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Samsung has a Galaxy Tab S5 with a top-notch SoC in the pipeline, but don't get too excited

Samsung has a Galaxy Tab S5 with a top-notch SoC in the pipeline, but don't get too excited
The Galaxy Tab S4 is still waiting for some proper sequel action

Samsung caught us off guard a little with the announcement of an upper mid-range Galaxy Tab S5e just a few days before the high-end Galaxy S10 smartphone family became official. The 10.5-incher is the company's first e-branded Android slate, but oddly enough, there's no "regular" Galaxy Tab S5 yet. That's because the Snapdragon 835-powered Tab S4 is not quite old enough to get a sequel already, having barely made its commercial debut in August 2018.

Of course, Samsung is probably working on a higher-end variant of the Tab S5e as we speak, and the industrious folks over at XDA Developers have reason to believe the Snapdragon 670 SoC will be bumped all the way up to a state-of-the-art Snapdragon 855. Unfortunately, that's pretty much all we (think we) know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5, but it's also all we need to dream big.

A true iPad Pro rival? Not so fast

Look, the Galaxy Tab S4 is a fairly competent mobile computing machine, with a premium design, stellar audio performance, fluid software, top-notch S Pen support (stylus included as standard), and a decent potential for enhanced productivity with a solid Book Cover Keyboard (sold separately) and DeX functionality out the box (no dock necessary). But when it comes to raw power, even 2017's iPad Pro 10.5 crushes the Tab S4 thanks to a seemingly ageless Apple A10X SoC. Or it could be because Samsung inexplicably decided to use 2017's Snapdragon 835 chipset on a 2018 slate priced at a rather steep $650 and up.

For some reason, the company pulled a similar stunt with the Galaxy Tab S3 a couple of years back, releasing that 9.7-inch model packing a Snapdragon 820 processor alongside the 835-powered Galaxy S8 handset duo. But apparently, that won't be the case this year, as the Galaxy Tab S5 looks ready to skip the Snapdragon 845 "platform" and "borrow" the 855 from the Galaxy S10 lineup.

Unfortunately (for Samsung), the Snapdragon 855 processor has been able to narrow the speed gap to the Apple A12 Bionic inside the iPhone XS and XS Max, but not quite cover it altogether. The A12X Bionic powering the newest iPad Pro generation is even faster, so unless Qualcomm can supply Samsung with a beefed-up 855 variant tailor-made for tablets, this looks like another no contest. Worse yet (for Samsung), a 2019 iPad Pro release with an even better SoC could be on the cards this fall.

What else to expect from the Galaxy Tab S5

First and foremost, it's important to remember the Tab S5e is not actually up for grabs yet. It should be by the end of the quarter, i.e. no later than June, most likely followed by the Galaxy Note 10 (and Note 10e) and this higher-end Galaxy Tab S5 configuration in the fall. August, at the earliest. 

If history is any indication, Samsung is likely to refine the already sleek design of the Tab S4 rather than bring something drastic or groundbreaking to the table. Then again, the Galaxy Tab S5e comes with a side-mounted fingerprint scanner, just like the S10e, so there's a chance the Tab S5 will follow the S10's suit by integrating in-display biometric recognition technology.

If that happens, it will certainly be interesting to see if Samsung can spread the "Infinity-O" love around by drilling a hole into the Galaxy Tab S5's screen and lose the rest of the bezels. We're also curious if the Tab S5 has its sights set on an insanely thin profile (like the Tab S5e) or a balance between style and battery life. Either way, Samsung would be smart not to go over the $650 mark for the starting price of its next high-end tablet (S Pen obviously included). 

After all, the crazy powerful new 11-inch iPad Pro costs $799 and up, and the revived $499 iPad Air is no pushover either with the same A12 Bionic chip on deck as the iPhone XS.

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