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Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 and S8 Plus hands-on: A potent pair

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 and Galaxy Tab S8 Plus may be the lesser siblings of the Tab S8 Ultra in size, specs, and price, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re inferior. They simply serve a different market. Where the Tab S8 Ultra is clearly geared toward productivity, the Tab S8 and S8 Plus are your more standard consumer Android tablet offerings, offering a great mix of performance and multimedia capability for the price.

I got to go hands-on with both of them for an hour before their reveal during Samsung Galaxy Unpacked. Here are my thoughts.

Similar looks

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 with the lock screen showing.
Ajay Kumar

There isn’t a ton to distinguish between the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 and S8 Plus even when using them side by side. The S8 Plus is obviously larger with its 12.4-inch screen, measuring 11.22 inches by 7.28 inches by 0.22 inches and weighing 1.27 pounds. The 11-inch Tab S8 is the most portable variant at 9.99 inches by 6.51 inches by 0.25 inches and 1.1 pounds, but neither of them is designed for maximum portability the way the iPad Mini is.

Aside from the size, both tablets have the same premium metal unibody, complete with a wireless charging panel on the back for you to dock and charge the S Pen, which is now included in the box. That’s something I haven’t seen before from Samsung’s Tab lineup – it used to be that only buyers of the Plus model would get the S Pen included.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus on a carpet.
Ajay Kumar/Digital Trends

Similarly, you’ll see both also boast quad AKG speakers with Dolby Atmos tuning, giving you a similar audio experience to the S8 Ultra. I wasn’t able to blast the speakers in the demo area, but it is nice to see that things that used to be premium perks have filtered across Samsung’s lineup.

Where things finally do start to get different is with the screen. The Tab S8 has a 2800 x 1752 Super AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. The Tab S8 has a 120Hz refresh rate and a 2560 x 1600 resolution, but it’s a standard LCD, meaning you don’t get the rich, saturated colors and dense, inky blacks AMOLED is known for.

The difference is noticeable when the two tablets are next to each other, but both screens are fairly bright, and things like browsing, scrolling, and presumably gaming will be buttery smooth. I’ll need to put both through some real testing, but I expect the S8 Plus will be the better pick for gamers.

The rear of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8.
Ajay Kumar/ Digital Trends

Solid performance 

Specs are largely the same across the board. Both tablets have 4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processors, come with 8GB RAM and 128GB/256GB storage configurations, and support microSD card slots that offer up to 1TB in expansion. I didn’t have a chance to do anything intensive on either tablet aside from browsing, but I expect both will be able to easily handle anything you can throw at them.

The rear cameras are fairly standard across Samsung’s Tab lineup, consisting of a pair of 13-megapixel standard and 6MP ultrawide sensors. The front-facing camera on both is a 12MP ultrawide sensor, meaning it’ll do fine for video chats, but doesn’t get the same wide angles and intelligent focusing as the dual cameras on the S8 Ultra. On the plus side, there’s no notch.

Battery life should be solid, with 10,090mAh on the S8 Plus and 8,000mAh on the S8. Both support fast charging with the USB-C 3.2 port, Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.2.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 in vertical scrolling orientation.
Ajay Kumar/Digital Trends

The best Android tablets for most people

It seems premature to say so, but my impression is that the vast majority of people are going to pick either the $700 Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 for its relative affordability and portability, or the $900 S8 Plus, which offers premium features like a SAMOLED screen without breaking the bank the way the 14.6-inch S8 Ultra does.

This is the differentiation Samsung has set up in its Tab lineup, and it’ll be interesting to see if the true productivity power users and multitaskers flock to the S8 Ultra as Samsung expects or if most will settle for the S8 Plus as a good middle option that can do most of what its siblings can at a more balanced price.

 

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