Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra vs. Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch: Which flagship tablet should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra vs. Apple iPad Pro: Design and screen

Why you can trust Android Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra home screen

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra and the iPad Pro 12.9-inch are the two best tablets you can buy right now, and they include a lot of exciting features. Let's start with Samsung; the Tab S9 Ultra has an aluminum chassis and is identical to its predecessor in terms of the design, but there are subtle changes to the dimensions, so any existing cases or accessories don't work with the tablet — obviously.

The Tab S9 Ultra is sleek at just 5.5mm, but thanks to the flat sides, you can easily hold the tablet. That said, because you get a 14.6-inch screen, it is absolutely massive — it is 326.4mm wide and weighs 732g, so this isn't the sort of tablet that you just hold one-handed to stream movies while in bed.

Close-up on Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra front cameras

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

And talking about the screen, the 14.6-inch AMOLED panel is outstanding, and while it doesn't get as bright as the best Samsung phones, it is more than adequate on a tablet. You get excellent color vibrancy and contrast levels, and there's decent customizability as well. The only issue I have with the screen is that there's a large cutout in the middle to accommodate the camera, and that looks ungainly. Samsung could have used a more elegant system here.

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2022

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Ironically, it's the iPad Pro 12.9 that doesn't have any cutout, with the camera embedded into the side bezels. That makes the tablet look a lot sleeker, and while the design hasn't changed here either, it looks a smidgen more refined than what you get with Samsung. It's also a little easier to hold and use, and at 685g, your arms aren't getting as much of a workout — but you'll still need to invest in a good case, ideally with a hinged design.

Of the two, I prefer the design of the iPad Pro; it just looks a little cleaner, and there's no annoying cutout. And while the tablet doesn't have an AMOLED panel — it is instead rocking a mini-LED screen — you get 120Hz refresh, and excellent brightness levels. It is particularly good at streaming HDR content on the likes of Netflix, and the onboard sound is insanely good.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra vs. Apple iPad Pro: Hardware

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2022

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Both tablets have plenty of power to spare, but the iPad Pro 12.9 has the distinct advantage in this area thanks to the M2. You basically get the same level of performance as a MacBook, and that turns the iPad Pro into a portable workstation. I use my iPad Pro regularly to edit photos and videos, and it does a terrific job.

That said, the Tab S9 Ultra has a few extras that you don't get on the iPad Pro; there's a MicroSD card slot as standard, and you get IP68 dust and water resistance, making it a great choice at the pool. Another differentiator is that you get Samsung's S Pen stylus bundled with the package; you'll need to pick up a stylus with the iPad Pro.

Goodnotes on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra

But when it comes to the broader accessory ecosystem, the iPad Pro is in a league of its own. You get a significantly wider range of accessories — including cases, keyboard folios, and so on — for the iPad Pro, and the Magic Keyboard in particular is outstanding. Yes, it costs a ridiculous amount of cash (more so than any mechanical keyboard I have), but it does a great job as a travel keyboard, and the floating hinge design is ideal if you want to stream entertainment.

The iPad Pro also lasts a little longer than the Tab S9 Ultra — I had zero issues in this area in the six months I used the device. Both tablets have large batteries, but the bigger screen on the Tab S9 Ultra means the battery doesn't quite last as long.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra vs. Apple iPad Pro: Software

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

The Tab S9 Ultra is about to get the One UI 6 update based on Android 14, and while there isn't a huge overhaul, Samsung is rolling out subtle design changes and introducing all the new Android 14 features. Now, Android tablets haven't had the best software in previous years, but that has changed considerably, and these days, the UI scales according to screen size, and has plenty of multitasking features.

That's particularly true on Samsung's tablets, and the brand managed to do a great job rolling out unique features that you don't get anywhere else, like DeX. If you haven't used a Samsung device recently, DeX lets you use a desktop mode by connecting a mouse and keyboard, and it works really well.

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2022

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The iPad Pro 12.9 is running iPadOS 17.2, and while it is hobbled when it comes to multitasking, it offers a better caliber of software utilities. The inherent limitations with iPadOS means you don't get a usable split-screen view or desktop mode, but if you need apps tailored for tablets, it is a much better choice.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra vs. Apple iPad Pro: Which should you buy?

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2022

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Both of these tablets cost a lot of cash, and choosing between the two comes down to what you're looking for in a tablet. Having used all the latest iPad Air models, switching to the iPad Pro 12.9 was a revelation. There's plenty of useful software utilities, and while I'm annoyed at the lack of multitasking features, that isn't what I'm looking for in a tablet anyway.

If you've already used an iPad and want something with a much better screen and powerful hardware that's on par with a MacBook, you will love what the iPad Pro 12.9 has to offer. 

What's annoying about the iPad Pro is that the base version has just 128GB of storage, and you'll need to pay $100 more to get the 256GB model, bringing the price to $1,199. While the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra also costs the same, you get 256GB as standard on the base version, and it costs less to upgrade to higher storage configurations — 512GB is $1,319, and the 1TB model with 16GB of RAM is $1,619. With the iPad Pro, you'll have to shell out $1,399 to get the 512GB version, and an absurd $1,799 for the 1TB variant.

The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is the obvious choice if you're heavily invested in the Samsung ecosystem and want a tablet with the same interface as your phone. 

Android scales well on tablets these days, and to its credit, Samsung sorted out lingering shortcomings with One UI. And there's the fact that you get an even bigger screen and a bundled stylus with the S9 Ultra, and although the software isn't quite on the same level as the iPad Pro, it is close.

If I had to pick one, I'd get the iPad Pro. It just has better software utilities, an extensive accessory ecosystem, and is terrific at multimedia and productivity use cases. Basically, it has everything I want in a high-end tablet. 

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is Android Central's Senior Editor of Asia. In his current role, he oversees the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, networking products, and AV gear. He has been testing phones for over a decade, and has extensive experience in mobile hardware and the global semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.