Samsung Galaxy Tab S (10.5) 4G review

Samsung Galaxy Tab S (10.5) 4G review

Has Samsung ruined its best tablet with its TouchWiz software?

Biometric security, 8 megapixel camera

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S has the distinction of being the first tablet with a finger scanner. The tech resembles that used in the Galaxy S5 and, because a tablet can’t be used with just one hand, it naturally lends itself to the tablet form. Nor has Samsung rested on its laurels by using the finger scanner to launch different user accounts.

No other tablet offers such a functional way to alternate between user accounts

Good Gear Guide created four separate user accounts on the Tab S, each one guarded by the biological protection of individual fingerprints. Switching between one account to another was fuss-free as, from the standby screen, it required only that you nominate your thumbnail and swipe a finger. This takes just three or four seconds.

No other tablet offers such a functional way to alternate between user accounts. Two types of accounts can be configured: a user account and a ‘restricted profile’, which limits applications to just those nominated. Restricted profiles primarily have children in mind and therefore can’t be protected with a password/fingerprint lock.

This feature is not without room for improvement. Movies, music and photos cannot be shared between different user accounts. Having multiple user accounts could see the internal storage of a 16GB tablet exhausted quickly, with the 32GB model following not long after.

Up to eight different user accounts can be configured on the Galaxy Tab S
Up to eight different user accounts can be configured on the Galaxy Tab S

Running multiple user accounts on the Tab S will tax its performance. We found the tablet began to slow down when we had four user accounts configured and 85 percent of the tablet’s storage consumed.

8 megapixels and Full HD

Resting flush on the Tab S’ rear is an 8-megapixel camera that's fluent in Full HD recording and is complemented by a single-LED flash. Camera performance is impressive, even more so for a tablet. Image noise is kept to a minimum, blacks retain a lot of detail and colour has a nice, rich range. Viewing photos and videos on the Tab S’ screen is a treat; however, the high resolution can highlight the fallacies in a photo.

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

Captured with the Tab S 10.5
Captured with the Tab S 10.5

Captured with the Tab S 10.5
Captured with the Tab S 10.5

Captured with the Tab S 10.5
Captured with the Tab S 10.5

8-core processor, Long lasting battery

The Tab S manages to squeeze some of Samsung’s leading kit into its slender 7mm waistline. Two quad-core CPUs work concurrently based on ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture: one is an economical 1.3GHz quad-core CPU, while the other is a more powerful 1.9GHz quad-core CPU. The idea behind the big.LITTLE ARM architecture is the tablet will better manage power consumption by only using the powerful CPU when needed.

Additional computing smarts include 3GB of RAM, a 4G modem on select models and internal storage options of 16GB or 32GB. Adding more storage is possible as the Tab S can take microSD cards up to 128GB in memory.

Connectivity is yet another strong point for the Tab S. The cellular version of the tablet supports the 4G networks of Vodafone, Optus and Telstra, with compatibility for the in-development 700MHz bands of the latter two telcos. Both versions of the Tab S offer support for dual-band 802.11ac, Wi-Fi direct, Mobile High-definition Link and Bluetooth 4.0. Surprisingly near field communications (NFC) is missing from the tablet’s repertoire, but it’s absence is easily forgiven.

A dimpled back has never looked so good
A dimpled back has never looked so good

Days of battery

Powering this orgy of cutting-edge specs is a 7900 milliamp-hour battery. Charging the Galaxy Tab S is carried out over microUSB 2.0 and will take a little over four hours.

...any variant of the Tab S is worth its asking price

Good Gear Guide used the Galaxy Tab S as our primary tablet during our week of testing. We surfed the Internet over both Wi-Fi and 4G, used the camera, watched YouTube, social networked, emailed, took notes, played music and streamed videos to our Chromecast.

Our usage was intermittent with the tablet spending a day here and there on standby. During this cycle the Galaxy Tab S lasted almost four days without a charge. We anticipate the tablet will last a day with heavy usage on account of the screen’s appetite for battery life.

Final thought

Samsung has made the best tablet on the market in many ways. The 10.5in screen is in a league of its own, the design resonates, it has a proficient camera and any variant of the Tab S is worth its asking price. Faulting the Tab S’ hardware is a tall order; faulting its software is far too easy.

TouchWiz brims with bloatware, is sluggish, unattractive and a nuisance for prioritising Samsung’s agenda over individual needs. It is reason enough to walk past the Galaxy Tab and and buy an iPad. Or a Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet.

It’s the only reason why we would.

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