The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 offers the best screen, specs, and versatility in the segment while simultaneously moving the bar in terms of tablet design, thus being 2018's best slate.
Tablets have been losing momentum for several years now, according to every major industry tracker, but the consumer electronics industry is still delivering some excellent products in this category. This year has been no different, so a choice of the absolute best tablet launched in the last twelve months has been anything but easy. Still, Android Headlines considered every new release through the prism of hardware, software, and the overall user experience on offer, ultimately concluding as follows:
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
Samsung's tablets efforts have been consolidating in recent years, with the company now being focused on a relatively small number of devices, including its ultra-premium Galaxy Tab series. The newest addition to the thereof — the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 — is also arguably the best tablet released over the course of this year, featuring high-end specifications, an ultra-premium build, and an excellent software experience, as well as a wide variety of unique features which not only make it stand out from the competition but allow it to rival some laptops.
The 16:10 aspect ratio of the slate makes it particularly suitable to a productivity-oriented workflow, with its 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display with a QHD+ resolution being undoubtedly the best tablet screen in the history of the industry. The Galaxy Tab S4 also offers a best-in-class audio experience thanks to its four stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support manufactured and optimized by AKG, Samsung's Austrian subsidiary. The overall look of the slate is also synonymous with quality, being characterized by slim bezels and a metal-and-glass build which builds into the overall flagship experience Samsung created.
The Galaxy Tab S4 is just part of Samsung's latest high-end tablet equation – the device ships with a new S Pen stylus and is also compatible with a Book Cover Keyboard which turns it into something more akin to a highly portable laptop. This 2-in-1 concept allows the Galaxy Tab S4 to compete with hybrids such as Microsoft's Surface Pro and Surface Book lines, as well as Apple's iPads, Chromebooks, and even Windows laptops, depending on your computing needs. Coupled with the Samsung Desktop Experience (DeX) built into the Galaxy Tab S4, this is by far the most productivity-friendly Android tablet on the market which can be connected to an external monitor, keyboard, mouse, and even function as a trackpad while projecting an image to another display. The S Pen takes things to the next level by allowing you to take notes on the go by scribbling on your lock screen, translate documents in real-time, edit images with extra precision, and perform a broad range of other actions. Consumers looking to get the absolute most out of the Galaxy Tab S4 can also pair it with a new POGO charging dock which turns it into a somewhat capable smart display while charging it.
Naturally, the inherent downside of that accessory-enabled versatility offered by the Galaxy Tab S4 is the price attached to the slate and its accompanying gadgets, though the absolute best consumer electronics are never the most affordable or value-oriented products one can purchase. That doesn't take away from how impressive the overall package is, especially the LTE model Samsung is now selling on a global level; by offering top-of-the-line specs, a high-quality build, the best screen on the market, and a broad range of functionalities that you can't get anywhere else, The Galaxy Tab S4 is the obvious choice for the best tablet of the year, Android or otherwise. The sheer versatility of Google's operating system coupled with Samsung's software allows you to run virtually any app on the Play Store and use the Galaxy Tab S4 as a tablet, laptop, desktop computer, home entertainment hub, intelligent note-taking tool, sketchbook, portable gaming console, and everything in between. That adaptability alone is enough for this Samsung-made device to receive a glowing recommendation, and that's not even accounting for its best-in-class specifications — including an impressive 7,300mAh battery — that will make light work of any gaming or productivity task.
Runner-up: Huawei MediaPad M5
Huawei has been making waves on a wide variety of industry fronts in recent years and is now also the manufacturer behind some of today's best tablets. This year's MediaPad M5 lineup is a perfect example of that excellence, particularly the smaller, 8.4-inch model that covers all basic entertainment and productivity fronts while simultaneously being relatively affordable and highly reliable. Its QHD+ display uses the same aspect ratio as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 but is slightly smaller, consequently allowing for better battery life supported by fast charging capabilities.
Huawei also spared no expense when it comes to the build of the MediaPad M5 8 which is a metal affair that manages to be both sturdy and rather lightweight, tipping the scales at just 316g, or about 75-percent of the Galaxy Tab S4's weight. A built-in desktop experience is also part of the package, together with a wide variety of artificial intelligence technologies that handle everything from battery management to gaming performance optimizations. The larger Pro model even comes with POGO connectors and support for a first-party keyboard, as well as Huawei's own stylus, which make the series capable of competing with Samsung's latest flagship offering on the versatility front. In fact, consistency is the only thing that makes the MediaPad M5 line a runner-up to the Galaxy Tab S4 series but that was to be expected seeing how Samsung has been in the tablet game for longer and hence had more time to tweak its hardware and software to perfection. However, Huawei is catching up and is doing so in a seemingly swift manner, so while it may have failed to deliver the absolute best tablet of 2018 with the MediaPad M5 10, it certainly created the best-value one in the MediaPad M5 8, which is an impressive feat considering that this is still a flagship device with premium specifications. In overall, if a lack of a 3.5mm connector and occasionally inconsistent software are something you can live with, Huawei's solution is certainly a great alternative to the pricier Galaxy Tab S4 and one that's well-deserving of this year's runner-up award.