Samsung Galaxy Tab S: Australian Hands-On

Samsung has a lot of tablets. Like, a lot. Some are for reading, some for writing, others are just for kids, but there isn’t a Samsung tablet that looks, feels like a next-gen, flagship, premium device. That is, until now. This is the Galaxy Tab S: Samsung’s new pride and joy.

The Tab S is meant to be the best-looking, highest-spec and most fully-featured tablet in Samsung’s diverse tablet line-up. It takes its design cues from the Galaxy S5, features specs that put some laptops to shame, and has enough added extras to keep even the toughest customer happy.


Under the hood, the Galaxy Tab S is well-stocked. You’ve got Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa processor, which packs in two processors: a quad-core 1.9GHz processor, as well as a 1.3GHz quad-core processor. That’s backed up with 3GB of RAM for speed. Speaking of speed, you also get Wi-Fi 802.11ac support, and Samsung’s fast MiMo (Multiple In, Multiple Out) antenna for faster download and upload speeds.

It also comes in 16GB and 32GB storage variants, with expandable storage via a MicroSD card. The rear-facing camera comes in at 8-megapixels, while the front-facing camera is 2.1 megapixels. The Galaxy Tab S comes in two sizes: a 10.5-inch and 8.4-inch model, and both run Android 4.4.

Design & Accessories


Samsung really wants to make Galaxy Tab S look like a house you’d see on Grand Designs. Rather than just paint it black, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S combines a black metallic spray with a rose gold accent to create what it calls Titanium Bronze. The white colour is also a mix between the silver and rose gold metallic accents to create an iridescent effect that shimmers in the light, hence it’s called Dazzling White.

With every new tablet comes a new range of accessories, and the Tab S is no exception. There’s a Book Cover which has three ergonomic modes: viewing mode, touch mode and typing mode. Each has a different lean angle.

Those new cases are gorgeous, making the whole tablet look like a sleek notebook you’d carry into a meeting with you. The unfortunate thing is how those cases connect to the Tab S.

In a bid to move away from magnets (how do they work?), Samsung has jimmied-up a fancy rivet design on the bottom of the tablet. Those rivets correspond to clips on the case which press into the tablet and firmly snap the device into place. The case won’t budge from the rivet attachments while it’s in use, but removing said case means brutalising your tablet in the worst possible way. You have to tear the two apart with such force that by the time the two separate, you think you’ve cracked something expensive.

My mother always told me that if it’s that difficult, you’re probably doing it wrong. Detaching the case from the tablet requires entirely too much force, and it makes a noise like you’ve snapped the plastic back case in half. It really makes you wonder: what was wrong with soft, friendly magnets?

If weird rivets aren’t your thing there’s also a Bluetooth keyboard cover. Samsung has taken a few lessons from Asus and its Transformer Pad line-up with this one, only with one crucial difference: there’s a piece of stabilising material that sits behind the tablet, meaning the thing isn’t about to tip over like some top-heavy acrobat.


The only real issue there is that the tablet doesn’t actually physically clip into the keyboard cover, it just sort of rests in there, meaning you’ve only got one angle of adjustment. That means so-called lapability is out the window here: it’s desk-use or bust.

Display & Extras

But enough about accessories. You won’t care about how good they are when you clap your peepers on the 2560×1600 SuperAMOLED panel. Samsung has been doing some tweaking behind the scenes with its screen tech, and beefed up the Adaptive Display capabilities of the Tab S to make it better to read in different lighting conditions.

Adaptive Display matches the screen to suit the ambient light in the scene around you. It also adjusts more than brightness, taking care of colour, saturation and sharpness. The sensor can read a yellow light above you in a cafe for example and optimise the screen to make reading it more comfortable for your eyes. There are three pre-set screen modes which allow users to choose different viewing modes: AMOLED Cinema, AMOLED Photo and Basic. Higher contrast ratio and 20 per cent more colour than the original TFT LCD screen.

It’s not only high-res with gorgeous colour reproduction and smart switching modes, it’s just about bright enough to light a small city.

Samsung is also throwing in some new software with the Tab S to make your life easier, including a new version of SideSync. You could be forgiven for not having heard of SideSync before, but it’s a fancy little feature that lets you open up your Galaxy smartphone within an application on your PC. Everything is emulated perfectly from your phone to the PC, and it allows you to access your information across both devices on the one screen and transfer information as required. SideSync 3.0 brings the software to tablets, meaning you can emulate your Galaxy S5 in a floating window on your Tab S so you only have to use the one devices. All your text messages and phone calls are forwarded to the tablet when SideSync is in use, and it all works over Wi-Fi Direct. So there’s that.

Samsung is also opening its own magazine marketplace called PaperGarden. It has partnered with Conde Nast and other trendy magazine companies to bring their content to Samsung’s new premium tablets. Right now it only suppoerts the UK, US, Brazil and Korea, but Australia should be coming soon. The success of PaperGarden will hinge on the prices it offers not just for domestic subscriptions, but also international magazines. Actually, come to think of it, what was wrong with Zinio?

You’ll also get a load of freebies with the Tab S, including a three-month subscription to Marvel Comics Unlimited, LinkedIn Premium, Wall Street Journal and Evernote. The Tab S will also get the Samsung free stuff given away with the 12-inch Tab Pro tablets.

The Tab S is landing in the US in July, and probably will hit Aussie shores at the same time. Take that, shipping delays. No word on Australian prices yet, but the 16GB version will run you $US399 for the 8.4-inch model, while the 10.5-inch Tab S will cost just $100 extra at $US499.

Luke Hopewell travelled to New York as a guest of Samsung Australia.

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