Samsung Galaxy Tab S was one of the first high-end Android tablets and a solid alternative to the already established high-end tablets from Apple.
But now Samsung has released a new tablet, a successor to the Tab S, named Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. Just like the latest Apple iPads, the Tab S2 comes in two sizes, a 8-inch tablet and a 9.7 one. This end of year is dominated by multiple iPad releases and since I'm sure most of us have great expectation from the Tab S2, let's have a look at how well does it fare in this fierce competition.
In this review we are going to have a look at the 8-inch variant of Galaxy Tab S2.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 features a sleek design, with nicely rounded corners, flat edges, a matte finish on the back cover and a metallic frame. The back cover is made of a soft plastic and the front is fully made of glass. Overall, the case seems sturdy and does have a premium look and feel, but some may wonder why did Samsung decided to ditch the metal and glass idea, especially since some actually waited for this type of design.
The answer is quite simple. The case would have been incredibly fragile, a lot heavier, therefore making the tablet hard to hold for longer periods of time, it would have created problems with overheating and it would have been more expensive.
But, as you know, the new Galaxy Tab S2 is really, really thin and lightweight. It measures 7.82×5.31×0.22 in inches and weighs 9.59 oz, making the tablet one of the lightest and thinnest tablets ever made.
Unfortunately, if you press harder on the back cover, you will notice that there is a bit of flex. But this is the only downside, because the tablet can be carried with incredible ease and can be held in one hand for long periods of time without becoming uncomfortable.
So, yes, no wrist strains, the grip is great and if you're in a plane or during a long train voyage, this is one of the best tablets to carry around. That's also available for everyday use (if you like to sit in bed and watch a movie before going to sleep) or carrying the tablet in a purse or a bag. So that's the tablet's main selling point, the comfortable manipulation due to it's light weight.
We saw that the tablet is comfortable, but what about its buttons and ports feel and placement? Well, the buttons feel quite solid and there is no lack of ports. The right side of the tablet is home to the Power button, the volume controller and a microSD slot (in order to insert a microSD card you have to use a paper clip to access the tray).
On the bottom you can find two speakers, a Micro-USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the back of the S2, there is a camera (at the middle) and two metal circles meant for clipping a keyboard cover onto the tablet.
The front of the Tab S2 there are the usual home button and the two capacitive buttons. The home button doubles as a fingerprint scanner. The scanner is accurate and fast, being a nice addition to security.
The 8-inch Tab S2's display is a Quad HD AMOLED, has a pixel density of 320 ppi, wide viewing angles, is protected by Gorilla Glass and overall it wants to deliver a similar experience we got accustomed with the Tab S.
But unfortunately, this is only available only for the bigger, 9.7-inch tablet. The smaller Tab S2 uses PenTile submatrix technology. Sure, there is a lot of debate about which type of display is better or lasts longer, but overall, a sharp eye will see a small difference (especially in the text crispness) between the two S2 models, the bigger one being better, of course.
Regardless, just like any Super-AMOLED display, you will see high contrast, incredibly deep black levels, great vibrancy, high contrast ratio and really vivid colours. Viewing angles were excellent and the display has now two features, the Adaptive Display and the Reading Mode.
Analysing the display, it's clear that it's brighter than the Galaxy Tab S, but while, it's great for visibility (especially on sunny days or at the beach), an image with a different levels of white may appear blown out.
The thin case of Galaxy S2 is home to an octa-core Exynos 5433 CPU (a 1.9GHz quad-core Cortex A57 chip and a 1.3GHz quad-core Cortex A53 chip), backed by a Mali-T760 MP6 GPU (max frequency of 700MHz), 3GB RAM, native 32 or 64GB storage and a possible addition of up to 128GB with a microSD card.
Overall, we didn't experience any big performance issues while testing the Tab S2, but it was behind iPad mini 4 and even Nexus 9. It's clear that Samsung didn't use it's best chip and although the 8-inch tablet has a reasonable competition considering the price tag, the larger version is just not on par with other similarly priced tablets.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 runs on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with the TouchWiz custom interface. The good thing is that Samsung has finally realized that a clean, bloatware-free system is what users wanted from the beginning, so now, there is a small amount of apps that most can be uninstalled and some of them are actually useful.
The interface is cleaner, but there still are some leftovers that don't really make sense. For example, you still have the Internet and Email apps together with Chrome and Gmail. It's obvious you don't need the first mentioned ones so why include them?
There still are some apps that cannot be uninstalled, like Gallery, Camera, Music, My Files and some more but I actually found some of them useful (like Microsoft Word, OneDrive and Skype).
Other interesting apps and features are the SideSync (allows you to move files between your tablet and your PC), Smart manager (manages your RAM usage, battery life, storage and security), Connect (consists of Support, Discover and Promotions) the Flipboard Briefing and the new split-screen implementation.
Although Android Lollipop doesn't support split-screen multitasking, Samsung has made it possible, the problem being the developers that have to take advantage of this new feature. But that's not all Samsung has added, there is now a fingerprint scanner incorporated onto the Home button (you only have to put your finger on top of the button, no swiping is requested).
Most of the time you're going to use the cameras for Skype (or any alternative program), but if you decide to use it for photos, know that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 doesn't disappoint.
It packs a 8-megapixel rear camera, a front-facing 2.1-megapixel camera and both of them can shoot some pretty good photos. Also, considering that the bar is set quite low for tablet cameras, the Galaxy Tab S2 features one of the best set of cameras.
Images shot with the rear camera looked quite sharp and with rich colors, especially in good lighting and it also did fairly well in darker environments, although there was a noticeable amount of grain.
There are some standard modes available to use: HDR, Panorama, Dual Camera and Virtual Shot. The camera can also record QHD videos with 2560×1440 resolution.
The 8-inch model of Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 has a 4000 mAh non-removable battery and the 9.7-inch model features a 5870 mAh non-removable battery.
You can game for about 5 hours before needing recharging, around 7 hours of video playback and overall the battery will make it throughout a full day of light use.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 lacks the wireless charging feature and there's also no fast charging. Fully recharging the tablet takes about four hours.
There aren't many high-end Android tablets on the market and even less that can be considered actual competitors to the Apple tablets. The new Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is an improvement on some sectors over the Tab S and a worthy competitor to Apple tablets, but at the same time some features were downgraded.
Overall, it's a more mature tablet, closer to what Apple offers, the design is premium, the cameras are surprisingly great and the display is capable, but all these come at a pretty expensive price (especially for the 9.7-inch tablet we reviewed).
The 8-inch tablet, on the other hand, is more reasonably priced considering its competition.