Samsung Galaxy Tab S: hands-on with Samsung's 2014 flagship tablet

Goes on sale Monday 14 from $479 for the base model

Good Gear Guide spent just under 24 hours with the 10.5in version of the Galaxy Tab S. The brief hands-on left us feeling confident Samsung has pushed its display, processing and multimedia expertise to the absolute current limit.

Elegant design, 10.5in centrepiece

Samsung’s design language goes much further when the heft is kept to a minimum. Dimples line the back cover, shaved steel borders the sides and Corning Gorilla Glass coats the screen. This design language is an extension of that introduced on the Samsung Galaxy S5, but this tablet feels more crafted and less assembled.

The profile is spot on. The 10.5in Tab S is thin at 7mm, light at 465g, and yet it feels robust when held. This makes it thinner and lighter than the 8mm, 469g iPad Air, but fractionally larger and heavier than Sony’s 6mm, 439g Xperia Z2 Tablet.

The centrepiece of the Tab S’ technical wizardry is the screen. Talking shop when it comes to display technology might seem mundane, but drop the ball on the screen and it could come at the expense of the software experience. Get it right, however, and every part could be a little bit better.

A 2560x1600 resolution screen is trusted with the Tab S’ Android 4.4 KitKat software. The Super AMOLED panel spans 10.5-inches, and combined these numbers add up to a dense 288 pixels-per-inch. The final number in this sublime display recipe is a contrast ratio of 100,000:1.

The Super AMOLED panel produces bright, punchy colours. Samsung claims the Tab S can reproduce ninety per cent of the colours in the UV spectrum and the performance of the Tab S’ screen lends credence to the bold claim. Combine this illustrious take on colour with the aforementioned contrast ratio and the result is a display as proficient in dark colours as it is in bright ones.

Here are the spark notes: the world’s leading television company has endowed this tablet with its best 10.5 inch screen yet.

First tablet with a finger scanner

Apple may have brought back the finger scanner in smartphones first, but Samsung has beat it to the punch when it comes to tablets. Enterprise professionals hell-bent on security will naturally gravitate towards the biometrically-secure Tab S, but clever Samsung has managed to make the feature very appealing to the everyday household.

Up to eight user accounts can be configured on the Tab S, and each one can be enabled by the swipe of a finger. This safeguards each user’s information and makes it easy to log into individual accounts.

Octa-core, 8MP camera

The CPU powering the Tab S is built on ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture, which alternates between one powerful and another economical quad-core CPU. Less intensive tasks are managed by a 1.3GHz quad-core CPU, while intensive tasks like gaming are handled by the more powerful 1.9GHz CPU.

Samsung has coupled this processing power with 3GB of RAM, 16GB/32GB of internal storage, a non-removable 7900 milliamp-hour battery and a 4G modem.

There’s no room for sweeping statements on the performance of a tablet when we haven’t used it for protracted period of time, but our brief time did inspire confidence in the Tab S’ abilities.

Resting flush on the Tab S’ posterior is an 8-megapixel camera that's fluent in Full HD recording and is complemented by a single-LED flash. Taking photos on a screen with a resolution this rich highlights the image noise in a photo, but photos looks far less grainy when viewed on an ordinary Full HD monitor or television.

We’ve seen better cameras on tablets, including Samsung's 12.2in NotePro and Sony’s 10.1in Xperia Z2 Tablet, but this is a short compromise on a tablet this functional, light and practical.

Here are a few test snaps taken with the rear camera of things we found in our hotel room.

A 2.1-megapixel front camera with a knack for Full HD videos can be used for videoconferencing over applications including Skype.

When can Samsung take my money?

Samsung’s 10.5in and 8.4in Tab S will go on sale in Australia on 14 July. Variants include 4G capable and Wi-Fi only models available with 16/32GB of storage. Pricing is as follows:

• Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8.4-inch Wi-Fi 16GB) – $479.00 RRP
• Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8.4-inch Wi-Fi + 4G 16GB) – $629.00 RRP
• Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8.4-inch Wi-Fi 32GB) – $579.00 RRP
• Samsung Galaxy Tab S (10.5-inch Wi-Fi 16GB) – $599.00 RRP
• Samsung Galaxy Tab S (10.5-inch Wi-Fi 32GB) – $699.00 RRP
• Samsung Galaxy Tab S (10.5-inch Wi-Fi + 4G 16GB) – $749.00 RRP

Tony Ibrahim was a guest of Samsung Australia.

Here are some more images of the new tablet with accessories.

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Tony Ibrahim

Tony Ibrahim

Good Gear Guide

@slicktonyi

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