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Galaxy Tab S review roundup: amazing screen, design, battery-life; poor software & performance


We recently gave you an early hands-on video look at Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab S announced earlier this month and due to go on sale on 27th June from $400. With the reviews now in, we thought we’d give you a round-up of the verdicts …

Engadget loved the screen, the battery-life and portability, but criticized the performance, ‘temperamental’ fingerprint scanner and fiddliness of the optional case connection.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S is good. Really good. With long battery life, a stunning screen and an especially thin and light design, it’s a near-perfect product. My main hang-up is that the performance doesn’t always feel as brisk as it should […]

In addition, the fingerprint scanner, though nice to have, can be temperamental — so much so that I’ve more than once locked myself out of my own tablet. That said, I believe Samsung can address these two minor performance issues via a software update. And even if it doesn’t, this is still an excellent piece of kit …

Re/code praised the ‘sleek’ hardware and battery-life, had mixed feelings about the screen and wasn’t keen on the software.

The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 […] is very slightly lighter and thinner than the iPad Air — even though it boasts a larger screen. And it also offers impressive battery life, though, in my tests, not quite as good as the Apple’s […]

To my eyes, and those of a colleague I asked, the Samsung’s display was very sharp, vivid and appealing. But both of us felt that primary colors were oversaturated in multiple photos — many taken by pros — of scenes where we had been present […]

Where this device left me unimpressed was in the software […] Samsung has loaded a confusing array of duplicate apps into this tablet; generally, one from Google and one from Samsung itself. So there are two calendars, two browsers, two video players, two music players and two photo galleries, among others. In many cases, the device asks users which one to use when, say, opening a Web page or viewing a photo, but there’s no easy way to decide.

The WSJ thought it was the best tablet Samsung has ever made, loving the screen, design and battery-life, but also criticizing the software and the performance.

After years of indistinguishable Samsung tablets, the Tab S’s gorgeous screen, rail-thin design and long battery life make it the best tablet the company has ever made. Though not the best tablet ever made […]

But that commendable hardware engineering is soured by the same cluttered software experience of the Galaxy S5. The tablets are littered with third-party apps, promotional widgets for Samsung’s services and unsightly custom trimmings that add little value. And despite the tablet’s octo-core processor (yes, eight cores), the bloat seems to cause sporadic slowdowns and even stuttering in apps.

The Verge liked the display, slimness, lightness and multi-window software, but disliked the plastic body and again slammed the confusing software and ‘finicky’ fingerprint sensor.

It makes sense that Samsung would be so focused on the display, especially since it also helps both battery life and weight. But even on a tablet, the screen is just one part of the whole experience. The design of the rest of the hardware matters, and the software matters even more.

For everything that Samsung got right with the Tab S, it feels like there’s something else it just didn’t pay enough attention to. Samsung seems to be once again targeting the iPad, but focusing on all the wrong things. It’s lighter and has a better screen, sure, but it also feels cheaper and can’t compete with Apple’s tablet-app ecosystem. There’s only so much software hand-waving that Samsung can do to try to make up for that last fact. But creating more elegant hardware is fully within the company’s control, and it just hasn’t done that here. For the same price as the equivalent iPad, the Tab S should have hardware that’s as good as the iPad, and it doesn’t.

TechRadar loved the screen (spotting a trend here yet?) and size, but not the design or ‘laggy’ interface.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S range is very… well…very Samsung. It’s nothing special in terms of design but backed up by an intuitive interface, stunning screen and great specs under the hood.

[Samsung] seems to have failed to recognise that at this end of the market, for the premium device that rivals the iPad and Xperia Z2 Tablet, buyers need to feel that the device they’re purchasing lives up to the hype.

The Tab S duo is definitely one of the strongest Samsung has ever put out, and I can imagine myself getting giddy at the prospect of using the simply stunning screen on a long-haul flight to indulge in a beautiful movie marathon.

But unless the price comes in a lot lower than the competition, then the design elements, combined with the slightly cumbersome overlay, might put off those people that were thinking of straying from the Apple, Sony, Google or Amazon flocks.

Gizmodo adored the screen and slimness but not the sound quality – and yet again the performance and redundant apps came under fire.

The screen the screen the screen the screen. Seriously, it’s just beautiful. We like the thinness of the device, too. Apps open quickly and run smoothly. The software is more intuitive than it’s ever been on a Samsung tablet. Milk Music is beautifully designed and plays things you’ll like and is free.

[But] the audio quality coming out of the speakers is a definite disappointment, especially on the 10.5, which feels like it should have immersive sound to match the incredible screen. Samsung’s TouchWiz still causes some stutter. There are a lot of redundant apps. The design isn’t very inventive. These tablets are not cheap.

TechCrunch loved the screen for movies, but felt that both standby battery-life and software were lagging behind Apple.

The Tab S line is a solid showing by Samsung, but their real value can be summed up in one line: these are the tablets to watch movies on. They really do the best when they’re playing back any kind of media, and the rest of their features and software feels like a gloss on top of that. Truth be told, that’s likely what most tablet users are in the market for – especially those who don’t need the power and productivity of a notebook. I still find that the Android tablet ecosystem lags behind that of Apple and its iPad, but Samsung has put a lot of work in since the first Galaxy tablet devices, and it really shows.

Overall, then, it you are in the Samsung ecosystem and want a tablet primarily for movie-viewing, this could be the device for you. But if you want to use it for other things, you’ll probably want to check out the performance – and for photos, the screen may not give the best representation.

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