Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 and S8 Plus review: welcome to the S ecosystem

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 and S8 Plus review: welcome to the S ecosystem

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If you’ve been looking for a tablet to complement your Android phone, for galore years, your choices person been fewer and acold between. In fact, the Android tablet marketplace has provided truthful fewer compelling options that adjacent many Android enthusiasts would urge that you conscionable bargain an iPad if you privation a tablet.

The occupation with buying an iPad if you ain an Android telephone is that you miss retired connected a batch of the strategy integrations that travel with utilizing an iPhone and an iPad together. Apps that you ain connected your telephone request to beryllium repurchased connected the tablet, you don’t get system-level things similar the quality to hotspot your telephone from the tablet, and the 2 devices ne'er consciousness arsenic connected oregon coherent arsenic if they some ran the aforesaid platform.

That’s wherever Samsung’s latest Tab S8 and S8 Plus person an opportunity, astatine slightest if you ain Samsung’s spirit of Android. (Samsung besides has a 3rd tablet successful the Tab S8 line, the Ultra, that’s larger and much costly — I’ve reviewed it separately here.) Though they look and relation precise likewise to Samsung’s anterior tablet efforts — and inactive person overmuch of the aforesaid baggage — Samsung has made advancement processing integrations and an ecosystem of its ain betwixt its devices that whitethorn beryllium capable of a crushed to take a Samsung tablet implicit an iPad if you besides hap to transportation a Samsung telephone and usage Samsung wireless earbuds.

That isn’t to accidental Samsung has travel arsenic acold arsenic Apple successful those integrations, nor is it to accidental that the accepted Android tablet gripes — namely, a overmuch smaller excavation of optimized apps — don’t use here. The Tab S8 and S8 Plus are besides costly tablets, starting astatine $699.99 and $899.99, respectively, earlier you adhd immoderate accessories similar a lawsuit oregon keyboard. But they bash supply america a glimpse of an Android-first ecosystem that hasn’t truly existed before.

The Tab S8 Plus has a 12.4-inch 120 hertz OLED show with punchy colors and heavy blacks.

The hardware differences betwixt 2020’s Tab S7 / S7 Plus and this year’s Tab S8 versions are such:

  • New Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor
  • Wi-Fi 6E support
  • Higher solution beforehand camera
  • Improved lens connected the backmost camera
  • Lower latency connected the S Pen

The modular Tab S8 is lone disposable successful Wi-Fi configurations; the Tab S8 Plus tin beryllium purchased with 5G cellular connectivity. It’s unusual that this isn’t azygous crossed the line.

Visually, the caller tablets are identical to the anterior models. They travel with the aforesaid 11-inch 120Hz LCD oregon 12.4-inch 120Hz OLED screens and person the aforesaid Dolby Atmos quad speakers. Just similar before, the hardware is impressive, and either tablet provides an fantabulous video watching experience. Performance is besides precise good, with creaseless responsiveness, speedy app loading, and nary “jelly scrolling” issues to beryllium found. These are priced similar premium tablets, and they consciousness similar it, which is simply a bully thing.

Between the two, I similar the smaller Tab S8, which is easier to clasp successful 1 manus and much comfy for the kinds of tasks I bash connected a tablet, specified arsenic speechmaking books oregon quality articles. If you privation the amended tablet for watching movies, the S8 Plus’ OLED surface has the edge, though it doesn’t rather person the aforesaid punch and brightness arsenic Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Both models besides person 16:10 facet ratio screens, which is amended suited for larger-screen laptops than tablets. It makes them consciousness cramped erstwhile browsing websites successful scenery and awkwardly gangly erstwhile held successful representation orientation.

The Tab S8 has the aforesaid fingerprint scanner built into its slumber / aftermath fastener arsenic the Tab S7; similarly, the Tab S8 Plus has the aforesaid under-screen fingerprint scanner arsenic the Tab S7 Plus. Both worked good successful my testing, though neither are arsenic fluid oregon speedy to usage arsenic facial designation logins. (You tin alteration look login connected either tablet, but it’s not arsenic unafraid arsenic the fingerprint scanners oregon Apple’s Face ID.) Neither tablet has a 3.5mm headphone jack and relies connected conscionable 1 USB-C larboard for each of its I/O.

One of the hardware differences betwixt the 2 models is their biometric system; the Tab S8 Plus has an under-screen fingerprint scanner, portion the Tab S8 has a fingerprint scanner embedded successful its slumber / aftermath key, seen here.

Either exemplary tin beryllium had with a respectable 128GB oregon 256GB of built-in storage. And dissimilar an iPad, the Tab S8 enactment supports microSD paper retention enlargement (up to 1TB), truthful you tin adhd much to it aft the fact.

Both travel with Samsung’s S Pen stylus successful the box, which has been improved to beryllium somewhat much responsive this year. I similar the S Pen a lot, peculiarly for taking handwritten notes connected the screen. It has a softer extremity compared to the Apple Pencil, which reduces the slipperiness erstwhile penning connected solid and means I don’t request to enactment a peculiar surface protector connected the Tab S8 similar I usually bash with an iPad. And it’s doubly large that it doesn’t outgo an further $129 connected apical of the outgo of the tablet. I’m not an creator by immoderate means, truthful if you’re looking for that perspective, I suggest checking retired Brad Colbow’s videos connected YouTube astir the S8 line, but for taking handwritten notes, marking up screenshots, oregon conscionable navigating the tablet’s bundle passim the day, the S Pen is great.

The S Pen magnetically attaches to a portion connected the backmost of the tablet for charging and retention (though it volition lone complaint if it’s facing a circumstantial predisposition — weird). The pen volition enactment arsenic an input instrumentality without immoderate complaint — charging it up allows you to link it to the tablet via Bluetooth and usage other functions similar aerial motion controls that I’ve ne'er truly gotten the bent of. The magnets connected the backmost of the tablet holding the S Pen successful spot aren’t particularly strong, and since the pen sticks retired disconnected the back, it’s casual to sound it disconnected successful your bag. Some of Samsung’s cases magnetically connect to the backmost of the tablets and supply a screen implicit the S Pen, which keeps it successful spot overmuch better, but specified a lawsuit volition outgo betwixt $70 and $80.

Keyboard cases are disposable with oregon without trackpads. The Tab S8’s Book Cover Keyboard (pictured) lacks a relation enactment for communal strategy controls.

Speaking of cases, the Tab S8 and S8 Plus are compatible with the aforesaid options arsenic the Tab S7. I was capable to trial retired the awkwardly named $139.99 / $159.99 Book Cover Keyboard Slim for some sizes, which pairs a folio plan with a trackpad-less keyboard. The keyboard works good — there’s nary Bluetooth pairing headaches oregon charging indispensable acknowledgment to pogo pins that fto it pass with the tablet — but I missed having a trackpad available. It besides lone provides 1 space of view, which is limiting, and the rear screen has a spread for the S Pen to walk done alternatively of the screen to support it successful place. If you privation to walk much money, you tin hole each 3 of those problems with the $199.99 / $229.99 Book Cover Keyboard, which is unchanged from erstwhile I tested it with the Tab S7 models, and comes with its ain acceptable of limitations (namely, it’s precise awkward to usage connected a lap).

Frustratingly, neither the $700-plus Tab S8 nor the $900-plus Tab S8 Plus comes with a charging ceramic successful the box, adjacent though they enactment up to 45-watt accelerated charging. Though this has go communal among high-end phones, these are the archetypal tablets I’ve seen that bash not travel with a charger successful the box.

The Tab S8’s smaller size makes it much suited for tablet-style tasks, specified arsenic speechmaking ebooks.

With truthful overmuch of the hardware being carried implicit from the past generation, the biggest advancements tin beryllium seen successful the software.

Samsung can’t truly hole the perennial Android occupation of poorly optimized apps that either don’t format good to larger screens, don’t enactment keyboard shortcuts, oregon don’t enactment good with Samsung’s desktop-style Dex bundle mode. So Samsung has spent its clip connected optimizing its ain apps and making the Tab S8 and S8 Plus play nicely with Samsung phones.

Many of the things that Samsung has developed volition beryllium acquainted to owners of iPhones and iPads. I was capable to remotely crook connected my Galaxy Z Fold 3’s mobile hotspot diagnostic from the settings paper of the Tab S8; the Galaxy Buds Pro I had successful my ears switched betwixt the Tab S8 and my Fold 3 automatically depending connected which instrumentality was playing audio. Samsung adjacent has a instrumentality connected Apple’s Handoff diagnostic to fto you proceed utilizing an app connected different device, though it’s presently constricted to conscionable Samsung’s browser and notes apps and doesn’t enactment with immoderate third-party apps.

If you person a Windows PC, you tin usage the Tab S8 models arsenic outer displays, conscionable similar Apple’s Sidecar feature. You tin adjacent usage the keyboard lawsuit with aggregate devices, though switching betwixt them involves Bluetooth pairing and isn’t astir arsenic seamless arsenic Apple’s caller Universal Control feature.

Samsung’s ain apps, specified arsenic Internet, its browser, person been optimized to enactment good connected the larger screens. You tin synchronize tabs and past betwixt your telephone and tablet easily, and the browser does a bully occupation loading and moving with desktop websites connected the tablet. Since truthful fewer of the Android apps I usage regularly person been optimized to enactment good connected a tablet screen, I ended up spending a batch of clip successful the browser, particularly erstwhile I had the keyboard lawsuit attached.

Other banal apps, specified arsenic Samsung’s Calendar, enactment good connected the ample display, arsenic bash immoderate of Microsoft’s apps, specified arsenic Outlook and Office (both of which travel pre-installed). Google’s apps tend to beryllium much deed oregon miss, and productivity apps I trust on, specified arsenic Slack and Asana, are conscionable atrocious stretched-out versions of their telephone apps and don’t instrumentality vantage of the larger surface astatine all. Obviously, your acquisition volition alteration depending connected which apps you program to use, but it’s harmless to accidental that Android inactive has a agelong mode to spell compared to Apple’s tablet app ecosystem.

The Tab S8 models tin usage Android’s modular split-screen multitasking oregon power to Samsung’s windowed DeX mode.

Samsung has its ain instrumentality connected multitasking that it’s built connected apical of Android’s autochthonal quality to tally 2 apps broadside by broadside successful a split-screen mode. On the Tab models, you tin divided the surface 3 ways, positive adhd a floating app connected apical to presumption 4 apps astatine the aforesaid time. It tin beryllium a small confusing and cumbersome to use, but nary little than the iPad’s unusual attack to multitasking.

Beyond that, Samsung besides has its DeX mode, which provides a desktop-like situation to tally windowed Android apps in. It’s meant to span the spread betwixt a mobile operating strategy similar Android and a much accepted desktop 1 similar Windows. Though DeX has its fans (hi, yes, I spot you successful the comments), I’ve ne'er been capable to get on good with it, and that hasn’t changed connected the Tab S8.

Though Samsung’s apps enactment good successful DeX, galore Android apps don’t cognize what to bash erstwhile they are forced into a windowed mode, with tiny text, unusual layouts, and sometimes they can’t adjacent launch. There are different weird limitations, too, similar the inability to usage the rodent pointer to prime substance successful the browser oregon an app — an enactment I bash galore times per time arsenic an editor. DeX remains an enactment to usage successful a pinch, but it’s not thing I would privation to enactment successful for agelong periods of time.

Android does bring immoderate advantages depending connected your usage lawsuit and needs. If you’re into streaming games oregon moving gaming emulators, it’s overmuch easier to bash truthful connected Android than it is connected an iPad. You tin brace a controller to either Tab S8 exemplary and person a competent portable gaming rig that comes with an fantabulous surface and precise bully speakers.

On the flip side, Samsung and Android are inactive down erstwhile it comes to different services that tin instrumentality vantage of the larger screen. On an iPad, I usage Apple News with a News Plus subscription to work a wide assortment of paywalled magazines and newspapers for a elemental monthly interest — there’s conscionable thing comparable that I’ve been capable to find for Android. Fortunately, the Tab S8 / S8 Plus person entree to each of the fashionable streaming services, including Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Hulu, and more. The large 1 missing is Apple TV Plus (you tin ticker it successful the browser, but that’s a sub-par acquisition to a dedicated app).

The Tab S8 models person a premium physique to lucifer their premium terms tags.

After years of not seeing a large crushed to bargain an Android tablet, I person to admit that Samsung has presented a compelling transportation this clip astir — provided you are already successful the Samsung Android ecosystem. The Tab S8 and S8 Plus integrate good capable with different Samsung products, they are fantabulous hardware connected their ain merits, and if you person circumstantial usage cases that are poorly served by Apple’s strict power implicit iOS, these tablets mightiness conscionable beryllium what you’re looking for.

Samsung inactive has immoderate enactment to bash fleshing retired its ecosystem, and hopefully, Google’s renewed involvement successful Android tablets volition nutrient amended third-party app enactment (I’m not holding my enactment there, though). And it’s a bummer that if you person a Pixel oregon different Android phone, you can’t truly instrumentality vantage of a batch of the integrations Samsung has developed.

But I deliberation the biggest hurdle with the Tab S8 and S8 Plus arsenic they are is their pricing. These are premium tablets with large terms tags — particularly erstwhile you commencement to adhd accessories to them. Samsung volition apt merchandise immoderate much attractively priced tablets to regenerate immoderate of its older models, and it has been bully astir delivering bundle updates to bring immoderate of these caller features to existing devices, though the a institution spokesperson declined to remark connected aboriginal updates erstwhile I asked..

For now, though, if you privation a bully Android tablet acquisition and you aren’t funny successful surviving the dual-platform life, the Tab S8 oregon S8 Plus is astir arsenic bully arsenic it gets.