Tablets have long been a product which many were confounded by. Are they large smartphones or small laptops? Do companies need to focus on entertainment features or should they focus on productivity when it comes to tablets?
We’ve seen this confusion come through in the development cycle of the flagship Galaxy Tab S series from Samsung as well. The first iteration of the Tab S came with an aesthetic focus and paid attention to multimedia and entertainment. When it came to the Tab S2, we saw a slight shift towards reading and productivity. It was only with the Tab S3 that we saw the company zoom in to make the Tablet a productivity device.
How does the Tab S4 perfect the formula for a productivity focused tablet? Has the focus shifted towards multimedia and entertainment? We’re about to find out as we take a deep dive into what the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 brings to the table.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 inherits many of its design queues from the Tab S2 and Tab S3. The Tab S4 is still a rectangular slab with a display. However, the S4 has one major difference: slimmer bezels.
The tablet iterates on the design by not only having slimmer bezels but is also thinner overall. That said, the Tab S4 isn’t slim on its features or looks. The tablet comes with a glass front and back but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to wirelessly charge your tablet though. It does, however, give a nice premium finish to the Tab S4.
The metal frame of the Tab S4 gives the table some durability and sturdiness. That said, please don’t go throwing your tablet on the floor or at the wall. The metal frame also gives the tablet some much needed heft. Thanks to the build materials and the elegant colours, the Tab S4 feels and looks very much like a premium device.
The Tab S4 comes with an S Pen; one that is substantially larger than the one we’re used to on the Note series. However, unlike the Note series, the S Pen on the Tab S4 doesn’t fit into a slot – or anywhere. This was one of my pet peeves with the tablet as it necessitated that I carry the S Pen in my pocket or bag when I was using the tablet. Of course, this problem is remedied by the keyboard cover which is sold separately. Yep – you’ll have to spend even more to get a slot for the S Pen.
That aside, the overall design of the Tab S4 makes the tablet quite the looker – and Samsung has packed in some productivity features that make it more than just a looker.
With all the talk about being a looker, you’d be wondering what comes in the package with the Tab S4. Does it have the substance to be more than its looks? The quick and simple answer: it does.
But let’s get into the details. The first thing that many techies will realise is that the Tab S4 comes with last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 instead of this years Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. The big question that they’d then be asking: is it worth the premium that Samsung is charging for the Tab S4?
Let’s take a look at how overall hardware configuration lends to the tablet performing well even with a slightly dated processor. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is an octacore (8-core) processor with the big.LITTLE configuration which Intel introduced years ago. The configuration pairs a high performance, high power processor with a lower energy one. This allows the tablet to amp up the performance when needed while maintaining good battery life throughout the day.
This paired with the 4GB of RAM and the 64GB of onboard storage makes the tablet an impressive performer. The Tablet was able to handle multitasking easily and without much fretting. The processor is also optimised to handle DeX which is one of the mainstays of the Tab S4. In fact, I think Samsung made the right choice of going with the Snapdragon 835 simply because the experience on the Galaxy Tab S4 is more stable and fluid.
The 10.5-inch WQXGA Super AMOLED panel of the tablet makes working on the tablet a joy. The screen’s minimal bezels make reading on the tablet a really enjoyable experience. In fact, I would go so far as to say Samsung’s decision to not make the display on the Tab S4 an Infinity display is a smart one. The minimal bezels provide some space for you to hold the tablet while reading on-the-go.
The display also lends a hand in the ease of multitasking with the Tab S4. The 10.5-inch display strides a very fine line between too little space and just enough when it comes to multitasking with DeX. The screen provides enough space to have about 4 windows open simultaneously. However, it can tend to get a little too cluttered beyond that. That said, you shouldn’t be multitasking like you’re The Flash anyways.
That said, the screen paired with the speakers of the Tab S4 gives one of the best entertainment experience on a tablet that I’ve seen so far. The Dolby Atmos certified AKG tuned speakers provide some of the best quality sound on a tablet to date.
Here’s the full specifications of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (8 Cores)
Quad-Core @ 2.35GHz
Quad-Core @ 1.9GHz
|Memory||64GB expandable with microSD (512GB)|
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Adreno 540|
|Display||WXGA Super AMOLED
10.5-inch (~287 ppi), 16:10 ratio (1600×2560 pixels)
|Operating System||Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Battery||Non-Removable 7,300mAh Li-Polymer
Fast Charging (Quick Charge 4.0)
|Connectivity||SIM (4G LTE)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
GPS/A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
Bluetooth 5.0 LE
USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
|Camera||REAR:13-Megapixel f/1.9, 1.2µm pixel size
Phase Detection Autofocus
Dual LED Flash
4K Video recording (60fps)
Full HD video recording (30fps)
|Miscellaneous||Always on display|
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 comes with two user interfaces: the regular Grace UX on TouchWiz and Samsung DeX.
The normal Grace UX embellished TouchWiz brings the familiar layout of Samsung’s smartphone user interface to the tablet. It brings the same layout and features from the smartphone to the tablet. Icons are blown up to look the same and fill a scaled amount of space.
Therein lies an inherent problem with the tablet interface; and it’s not just Samsung that’s guilty of this. In fact, I’d go so far to say that nearly all the tablet manufacturers fall prey to this. The interface of a tablet shouldn’t be a blown up or scaled version of the smartphone interface. It should be a more intuitive interface made specifically for larger displays. The way we interact with tablets and our phones has some very minute differences which make a lot of difference when we look at the user experience.
While that may be the case, the overall user experience outside the Samsung DeX experience is more of the same from Samsung. If you’re a seasoned Samsung user, you’ll be right at home with the interface.
Be that as it may, Samsung as struck gold when it comes to the Samsung DeX interface on the Tab S4. The interface makes the tablet more useful and intuitive to use; marrying the familiarity of Samsung’s Grace UX and the Windows and Mac Desktop experience.
The interface allows you, as the user, to launch your Android apps in windows similar to when you use your desktop. You also have a taskbar at the bottom for you to easily switch between the apps you have launched. Best part, optimised apps such as Google Chrome and Samsung Messages, launch in an special DeX optimised mode which makes working on DeX even more intuitive and familiar. In fact, Google Chrome’s interface on DeX is so similar to the desktop version you’d be hard pressed not to recognise it.
The DeX experience makes so much sense for a tablet that it’s hard to fathom why it’s taken so long for Samsung to bring this experience to the tablet.
While many other websites may use benchmarks as the cornerstone of their evaluation of the performance of the device, we don’t do that here at techENT. In fact, we believe that benchmarks play a very small roll in the overall performance of the device. In fact, it provides synthetic values which don’t necessarily translate to the user experience. However, you can find the benchmarks of the Tab S4 above for reference sake.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is a powerhouse when it comes its performance. Yes, I said powerhouse and yes, I know that it’s using last year’s processor. So why call it a powerhouse? Well, the slightly dated processor has allowed Samsung to tweak and optimise its tablet experience to be a seamless and enjoyable one. When it comes to the tablet’s performance when multitasking and jumping between apps, there was little to no screen tearing or lag. In fact, it was a lot smoother than some of the phones with the latest and greatest.
I don’t take calling the Tab S4 a powerhouse lightly, the tablet had a lot to prove when it came to performance as I have been utterly disappointed by many a tablet before this. The Tab S4 pleasantly surprised me when it came to playing resource heavy games such as Fortnight and PlayerUknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) on mobile. If you’re a techie, you’ll know off the bat that PUBG is rarely completely optimised. That said, the Tab S4 was able to handle the game swimmingly without much lag or frame tearing. Notice, I didn’t say frame drop – cause that is dependent on the connectivity.
That said, the connectivity of the Tab S4 is pretty good. LTE connectivity was stable and WiFi even more so. The ability of the Tab S4 to use the 5GHz band of WiFi also meant that I was able to get more stable and speedier WiFi. It also means that the tablet should last at least another 4 years in WiFi technologies.
The display on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is a Super AMOLED display and it lives up to the expectation that anyone has when it comes to Super AMOLED displays. The colours of the 10.5-inch Super AMOLED are crisp and saturated. The sharpness and detail of the screen are also commendable. The blacks are deep and the colours are vivid.
When it came to watching movies and series on the display, I was able to see details in dark scenes and also get great detail in brighter scenes. The high dynamic range (HDR) definitely helped.
In addition to this, I also did some comic reading on the Tab S4 and I found the experience really enjoyable. The comic panels were alive with colour and the emotion of the scene seem to be able to be translated perfectly thanks to the performance of the display’s wide colour gamut.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 comes with a 13-megapixel main camera sensor with a f/1.9 aperture, 1.12µm pixel size and 76° field of view. The camera performed well, but the only problem I had was that the camera was on a tablet and I generally don’t see tablets as go to devices for photography.
That said, the camera was really good when I was on a video call with my friends overseas and also scanning documents with a scanning app. The 13-megapixel camera produced sharp, crisp images which were easily scanned. The camera was also able to capture sharp colours and also detail in the pictures when I did use it to take pictures.
The front 8-megapixel sensor with 1.12µm pixel size and f/1.9 aperture was really good in video calls as well. However, when it came to selfies, let’s just say there are better options on the market.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is an impressive tablet which has finally found a niche that it fits into. The tablet has impressive performance when it comes to multitasking and an even better, more intuitive interface with Samsung’s DeX. In fact, the improvements that Samsung made in the Tab S4 make me excited to see what Samsung has planned for future entries into the Tab S series.
Also published on Medium.