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Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus review: As good as it can get

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ sits on a table with two lego minifigs.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus
MSRP $900.00
“The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ is the best Android tablet you can buy. The only thing holding it back is software, and that's mostly not Samsung's fault.”
Pros
  • Powerful
  • Beautiful hardware
  • Gorgeous display
  • Great speakers
  • Productivity powerhouse
Cons
  • Keyboard case not included
  • Some software trouble

Android tablets have gotten a bad rap up until now, largely because neither Google nor developers seemed to care much about them. But there’s one company that does care about them — Samsung. Much like the smartphone market, Samsung has set up shop as the go-to tablet maker when it comes to high-end premium Android tablets. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 tablets are Samsung’s latest attempts at making great Android tablets.

Dear reader, Samsung is there. But the tablet is not perfect, and only some of that is Samsung’s fault. I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus as my only tablet for three weeks, and this is my full review.

Hardware, display, and design

A side view of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ tablet.
Adam Doud/Digital Trends

One of the high points of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ is the design and build quality. Put simply, this tablet is absolutely gorgeous. The 12.4-inch screen is expansive with small, but noticeable bezels all around that are perfect for holding the tablet. The Armor Aluminum frame is sturdy and exudes a premium feel. Around the edges, in landscape orientation, you’ll find speakers top and bottom on both sides, a power button and volume rocker on the top along with the SIM and SD card tray, and a USB-C Charging and data port on the right. On the back, there’s a camera housing that extends most of the way across the back of the tablet. This is where you can magnetically store and charge the included S Pen.

The tablet is very thin at just 5.7mm and weighs just 567 grams. My review unit is the Wi-Fi only model; the 5G model is heavier at 572 grams. These specifications do not include the weight of the keyboard case or the S Pen. On the inside, you get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, 128GB of on-board storage, and 8GB of RAM. The tablet is powered by a 10,090 mAh battery that can be charged at 45 watts if Samsung bothered to ship a charger in the box.

Overall, the design of this tablet just exudes a premium feel.

The display is a beautiful 12.4-inch, 120Hz AMOLED panel with a resolution of 1752 x 2800. It has really sharp contrast and color reproduction. It’s covered in Gorilla Glass 5 and offers great viewing angles. The screen also holds a fingerprint sensor located on the right side (sorry southpaws) when the tablet is in landscape orientation.

The 16:10 aspect ratio is great for video consumption, but a little on the short side for some tasks. My Lenovo Legion 5i has the same aspect ratio, but its 16-inch screen is better-suited to work-related tasks. For a screen this small, I’d like to see something close to 3:2, but that’s my only complaint.

Overall, the design of this tablet just exudes a premium feel. From the thinness, to the build materials, to the screen, this is a tablet that business professionals would be proud to pull out of their briefcase. It’s a home run.

Keyboard cover and S Pen

Along with the tablet, you get an S Pen, and my review unit included the book cover with keyboard that costs an extra $160. That’s a shame, and we’ll talk about the book cover first. Put simply, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ is really only a great work PC-replacement with the keyboard cover. The keys are slim and have good travel. The buttons are not mushy. The keyboard layout is awesome with great pitch between the keys. The keyboard is plastic, so if you’re typing on a surface that isn’t flat, there’s a lot of flex. That could make it hard to type on your lap. The keyboard cover also only holds the tablet at a single angle; it’s not adjustable.

The keyboard on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ tablet.
Adam Doud/Digital Trends

The pogo pins on the bottom of the tablet snap magnetically into the keyboard case and automatically launch Samsung Dex, which we’ll get into in the next section. There’s nothing exceptional about the keyboard; it’s good but not great. Combine that with its necessity in a tablet this premium, and there’s simply no reason why the keyboard shouldn’t be shipped in the box. Even if you added $100 to the price of the tablet to do it, it would be worth it.

I will point out how sweet it is that the S Pen from my Galaxy S22 Ultra also works on this tablet.

The S Pen is a great device that’s easy to hold and write with. It’s very responsive with minimal latency. It’s great for everything from drawing cartoons to selecting text. Writing is smooth, but Samsung seems to have trouble translating my chicken scratch into text. Granted, my handwriting is terrible, but Apple’s Scribble does not have nearly the amount of trouble recognizing my writing.

I will point out how sweet it is that the S Pen from my Galaxy S22 Ultra also works on this tablet. That’s honestly not something Samsung had to include, but it did and I appreciate it.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ works on Android 12, and I used Samsung DeX most of the time. Samsung DeX basically Window-fies your Android tablet by adding a system tray with notifications in the bottom-right corner and a dock showing your active apps across the bottom of the screen. Sound familiar? If you’re thinking it sounds like a desktop operating system, you’re correct.

DeX also allows you to use apps in resizable windows, meaning you can get some really hard ore multitasking done. I used the Galaxy Tab S8+ as my work machine for three days during my testing period, and it worked great. I was able to write, videoconference with my team, edit articles, and move tasks through Asana with ease. At times, I forgot I was working on an Android tablet.

Multitasking on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus.
Adam Doud/Digital Trends

The shortcomings that I find in the software are not even Samsung’s fault. Asana, the task management service we use at Digital Trends, works great as a web interface, but is a bit of a dumpster fire as a mobile app. Fortunately, I’m able to request the desktop site in Chrome to get back to the workflow I know and love.

The 1Password app just flat-out won’t run in DeX mode for some reason. This becomes a bit of a chore since it’s my primary password manager, so I found myself having to swap back to tablet mode just long enough to copy and paste a password before switching back to DeX mode.

All of these inconveniences point out the clear and obvious flaw in the Galaxy Tab S8+. It’s an Android tablet, and if you find yourself unconsciously nodding right now, I don’t blame you. The fact of the matter is that many apps emulate Asana and 1Password in the Android world. Some apps are perfectly fine, don’t get me wrong. But as for the rest, they either don’t work well or, in same cases, they don’t work at all. This is not Samsung’s fault per se. Indeed, there’s little Samsung can do about any of this, which means all it can do it smile and shrug.

In professional sports, one of the worst things an organization can do to its fans is say, “I don’t know,” as in “I don’t know why that ball that was obviously a strike was called a ball” or “I don’t know why the referee missed that call.” I don’t know why 1Password doesn’t work in Dex mode. That’s not great, but I feel like I’m harping, so I’ll move on.

Camera and audio

On a tablet, the only cameras that count are the front-facing cameras for videoconferencing. On the back are two cameras. There’s a 13-megapixel main camera and 6 MP ultrawide camera. I don’t advise you use them for anything but document scanning, and even then, only if you’re desperate. It’s not because they’re bad; they’re fine. But you have a phone in your pocket. Use it. All the same, I swallowed my pride and snapped a few shots below.

The front-facing camera is a 12MP 120-degree ultrawide camera that looks really good during video meetings. The wide field of view captures plenty of background. The auto framing that Samsung brought to its phones is here, and it is good, but aggressive. The camera pans at the slightest movement, which is what it’s supposed to do of course. I would probably prefer just a bit of extra smoothing on that pan to make it look crisp, but people I videoconferenced with had no complaints.

Performance, security, and battery

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ sits on top of the book cover.
Adam Doud/Digital Trends

On the performance end, the tablet performs like a champ. Samsung had a bit of a dust up with Geekbench of late, but the app still works. I ran a few other benchmark tests and the results are below:

  • Geekbench single core: 1,205
  • Geekbench multi-core:3,258
  • Geekbench OpenCL: 5,839
  • 3DMark Wild Life: 8,605 (Average frame rate 51.50)
  • GFX T-Rex Test: 6,693 frames

Battery life is very good on the tablet. I typically ended most full workdays with 20% to 25% left in the tank. A workday for me includes music streaming, video streaming, videoconferencing, web surfing, and any number of texts, chats, and emails to respond to. I never had trouble getting though a day and even had some left for video watching or reading at night.

Other features

There are two other features that this tablet comes with that are noteworthy. The first is the ability to use the tablet as a second screen for your Windows laptop. This is similar to many wireless displays you may have used in the past.

Personally, I have previously used a free app called Spacedesk that suited me just fine. I connected it to a 10-inch tablet and used it to dock a Netflix window or a YouTube music player. The screen was really too small for it to be truly useful as a second screen, but it was a nice place to tuck away a window where it was easily accessible. This was a long anecdote intended to tell you that the same is basically true here. Even with a 12.4-inch screen, I found the screen space just too small to accomplish a lot of work. Also connectivity was spotty. This feature isn’t done baking yet.

On the other hand, using your Galaxy S22 Ultra as a companion to drawing apps on the Galaxy Tab S8+ works pretty well. You first connect your phone to the tablet using a QR code, and from there you can select tools, colors, and more on your phone. It’s neat, but there are a couple of drawbacks.

Using your Galaxy S22 Ultra as a companion to drawing apps on the Galaxy Tab S8+ works pretty well.

The only app where that functionality exists is in Clip Studio Paint, which is not a very good app. I’m not an artist — I have friends for that — but Clip Studio Paint was troublesome to log into, and the drawing experience was just ok. Plus, when I use my phone as a toolbox/color picker, the tools are still on the screen of the tablet which defeats the purpose of using the phone. Not all the tools are selectable on the phone. Overall, it’s an interesting, but half-baked solution.

Laptop replacement?

A side view of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ tablet.
Adam Doud/Digital Trends

The big question here is whether or not you can use this tablet as a laptop replacement. They answer is not really clear. The hardware is certainly not lacking. Again, I would prefer a taller screen just because of how Digital Trends’ CMS works, but I was able to write and edit stories with no problem. Also, I was able to complete multiple workdays using only this tablet. That’s not insignificant.

Those days did not include the need to do any image editing though. I still haven’t found a great app for image editing for Android, nor have I found a good one for multi-track audio editing. Therein lies the problem. This tablet is more than powerful enough to do the work I need it to do, but the software isn’t there yet.

Pricing and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ is available to purchase today at Samsung.com, Best Buy, and Amazon. It retails for $900.

Our take

A hand holds the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ tablet in front of a wooden wall.
Adam Doud/Digital Trends

This is one of the best Android tablets you can buy, but it has a price to match. It’s dwarfed in size, price, and usability by its larger sibling, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, but the Tab S8+ is in the Goldilocks zone of computing tablets. It is not too small and not too big. It’s large enough to do your work, and small enough to fit easily into a bag. Yes, it’s expensive, but it comes with so much capability that if you are an Android fan, and especially if you’re a Samsung fan, you might easily choose this over a comparably priced laptop without missing a beat.

It’s not perfect, but it’s very close. If Samsung shipped the keyboard that I’m using to write this review in the box, it’s a solid 10. As it stands, I have to give it a nine because without the keyboard, the usability drops precipitously. On the other hand, if you have a great Bluetooth keyboard that you love, this tablet will pair very nicely to it. DeX is outstanding at mimicking a desktop computing experience. If the rest of the software not made by Samsung ever catches up, laptop makers might start to sweat.

Is there a better alternative?

If you’re looking for better Android tablets, the Tab S8 Ultra is the only one. If you don’t care about Android, the Apple iPad Pro will give you a similar experience, but the desktop computing experience is not good at all. If you want Android but not Samsung, you’re out of luck. This is the best Android tablet you can buy. In fact, given a choice between the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, and this one, I’ll probably take this one because it’s just a little bit more portable.

How long will it last?

This tablet is very well-built, but like all tablets, it’s vital to get a case. It can be the keyboard cover I got with my review unit, or any number of other cases that will keep this football field-sized piece of glass safe. If you do, this tablet should last you a long time. It will last at least as long as the software does. Samsung promises three years of OS updates and four years of security updates.

Should you buy it?

Yes, assuming you need it. If you’re looking for a content consumer or a Netflix box, there are any number of tablets that will fit that bill for far less money. But if you want a tablet that can work and play with you, and you want it to be Android, this is the best there is.

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