Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch Review

Camera

It takes some good shots for a tablet, but it’s definitely not as on-point and sharp like the S6 and Note5.

Over on the camera side, it doesn’t look like Sammy changed anything about the camera combination here with the Tab S2 9.7-inch – so that’s an 8-megapixel rear camera and a front-facing 2.1-megapixel one. However, the rear camera has been paired with a new, wider f/1.9 aperture lens, which should give it an advantage under low light over its predecessor. For a tablet, the cameras seem well within the threshold we’d expect.

Peeking into its camera interface, it’s the same exact one we’re familiar using in Sammy’s other smartphones. Combining a solid set of shooting modes and a handy Pro one as well, the experience can be enhanced by downloading additional modes through the Galaxy Apps portal. With its Pro mode, however, we don’t have access to adjusting the focus or shutter speed, which is kind of strange and limits the control options.



Taking a pic Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec) Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 2
No data
401
No data
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 3.2
3.7
472
270
Apple iPad Air 2 2.5
3
No data
No data
Google Nexus 9 6.3
No data
486
333

Presented with four options for shooting video (QHD, FHD, HD, and VGA), its optical image stabilization only becomes available with 720p and 1080p recording. Still, the Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch takes some decent looking videos – for a tablet, obviously. While colors are mostly convincing, details are noticeably lacking, resulting in a somewhat unclear image quality. Its focus adjustments run smoothly and quickly, while audio recording is clean and noise-free.


Multimedia

It’s nice to find dual front-firing speakers, but it’s disappointing that it’s flatter with its tone.

The TouchWiz music player is, well, all expected with nothing different about its functionality and presentation, especially for a tablet. By and large, it’s looking a bit on the stale side in comparison to the other, spiffier looking music players out there. At least we’re given some manual controls to adjust the equalizer enhancements using SoundAlive, and that’s in addition to the preset ones we’re given.

There are actually two speakers here in the Tab S2 9.7-inch, with both of them placed along its bottom edge. Even though it’s able to pump out a stronger 74.4 dB output, versus the weaker 71.9 dB of its predecessor, the overall quality is still underpowered in tone – to the point that it can even sound quaint in small areas. You’d think that adjusting its SoundAlive settings would deliver more robustness with its quality, but it hardly does anything to back it up with more substance. Quite frankly, it sounds dull and light.

Thankfully, though, the video watching experience is more likeable due to its Super AMOLED screen, which can deliver even better visuals for the occasion when it’s placed into adaptive mode. In fact, the contrast and color saturation are all adjusted automatically to produce the most ideal viewing experience – and it certainly catches our eyes, as videos come to life on it. Best of all, the same multi-tasking element is in play here with the ability to “pop-up” a video and have it run on top of whatever we’re doing.

The tablet’s gallery app also follows in the same fashion as Sammy’s smartphones. Arranging photos and videos in either a timeline or album view, we’re given enough photo editing tools to appreciate doing some light editing on the road. Now, the love doesn’t end there because there’s also a native video editing feature as well!

Headphones output power (Volts) Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 1.19
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 0.65
Apple iPad Air 2 0.97
Google Nexus 9 0.808
Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inch 74.4
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 71.9
Apple iPad Air 2 77.9
Google Nexus 9 70.1


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55 Comments

1. manojmcn

Posts: 634; 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: 5695; 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: 634; 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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