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Featured Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4

July 26, 2014 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Since their very first Android tablet, the Galaxy Tab 7-inch, Samsung has been using LCD panels on their tablets. The Galaxy Tab had an AMOLED panel, and it took a little while, but Super AMOLED is finally available in a couple of their tablets. The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and 10.5. Today we’ll be reviewing the Galaxy Tab S 8.4, which this is the white version, with the gold trim. It’s a bit different from the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 which Samsung announced earlier this year at CES, but how does it compare to their other 8-inch tablets? Well that’s what we are going to find out today.

Specs

  • 8.4-inch 2560×1600 Super AMOLED Display
  • Exynos 5 Octa (1.9GHz quad-core and a 1.3GHz quad-core processor)
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 16GB/32GB of storage with a microSD card slot inside
  • 8MP camera on the back
  • 2MP front-facing shooter
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • 4900mAh battery
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat with Touchwiz Magazine UX

Hardware

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The internals of the Galaxy Tab S are more or less the same as the Galaxy Tab PRO and Note PRO that was announced earlier this year. But there are a few changes on the outside. One is the back. Instead of having a faux leather back, we’ve got the same back as we had on the Galaxy S5. However, this back isn’t as grippy as the back of the Galaxy S5, at least the white Galaxy Tab S compared to the black Galaxy S5. Then there’s the gold trim along the sides, which I think is tacky personally, although the black one with gold trim looks worse. Even the Samsung logo on the back is gold, surprisingly. Otherwise the build is identical to almost any other Samsung tablet.

We’ve got speakers on the top and bottom, power, volume rocker, IR blaster, and microSD card slot on the right side, with nothing on the left side. The bottom houses the micro USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. On the back we’ve got the 8MP camera with flash. While the front has the 2.1MP front-facing shooter, home button and capacitive recents and back buttons.

Display

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Many of you know that I’m not a big fan of AMOLED displays, and the biggest reason is something that’s now fixed. Which was the fact that you really couldn’t see the display outdoors. Now it’s still difficult, but much easier since the Galaxy Note 3 was released. But I do have to say that taking this outside to take pictures of was much easier than with other tablets using a LCD or IPS display. Which is definitely nice to see that there are no shadows when taking pictures of this thing.

I also noticed that the display seems to have a lower dpi than most other devices, as apps like Google+ looked super small on the display. Now this wasn’t the case on the Galaxy Tab PRO 10.1, so I’m wondering if it’s something with the Super AMOLED display.

Performance

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After using the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition and the Galaxy TabPRO 10.1 last year and earlier this year respectively, I noticed a bit of lag on the lock screen. Which I attributed to either the Exynos 5 processor or Touchwiz, or both. Seeing as the Galaxy TabPRO 12.2 with a Snapdragon 800 inside didn’t have that lag. Now what is interesting is that the Galaxy Tab S has an Exynos 5 processor, but does not have that lag. Although I’m not going to question it, I’m just glad it’s gone. Now when you hit the home button or power button, it turns on almost instantly.

Otherwise, performance has been pretty top notch for me. Playing games, I didn’t have any issues either. Never ran out of RAM either, which that hasn’t been a problem since the Galaxy Nexus for me, because of how well Android handles RAM now.

Eye Candy

Software

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There are a few changes to the software on the Galaxy Tab S compared to some of the other tablets that Samsung has released this year. But for the most part it’s the same as we’ve seen on many other Samsung devices. On the home screen you’ve got the app drawer icon in the bottom right corner, page indicator in the center, and a File Manager shortcut in the lower left corner. On the left side of the home screen is the magazine UX which is on the Galaxy TabPRO and Note PRO tablets, which I actually really liked. Although I wish it had a bit more customization available, especially with the widgets. The App Drawer is also the same, except they’ve removed widgets. So that’s brought up with a long-press on the homescreen now.

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Papergarden is one of the new features in the Galaxy Tab S. Which is basically their own Magazine service. Now they do give you plenty of magazines for free for buying the Galaxy Tab S. Including Elle Decor, HGTV Magazine, Marie Claire, Popular Mechanics, House Beautiful, Dr. Oz the Good Life, ELLE, Food Network Magazine, Good Housekeeping and more. You can easily buy a magazine for your “library” and it will download the issue pretty quickly and open in the viewer pretty quick as well. You can also use the action bar to jump to the table of contents for the magazine. Browsing through the magazine is pretty quick as well which is nice.

The Gallery also seems to much snappier than before. Many of you know that on other Samsung devices the Gallery used to be super slow. However now it seems to be pretty fast, I’d say almost instant actually. Otherwise there’s not much changes in the software compared to the other Samsung devices out there. However, be sure to register your Galaxy Tab S as there are plenty of Galaxy Gifts that you can take advantage of. Including some free Dropbox space, and some premium features from Stitcher.

Camera

We’ve got a 8MP camera on here, and I used it while I was at the Riverwalk last week. It actually brought out some nice pictures, although I’d still say no to those wanting to use a tablet for pictures. But it’s there, and it works well. You can check out some of the pictures down below.

Benchmarks

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As we always do, we ran AnTuTu Benchmark on the Galaxy Tab S, which is shown above for those interested.

Battery Life

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As a disclaimer, the results shown above were when using the Galaxy Tab S on Auto Brightness with a lot of video watching. And it did last quite a while, actually, even though Google Search kept it awake for a good bit.

The Good

  • Display: It’s a beautiful Super AMOLED display, 2560×1600 resolution definitely does it justice.
  • Battery Life: It’s about what we expected from a tablet. It’s great for media consumption as well.
  • Portability: The 8.4-inch version is super portable which is great for those that carry their tablet everywhere.

The Bad

  • Colors: I’m really not a fan of the gold trim on these tablets. Now I might be alone here, but that’s my opinion.
  • The Back: I would have rathered Samsung stick with the faux leather for the Galaxy Tab S. I think it feels much better in the hand.

TL;DR

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If you’re looking for a nice, light-weight tablet with an amazing display – especially if you love Super AMOLED displays – then you’re going to love the Galaxy Tab S. And I think it’s priced perfectly, with the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 at $399 and the 10.5-inch at $499. There are LTE versions coming to AT&T and likely other carriers, but no release dates just yet.