The battle between Samsung and Apple doesn’t just come down to smartphones. The two companies are also aggressively investing in other markets, and tablets have remained a priority for both of them.
At some level, the product strategy that Samsung and Apple are using is more or less similar. Their tablet lineup includes not only models that can be used as a traditional tablet, without any extra accessory, but also more advanced products which buyers in the enterprise or those looking for enhanced productivity can get.
The Galaxy Tab S4 is living proof that the iPad Pro isn’t all alone in this battle, though many would rush to remind that Microsoft is also an important player in this particular side of the market.
But referring to the Samsung vs. Apple duel alone, the Galaxy Tab S4 is living proof that productivity can exist regardless of the platform. And when a keyboard and a pen is brought into the equation, what you get is a super-advanced mix ready to replace a PC. Is this the case of the new S4? Let’s find out.
Aesthetically speaking, the Galaxy Tab S4 is a beautifully crafted piece of technology. It uses glass front and back, and it feels extremely exquisite when held in hand.
It’s a little slippery, that’s true, but at 249.3 x 164.3 x 7.1 mm it’s fairly convenient to always carry it around in your bag or backpack. It weighs only 482 grams for the Wi-Fi version or 483 grams for the LTE.
The 10.5-inch screen is now encased in a body with very small bezels, as Samsung has removed the home button in a typical Galaxy S phone-like approach. Truth be told, the Tab S4 looks and feels like a bigger Note 9 in many regards, including when looking at it from certain angles.
The Tab S4 is comfortable to use in both landscape and portrait, though I’d recommend everyone to buy a case or a sleeve because the slippery feeling can also affect the experience altogether.
In terms of hardware, the Tab S4 is just like you’d expect it to be: super-advanced and capable of running most tasks without too much effort.
The device is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip (MSM8998), which isn’t the most recent generation of mobile processors unveiled by the San Diego-based firm. And yet, it still runs pretty smoothly and no slowdown is occurred across the operating system (Android 8.1) or in apps like Microsoft Office and other productivity tools.
The processor is paired with 4GB RAM, and the Tab S4 can be equipped with as much as 256GB storage. A microSD card slot is also offered just in case additional storage is offered.
This hardware mix, especially when considering the high-quality OLED display, contributes to smooth performance in both tablet and 2-in-1 form factor. Though I must emphasize that this is also thanks to Android being the operating system powering the device, as the said processor is a mobile chip specifically optimized for this platform.
One of the most impressive pieces of hardware on the Tab S4 were the 4 speakers tuned by AKG. Offering surround sound with Dolby Atmos tech, the 2 speakers at the top and the other 2 at the bottom provide an immersive sound experience when playing games and watching high-quality videos.
The Tab S4 is a delight to use to watch videos, and although in most of the cases the headphones are the ones providing you with a superior audio experience, this isn’t the case here. Just like on the Galaxy Note 9, which also comes with speakers tuned by AKG, the Tab S4 excels in terms of audio, and it sounds unbelievable well for such a form factor.
If you’re the kind of user who likes to attend events like car shows and take photos with your tablet, you’re in luck. The Tab S4, although it doesn’t offer the same performance as the Note 9, for instance, comes with very capable cameras on both front and back.
The back unit is a 13-megapixel sensor with 1.12 um pixel size and F1.9 aperture, while the selfie taker is an 8-megapixel unit with the same specs. The difference is the sensor size, which in the case of the rear camera is 1/3.06”, while for the front-facing camera it is 1/4.0”.
Needless to say, cameras aren’t exactly the most important parts of a tablet, but this configuration makes video calls quite a breeze. The biggest drawback is obviously in low light, but this is a problem happening on phones as well, so I can’t really complain about this.
Samsung equipped its new-generation tablet with a 7300 mAh battery featuring fast charging because yes, people need fast charging and every single gadget out there should have it (heard that, Apple?).
Samsung says a full charge should provide up to 16 hours of video playback, but the best I got was 7 to 8 hours of mixed usage. If you play games for longer sessions, such as really demanding games like Asphalt 9, with speaker audio, battery life per charge could drop to approximately 4 hours.
This is good performance nevertheless, especially given the high-performance screen that makes everything look so sharp and crisp.
One of the biggest drawbacks on the Tab S4, and which I consider to be a deal-breaker for many, is the lack of a fingerprint sensor.
Samsung has removed it when ditching the home button, and instead of moving it to the back of the tablet, the company decided to abandon this piece of hardware entirely.
As a result, what the South Korean firm recommends you to use is face recognition, the iris scanner, or intelligent scan, which is actually a combination of the two.
This is a somewhat odd decision, especially because the company itself has previously recommended to users of its Galaxy flagships to stick with fingerprint sensors due to face recognition and iris scanners not being fully secure.
This means you might be better off without them, though this also means that you have to stick with a password lock, which to be honest, is a solution that belongs to a different decade.
“No fingerprint sensor, no buy.”
And while the lack of a fingerprint sensor is disappointing, to say the least, I think the best part of the Galaxy Tab S4 is the support for the Samsung S Pen.
As it’s the case on the Galaxy Note 9, the S Pen provides a more natural input method, and it lets you do things like drawing and writing with added convenience.
The Tab S4 pen is bigger than the one on the Note 9 and it obviously feels more natural in hand. It can be used for all kinds of activities, like taking a screen off memo, creating a live message, or even translate text, but on the other hand, it lacks functionality like doubling as a remote.
The remote controlling options are exclusive to the Note 9 series and are possible thanks to the addition of Bluetooth support. On the Tab S4, however, the S Pen continues to be a neat input method, but I still think that making all features available everywhere is a key part for a smooth transition from one device to another.
Writing and drawing on the Tab S4 feels more natural than on the Note 9, obviously thanks to the dimensions of the screen. The palm detection system works remarkably well, and to be honest, I didn’t find any problem writing on the display even for longer periods of time.
The bottom line
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 excels especially in those areas that are important for tablet users. So before buying it, you must first think what you’re planning to use the Tab S4 for.
Tablets most often come in handy for playing games, watching movies, listening to music, and browsing the web. On the most recent generations, manufacturers have also focused on their productivity side, and this is how some ended up becoming 2-in-1s that can also be used for office work, including working with documents.
Samsung’s new flagship tablet can do all of these without much effort, though it goes without saying that for the office stuff you need to attach a keyboard. It also comes with support for Samsung DeX, so it can project the screen to a bigger display to provide you with an ad-hoc computer.
The Tab S4 offers LTE speeds up to 1Gbps, so it’s the perfect companion for streaming videos or listening to music, while the high-quality stereo sound and the absolutely fascinating display makes it the right choice for watching movies.
This doesn’t mean it’s a flawless product though. The lack of a fingerprint sensor is a deal-breaker, there’s no doubt about it, and the S Pen not having a magnet side to quickly attach to the tablet is clearly a setback too.
But in the end, whether or not the Tab S4 is a smart purchase is up to each buyer. Are you interested in the entertainment side of the tablet? Go for it. Do you want to use the Tab S4 to replace your PC? Think again.