rear camera with LED flash (there’s no flash on my Note 8). If it’s not stressed enough in society already, you really shouldn’t be using your tablet (even an 8-incher) to snap pictures.

While I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on the image quality of a tablet’s rear camera, the 8 megapixel lens on the Tab S performs well, as you would with other Samsung devices. Here are some sample pictures, unedited and not resized, so click to view original enlarged version.

 

Battery Life

In  my two weeks of using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4, I have been using it mostly to read my news subscriptions, catch up on my YouTube videos subscriptions. I also occasionally check my emails, social media feeds, but mostly it was used as a media consumption device. As most would with a tablet.

Tab S - Battery Life

 

Not that I expect any less, I am happy to report that I can easily last 18 – 20 hours of usage with the tablet on most days.

Unless there’s some heavy multimedia video viewing, the tablet consistently last a full day before it needs recharging.

 

Pricing & Availability

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 tablet has been available for sale since July 2014 for a Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of RM 1,699.

If you’re looking to get a telco plan alongside the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 :-

  • Maxis plans with device from RM 1,199 OR monthly fee from RM 30 / month HERE
  • U Mobile plans with device from RM 1,269 OR monthly fee from RM 60 / month HERE

 

Conclusion


I cannot get over the “gadget spam” strategy that Samsung has been implenenting with all  their smartphones and tablets lately. However, as of today, this Samsung Galaxy Tab S series with this 8.4″ and 10.5″ model has got to be sitting at the higher end of the spectrum for all their tablet range. The highest end would likely be their “PRO” series which has a more powerful processor and killer functionalities with the S Pen stylus.

In my honest opinion, it’s only a matter of time until every single one of  the tthousands of tablet models in Samsung’s portfolio will soon include the better Super AMOLED display, somehow get a thinner  profile, too and then you’re back to square one with the confusion of all the tablets again.

 

What I Like

  • High resolution Super AMOLED display
  • Thin, Light, Sleek and Sexy looking
  • Galaxy Gifts and Bundled FREEBIES like magazine subscriptions, cloud backup storage, etc

What I Dislike

  • Bloatware (apps & features) – too many confusing features with confusing names
  • Design – Same old look, similar dimpled back with the S5 smartphone
  • Fingerprint Scanner – that I didn’t even noticed or used

 

Nevertheless, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is a good device. The display screen is to-die-for. I see people likely buying this tablet just for this reason alone. The Super AMOLED screen makes you YouTube videos and downloaded videos look so much better on a small handheld size screen. Whether you’re catching up on a TV series while commuting, or watching a blockbuster movie on a plane, or reading the latest news feeds and articles or sharing your vacation pictures with friends and family – it’s like having a HDTV in your hands.

If you’re looking for a high end tablet that has a stunning screen to view your videos and pictures, look no further. Hands down, this is the best display on a tablet you can buy today. Super AMOLED display is undeniably the most stunning display on any smart devices.

 

For more info, visit Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Product Page at http://www.samsung.com/my/consumer/mobile-devices/tablet/tablet/SM-T705NZWAXME, visit Samsung Malaysia website at http://www.samsung.com/my/home and *LIKE* Samsung Mobile Malaysia Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/samsungmobilemalaysia

 

 

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