Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 evaluation: insanely skinny, however not a lot of an improve

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review: insanely thin, but not much of an upgrade

A yr in the past, when Samsung debuted its unique Galaxy Tab S, we famous how uncommon it had turn into to assessment a excessive-finish pill that wasn’t from Apple. Properly, the state of affairs hasn’t modified a lot right now — the truth is, it is much more uncommon to see a premium Android pill. However in fact, Samsung, ever tenacious and emboldened by its Android dominance, is not one to surrender with no battle. Thus, we’ve got the Galaxy Tab S2 ($499 for the ten-inch mannequin), which does away with final yr’s widescreen show in favor of a squarer four:three display. Samsung additionally refined its pill design even additional, delivering a tool that is thinner and lighter than Apple’s iPad Air 2 (and that is not the one similarity). However whereas it is onerous to mess up a very good factor, Samsung someway managed to do exactly that by severely hampering the Tab S2’s battery life in change for a good thinner physique.

eighty three
Samsung

Galaxy Tab S2

Execs

  • Skinny and lightweight
  • Extra streamlined design
  • Beautiful quad-HD display
  • Lighter Android pores and skin than in years previous

Cons

  • Battery life is a large step down from final yr

Abstract

The Galaxy Tab S2 is an impressively skinny and lightweight Android pill — the one drawback is Samsung did it higher final yr. With considerably much less battery life than the Galaxy Tab S, the Tab S2 does not really feel like an improve.

Hardware

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review: insanely thin, but not much of an upgrade

Simplicity. That is actually probably the most defining attribute of the Galaxy Tab S2. The dimpled rear case from the final mannequin — which felt to me like Samsung was making an attempt only a bit too arduous to me — is gone. Now there is a clean, plastic cowl (out there in black, white and gold), which fortunately provides the pill a bit extra grip. As well as, its new squarer facet ratio for the 9.7-inch show (there’s additionally a $399 eight-inch mannequin) makes the Tab S2 look higher proportioned. We’re extra used to seeing letter-sized paper, in any case, as an alternative of authorized pads (which widescreen tablets all the time appear to resemble). The closest factor to “bling” on the Tab S2 is its chamfered metallic border, which encircles the entrance of the gadget.

Frankly, it is good to see Samsung tone issues down a bit. The Galaxy Tab S2 is probably probably the most subdued gadget we have seen from the Korean electronics big — it is principally the exact opposite of the enormous, mirror-backed, curve-screened Galaxy S6 Edge+. However the pill is all the higher for it. It is among the many few Samsung units that I merely like holding. That is partially because of the delicate-contact materials used for its again cowl, but in addition as a result of it is actually skinny and lightweight, clocking in at 5.6 millimeters thick and zero.87 pound. It beats out the iPad Air 2 in each respects, although you would be onerous-pressed to note a distinction. Impressively, regardless of being so dainty, the Tab S2 feels simply as sturdy because the final mannequin, with little or no flex within the case.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review: insanely thin, but not much of an upgrade

These specs make it an enormous pill that feels surprisingly snug in your hand. There isn’t any wrist pressure from holding it one-handed, or when watching longer movies. It additionally makes touring with the Tab S2 a cinch. I typically forgot it was in my messenger bag throughout my commute — and that is actually Samsung’s huge promoting level. Positive, you’ll find loads of low cost Android tablets nowadays, however you will both should cope with a smaller display measurement or a bit extra heft. The Galaxy Tab S2 is for people who find themselves prepared to pay a bit extra for a premium expertise.

Identical to lots of Samsung’s units this yr, the Tab S2 additionally features a fingerprint reader within the residence button. For probably the most half, it serves as a easy option to unlock the pill securely. General, it labored about in addition to it did for me on the Galaxy S6 Edge+. It is easy to arrange, and it is usually correct relating to recognizing your fingerprint (simply remember to hold your paws dry and dirt-free).

Whereas the Galaxy Tab S2 feels just like the product of a wiser, extra skilled Samsung, it is arduous to not discover how intently it resembles the iPad Air 2. Each units now have 9.7-inch (four x three) screens, and each are extremely skinny and lightweight. For a corporation that is been accused (and convicted) of stealing concepts from Apple, it is a disgrace to see it as soon as once more return to that nicely. Samsung reps informed us that the corporate needed to keep away from fragmentation within the pill market by altering up its facet ratio, however actually that simply meant it needed to be extra like Apple.

Show

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review: insanely thin, but not much of an upgrade

Praising Samsung shows simply by no means appears to get previous — in all probability as a result of it is one factor the corporate does very, very nicely. Like its predecessor, the Tab S2 has a shocking Quad HD Tremendous AMOLED show as its centerpiece. It makes the whole lot look nice, be it films, pictures or simply plain textual content. Since we’re coping with a squarer display this time round, although, you’ll be able to anticipate to see loads of black bars round widescreen video content material. That is one thing I’ve simply gotten used to in my a few years of media watching. And regardless of not being completely proportioned for video, I by no means actually felt like I used to be lacking out on something within the Tab S2 in comparison with final yr’s mannequin.

Actually, video as soon as once more felt like one of the best use for the Tab S2. Its skinny-and-mild stature made it best for lounging in mattress and streaming Frasier reruns and catching up on Steven Universe. All these pixels, along with the shows’ excessive distinction ratio, sharp colours and inky blacks makes HD video look virtually 3D-like at occasions. It is notably spectacular with 2K video, which fits the Quad HD decision, or downscaled 4K clips. It is exhausting to elucidate till you see it in individual, however the Tab S2 is one instance of why there’s extra to creating an awesome show than simply specializing in decision. It even seems to be higher than some native 4K shows I’ve seen.

Software program

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review: insanely thin, but not much of an upgrade

Once more, no surprises right here. The Tab S2 is operating a TouchWiz-skinned model of Android 5.1 Lollipop. As I discussed in my Galaxy S6 Edge+ assessment, Samsung has come a great distance from its days of cramming Android filled with tons of ineffective apps and half-baked options. There are nonetheless loads of Samsung apps obtainable, like S Translator and the chat app AllTogether, however you will have to decide on to put in them from the Galaxy Apps retailer. That is a greater choice than having your telephone full of junky software program. And the few preinstalled apps on the Tab S2 are fairly helpful, particularly Microsoft choices like Phrase, OneDrive and Skype.

There’s actually not a lot to complain about with the Tab S2’s software program. The house and lock screens are pretty clear from the get-go, and regardless that Samsung’s constructed-in net browser and e-mail apps are type of weak, it is easy sufficient to only substitute these shortcuts with Chrome and Gmail (that are put in by default). At this level, I’m wondering why Samsung even bothers together with its personal apps when there are such a lot of higher options on the market. It isn’t onerous to think about a future the place its partnership with Microsoft ultimately results in bundling an Android model of Edge and Outlook to exchange Samsung’s apps.

Among the many few software program modifications from final yr, the Tab S2 is now barely higher at multitasking. Samsung simplified the method of getting two apps to run aspect by aspect (a function that even Apple is lifting for iOS 9). You can too share textual content and media between some apps, though in my testing I discovered that to be hit-or-miss. Builders will nonetheless want to incorporate some particular code to make their apps suitable with Samsung’s multitasking options, however reps informed us even they’re stunned by how shortly builders are leaping aboard.

And whereas we weren’t capable of check out the Tab S2’s new sensible TV options, they positive sound intriguing. It may well ship video wirelessly to trendy sensible TVs, and you may also pipe in content material from newer Samsung sensible TVs proper to the pill. Samsung demoed each options for us briefly, however it’s arduous to inform in the event that they work as marketed.

Digital camera

Identical to final yr’s mannequin (and all of Samsung’s different current tablets), the Galaxy Tab S2 packs in an eight-megapixel rear digital camera and a 2.1MP entrance-dealing with shooter. Whereas it will not outclass the extra highly effective 16MP cameras on Samsung’s current batch of telephones (that are just about the most effective smartphone cameras outdoors of the iPhone), the Tab S2 manages to take sharp, colourful footage pretty shortly. It will not ever be a main shooter, however it’s superb for those who’re caught someplace with simply the pill and no entry to your telephone. The Tab S2’s digital camera is not only for taking footage, both — it could possibly shoot as much as QHD video (2,560 x 1,440 decision), though actually you are higher off sticking with the extra extensively accepted 1080p video. Once more, you in all probability will not be utilizing the Tab S2 a lot for video, nevertheless it nonetheless manages to take some respectable-wanting footage.

Efficiency

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review: insanely thin, but not much of an upgrade

Apart from the quicker Exynos 5433 octa-core processor (consisting of a quad-core 1.9GHz chip and a quad-core 1.3GHz chip), the Tab S2 retains the identical 3GB of RAM as its predecessor. It is lots quick — I by no means had any points with slowdown whereas enjoying movies, juggling a number of apps or enjoying video games — however it did not really feel considerably quicker than the final mannequin. It additionally comes with 32GB of storage, which you’ll be able to increase with SD playing cards as giant as 128GB.

The large challenge for Samsung is that the unique Tab S was just too good; any try at an improve must be wildly higher to get observed. However that is robust once we’ve principally reached some extent of diminishing returns with cellular hardware. The chips everybody used final yr for top-finish units are nonetheless “ok” for many duties in the present day.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Samsung Galaxy Tab S Galaxy Observe 10.1 2014 iPad Air 2 ** Vellamo 2.zero four,522 1,672 2,735 N/A SunSpider 1.zero.2 (ms) 1,096 1,109 1,069 303 3DMark IS Limitless eleven,892 12,431 N/A 21,659 GFXBench three.zero Manhattan Offscreen (fps) thirteen 5.5 N/A 32.four/24.6 CF-Bench forty one,341 31,695 31,567 N/A

*SunSpider: Decrease scores are higher.

**Not all of our Android benchmarks are cross-suitable with iOS.

Curiously, the Tab S2 additionally has a considerably smaller battery than final yr’s mannequin — the 9.7-inch model we examined packs in a 5,870mAh cell, in comparison with 7,900mAh on final yr’s system. That is an actual disgrace, because the lengthy battery lifetime of the unique Tab S was one of many issues we favored most about it. In our check, which consists of looping an HD video at 50 % display brightness, the Tab S2 lasted round seven and a half hours — a steep drop from 12.5 hours on the earlier mannequin.

Samsung’s dogged pursuit at constructing the thinnest and lightest pill ever was doubtless the large cause we misplaced a lot battery life. And truthfully, I query if it was even value it. Final yr’s mannequin was already impressively skinny and lightweight. Is it actually value dropping virtually half of its productive battery life only for a minor thickness and weight spec win? I can not think about anybody would assume so, until you are a Korean electronics firm that desperately needs to at least one-up your massive-identify American competitor.

The competitors

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review: insanely thin, but not much of an upgrade

Let’s face it: You do not actually have many excessive-finish Android pill choices. However what’s really unusual concerning the Tab S2 is that its biggest competitor within the Android area is probably going the unique Tab S (above), which you will discover used or refurbished for round $300 on-line (for the ten-inch mannequin). Its display is simply as beautiful because the Tab S2’s, and the widescreen format will probably be higher-suited to film watching. The Tab S can also be particularly tempting if battery life is necessary to you (and why would not it’s?).

Amazon’s refreshed Hearth HD tablets are additionally good choices at about half the worth. They, too, are impressively skinny, and there are many extra vibrant colour choices than the Tab S2. However when you’ll get loads of Amazon content material integration in these, keep in mind you will not get full entry to the Google Play app retailer.

However in fact, the iPad Air 2 is what you will possible be judging the Tab S2 towards if you’re on the lookout for a brand new pill. And should you’re eyeing the eight-inch Tab S2, the brand new iPad Mini four is value contemplating as properly: It gives principally the identical specs as final yr’s iPad 2, besides in a smaller type issue. Whereas the Tab S2 is barely thinner and lighter, Apple’s tablets win out on account of their higher battery life (round 12 hours), and stronger library of pill apps (that is one space the place Android might by no means meet up with Apple). Truthfully, when you’re tempted by Apple’s slates, they’re possible the higher selection for you. The Tab S2 is excellent at being an Android pill, however you will have to be absolutely dedicated to Android to make it worthwhile.

Wrap-up

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review: insanely thin, but not much of an upgrade

Depart it to Samsung to damage certainly one of its greatest merchandise. The unique Tab S had a lot going for it — besides few individuals purchased it. That is one purpose Samsung may need chosen to make its new mannequin extra iPad-like. However by specializing in the spec race with Apple, as an alternative of what is truly greatest for shoppers, Samsung ended up sacrificing certainly one of its greatest options: lengthy runtime. To its credit score, Samsung is positioning the Tab S2 as a tool that lives in your house, so it won’t want a dozen hours of battery life. However actually, that simply seems like an excuse.