Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is absolutely gorgeous. But it’s made me realise bigger isn’t always better. Instead of fully immersing myself in the tablet, I constantly considered if it would just lay unusable to anyone who doesn’t use tablets like they would a laptop or second screen.
To be fair, it was the exact same problem I faced with the (nearly) 13-inch Apple iPad Pro last year – it’s great, but you would use it as a laptop replacement, not a larger version of your phone.
I only had the tablet for a few days while I was on the ground in Korea for Samsung Galaxy Unpacked, but I sure did put it through its paces. Here are my thoughts.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra was announced at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event last week. The screen is a whopping 14.6-inches (the MacBook Pro I’m typing on now is 14-inch, and it’s plenty big enough). The screen is a gorgeous Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with adaptive refresh rate of 60~120Hz. While it’s big, it’s not overly heavy, weighing it at 737g for the model I’m using (5G-enabled vs just Wi-Fi).
It’s got some guts. The Tab S9 Ultra packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processor and it’s basically to blame for how fast this thing is.
When I unboxed the tablet, I was sitting on the bed with my legs crossed, leaning against my pillows. I had to lean forward and rest the Tab S9 Ultra flat on the bed to navigate through setup, as the tablet was just too big/heavy to hold in my left hand while I used the right to move through the options. But, this is all forgiven when I look at it through the lens of it being a second screen, not as a tablet I can sit on the lounge with at night and doodle on.
The nature of my job requires a lot of typing (obviously) and while the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra does have a Book Cover Keyboard accessory, when you type a lot, no matter how hard I’ve tried, nothing beats a sturdy, actual laptop. That’s really why I decided if I were to get the S9 Ultra, it would be used as a second screen. If only an Apple laptop allowed it….
But, I did use it for my team’s morning meeting and the camera quality was great. Crystal clear and quite a nice way to step away from the laptop for a minute. While I can’t show you what I used it for, it was similar to how I use the Google Pixel Tablet at home – monitoring website traffic/watching the Twitter (sorry, X) feed roll by. I also used it for Spotify. If you use a Windows machine, however, you’re going to have a much better time, using features like ‘Second Screen’ to mirror or extend the PC screen to tablet.
Aside from its partnership with Microsoft, keeping things in the Samsung walled garden is also going to up the productivity factor (if that’s what you’re into). When the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is connected to other eligible devices (such as Samsung phones), you can use something called ‘Multi Control’, which will allow you to copy+paste or drag text/images between devices. The sectioned experience I had using the tablet as a second screen would become much more frictionless.
So does how you use it
That’s just one use I found for the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra, the other is for memory-heavy workloads like video, graphics, gaming. The main thing I use my iPad Air for is drawing. Procreate is to blame for 95 per cent of my screen time. So, I wanted to see how the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra can handle stuff real artists would throw at it.
Of course, I am not a real artist so I can’t speak for you if you are one, but I spent a decent amount of time doodling. I wouldn’t say the S Pen feels as good as the Apple Pencil, the tip is a bit less sturdy, but I think that comes down to just being not used to something, rather than it being bad.
GoodNotes’ note-taking and journaling experience is available on the S9 Ultra (on Android for the first time), video editing app LumaFusion, Clip Studio Paint, and ArcSite have also all been optimised for the Galaxy Tab S9 series. If I had more time, I would’ve explored these apps a little more, but if what I did do on the tablet is any indication, the guts of the S9 Ultra is going to be more than capable for what you need.
It’s not just making content, however, watching content is also incredible on the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra. YouTube/streaming anything was rendered beautifully, and while the screen can be pushed up to a brightness I’m content with, the in-built speakers are also sufficient. I was limited to a hotel room, so can’t tell you how far the sound will travel, but laying on the bed with the tablet perched against the bedside table, I was a happy little Vegemite.
Given the processor, and the quality of the graphics, you could easily game on this thing – you’d just need to have it perched appropriately. Fake nails meant this wasn’t the best for me (touchscreen laptops are practically unusable), but the beauty of a tablet is everyone uses theirs completely differently.
Taking a bath with the Tab S9 Ultra
I’m not one to take a phone or tablet into the shower, but I will do (almost) anything for content. The Galaxy Tab S9 range are all IP68 rated, which means they can be submerged in up to 1.5 metres of fresh water and dust for up to 30 minutes. During the Galaxy Unpacked hands-on ahead of the launch, I wrote with the S Pen on a tablet that had been completely submerged in water. I became obsessed.
But, I was absolutely not willing to do that with a device I 1. Did not pay for, and 2. Had to return to Samsung before I headed back to Australia. I was, however, willing to watch Riverdale on it while I took a bath. (Note: Please make sure the charging port is dry before you charge the Tab S9 range).
Final thoughts on the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Through all of this, I was impressed with the battery life. I didn’t get the chance to run our usual battery tests, nor did I insert my SIM card to see how much you gain from not relying on Wi-Fi. I also couldn’t just try to sit on the lounge and use it like a larger phone, nor set it up with other Samsung devices that weren’t just a phone. But, the takeaway is: the Samsung Galaxy Ultra Tab S9 Ultra is a powerful, graphics-rich (almost) laptop.
I’ll be testing the smaller S9 very soon – I’m expecting that to be a competitor for the Google Pixel Tablet and the iPad 10th-gen/Air, but not the Ultra. It’s too powerful and capable of far more than being a tablet. It’s a Laplet, calling it a tablet is doing the S9 Ultra a disservice.
Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra?
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is available for pre-order, with general availability starting August 18. Australian pricing is as follows:
- 12GB memory, 256GB storage (Wi-Fi) RRP $1,999
- 12GB memory, 256GB storage (Wi-Fi + 5G) RRP $2,249
- 12GB memory, 512GB storage (Wi-Fi) RRP $2,199
- 12GB memory, 512GB storage (Wi-Fi + 5G) RRP $2,449
- 12GB memory, 1TB storage (Wi-Fi) RRP $2,699
- 12GB memory, 1TB storage (Wi-Fi + 5G) RRP $2,949.
Asha Barbaschow travelled to Seoul as a guest of Samsung Australia
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