iPad Air 4 vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

If you’ve been hankering for a new tablet but have your eye on both the new iPad Air 4 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7, how do you know which to go for? Sometimes it’s not as simple as asking yourself “iOS or Android?” — and that’s where we come in. We’ve compared these two top-notch tablets across six core categories, from display to battery life, and picked a clear winner. So, which should you buy? Keep reading, and we’ll reveal all.

Specs

iPad Air 4 Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
Size 247.4 x 177.8 x 6.09mm (9.74 x 7 x 0.24 inches) 253.8 x 165.3 x 6.3mm (9.99 x 6.51 x 0.25 inches)
Weight 453.6 grams (1 pound) 498 grams (1.1 pounds)
Screen size 10.9-inch Liquid Retina LCD 11-inch TFT
Screen resolution 2360 x 1640 pixels (264 ppi) 2560 x 1600 pixels
Operating system iPadOS 14 Android 10
Storage 64GB, 256GB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slot No Yes
Processor Apple A14 Bionic Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus
RAM 4GB 8GB
Camera 12MP rear, 7MP front 13MP + 5MP rear, 8MP front
Video 4K at 24, 30, 60 fps, 1080p at 30, 60, 120, 240 fps UHD 4K at 30 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Water resistance No No
Battery life 10 hours on Wi-Fi, 9 hours on cellular 13 hours on Wi-Fi,
App marketplace Apple App Store Google Play Store
Network support AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon (cellular models only) AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile
Colors Silver, Space Gray, Rose Gold, Green, Sky Blue Mystic Black, Mystic Silver, Mystic Bronze

(Cellular only in Mystic Black)

Price Starting at $599 (Wi-Fi), $729 (cellular) Starting at $650 (Wi-Fi, 128GB), $850 (cellular)
Buy from Apple Samsung, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile
Review score 4.5 out of 5 stars News

Design, display, and durability

There’s no denying the iPad Air 4 owes its design to the iPad Pro — in fact, it’s a carbon copy. Its metal body is perfectly flat at the back and sides, giving it a more modern feel than Apple’s old curvy style. Weighing just 1 pound, it’s extremely lightweight and comfortable to hold one-handed, and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor is now integrated into the power button.

Slightly heavier than the iPad Air at 1.1 pounds, the Galaxy Tab S7’s aluminum frame with slim bezels feels weighty, but not in a bad way. There’s a spot on the back of the tablet to magnetically dock the S-Pen, and there are a hybrid power button and fingerprint sensor on the top of the tablet. In practice, this can be a little frustrating to use when the tablet is in landscape mode, as you’ll need to contort your finger at a pretty strange angle to get it to actually work.

The iPad Air 4 boasts a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with 2360 x 1640 resolution — the same as the iPad Pro — with TrueTone color adjustment and a laminated screen that’s less reflective than some of its competitors, ensuring you shouldn’t run into any issues either indoors or outdoors.

The Tab S7’s 11-inch screen with 2560 x 1600 resolution is rated for up to 500 nits of brightness, with vivid colors and a 120Hz refresh rate that’s buttery smooth. You may not notice the difference with the refresh rate at first, but disabling and enabling the setting lets you appreciate just how much more smoothly videos move and text scrolls. The S7’s screen is noticeably more reflective than the iPad Air 4, something that’s especially apparent — and frequently irritating — when watching dark videos and seeing your own reflection.

Ultimately, the less-reflective screen, flat design, and color choices of the iPad Air 4 seal the deal for us, making it our winner this round.

Winner: iPad Air 4

Performance, battery life, and charging

You’ll find the new A14 Bionic chip inside the iPad Air 4 — it’s the first of Apple’s devices to get this, and Apple promises a 40% improvement in CPU performance, plus a 30% increase in graphics performance.

In contrast, the Tab S7 boasts the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus chip — the fastest processor currently available for Android devices. It’s not as fast as the A14 Bionic, but for general usage, you’d be hard pushed to notice a difference. Most games run well, with a slight stutter here and there, apps launch quickly, and there’s no delay switching between them — it’s definitely the smoothest Android tablet experience yet.

Samsung promises up to 14 hours of battery life on the Tab S7, but we got around 12 to 13 hours on a full charge — more than enough to see you through a full day and into the next. It’s definitely worth bearing in mind that the 120Hz refresh rate on the Tab S7 will cost you battery life when enabled. With the Air 4, you can expect around 10 hours of battery life on Wi-Fi, nine on cellular.

The iPad Air 4 has a USB-C port, so you can use your MacBook cable for charging. It comes bundled with a 20W USB-C charging brick. There’s a USB-C port on the bottom of the Tab S7 too, and it comes bundled with a 15W USB-C charger, which takes around 2.5 hours to fully charge the tablet from empty. Although it does support 45W fast charging, you’ll need to pick up a fast charger separately.

This round’s too close to call, as the differences aren’t enough to secure a win for either tablet — it really all depends on your preferences. The Tab S7 has the most powerful processor available on Android devices and fantastic battery life — but slower 15W charging, whereas the iPad Air 4 has the A14 Bionic chip and faster 20W charging.

Winner: Tie

Cameras

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Tablets are never known for their cameras — somehow it never seems all that important — however, with more of us working from home than ever before, the front-facing camera is finally getting its time to shine. The iPad Air 4 has a 7MP front FaceTime HD camera, which provides average results but does boast auto image stabilization for better Zoom calls and clearer selfies. It also has a 12-megapixel rear camera with wide-angle lens (identical to the iPad Pro) and Apple’s Focus Pixels for autofocus on those tricky shots.

On the Tab S7, you’ll find a 13MP primary lens with an 8MP front camera and a 5MP ultra-wide sensor on the back. First thing’s first: The rear ultra-wide camera is really only useful for those times you need a wide shot, as the ultra-wide lens sacrifices a lot of detail, making images look smudgy. Overall, the Tab S7’s cameras take solid shots in good lighting, and the main camera is great for snapping quick shots or scanning documents, while the front-facing camera is excellent for video calls. Image quality suffers in low light with significant noise. However, the selfie cam still works well for video calling, as long as there’s at least a little light.

Neither tablet offers a fantastic camera, but if we had to pick one, we’d opt for the iPad Air 4, which just pips the Tab S7 to the post thanks to Focus Pixels and auto image stabilization.

Winner: iPad Air 4

Software and updates

The iPad Air 4 runs iPadOS 14, and Apple is generally very good at offering software updates to devices for several years. The Tab S7 ships with Android 10 and Samsung’s One UI 2.5, which somehow doesn’t feel as intuitive as Apple’s ecosystem. Samsung promises three generations of OS updates for the Tab S7, but considering it ships with Android 10, you’re already using up one update just upgrading to Android 11.

The Tab S7’s DeX mode is excellent for those planning to use their tablet as a laptop, allowing you to use a compatible TV as a screen. With DeX mode, your Android home screen is replaced by one that looks a lot like a typical Windows desktop, and you can work in windowed mode rather than having apps take up the whole screen — a real boon for multitasking and something the iPad isn’t capable of. The only downside is that not all apps are compatible with DeX.

If longevity is a concern, we’d recommend sticking with Apple to ensure your device continues receiving software updates for as long as possible, although you shouldn’t run into any issues with the Tab S7 for a few years, either.

Winner: iPad Air 4

Special features

The iPad Air and the Galaxy Tab S7 both offer a range of special features. The iPad Air 4 supports the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil, which magnetically docks to the side of the device to charge. The Galaxy Tab S7 comes with the S Pen, and this docks magnetically to the rear of the device. While the S7 comes with the S Pen included, the iPad Air 4 doesn’t ship with an Apple Pencil, and a 2nd-gen one will set you back $129 from Apple.

The 2nd-gen Apple Pencil is easier to hold, charge, and keep track of than the 1st-gen, with its matte texture and smaller size — and you can take advantage of the Scribble handwriting-to-text feature of iPadOS 14. The iPad Air 4 also supports Apple’s Magic Keyboard, helping the device feel more like a laptop and turning it into a workhorse, although it will cost you an additional $299.

The S Pen has a button on the side that lets you perform gestures to control specific actions on the tablet — but this isn’t especially intuitive. You’ll also notice a “pencil drawing on paper” sound effect when using the S Pen, which can get slightly annoying but can easily be resolved by turning down the sound.

For those wanting to use their Tab S7 as a workhorse, Samsung’s Book Cover Keyboard will set you back $199 — and it’s a must for DeX mode. It snaps on using the Smart Connector, but it’s not the sturdiest or most reliable keyboard, although the keys are large and nicely spaced. The trackpad feels jumpy and the keyboard isn’t backlit, so it’s difficult to type in the dark. Ultimately, you might want to seek out a third-party option if you’re intent on a keyboard for the Tab S7.

It’s too hard for us to pick a winner here, as it really depends on how you plan to use your device and your available budget.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The iPad Air 4 is available directly from Apple. You can find the 64GB model (Wi-Fi) right now for $599 — expect to pay $729 for the cellular version. The 256GB model will set you back $729 for the Wi-Fi version or $879 for cellular.

Pick up the Galaxy Tab S7 from Samsung for $650 for the 128GB model (Wi-Fi), $730 for the 256GB model, or $830 for the 512GB model. The cellular version is available with 128GB of storage only and will cost you $850. Samsung is also offering up to $64 off the cost of a new Tab S7 when trading in a qualifying device right now.

Overall winner: iPad Air 4

The iPad Air 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 have a lot in common — and some pretty significant differences, too. The Tab S7 boasts a gorgeous display, compact size, a fast and extremely powerful processor, a sleek design, and it comes with the S Pen. But it’s not the most affordable tablet, and if you’re looking for a laptop replacement, the iPad is the one to go for, even though you’ll end up spending more on a 2nd-gen Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard. It offers longer battery life, a better keyboard accessory, and superior multitasking, unless you’re a fan of DeX’s windows for multitasking. With that said, if you do decide to go for the Tab S7, you can get up to $64 off when trading in a qualifying device at Samsung, making this Android tablet slightly more affordable.

If neither of these tablets seems quite right for you and you’re on a budget, why not check out some of the best cheap iPad deals or the best cheap Samsung Galaxy Tab deals?

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