Samsung Galaxy Tab S9: Specs, Tab S8 upgrades, and which to buy

Goodnotes on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 has arrived with practically everything you could want out of an Android tablet. That includes the fastest Snapdragon processor, an upgraded S Pen, enlarged Dolby Atmos speakers, and a brighter, more colorful display than ever.

Coolest of all, Samsung made the Tab S9 series the first mainstream water-resistant tablet. Add a case and screen protector, and you'll have something close to a rugged outdoor tablet, without the usual compromises that come with those devices. 

Tthe 11-inch Tab S9 received the biggest upgrade: a switch from LCD to AMOLED display. You'll no longer feel pressured to upgrade to the larger Plus or Ultra for the best visual experience. Still, both of the upgraded models do have one or two perks over the base Tab S9.

You can check out our Galaxy Tab S9 hands-on for an in-depth look at how the tablets feel and perform, or our Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review for an in-depth look at Samsung's flagship tablet. 

Otherwise, this Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 buying guide will run you through the release date, price, changes from the Tab S8, differences between the three Tab S9 models, and everything else you need to know. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 release date and models

Comparing the bezels on the Galaxy Tab S9 and S9 Ultra

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Announced at the July 2023 Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event on July 26, the Galaxy Tab S9 launched on August 11 alongside other Unpacked devices like the Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Z Fold 5.

The Galaxy Tab S9 series' standard pricing is unchanged from the Tab S8. The 11-inch Tab S9 starts at $800, with a $200 gap between it and the Tab S9 Plus ($1,000) and Tab S9 Ultra ($1,200). 

Unlike last year, Samsung is charging $120 extra instead of $80 extra for a storage upgrade. The Galaxy Tab S9 Plus and Tab S9 Ultra start with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage; $120 more will give you the same RAM and 512GB of storage. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Tab S9 starts with 8GB/ 128GB but jumps to 12GB/256GB with the same surcharge. 

The Galaxy Tab S9 Plus 5G has no storage upgrade, costing a flat $1,150. And on the highest end, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra with 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage costs a whopping $1,620, an extra $420 over the standard option.

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ModelMemory & storagePrice
Galaxy Tab S98GB + 128GB/ 12GB + 256GB$800 / $920
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus12GB + 256GB/ 512GB$1,000 / $1,120
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus 5G12GB + 256GB$1,150
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra12GB + 256GB/ 512GB; 16GB + 1TB$1,200 / $1,320 / $1,620

Tab S9, S9 Plus, and S9 Ultra specs compared

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CategoryGalaxy Tab S9Galaxy Tab S9 PlusGalaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Display11-inch AMOLED (120Hz)12.4-inch AMOLED (120Hz)14.6-inch AMOLED (120Hz)
ProcessorSnapdragon 8 Gen 2 for GalaxySnapdragon 8 Gen 2 for GalaxySnapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
Memory8GB12GB12GB/ 16GB
Storage128–256GB; 1TB microSD256–512GB; 1TB microSD256/512GB/1TB; 1TB microSD
Rear cameras13MP AF13MP AF + 8MP UW13MP AF + 8MP UW
Front cameras12MP UW12MP UW12MP + 12MP UW
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6E; Bluetooth v5.35G (optional); Wi-Fi 6E; Bluetooth v5.3Wi-Fi 6E; Bluetooth v5.3
AudioQuad Dolby Atmos SpeakersQuad Dolby Atmos SpeakersQuad Dolby Atmos Speakers
SecuritySamsung Knox; On-Screen FingerprintSamsung Knox; On-Screen FingerprintSamsung Knox; On-Screen Fingerprint
ProtectionIP68; Armor AluminumIP68; Armor AluminumIP68; Armor Aluminum
ColorsBeige, GraphiteBeige, GraphiteBeige, Graphite
Dimensions165.8 x 254.3 x 5.9mm; 10.01 x 6.53 x 0.23"185.4 x 285.4 x 5.7mm; 11.23 x 7.30 x 0.22"208.6 x 326.4 x 5.5mm; 12.85 x 8.21 x 0.21"
Weight498g / 1.1lbWi-Fi: 581g/ 1.28lb; 5G: 586g/ 1.29lb732g/ 1.61lb

All three Galaxy Tab S9 models share the same AMOLED 2X display quality and refresh rate, though the pixels per inch naturally dip for the larger models. They have the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip found in the Galaxy S23 series and share the same quad speaker set-up. They also share the same S Pen with 2.8ms of latency and IP68 dust and water resistance.

Upgrade from the Tab S9 to the Tab S9 Plus, and you get more than a larger display. You add an 8MP ultra-wide rear camera, a larger battery (though this is offset by the 12.4-inch display), and an option to buy it with 5G for cellular connectivity on the go. 

The Tab S9 Plus also has twice the storage and 4GB extra RAM out of the box; you can upgrade the Tab S9 to 12GB RAM, but there's no 512GB option. 

For the top-tier Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra, you start with the same 12GB/256GB memory as the S9 Plus, but it's the only tablet with a 16GB/1TB variant if you can afford it. You also get a second 12MP selfie camera, in addition to the ultra-wide cam on all three tablets. 

Generally speaking, there isn't that much different between the three Galaxy Tab S9 models. So far, all three have the same two color options (Graphite and Beige), and their thickness only varies by 0.2mm from one Tab to the next. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 vs. Tab S8

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra vs. Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra displays

The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra and S8 Ultra, side-by-side (Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

We'll write a more in-depth guide of the Galaxy Tab S9 vs. Tab S8 to compare every minute difference, but we'll also run through the highlights below:

Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 vs. Gen 1: The newest Qualcomm flagship chip has blown away the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip found in the Tab S8, which had fast speeds but tended to overheat during heavy use. You can see our Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 vs. 1 guide to see how the two chips compare in general.

Benchmarks aren't a perfect metric, but our parent company's Future Labs team found the Tab S8 8GB hit 1208/3228 in Geekbench 5 single-core/multi-core benchmarks. Compare that to the 8GB Galaxy S23 scores: 1522/4876. Phones and tablets perform differently with the same tech, but we can still expect minor improvements for browsing and everyday apps; and for heavy-duty mobile gaming, you could see a 1.5X boost with the same memory, while also running more efficiently.

IP68 protection: Tablets almost never offer any official dust or water protection. But now, this IP rating means the Galaxy Tab S9 won't take on particles if you take it to the beach, or that you can submerge the tablet in water for a short time without damaging it. 

Tab S9-specific upgrades: While the 11-inch Tab S8 had an LCD display, the Galaxy Tab S9 switches to AMOLED, matching its larger siblings. This gives you better, richer colors and the same 2.8ms S Pen latency. Plus, the battery size jumps from 8,000 to 8,400mAh, probably to accommodate AMOLED's power demands; the Tab S9 Plus and Ultra batteries remain the same as their S8 counterparts. 

Vision Booster: Now that your Tab S9 can handle outdoor hazards, Samsung has added its Vision Booster tech found on its phones. In Samsung's words, it "uses an intelligent algorithm to automatically detect ambient light conditions and optimize screen settings which leads to enhancements in contrast, color and brightness."

Multitasking on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra and using the S Pen

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

More default RAM and storage: The Tab S9 Plus and Ultra start with 12GB/256GB, whereas the Tab S8+ Plus and Ultra only sport 8GB / 128GB by default. We also think the Tab S9 series has UFS 4.0 instead of 3.1 for any storage above 128GB, but Samsung has yet to confirm this. If true, you'll get twice as fast read/write speeds for stored data and improves performance for applications like game loading compared to the UFS 3.1 in older Tabs.

Cameras: You get a small resolution jump for the rear ultra-wide camera from 6MP to 8MP for the Tab S9 Plus and Ultra, while the Tab S9 loses that UW camera (something the Tab S8 has). Otherwise, the camera hardware and extra 12MP selfie cam for the Ultra are unchanged from the Tab S8 series. 

S Pen: Like the new tablets, the bundled S Pen has an IP68 rating. Samsung also says the new stylus has "optimized" pressure sensitivity on the side button, and that it charges on the Tab S9's rear "whether you place it up or down," instead of having to place it a certain way.

Dimensions: The lengths, widths, and thickness of all three Tab S9 models fall within a millimeter of the Tab S8s, with only a few decimal points of difference between them. The only change worth noting is that the Tab S9 thickness dips from 6.3mm to 5.9mm. 

As for their weights, the Tab S9 is 5g lighter, the Tab S9 Plus 14g heavier, and the Tab S9 Ultra 6g heavier. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9: Which should you buy?

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra home screen

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

We had the opportunity to test out the entire Galaxy Tab S9 series in New York City prior to the Unpacked unveiling, and then review the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra in more depth. We've also reviewed the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus and Tab S8 Ultra, to give context on how this latest tablet generation has improved. 

If you're used to a standard tablet size — most tablets fall into a 10- to 11-inch range and weigh just above a pound — the Galaxy Tab S9 is the obvious choice. It's not quite enough display space for serious desk work or multitasking, but it's really the only comfortably portable model. 

It has less RAM by default than the other models, but you can upgrade to 12GB and still pay less than the Tab S9 Plus. And as we've already explained, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is a performance beast that doesn't need extra memory except for really specific circumstances like hitting the highest graphics in Genshin Impact. 

So the Tab S9 is really the only choice that's relatively "affordable," compared to the other best Android tablets, without feeling like a serious compromise. 

We loved the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus because it gave you a screen that's close to laptop-sized for productivity, but isn't so massive like the Ultra — meaning you can still hold it fairly comfortably on your stomach for streaming in bed. That same principle applies to the Galaxy Tab S9 Plus: it's large enough to take full advantage of its processing power, but not too large. 

Plus, it's the only model with 5G; now that it has an IP68 rating and you may want to use it outdoors more often, that might prove useful to you. 

As for the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra, its upside is obvious: that massive display makes it useful as a laptop-replacing device that won't take up as much room in a backpack. Just keep in mind that you'll probably keep it on a desk most of the time, whether for work or play; so you'll need a keyboard accessory to get the most out of it. That could add several hundred dollars more on top of the already-high price. 

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.