Samsung introduced the Galaxy Tab S lineup at a special event in Madison Square Garden Thursday evening. The 10.5-inch and 8.4-inch tablets debuted alongside several accessories, including two different covers and an in-house Bluetooth keyboard, designed specifically for the 10.5-inch version. Samsung intends to make the Tab S lineup into its first series of true flagship tablets.
It appears that Samsung is looking for a way to organize its plentiful tablet portfolio into a series of brands, just like it has with smartphones. As such, the Galaxy Note Tab series is essentially the tablet equivalent of the Galaxy Note phablet line, which is geared toward artists. Meanwhile, the Tab S lineup is the natural extension of the Galaxy S smartphone brand, which is all about high quality and entertainment. At least, that’s the way Samsung is presenting the story.
It’s unclear where the new Galaxy Pro tablets fit into the scheme of things, but perhaps they fill a basic gap in the tablet market that doesn’t exist in the world of smartphones: productivity on a big screen. Regardless, the two Galaxy Tab Ss are undoubtedly beautiful and powerful.
Just the specs, ma’am
Aside from the screen size, the 8.4- and 10.5-inch models are no different. Both feature spectacular Super AMOLED screens with resolutions of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels. Samsung knows that most people use their tablets for one thing: streaming movies and TV shows. After all, if you’re going to settle back during your transatlantic flight with a tablet, it had better have an amazing display. Samsung told us that not only does the Super AMOLED offer superior color saturation, it also features a contrast ratio that’s 100 times better than that of the typical LCD used on tablets.
Samsung took special care to make the 10.5- and 8.4-inch Tab S tablets as thin and light as possible.
Indeed, when we took a look at the displays on both tablets, the colors were very rich and the images crisp. To ensure that the batteries on the Tab S don’t die after a two-hour movie, Samsung added the same adaptive display feature found on the Galaxy S5 smartphone. This lets users adjust the display quality, brightness, etc., depending on how you are using the device. For example, if you’re just checking email, you could set the display quality lower than you would while watching “Game of Thrones.”
To power that beautiful display, Samsung popped its own Exynos 5 Octa processor under the hood, clocking in at 1.9 or 1.3GHz, depending on the model. The Exynos processor is backed by 3GB RAM. During a brief hands-on with both versions of the Tab S, the processor seemed zippy and fast, as expected. The base model offers 16 or 32GB of storage, but a MicroSD card slot is available for expansion up to 128GB.
Both of the Tab S models come with an 8-megapixel back camera and a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera. Android KitKat 4.4 comes preinstalled on the new tablets, which also feature Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and MIMO connectivity. Surprisingly, Samsung also placed fingerprint sensors on its flagship tablets. PayPal payments can be made using them.
Samsung took special care to make the 10.5- and 8.4-inch Tab S tablets as thin and light as possible. The 10.5-inch version measures 247.3 x 177.3 x 6.6 millimeters and weighs about a pound. The 8.4-inch version measures 125.6 x 212.8 x 6.6 millimeters and weighs 10 ounces. At just 6.6-millimeters thick, the Tab S line is even thinner than the shockingly thin, 7.5-millimeter thick iPad Air and iPad Mini with retina display. The Tab S tablets are also lighter than both iPads, even though they are larger. Of course, this discrepancy has a lot to do with Samsung’s plasticky, faux-leather build, which will of course, weigh less than Apple’s solid aluminum designs.
Urban dandy design and accessories
Samsung talked a lot about creating a sense of continuity between the Tab S and the Galaxy S lines. Mostly, Samsung achieves this goal through aesthetic means. The Tab Ss have the exact same dimpled, faux-leather finish as the Galaxy S5 smartphone and even come in similar colors. In keeping with Samsung’s design theme for 2014 (they call it “Modern Flash”), there are two color options for the Tab S: Dazzling White and Titanium Bronze.
The covers snap into the back of the tablets, using a set of old-fashioned snaps.
The Dazzling White Tab S has a creamy white back and bezeling. The edges of the tablet are lined with rose gold accents that actually shimmer in the light. This effect is created by the tapering on either side of the edging, which alternates between a shiny and brushed metallic finish. The Titanium Bronze version has a darker faux-leather back and dark bronze accents.
In addition to the tablets, Samsung introduced a few new accessories for the Tab S line, including the Book Cover, Simple Cover, and an in-house Bluetooth keyboard for the 10.5-inch model. Both covers come in black, white, ivory, red, blue, and navy. The Simple Cover is just that, a basic cover, but the Book Cover folds into a few different modes for viewing, typing, and so on. The fold patterns are kind of hard to follow and once you figure it out, you feel like an origami expert. The covers are also dimpled and made of faux leather.
The most interesting thing about the covers is that they snap into the back of the tablets using a set of old-fashioned snaps. There are actual buttons on the back of the tablet that lower into the tablet back when the cover’s snaps connect with a loud click. It seemed difficult to snap and unsnap the covers to the Tab S and we wondered what would happen if dirt or dust got lodged in the depressions on the back of the tablet, or in the cover’s snaps.
As for the Bluetooth keyboard, it also follows the same design language. The full keyboard was designed specifically for the 10.5-inch Galaxy Tab S. The Tab S fits easily into a groove in the tablet dock and stays there, looking almost like a 10.5-inch laptop. When you’re done typing, you can slide the Tab S back into another groove, where it sticks. Then, using a heavy duty clasp on the front of the keyboard, you can lock the two halves together. The clasp has a shiny metallic finish and the finished product looked an awful lot like a fancy women’s clutch or evening bag. The keyboard itself looked rather cramped and even my small fingers struggled to hit the correct keys.
Cool software features
For once, Samsung didn’t put too much emphasis on new software features. Instead, the company listed a few crossovers from the Galaxy S5 for the Galaxy Tab S line. Former computer feature Side Sync, magazine app Papergarden, Family Sharing modes, Samsung’s radio streaming app Milk Music, and Quick Connect, which recognizes other Samsung devices nearby and automatically links the two together, will all be available on the tablets.
How much is it and when can I get it?
The Wi-Fi versions of the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 will cost $399.99, while the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 will come in at $499.99. You can pre-orders the Wi-Fi-only version starting June 13 at 12:01 a.m. EST. The Tab S line will be available in select stores near the end of June. The LTE versions will be available later this year.