Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 Review: Putting the tab back in tablet
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is the company's attempt to win over customers that might instead have bought a regular laptop. We review.
Published:Fri, December 21, 2018 9:19am
- The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 has a crisp and bright display for an excellent visual experience.
- It's also great for creating artwork.
- Battery life is excellent as well.
The smartphone and mobile manufacturing industry is at a point where questions are being raised if we even need tablets anymore. We have highly proficient smartphones which are big enough to outsize our hands, while the laptop industry has pushed the boundaries and is making devices that are thinner than smartphones.
At a time like this Samsung is still plowing on with its tablet range in a market with dropping interest, charging a price that is akin to buying a high-end laptop. But Samsung seems to have a plan to address all of this with the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 device. Here's my review.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 takes right after the previous design, making it similar to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 with some minor changes in terms of design. It has a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display which is larger that last year's Tab S3 and this comes with metal frames and a glass back which is reminiscent of the smartphone design theme that the company is following at the moment.
Among all the variants ,only the one with LTE connectivity is available in India and the device has a SIM slot that can also fit an SD card on the right side of the device along with the volume rocker buttons and the power button.
The bottom edge of the device houses the Type-C charging port and a 3.5mm headphone socket along with two AKG speakers which are also present at the top of the device, which makes a total of four speakers. On the rear panel of the device, we only have the single lens camera which somewhat protrudes, making the device wobble slightly when kept on a hard and flat surface. Samsung seems to have made the new Tab S4 slightly thicker than the Tab S3, and I believe this is to fit in the larger battery on the device.
The device is light enough for a tablet of its size and even though the bezels of the device have been thinned down, there is still enough room for users to safely hold the device without touching the screen. Samsung seems to have gone the Apple way with this laptop and removed the fingerprint scanner in favor of Iris and facial recognition.
As for the software part of the device, it seems to share the same principals that are seen on major Android smartphones from Samsung in terms of design and interface. The Dex feature makes the device look similar to a traditional Windows laptop interface, and Samsung has clearly worked with the idea of making sure people find the interface familiar. The S-Pen that comes with the device has also been redesigned and now looks more like a traditional pen with a more rounded look.
To start off with the performance of the Galaxy Tab S4, let's get the specifications of the device out of the way first. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor which happens to be a generation older and is potentially a point of contention, since it does not match up to the flagship scenario of 2018, particularly given the price. Besides that it comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage which can generally be considered on the lower side for a flagship device of 2018.
The 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display of the Galaxy Tab S4 sports a maximum resolution of 1600x2560 pixels and is HDR enabled. And to run this energy-hungry display, the device has 7,300 mAh battery running it which is bigger than that on the previous generation. It can be fast charged using a USB 3.1 Type-C port. And in terms of optics the device has 13-megapixel autofocus camera with an LED flash on the back, and an 8-megapixel front camera. And for connectivity it uses Bluetooth 5.0, along with Wi-Fi 802.11ac featuring Wi-Fi Direct.
Now that the specs of the device are out of the way, let's talk about how the device performed during my time with it. My major use of the device was to consume media content and use the S-Pen to attempt making doodles. Needless to say, the Galaxy Tab S4 turned out to be an excellent device to stream high quality content from services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others all owing to the fact that the device has an excellent display that makes colors and content sharp and stand out.
The HDR tech results in some exquisite details that is hardly seen on any other tablets out there. Pair that with the excellent stereo speakers from AKG and you have a unique standalone entertainment experience in the Galaxy Tab S4. The audio from the four speakers is loud and without any audible distortion, making it one of the better ones we have seen on tablets.
Besides this, I tried playing games on the device which included PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends. The latter ran well on the Galaxy Tab S4 and the excellent display amplified the experience. As for PUBG Mobile, the game ran absolutely fine even on the highest possible settings, though it did produce some heat when pushed really hard. That apart, there seemed to be no specific issues that I encountered with it while gaming.
The other major use that we have from tablets completely packaged as a touch device with a keyboard is that it can be considered a replacement for a laptop. And to test this out I tried using the Galaxy Tab S4 as my basic driver when doing my daily work. The Galaxy Tab S4 comes with Samsung Dex which transforms the device in a hybrid PC when connected with the snap on Book Cover Keyboard.
This is something Samsung has done to push the Galaxy Tab S4 as a potential competitor for the Windows surface devices and other such devices. Though I must admit, this was not the best experience and it just wasn't as flexible as using a laptop running Windows. I did most of my typing on the Google Docs app and then accessing the other functions on the Google Chrome app but the transition wasn't as smooth and it was something that needed a lot of getting used to.
Though cameras are not really a big aspect of a tablet, I would still have expected a flagship device from Samsung to use similar optics as some of the flagship smartphones from the company. But the rear camera as well as the front one on the Galaxy Tab S4 are average at best and just about do the job.
Now, coming to the S Pen and the functionalities of the device, it does seem like a viable option for artists but this would, in my opinion, allow casual artworks at best and some pastime doodling. The new design of the S-Pen makes it very comfortable in the hands and the tip is accurate. There's a lot to explore with the pressure sensitive S-Pen and what it can do with apps like PenUp and Adobe Sketch. The device seemed to do just fine with heavy tasks like minimizing games, opening heavy social media apps to reply to comments and switching to a drawing app to do a few strokes before switching back to the game.
The lack of a fingerprint sensor is substitute by the Iris and Facial recognition. These don't always work as quickly as you'd like, though it does improve over time and is a better option than having to scramble around a big device to locate the fingerprint sensor. One of the favorable aspects here is that it works whichever way the tablet is held. Moving on to the Book Cover Keyboard that can be bought along with the Galaxy Tab S4 ,it turns out that this is a necessary accessory for the device and makes it much more efficient. The keyboard does not have a trackpad but the keys are rather comfortable to type with. It comes with a holder for the S-Pen which makes it pretty convenient.
But at the end of the day, what really impressed me is the battery life of the device, which easily lasted two days with extensive use and almost double that when used sparingly. It charges rather quickly as well with the propriety fast charger that comes in the box.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is a device that has been made keeping in mind the most important aspects of tablets which is consumption of multimedia content and casual creative needs. It does both of these really well, and is even a great device to use for casual mobile gaming. As for Samsung's intention of positioning this at the professional laptop market, we feel it may be a bit over-reaching.
There are other laptops which are cheaper than this device and provide a better experience for working. And if someone must use the device for work, they would need the Book Cover Keyboard as well which costs Rs 7,499 over the price of the Galaxy Tab S4 which is Rs 57,900. I would recommend this as a device for someone who needs a potable entertainment device and maybe to do some casual artwork, but if someone was looking for a replacement for their work laptop, I would ask them to look elsewhere.