Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ review: in a class of its own
There are two types of Android tablets: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S line and everything in between. Indeed, while most Android slates don’t go beyond simple media browsing and occasional gaming machines, Samsung is doing more than any other company to turn Android into a true multitasking platform. And even though Samsung is approaching the limits of what Google’s mobile operating system can do, the combination of Dex mode and high-end hardware makes it a high-end tablet that’s in a class of its own.
Material and design
Featuring a 12.4-inch OLED screen, the $900 Tab S8+ is the middle child in Samsung’s new Tab S8 lineup, sitting between the $700 11-inch Tab S8 and the $1,110 Tab S8 Ultra, which features a massive 14.6-inch screen.
- Gorgeous display
- microSD card slot
- Ultra slim design
- S Pen is included
- Good autonomy
- Improved Multitasking in Dex Mode
- A 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio would be best for productivity
- No headphone jack
- Keyboard cover costs more
- A little expensive
Without deviating too much from previous entries, Samsung has once again downsized its latest high-end tablet, leaving the Tab S8+ with the thinnest bezel. And measuring just 0.22 inches thick and weighing 1.24 pounds, the set is very sleek. Meanwhile, there’s a new Armor aluminum frame that Samsung says is 33% harder than the one used on the Tab S7 line. The Tab S8+ also has four speakers with Dolby Atmos located at each corner of its chassis, so however you hold it, the sound is rich and full.
The Tab S8+’s standout feature is really its 2,800 x 1,752 display, which offers rich, punchy colors and a 120Hz refresh rate that makes scrolling through websites and switching between apps smooth. My only complaint is that I really wish Samsung had gone with a wider 3:2 aspect ratio display instead of sticking with 16:10.
If you just watch movies or play games, 16:10 makes a lot of sense. But when it comes to productivity, the extra vertical screen real estate you get from a 4:3 or 3:2 display makes multitasking or opening two windows side-by-side much more usable. Apple and Microsoft have long since switched to 4:3 and 3:2 screens on iPads and Surfaces, so I wonder why Samsung hasn’t done the same.
The Tab S8+ also offers good performance thanks to the inclusion of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, along with 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage. And, unlike Samsung’s flagship Galaxy phones, you even get a microSD tray for additional storage. The downside is that there’s no headphone jack, which is rather frustrating as it’s hard to believe Samsung really couldn’t find room for a 3.5mm port on such a big device. .
Finally, Samsung has completed the design of the Tab S8+ with a magnetic strip on the back for charging the stylus; a strip of pogo pins on one side to secure keyboard covers; and a speedy in-screen fingerprint sensor that outperforms side-mounted options.
While Android tablets as a whole are still waiting for Android 12L to receive a number of much-requested multitasking features, the Galaxy Tab S8 line offers a custom solution in Dex. By touching the Dex button in the quick settings on the S8 tab (or using a keyboard shortcut CMD+W), you can switch from the standard Android UI to a more powerful desktop-like view with a taskbar and multi-window support. There’s also a system tray for easy access to features like WiFi and Bluetooth connections, while the Android app drawer sits behind a handy icon in the lower left.
I used the Tab S8+ to write much of this review, and after booting into Dex Mode, I felt at home almost immediately. I was able to snap windows to either side of the screen like on a Windows PC, with the Tab S8+ also supporting a number of familiar keyboard shortcuts. You don’t get the full range of commands you’d get in Windows or macOS, but a number of basics like Alt-Tab and Alt-F4 are there.
Now I wish I didn’t need to switch between Dex and standard Android layouts. And in less popular apps that haven’t been optimized for the Tab S8’s big screen, you may experience clunky and clunky experiences, with apps that can’t be maximized or games that don’t run smoothly back. -plan.
The biggest thing stopping the Tab S8+ from feeling like a laptop is Samsung’s $160 book cover keyboard, which does not have an integrated touchpad. Touching icons to open apps is fine in short bursts, but if you’re considering serious productivity, you’ll want to get the more expensive one. $230 book cover keyboardwhich has an integrated trackpad.
But for the most part, although it might take a bit of getting used to, the Tab S8+’s Dex Mode does an admirable job of turning a traditional tablet into a much more powerful 2-in-1.
The other big selling point of the Tab S8 range is Samsung’s included S Pen, which includes a huge range of first-party drawing and annotation apps. By reducing the Tab S8’s input latency from 9ms to just 2.8ms, Samsung has essentially eliminated all sorts of lag, and frankly, that’s fantastic.
Samsung Notes is your default choice for jotting down quick thoughts, while its handwriting-to-text conversion features let you save a more readable copy for easier viewing later. And if you need more help with translating text, annotating slideshows or PDFs, or just creating fun doodles to send to friends, there are dedicated apps for that too. Samsung has all the bases covered out of the box, but if you’re a hardcore artist, you’ll find more sophisticated drawing and sketching apps on Apple’s App Store.
The tablet photography experience is often an afterthought, because let’s be honest, who wants to be the person to pull out a 12-inch device to snap photos at a concert or a football game? So while the Tab S8’s cameras aren’t quite as good as you’d get on a Galaxy S phone, Samsung has added not one but two rear cameras that are more than serviceable. This includes a 12MP wide-angle camera and a 6MP ultra-wide camera on the back, along with a 12MP selfie shooter on the front. In bright light, images are sufficiently sharp and colorful, although you’ll start to notice noise creeping in quite quickly as conditions darken.
It’s hard for a screen this large not to suck up a lot of juice, especially if the brightness is turned up. But even so, the Tab S8+ posted a respectable time on our local 9:21 video test, which isn’t far off the 10 hours we got from the iPad Pro. However, if you’re playing games or multitasking, just know that you can drain the Tab S8+’s battery much faster than that. In more mixed use cases, I usually got closer to six or six and a half hours on a charge. Oh, and while the Tab S8+ supports 45-watt fast charging, you’ll need to purchase a power supply that supports those speeds on your own, as Samsung doesn’t include a charger in the box.
The big question I have is, compared to something like Lenovo’s $630 P12 Pro, is the Galaxy Tab S8+ worth 50% more? And you know what, actually yes. Indeed, while they may have similar screen designs and sizes, the Tab S8+’s display is brighter, it has noticeably faster performance, and its quad speakers sound richer and fuller. Little luxuries like its in-screen fingerprint reader make it easy to use on a daily basis. And Samsung’s S Pen and stylus apps are more sophisticated than anything you’ll find on a rival Android slate. It’s just a higher end device.
But what elevates the Tab S8+ above competing Android tablets is Dex Mode. With the push of a button, the Tab S8+ switches to a more desktop-like user interface that makes multitasking and working an achievable idea, instead of struggling with productivity like you do on so many traditional Android tablets. In fact, the consumer version of the P12 Pro isn’t even scheduled to get Android 12 until the end of March, let alone what happens to Android 12L.
Even so, despite all the work Samsung has done, the Tab S8 still isn’t quite as powerful or accommodating as an iPad Pro or even a Windows-powered detachable like a Surface Pro 8. And with a total price of at least $1,000 once you factor in Samsung’s keyboard coverage, the Tab S8+ doesn’t offer much savings over Apple or Microsoft. But these two devices run on different operating systems, and depending on your situation, the switch may fail. That said, if you need Android app support but still want something suitable for productivity, a Chromebook is also worth considering. But if you’re ready for a high-end, versatile Android tablet, the Tab S8 line should be at the top of your list.
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