Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch Review

Interface and Functionality

Great for everyday use, the TouchWiz experience caters well to the tablet size, but it lacks the breadth of features found with the Note5’s paper & pen experience.

So, what can we say about its experience? Nothing really new, that’s for sure, seeing that it’s running the same updated TouchWiz UI used by many of Sammy’s smartphones – though, it’s on a grander scale to fit the larger size of its screen. Running on top of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, we will note, however, that there’s support for multi-users, which makes it home-friendly to accommodate multiple users with their own settings and content. Besides that, there’s nothing new here that we haven’t seen before.

Continuing to employ the same trimmed down TouchWiz we’ve been seeing since its introduction earlier this year with the Galaxy S6, the experience favors simplicity above everything else. Staple TouchWiz features are found here, such as Multi-Window for true side-by-side app multitasking, pop-up-view that shrinks certain apps to a more thumb-reaching friendly size, and the wealth of S-branded apps from Samsung.

Being a tablet, it sees some added features that we don’t get exposed to with a smartphone. Firstly, SideSync has been updated to offer auto-connection and file transferring to our connected smartphone. It works pretty well for the most part, but its main benefit is to allow us access to our smartphone through the Galaxy Tab S2. There’s also an improved reading mode that subdues the tone of the display, ensuring that our eyes don’t strain when reading in the dark. And solidifying its package, it comes preloaded out of the box with the entire Microsoft Office suite of apps – so that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote.

Indeed, TouchWiz on the Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch continues to be a powerful experience, but it doesn’t rival the higher degree of functionality we get from the Note5’s particular experience. Of course, the addition of an S Pen would greatly benefit and deepen its package, but we suppose that might come later on in some other tablet from Samsung. For everyday use, we can’t argue its usefulness.

Processor and Memory

Although it’s not the latest piece of silicone from Samsung, the older Exynos 5433 chip still delivers a zippy performance.

You would think that Samsung would leverage its latest Exynos chipset to power its finest tablet, but that’s not really the case. Instead, it’s armed with the same firepower found in the Note 4 – an octa-core Exynos 5433 SoC accompanied with 3GB of RAM and the Mali-T760 GPU. Deciding on using this particular setup makes the Tab S2 rather underwhelming in contrast to the other models in its portfolio, but despite that, the performance is pretty responsive.

Trivial stuff such as opening apps and navigating through the interface are all handled in a pleasant manner, while multi-tasking via its Multi-Window feature is equally zippy. Solidifying its processing punch, it earns some pretty good marks in various processing benchmarks. Still, the results aren’t Galaxy S6 or Note5-like. Over on the graphics processing side, it performs reasonably well with its consistent frame rates – though again, not quite as buttery as the S6 or Note5.

Call it a refreshing change of pace, the Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch features a microSD card slot, which is something that we don’t get in Samsung's other new devices. It complements the 32GB and 64GB storage variants that the tablet is available in.

AnTuTu Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 50148
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 34982
Apple iPad Air 2 62856
Google Nexus 9 56836
Vellamo Metal Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 1474
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 1383
Google Nexus 9 2731
Vellamo Browser Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 4671
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 2323
Google Nexus 9 6103
Sunspider Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 1011.2
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 1089.9
Apple iPad Air 2 303.3
Google Nexus 9 956.8
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 29
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 13.9
Apple iPad Air 2 52.2
Google Nexus 9 41
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 12
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 2.9
Apple iPad Air 2 24.1
Google Nexus 9 22
Basemark OS II Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 1183
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 818
Apple iPad Air 2 1880
Google Nexus 9 1929
Geekbench 3 single-core Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 905
Apple iPad Air 2 1811
Google Nexus 9 1903
Geekbench 3 multi-core Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 3676
Apple iPad Air 2 4488
Google Nexus 9 3166

Internet and Connectivity


What’s there not to like about the web surfing experience here, especially on a high-spec’d tablet? None honestly, mainly because it hits the high points in all the areas we care about most. In particular, we have speedy page loads, quick handling of page rendering on the fly, and we can’t forget about its oh-so smooth navigational controls.

Launching first as a Wi-Fi only model, the Tab S2 9.7-inch will eventually come with LTE-connectivity for a truly untethered experience. Rounding out its connectivity set, it features aGPS with Glonass, Bluetooth 4.1, and dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. Strangely absent though is NFC, which is a disappointment on its own considering this is an otherwise, high-spec’d thing.

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55 Comments

1. manojmcn

Posts: 633; Member since: Jul 16, 2015

Would be interesting to see the tablet sales for this quarter. Samsung's tablet offerings this year has been tricky re-packaging with a different aspect ratio. Nothing was improved in specs, rather they are saving dollars on some feature cut. May be the tablet sales have dried up and is not worth spending much. Even Apple skipped iPad update this year.

5. TerryTerius unregistered

People tend to treat tablets more like laptops. There isn't a high rate of upgrading, so sales have slowed down dramatically because of it. I don't really think tablets are going away but there isn't really a reason for manufacturers to invest heavily in them when the market trends are very clear.

2. aesthetics

Posts: 128; Member since: Oct 02, 2014

It should have exynos 7420

10. vincelongman

Posts: 5691; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

It should have an "7420X" Flagship tablets should have tablet SoCs E.g. higher clocks and the MP16 variant Like how the A8X has double the GPU of the A8

15. aesthetics

Posts: 128; Member since: Oct 02, 2014

Exactly..

42. Clars123

Posts: 1078; Member since: Mar 16, 2015

Can you honestly say that if it came with the 7420 and you were now limited to 32,64 and 128GB memory options you wouldnt complain?

3. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

I wonder why Samsung went with 4:3 aspect ratio, iPad wannabe? 16:9 is better IMO. It still won't help your sales if you follow Apple's footsteps.

7. manojmcn

Posts: 633; Member since: Jul 16, 2015

Since there is no major changes in specs, the 4:3 aspect ratio allows them to sell it along with the Tab S 16:9.

8. TerryTerius unregistered

It doesn't really matter at this point, because everyone's tablet sales are going down across the board including Apple. It won't really make much of a difference no matter what you do in this space at this point. The sole exception thus far being the Microsoft Surface line which has had improving sales year-over-year, but that's different since it's running a full fledged desktop OS. I'm not really sure if the iPad Pro is going to be the same since it's just iOS on a bigger device that very nearly costs as much as a MacBook once you add in the stylus and keyboard cover. But who knows? Maybe it'll be popular with the enterprise side of things.

11. MDave

Posts: 210; Member since: Apr 09, 2015

16:9 is plain horrible for a tablet, period. 16:10, which is the format the Tab S and 99% of Android tablets use, is somewhat better but still awkward for portrait use on large tablets and suitable only for widescreen video, really.

53. JulianGT

Posts: 89; Member since: Oct 15, 2012

3:2 is the best IMO

55. MDave

Posts: 210; Member since: Apr 09, 2015

It may well be (the ratio used in Google's new Pixel C sounds interesting as well). 3:2 is definitely not bad at anything, and wide enough to make it useful and natural-looking in portrait, without hurting video playback too much.

4. WAusJackBauer

Posts: 455; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

Wonder how battery life will be when Marshmallow lands.

6. mobi_user

Posts: 152; Member since: Jun 18, 2013

No Andriod 5.1, average maximum brightness, same old design. And still so high in rating. At least deduct some points. It will not effect your balance sheet much PA.

9. TerryTerius unregistered

I don't remember Phonearena ever actually deducting points for design language being consistent. At least not in the case of Sony, Apple, Samsung, or LG. Although they have deducted points for the chosen materials feeling terrible or build quality being bad. And they already did deduct points, that's how it wound up with an 8.

16. mobi_user

Posts: 152; Member since: Jun 18, 2013

you should see the review of One plus 2

19. TerryTerius unregistered

They didn't knock it for having similar design language to the one. They knocked it because according to them the material felt much cheaper this year than it did last year, and felt more flimsy. According to them anyway.

12. MDave

Posts: 210; Member since: Apr 09, 2015

5.1.1 is already available as an update (at least in the US)

22. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Try it. I had it since August and it's a fantastic tablet that compliments my GS6 very well with side synch. I like it better than my iPad Air and even the iPad Air 2 when I had it for a month. The design isn't the same at all....lol

13. gaming64 unregistered

I'm still thinking it's an iPad wannabe. But still, I'm giving Samsung praise for eliminating the 16:9 aspect ratio.

14. MDave

Posts: 210; Member since: Apr 09, 2015

The truly disappointing and the sore point for this tablet is actually the screen. Not only has the dpi been decreased from the Tab S, Samsung in their infinite wisdom, and in move consistent with their efforts to undermine themselves at every opportunity, has also switched to a disgusting Pentile submatrix for the display. This means that if you've got sharp eyes, you will notice that the text is anything but crisp. In short: it sucks, very especially on a tablet designed and promoted to consume websites and "printed" material. It seems that reviewers, clueless as usual, are simply unable to appreciate the difference since they only look at the numbers so things might actually work OK for Samsung and get away with it.

24. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Um I don't think the 9.7 is pentile.... The 8.0 might be but that's just like last year. The 8.4 was pentile but the 10.5 wasn't. My eyes are pretty sensitive to pentile unless it's over 500ppi like the GS6 and the Tab S2 9.7 looks pretty sharp to me. If the text is worse then it's either the lower ppi or what LG did to save power that ruined the text on the G3.

33. MDave

Posts: 210; Member since: Apr 09, 2015

What can I say. It doesn't look sharp to me at all. And I've checked three different units on store, in case it was a lemon. Anandtech's review will put the screen under the microscope hopefully.

17. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

The Tab S2 brightness actually jumps over 500 nits under the Sun, making it very readable.

18. Manyci

Posts: 116; Member since: Aug 03, 2015

Wow since the Note5/Edge Plus reviews all reviewed products get insanely low ratings... What's going on? Did I missed something? Did the standards go this high? Or its just for the Iphone 6s to get topping 9.9/10 review? o.O

20. TerryTerius unregistered

That's usually what happens. Once any manufacturer raises the bar, it is up to everyone else to reach it. And if they don't... Well you see what happens. That's been happening since the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 came out. If you are competing in the flagship space... Then you should be prepared to be judged by the standards that the best devices have set. And it's only been two major phones I can think of that got slammed. The ZTE Axon pro came out around that time and it got over at 8. Although I definitely am suspicious about the score of the 1 + 2, & I think they got a faulty review unit.

30. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

9 for the Note 5 and 8.7 for the edge plus is pretty low. This 8 score is reasonable but they could have easily marked this up to a 9 using an Apple scale. This tablet performs great, looks and feels fantastic despite the Note 4 specs. Just like the iPad mini using old specs, it still performs pretty much the same as the iPad Air 2 but smaller despite using old specs. Same thing here. Performs just as nice as my GS6 somehow.

21. arch_angel

Posts: 1651; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

They Obviously Lowered The Resolution To Increase The Tablets Performance, They Saw How The E5433 Struggled With The High Resolution On The Note 4(Add The Note For To The Benchmarks Test) It Would Have Been Stupid Of Samsung To Use A Resolution Higher Than That Of The Note 4. So To Me Its Good They Went With A Resolution That's Lower Than The Tab S 10.1 Cause Its Actually Higher Than The Note 4's.

25. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

No....... There is no such thing as 2k in a 4:3 aspect ratio. They had to use the iPad resolution or change aspect ratios or go much higher than 4k. Probably like iPad pro resolutions.

29. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Much higher than 2k I mean.
Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch
  • Display 9.7" 1536 x 2048 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 2.1 MP front
  • Processor Samsung Exynos 7 Octa, Octa-core, 1900 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 5870 mAh

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