Our first look at Samsung's newest best tablets
Let's just be clear here — it's tough to do the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablets justice in words and pictures. (Even moving pictures.) You really do need to hold these in your hands to experience just how thin and light they are. And just how crisp and clear the displays look. Tablets seemingly are a dime a dozen these days (especially from Samsung, which produces more than its share, for sure), but the new Galaxy Tab S tablets easily are the Korean manufacturer's best. That much is clear.
And we're bringing you a first look at Samsung's latest flagship tablets. So let's dive into the new Galaxy Tab S models, shall we?
The Galaxy Tab S video hands-on
The look and feel of the Galaxy Tab S
So what are we dealing with? The new Tab S line features two sizes — an 8.4 incher, and one at 10.5 inches — and two colors, titanium bronze and dazzling white. That's pretty standard stuff. But what's sexy here is that Samsung has brought back its Super AMOLED panel, which has mostly been missing from tablets since 2012's Galaxy Tab 7.7 in favor of LDC screens. But Super AMOLED has returned, and it looks great. Blacks are black. Whites are white. There's a ton of contrast. And the resolution is nothing to shrug at, either. Both tablets sport a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600, which equals about 359 pixels per inch for the 8.4-inch model, and 287 ppi for the 10.5-incher.
Next you'll notice (again, when you're actually holding the new tablets) just how thin and light they are. They both manage to pack everything into a body that's just 6.6 mm thick. And both tablets are light, too — about 294 grams for the 8.4-inch tablet, and 467 grams for the 10.5-incher. (The versions with cellular radios will weigh just a hair more.)
Both tablets purposefully look and feel a lot like the Galaxy S5, no real surprise there. They've got the same physical home button — with fingerprint scanner — flanked by multitasking and back buttons. There's an 8MP camera on the rear of the tablets, and a 2.1MP shooter out front. The rear is covered in a sort of faux-leather/suede feel. If you've handled the blue or gold Galaxy S5, you sort of know what it feels like, only it's been refined even further. In short, it feels great. There are a couple of odd circles on the back of the tablets as well — we'll get to them in a minute.
The Galaxy Tab S software
Hello, Touchwiz. Of course. Sort of. Again, the same look and feel as the GS5, only tweaked a good bit for a tablet layout — it's called Content Home, and it brings together a number of features and widgets, and it does so really well. If you prefer a more sparse (read: stock) Android experience in a tablet, well, this ain't it. It's full of the same features we've come to know and love in the GS5, with a few additions.
First is SideSync 3.0, which will forward your calls from a connected Galaxy phone to the tablet. (If this sounds familiar, it's because LG's got the same thing in Q Pair.) It's probably not a feature you'll use every day, but it works, and it can be handy to have if you're working with the tablet and don't want to get up to answer — or place — a call. (It also works with MultiWindow, which is also included on the Tab S.)
(Outside of North America, you've got more direct means of taking and making calls on the Tab S. You just do it.)
The other big addition is Papergarden — basically Samsung's own take on magazine subscriptions. Yes, it'll run alongside Google Play Newsstand, and, no, the fact that here's another standalone Samsung service that duplicates a Google functionality wasn't lost on us. We only got to see a preview of Papergarden, but we can't imagine a magazine experience being all that different. Conde Nast has inked a deal with Samsung, though, so expect to see its publications in Papergarden.
There's a wealth of Samsung software on board, including multiple user profiles and a dedicated kids mode — and Galaxy Gifts are back, just like on the GS5 — that we'll go more in depth on once we've spent more time with the tablets. But those are the two major additions.
The Galaxy Tab S accessories
Here's where things really get fun. Samsung's whipped up a trio of accessories for the Galaxy Tab S. For both of them, that is. There are a couple covers available — a "Simple Cover," which snaps into the back and wraps around for some basic protection while allowing you to prop up the tablet. And then there's the "Book Cover," which protects the entire tablet, gives three choices for viewing angles for watching movies, reading or typing and manages to do so in a slim and stylish manner. Plus, they come in a half-dozen colors.
And notice how we said "snaps in"? The covers snap into those strange circles on the back. They're surprisingly strong, and they do take a little bit of force to engage. You'll get used to it. What does take a little practice is figuring out the proper way to flip things for the different viewing angles. It's not quite as easy as other covers we've used (both on Android and on the iPad), but it works really well. There's just a bit of a learning curve.
And finally there's a dedicated Bluetooth keyboard, available for both sizes. It's not quite full-size, of course, but it's still fairly decent, and it's just about 7.5mm thick. The keys we used felt to be just a little more spongy than perhaps we'd like. When not in use, the keyboard services as a protective case, with a sturdy latch on the front to keep things in place.
The bottom line, so far
We've spent just a short amount of time with the new Galaxy Tab S tablets, but this much was clear: They appear to be very, very good. They're done in the classic Samsung style, take it or leave it. But the displays are gorgeous. The thinness and lightness absolutely need to be seen to be believed.
And the prices aren't horrible, either. Wifi versions run $399 for the 8.4-incher, and $499 for the 10.5-inch model. (Preorders start in the states on June 13 at Samsung.com, and they'll be available in retail locations in July. U.S. carriers will have LTE models as well.
That's it for now. More to come once these guys are released.