Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 vs. Galaxy Tab S3: Android Tablet Showdown

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Hear the word tablet, and you’ll probably think of Apple’s iPad. Android tablets are few and far between these days, and companies like Huawei and Samsung are among the few that consistently release high-end models. This stems largely from Google not encouraging developers to create tablet-friendly apps, so Samsung took things into its own hands with its latest tablet, the Galaxy Tab S4. Samsung has built its DeX interface into the Tab S4, so whenever you connect the tablet to a keyboard, the Android desktop mode will launch. This makes the device much more productivity friendly.

But before we start comparing the Tab S4 to competitors like the iPad Pro, how does it stack up against its predecessor? We pit Galaxy Tab S4 versus Galaxy Tab S3 to find out.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
Size 249.3 x 164.3 x 7.1 mm (9.81 x 6.46 x 0.27 inches) 237.3 x 169 x 6 mm (9.34 x 6.65 x 0.24 inches)
Weight 482 grams (17 ounces) 429 grams (15.13 ounces)
Screen size 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display 9.7-inch Super AMOLED display
Screen resolution 2,560 x 1,600 pixels (287 pixels per inch) 2,048 x 1,536 pixels (264 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage space 64/256GB
32GB
MicroSD card slot Yes, up to 512GB Yes, up to 512GB
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
RAM 4GB 4GB
Camera 13MP rear, 8MP front 13MP rear, 5MP front
Video Up to 4K at 30 frames per second Up to 4K at 30 frames per second
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 4.2
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C
Fingerprint sensor None Yes (front mounted)
Water resistance No No
Battery 7,300mAh

Fast charging

6,000mAh

Fast charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support Verizon (Cellular version only), more carrier support to come later this year including Sprint, AT&T, and US Cellular All major carriers (Cellular version only)
Colors Grey, Black White, Black
Price $650-plus $550
Buy from Samsung, Amazon, Best Buy, Verizon Samsung, Amazon, Best Buy
Review score 3.5 out of 5 stars 3 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

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The Galaxy Tab S3’s performance was one of its stronger points, with the Snapdragon 820 processor easily handling most of the tasks we threw at it. That chip was a generation behind when the Tab S3 launched, and it’s a similar story with the Tab S4, which will launch with the Snapdragon 835 processor. It’s the same processor that ran the last generation of smartphones, like the LG V30 and the Samsung Galaxy S8. It’s still a great chip though, and we naturally expect stronger performance from the Tab S4 over the Tab S3 as a result.

Both devices come with 4GB of RAM and the option to expand storage by MicroSD. The Tab S4 has also seen an upgrade in storage, with 64GB available in the base model, and 256GB of storage available for an extra $100.

The Tab S4 is also packing a larger 7,300mAh battery. The Tab S3’s 6,000mAh battery held up well, lasting over 10 hours in our moderate- to high-use testing. Expect the extra capacity on the Tab S4 to last even longer, with Samsung touting 16 hours of video playback. Neither tablet supports wireless charging, but both have Samsung’s fast charging built-in.

There’s an obvious winner here — the Galaxy Tab S4 is a clear upgrade.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Design and durability

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The Tab S3 had a boring, barely changed design, and a glass back that didn’t win it any awards for durability. While the glass is apparently here to stay (Gorilla Glass 3 is on the front and back), there are quite a few design changes on the Tab S4. Samsung has shrunk down the bezels on the newer tablet, refreshing the look and giving us something that isn’t just an enlarged Galaxy S5. Despite the larger 10.5-inch display, the Tab S4 is nearly the same size as the Tab S3. Samsung has also removed the home button — there’s just a power button and volume rocker at the top — and that also means there is no fingerprint sensor. The Samsung logo has gone away too, giving the front of the tablet a cleaner look.

The lack of a fingerprint sensor is a step back, as it will make the user experience a little more frustrating in tablet mode. Both are similar durability-wise, with glass you’ll want to avoid smashing and zero water resistance.

While the Tab S3 had a fingerprint sensor, we encountered a few problems with it in our review. The Tab S4’s refreshed design wins this round.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Display

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Samsung is known for producing some of the best screens, and both the Tab S3 and Tab S4 uphold Samsung’s strong reputation. The Tab S3 has a 9.7-inch Super AMOLED display running a 2,048 x 1,536 resolution, while the Tab S4 boasts a larger 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display with a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. Both displays are similarly sharp, and the OLED technology means they both show deep blacks and vibrant colors.

Because the bezels have been slimmed down, the bigger screen on the Tab S4 doesn’t mean the tablet is bigger than the Tab S3 — they’re similar in size. That’s a win-win in our book, helping the Tab S4 take the win.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Camera

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Camera technology isn’t really worth all that much in tablets, but it’s nice to have the option to take snaps (we recommend not taking photos with your tablet outside). You’ll find similar 13-megapixel lenses around the back of both devices, and both can capture video at 4K resolutions.

The Tab S4 picks up some extra points with improvements to the front-facing camera — upping the lens to 8-megapixels from the meager 5-megapixel lens on the Tab S3. Since you’re more likely to use the front-facing camera on such a device, it wins the Tab S4 the round here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Software and updates

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You’ll find Android 8.0 Oreo on the Tab S3, and Android 8.1 Oreo on the Tab S4 — 8.1 brings a few additional improvements to the operating system.

But the biggest difference between the two tablets in terms of software is that when you connect the Tab S4 to the keyboard cover, Samsung’s DeX mode will launch. It’s basically a desktop Android mode, with support for multiple app windows and Bluetooth mouse, right-click functionality, and much more. It elevates the Tab S4 into a true productivity machine, making it a more viable laptop replacement.

In terms of OS updates, it’s likely the Tab S4 will get upgraded to Android P first, but the Tab S3 should eventually receive the upgrade as well. The Tab S4 will likely be updated for a longer time than the Tab S3 at this point.

The Tab S4 wins this round solely for its DeX interface.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Special features

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Tab S3 had good speakers for a tablet, with audio tuned by Samsung-owned audio company AKG. That same partnership continues on the Tab S4, with Samsung making even bigger improvements to the overall audio quality with Dolby Atmos Sound support. In our brief tests, the keyboard cover muffles the sound, but it sounds solid otherwise.

You’ll also find similar S Pen support on both models, though the Tab S4’s S Pen has some upgrades, including some of the Note 8’s best features. You can create Live Messages, where you can draw on photos and turn them into animated GIFs, hover over text to translate them, and take notes with the screen off.

The Tab S4 simply has more features, so it takes the cake.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Price

You can grab the Tab S3 right now from Amazon, with prices starting at $550 for the Wi-Fi only model. The LTE model is no longer sold by Samsung, but you can pick it up from Best Buy for $700 — though that model only works on Verizon’s network. To grab a version that works with GSM networks like T-Mobile or AT&T, you’ll have to import an international version from Amazon. At this point, we’re not sure if anyone should spend this much on the Tab S3. At $550, you may as well spend $100 more to nab the improved Tab S4.

The Wi-Fi model of the Galaxy Tab S4 will be launching on August 10, and it costs $650 for the 64GB model and $750 for the 256GB model. You’ll be able to pick those models up from Amazon, Best Buy, and Samsung. The LTE version of the tablet will also launch August 10, but it will be exclusive to Verizon, with models for other networks arriving in the third quarter of the year.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

With improvements being made in almost all areas, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Galaxy Tab S4 walks away with the prize here. While we’re waiting to properly put the Tab S4 through its paces, it seems that Samsung has definitely left last year’s blues behind, and might be set to give the Android tablet world the shake up it needs.

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