Samsung has always been renowned for its line up of smartphones and for introducing the phablet category and delivering on it with its Note line of devices which have led to the birth of a new category of large screen smartphones. But unlike its rival Apple, the South Korean giant hasn’t faced as much success in the tablet division as compared to its smartphones. When one talks tablets, the Apple iPad and its many variants have an immediate brand recall, and Samsung somehow hasn’t had a hit product despite being in this category for so many years.
We recently got the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, which sports the same diagonal screen size as the Apple iPad - 9.7-inch. And far from being a replica of the Apple iPad, the Galaxy Tab S2 really does offer a refreshing design. Let us see if Samsung has got it right this time around.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
When we opened the box, the Samsung tablet seemed like any other 9.7-inch tablets out there. But it’s when you hold it in your hands that you marvel at the light weight and design finesse. It measures just 5.6mm thick, which is slimmer than most phones out there. The 392 gram weight of the Wi-fi and LTE model is neatly distributed across the tablet and lends easily to holding in one hand when consuming media. Thanks to the thick bezels on the sides, it gives enough space for the thumb to grip the tablet from the front.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 has a metallic frame which is neatly complemented by a matte-finish plastic rear cover which is non-removable. There are two circular push button type additions on the rear side, which act as connection points when you attach a keyboard to the tablet. There is a nice tapering along the longer edges on the rear side and fine chamfering on the front edge. There are no sharp edges on the tablet. On the front you have 9.7-inch SuperAMOLED touchscreen with a home button at the base surrounded by the back and multi-tasking soft keys which are backlit.
The left hand edge is clean whereas on the right hand edge, you have the power/standby button at the top, followed by the volume rocker, then the nano SIM card slot along with the microSD card. At the base you have the 3.5mm audio jack on the left hand side and the microUSB charging/data transfer port on the right hand side. The speaker grilles emanate on left and right corners at the base.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 comes with a 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution sporting Super AMOLED display. The unit runs on Samsung’s own Exynos 5433 chipset which has an octa-core processor with one quad-core Cortex A57 cluster clocked at 1.9GHz and the other quad-core Cortex A53 cluster clocked at 1.3GHz. It is paired with 3GB of RAM and comes in two storage variants - 32GB and 64GB. We got the 32GB variant for testing which offers around 25.41GB of usable space. You can increase the space to 128GB by connecting a microSD card.
There is an 8MP rear camera with f/1.9 aperture and a 2.1MP front facing camera. The camera is capable of shooting 1440p at 30fps. It houses a 5870mAh non-removable Li-Polymer battery.
On the connectivity front, you get a single SIM slot with 4G LTE support, Wi-fi 802.11ac, Wi-fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS and MHL TV out. You also get the regular set of sensors such as Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass along with the ambient light sensor and so on.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 just like most other Samsung mobile phones and tablets, runs on Android 5.0.2 OS along with the TouchWiz UI skin atop it. So it has the familiar design with apps neatly arranged in the 6x4 grid, excluding the bottom six apps which are fixed. The tablet comes pre-bundled with proprietary Samsung apps such as gallery, S Planner, Email, Video, Music, Galaxy Apps along with Microsoft office apps and so on.
Just like its flagship phones, Samsung has ensured that the bloatware on the Tab S2 is also minimal. Barring the Samsung apps, you can uninstall other pre-bundled apps if you so wish. Also unlike its phone siblings, the Tab S2 does not bundle in a Flipboard news stream right out of the box.
The camera app gives you access to a lot of camera specific apps which you can download such as Animated selfie, Sports shot and so on. But you will need to have a Samsung ID for downloading those. The Smart Manager app lets you manage your phone’s storage and RAM among other things.
The Samsung Exynos 5433 chipset’s octa-core processor along with 3GB of RAM ensures that things are running smooth. We did not come across any instances where the tablet lagged or stuttered. The TouchWiz UI atop the Android 5 OS is also not packed with bloatware which would have slowed down operations.
Gaming on the device was smooth, but we noticed the tablet warming up while gaming. Games such as Real Racing 3 gave some jaggy output, but others such as Asphalt 8 ran smooth on the medium setting. Games which aren't optimised for the high resolution display will appear pixillated.
The fingerprint scanner works fine and you will need to press down on the home button to unlock the Galaxy Tab S2. There were a couple of occasions when we found the scanner to not respond. So ensure your fingers aren’t wet or oily when unlocking the tablet.
In terms of call quality, one should note that the microphone is located on the right hand edge, just above the microSD card slot. So do not hold the tablet to your ear, as the voice then will come out muffled to the person on the other end. The speakers on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 are not very loud, so you will be much better off with a headset while attending calls as well as while watching movies.
In terms of benchmark scores, the Geekbench 3 gave a single core score of 948 and a multi-core score of 3706. It gave a PC mark score of 6085 which is among the highest we’ve got. The Tab S2 is speedy enough to get most things done as you would expect without any issues with multi-tasking and app-switching.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 sports a 9.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution in a 4:3 aspect ratio. The high screen resolution gives it a pixel density of 264ppi which is the same as the Apple iPad Air 2. The display looks gorgeous, if you excuse the colour tinge you will notice when you look at the tablet sideways. This is an issue we have see with other AMOLED displays as well. The tablet does not have a Corning Gorilla glass protection though.
Colours appear vibrant and the black levels are really deep. This lends to great movie watching sessions. Also thanks to the 4:3 aspect ratio, the tablet display looks wonderful while reading longform articles. We spent hours reading on the Kindle app and did not face much eye fatigue.
The glossy surface on the display does make things reflective and this is noticeable specially in dark scenes. There were some games which appeared pixillated such as Fruit Ninja and Real Racing 3, whereas others scaled well. But this is more of a developer problem than the tablet, as due to the multiple form factors on Android, not all apps may be optimised for this high resolution display.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 comes with an 8MP rear camera and a 2.1MP front-facing camera. Just like its phone counterparts, Samsung bundles in a lot of features in its camera app along with options to download more features such Animated selfie, Sports shot, beauty face and so on.
Camera image quality on tablets has always been a hit and miss affair and things aren’t much different for the Galaxy Tab S2. The rear camera is capable of shooting decent images in daylight, but in low light conditions, noise becomes quite apparent. The 2.1MP front-camera is great for doing Skype calls and that is what you will be doing most with it. The video camera is capable of shooting 4K videos, but the quality isn’t that great.
Battery Life: 7.5/10
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 comes with 5870mAh capacity battery for the 9.7-inch variant. On regular usage, the tablet could easily last us over a day and half and if you are a light user, even more than that. Unlike phones, tablets aren’t something you use throughout the day, so if you are the kinds who is just consuming media, surfing the web, reading on the tablet, you will be able to use it close to two days with still some battery remaining. The PC Mark for Android test gave around 9 hours and 14 minutes.
Verdict and Price in India
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 certainly ticks off all the right boxes for someone looking at a high end Android tablet. The slim form factor, high resolution display, speedy performance, light weight all make it an ideal tablet to consider if you are only looking at Android tablets. You can snap on a keyboard and use it for working with Office related apps as well.
The Apple iPad Air 2 16GB Wi-fi variant is priced around Rs 36,000 and is the only closest competitor, whereas the 16GB Wi-fi + Cellular variant of the iPad Air 2 will set you back by Rs 42,799. The iPad has proved its mettle as far as the tablet space goes, and if you can stretch your budget, then it is an able competitor and it certainly has more optimised apps than you get on Android for high res tablets.
But if you are heavily invested in the Android eco-system and want a reliable high end Android tablet, the Galaxy Tab S2 at Rs 39,400 is certainly worth considering. You could even get deals online which have the Tab S2 priced around Rs 37,000. If you are the kinds who prefer watching more movies rather than reading on the tablet, then the Galaxy Tab S, which has a 10.1-inch display with 16:9 aspect ratio can be considered although you will have to extend your budget to Rs 45,000.