Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Review
The iPad mini, it has ceremoniously become the item to beat in the compact sized tablet segment. Hard to imagine it, especially when there are several players in the space vying for supremacy, the only other company that’s able to contend with Apple’s ferocity is Samsung – who happens to have that more-is-better approach to things. Aiming to shine even brighter, Sammy is going back to its roots by blessing the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 with a drool worthy looking Super AMOLED display. Naturally, it’s been a while since we’ve seen something graced with this particular display technology, but will it be enough to entice hungry consumers who are looking for the next big thing?
The package contains:
- Wall charger
- microUSB cable
- Get Started Guides
Impressive for pushing the boundaries further with its streamlined construction, it’s still lacking that premium element with its plastic housing.
Borrowing the same design language introduced by the Galaxy S5, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4’s design is a familiar one due to the dimpled pattern of its plastic body. Remarkably, they’re able to reduce the size of the tablet, enabling it to reach an impressive thinness of 0.26-inches (6.6 mm) – besting the 0.28-inch (7.2mm) construction of its previous effort with the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, as well as the iPad mini with retina display. More than comfortable to hold for reading or play, we only would’ve liked to see more premium materials used with its construction, which has been the constant theme with Sammy’s portfolio at this point. Call it wishful thinking on our part, but that’s the one single element that would’ve solidified its design. Our review unit is bronze-colored, adorned with a contrasting gold bezel around the outer edge of the tablet.
The tablet is obviously designed for portrait orientation operation – more so when its front-facing camera, two capacitive Android buttons, and home button are laid out similar to a smartphone. Diving more with the latter feature, Sammy has integrated its finger print sensor into the home button, allowing for an additional form of security for unlocking the tablet and making mobile payments. Operating in similar fashion to the Galaxy S5’s finger print sensor, we’re sometimes finding ourselves swiping slowly on multiple occasions for it to properly register. Rounding things out, there’s an 8-megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash perched in the rear of the tablet.
Super AMOLED in a tablet!
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a Super AMOLED screen in a tablet, but boy does it make a comeback big time with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4! Elegant and mesmerizing, the 8.4-inch 1600 x 2560 Super AMOLED display shines ever so beautifully to capture our attention both near and far. Sure, the resolution isn’t necessarily a new high point for Sammy, seeing that it has been established previously with the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 already, but we appreciate that it continues to produce stunning clarity and detail with its 359 ppi pixel density count.
Naturally, the star of the show here is the Super AMOLED technology. On one hand, some folks might bash it for the oversaturated, inaccurate colors it produces, but many would love it for that same fact. This time around, however, Sammy provides three viewing modes with the display – AMOLED cinema, AMOLED photo, and basic, resulting in really different color reproduction. We have to say we are pleasantly surprised by the “basic” display mode, which enables the screen to produce almost spot-on accurate colors – something that no AMOLED screen has done to date, including those of the Note 3 and Galaxy S5, whose color reproduction remains far off from the accurate visuals found with the Basic mode of the Tab S series. Both color temperature (6750 K) and Delta E values (2.74 in grayscale and 2.57 in rgbcmy) are remarkably close to their reference levels. Good job, Sammy! Meanwhile, the adaptive display option is supposed to optimize the screen’s color range, saturation, and sharpness to deliver more eye-catchy visuals, depending on the content that's being displayed.We are happy with the impeccable viewing angles and potent brightness output (419 nits), allowing the display to come to life and prove to be versatile in a variety of conditions. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that it’s one of the best displays on a tablet to date!
Interface and Functionality
The features set present here aren’t dizzying as before, so it’s nice to see that it focuses on ones that are meaningful to the experience.
Diving into the tablet’s TouchWiz UI interface, which is running on top of Android 4.4.2 KitKat, we’re continuing to see the same toned-down features approach we’ve been seeing of late from Sammy. Visually, it doesn’t deviate from the usual style of previous TouchWiz efforts, but at this point, it’s clearly beginning to appear distant and bland in comparison to the stunning, modern designs of rival customized Android experiences.
Despite that, there are some notable new additions that we find useful that play nicely into the tablet’s overall functionality. In comparison to previous TouchWiz efforts from Samsung, we appreciate the focused and more scaled down approach to the features set here. Instead of bombarding us with redundant things, the new additions here are meaningful to the tablet’s “fun” side.
First, we need to talk about SideSync 3.0, which allows for seamless connectivity between the tablet and some of Sammy’s Galaxy branded smartphones. At the moment, it only supports the Galaxy S5, S4, and Note 3, where a virtual version of the smartphone is presented to us in the tablet’s interface (it’s like an emulator of the phone running on the tablet). However, we should point out that the Galaxy S5 is the only smartphone to offer call forwarding to the tablet.
Connecting the smartphone to the tablet is pretty simple, as we’re required to just install and run the SideSync 3.0 app on both devices. From here, we’re able to perform nearly the same things on the smartphone, but on the tablet – like running apps, viewing text messages, and accessing our email. And yes folks, we can even play some games as well. However, every now and then, there’s some noticeable delay with its performance that prevents us from enjoying graphically intensive games. To be fair, though, it’s not really meant for this purpose, but rather, it’s a portal where we can access certain phone-centric functions through the tablet.
Secondly, the preloaded Papergarden app is a new and alternative magazine service that caters specifically to the tablet’s fancy-schmancy Super AMOLED display. Paired with the “adaptive display” mode, Papergarden delivers high-quality digital interactive magazine content with vivid and true-to-life colors. In checking out some of the samples, we notice that the text have been sharpened to provide us with an optimal viewing experience that’s easy on the eyes. Additionally, colors have an even more profound and punchy tone to give the content more definition.
Processor and Memory
The hardware is top of the line, but it still gets tested by some of the tablet’s more advanced functions.
Flipping between its own chips and those from Qualcomm’s nest, Samsung decided to outfit the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 with its very own quad-core 1.9GHz Exynos 5 Octa 5420 processor with 3GB of RAM and the ARM Mali-T628 MP6 GPU. Generally speaking, the hardware produces a mostly responsive performance that’s enjoyable, but it’s still prone to the occasional instances of sluggishness when it’s tested with processor intensive things. Well, it becomes more apparent when using features like SideSync 3.0 and Multi Window.
Boasting 16GB of internal storage, 4.51GB of which is reserved for system memory, it doesn’t leave a whole lot for us to enjoy for multimedia content. Luckily, its microSD slot accepts cards up to 128GB in size.
Internet and Connectivity
Paired with a stunning Super AMOLED display and one pixel crushing resolution, it has the perfect recipe to provide us with a top-notch web browsing experience. Not only does it pop with its amazing visuals, but complex pages load swiftly and smoothly with our Wi-Fi only review unit. However, it should be noted that the upcoming LTE version of the tablet will offer a Download Booster feature that uses advanced Smart Bonding technology to optimize its effectiveness for seamless data download.
In true fashion, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 packs along aGPS with Glonass, Bluetooth 4.0, and dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t see additional amenities such as NFC or video-out functionality.
There are no worries at all if you want to snap something with its 8-megapixel camera.
Taking into account that the TouchWiz experience here mirrors that of previous Samsung efforts, the camera app doesn’t see any new changes to its presentation or functionality – so it’s the same exact one we’ve been exposed to. All of the typical stuff are present here again, as it lays claim to some noteworthy shooting modes and manual controls. We should note, however, that its video recording quality taps out at 1080p.
For a tablet, we can’t complain about the 8-megapixel auto-focus snapper that’s been attached to this one, seeing that it gets the job done on most occasions. Not only is it fairly snappy with its focus and shooting times, but it produces its best work with outdoor sunny conditions – where details are nice and crisp, only to be complemented by life-like colors. Meanwhile, its quality takes a dip under low lighting situations, as photos become noisy, grainy, and have an overall softer tone to them.
Likewise, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 coughs up some respectable looking 1080p videos under broad daylight settings, but its quality diminishes under low light due to the amount of noise creeping up in the recording and its overall softer look. Samsung improved the audio recording as well, since it’s now clear and audible – whereas before with the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, it was terrible.
A fine feast for multimedia content, this is the area where the tablet entices and amazes.
Sorry folks, it’s the same old TouchWiz music player here, so there’s nothing more to say about it here that we haven’t heard about before. Donning two speakers, which are placed on opposite sides when the tablet is held in landscape, they produce a fair amount of volume with a subtle hint of bass accompanying the quality. In fact, it musters up a respectable 74.3 dB of power!
Be prepared to be wowed on a totally new level, since the tablet’s gorgeous looking Super AMOLED display shows its full glory when it comes to watching videos. Captivating us with its rich detail and vibrant color reproduction, it’s without question the ultimate display to wow and amaze anyone who happens to love watching movies for long periods of time.
The battery life is very much middle-of-the-road.
At the very minimum, the tablet’s included 4900 mAh battery is sufficient to permit us one solid day of normal usage. Certainly, we can go throughout an entire work day without worry, but for power users, there might come a time when they’ll need to recharge at some point to keep them going.
Variety is a good thing, right? We absolutely agree with that notion, as the consumer is the one to be greatly impacted by all of it in the end. However, it’s just that sometimes the focus gets mixed up and changed as a new product is introduced. Well people, that’s certainly the case here with Sammy’s latest tablet line in the Galaxy Tab S – one that attempts to redefine how we visually look at a display.
True to its intention, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is a visual treat with its stunning and sharp looking Super AMOLED display. Frankly, we adore the return of the Super AMOLED to the tablet form factor, where it radiates with a potent amount of iridescence over rival tablets. Everything about the tablet screams premium, with the exception of its plastic chassis of course – though, to be fair, it contributes in giving it a thin and light construction. At the same time, we appreciate how Samsung has been more focused on having fewer, more relevant software features with the experience.
Attached with a $400 cost for the base Wi-Fi model, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is a strong competitor to the iPad mini with Retina Display. On the flip side, some would question its worth over another recent similarly spec’d Samsung tablet – the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4. The deciding factor, naturally, is that if you’re more intent on consuming multimedia content, you’re best bet is to pick up the Galaxy Tab S 8.4, but if you’re more inclined to do some serious work while on the go, then stick with the Tab Pro 8.4.
To sum it up, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is pretty much an all-around fun tablet that won’t disappoint.
Software version of the review unit:
Android Version: 4.4.2
Kernel Version: 3.4.39-1946004
Build Number: KOT49H.T700XXU1ANF5