Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 Review: How Good Is This Tablet Really?
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is said to be the best Android tablet out there. But is it really and isn’t it too expensive? That’s what you’ll find out in my review.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is a new premium tablet with a lot of exciting features. That included up-to-date hardware, a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display, and an S Pen stylus. At the same time, it offers up-to-date software, likely updates and a desktop mode. However, it is quite expensive starting at 649 US Dollars. So, is it worth it? I’m Andrzej for MyNextTablet.com and this is my Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review.
Design & Build Quality
As it should be at this price, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 has a very high-end build quality. While it does not have a full metal body, it features a metal frame. Just like its predecessor or Samsung’s flagship phones, the front and back are made of glass. I think that looks quite stylish. Personally, I still prefer a full metal body because with this one you have to keep both sides clean. But again, it feels high-end.
You can’t call it light with a weight of 482 grams and it certainly is not the thinnest at 7.1 millimeters. The thinnest tablet out there is still the Galaxy Tab S2 with just 5.6mm. However, I’m fine with a bit thicker tablets as long as it is used for a big battery. And that is the case here, we’ll get to that later.
Compared to the Galaxy Tab S3 (review), the design has changed quite a bit. For example, there are no physical buttons underneath the screen anymore. Instead, you use the tablet using the touchscreen only. And because of that, we don’t get a fingerprint scanner anymore.
As usual, we get a power button and volume controls on the side. And there are a headphone jack, a USB C port and a PIN connector for an optional keyboard dock. We’re also still getting a microSD card slot.
As is the case with most premium tablets these days, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 has four speakers in total. On its shorter sides, there are two each. If you’re holding the tablet to watch a movie or play a game it is quite easy to cover them by accident. On the other hand, if they are on the longer sides, they get easily covered up if you rest the tablet somewhere like on your belly. So… there is no perfect position when heaving four speakers.
Compared to most tablets, the sound quality is very good. The speakers have been developed together with AKG. However, to really evaluate speakers you have to compare them to something. And in fact, compared to the much cheaper Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite 10 they don’t offer as a full sound and the bass is a bit better on the Huawei too.
Camera & Iris Scanner
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 has a 8-megapixel front-facing camera and a 13-megapixel camera on the back. Considering this is a tablet, both cameras take very good pictures and videos. They are sharp, clear and thanks to an aperture of f/1.9 the main camera is usable in bad lighting conditions too. But remember, this is a tablet. Pretty much all recent premium smartphones take much better photos.
As I said earlier, there is no fingerprint sensor anymore. Instead, Samsung built in an iris scanner next to the front-facing camera. Because of that, you can use your eyes and facial recognition to unlock the tablet. In the beginning, I’ve been surprised at how well that works most of the time. Even in bad light, it unlocks the tablet pretty well.
However, sometimes it does not work as nicely. Sometimes the tablet says I should hold it further away or that I’m covering the camera by accident. As I said, most of the time everything works fine, but sometimes it does not. So, I would still prefer a fingerprint scanner. But well, at least we have something.
Compared to the Galaxy Tab S3, the display has changed quite a bit as well. It is not 9.7-inches anymore but a 10.5-inch one. And it has an aspect ratio of 16:10 instead of 4:3. I really like that we’re getting a Super AMOLED panel here. The resolution is very high with 2560 x 1600 Pixels as well – just like on other tablets in this price range. Because of that, especially texts and icons look very sharp.
Because of the AMOLED screen, we get very wide viewing angles, saturated colors, good black levels, and a high contrast. I’ve been mostly using LCD tablets this year and compared to those, the Galaxy Tab S4 looks very nice.
At the same time, it is very bright as well. But AMOLED screens are always easier to read in direct sunlight.
I didn’t notice anything bad about the display. I think it is the best display of all Android tablets this year.
Hardware & Performance
It is a bit disappointing that the Samsung is shipping the Galaxy Tab S4 with a one year old SoC. That one is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, a quad-core chip that you’ve probably heard of before. It is the same processor we’ve seen in a lot of smartphones last year. Additionally, we’re getting 4GB of RAM and a 64GB or 256GB internal storage.
You know what is even more disappointing? Pretty much all manufactures uses at least one year old chips in their premium tablets. That includes Huawei. And a lot of other ones only use middle-class ones anyways. Well, because of that, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is the fastest Android tablet you can buy right now.
The operating system itself and all apps I tried, like Chrome, YouTube, Word, Gmail, and Skype run very nicely. But that should be the case with this chipset anyways.
Benchmark & Gaming Test
As you can see in my benchmark comparison, in Geekbench 4 the Tab S4 gets 1899 points in the single-core-test and 6554 points in the multi-core-test. In AnTuTu, it gets a result of 203649 points. So, in both benchmarks, it is faster than the Huawei MediaPad M5 8 (review) which was the fastest one up to now. However, in real life use, you probably won’t notice a difference.
In my gaming test, the Galaxy Tab S4 gets very good results as well. Games like Asphalt 8 or Dead Target run very smoothly. And you can play more demanding games like Into The Dead 2 and Players Unknown Battlegrounds Mobile at high graphics settings without any issues. And, thanks to its AMOLED display, they look very nice.
The Galaxy Tab S4 is one of two Android tablets that support Fortnite already. I’ve played that game a lot on the iPad 2018 and it runs as smoothly on the Tab S4. However, you can’t play it at its highest settings. I’m not sure if that is even possible right now – well maybe on the Galaxy Note 9 or an iPad Pro. Anyways, overall Fortnite runs very nicely and it is a lot of fun on this tablet.
Software: Android 8.1 & Samsung Experience UI
One major highlight of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is its software. Yes, quite a few tablets run Android 8.1 Oreo these days. However, in the past, Samsung has been much, much better with updates than most. In fact, the Galaxy Tab S series has received at least two major updates in the past. And the Galaxy Tab S3 was among the first ones to get Oreo. Right now, no other manufacturer is as good with updates.
I can’t speak for Samsung and I don’t have any inside information at all. So, I can’t promise it will ever get an update. But again, based on the past, it is very likely.
On top of Android 8.1 Oreo runs the Samsung Experience UI. That is the own interface from Samsung that used to be known as TouchWiz. In the past, Samsung’s UI was too overloaded and a bit annoying. However, in my opinion, that has changed a lot. Nowadays it seems fast and modern. I prefer it over the EMUI from Huawei.
Read: These Are The Best Android Tablets Right Now
But that does not mean that we’re getting vanilla Android here. The exact opposite is true. Samsung is customizing Android very heavily. In addition to a different design, we also get a lot of features and pre-installed apps. But as I said, I think it looks nice and modern. And, what is most important, everything runs nicely.
Among those extra features are the ones for the S Pen, the iris scanner and facial recognition. In addition to that, we get a tap-to-wake feature. If you tap the screen twice, it turns on. There are a lot of additional features in the setting. These include a blue-light-filter, you can change the screen zoom and even adjust the font, but also the order of the three typical Android buttons on the bottom.
Other features include a kids mode, widgets for the lock screen and two energy saving modes. It really is a lot and if you are getting the Tab S4 you should go through all settings one by one.
And, obviously, there are some useless and annoying features too. For example, I’m not a huge fan of Bixby. I would just use the Google Assistant instead.
A new feature that Samsung is promoting with the Galaxy Tab S4 is Samsung Dex. That is a kind of desktop mode that you might have heard of from their flagship smartphones. Well, now its part of their flagship tablet we well. However, it’s only useful if you’re using it with a keyboard and mouse. But you can also connect it to an external monitor.
Well, with Samsung Dex, Android kind of looks like a desktop operating system. It kind of reminds me of Chrome OS.
Once you switch to Samsung Dex, you are getting a desktop with app icons and a taskbar on the bottom. All the way on the left, there is a button for the app drawer, a recent apps button, and a home button. Next to it, you get a bar with currently opened apps. And next to that are the notifications, quick settings, and a calendar.
The only reason why you would want to switch to Samsung Dex is so that you can open apps in smaller windows at the same time. Just like you can in Windows or macOS. You can use several windows at the same time and change their size. All of that works smoothly and without any lagging.
Lenovo and Huawei have desktop modes too and compared to those, Samsung Dex is much better. The one from Huawei is useless in my opinion because it is just too laggy.
Oh well, a desktop mode might be useful if you sometimes need a PC experience. But I never would replace my desktop PC or laptop with this. If you need it, I would just get a Windows tablet and use full desktop apps including full photoshop or video editing apps. You can’t get those for Android.
To be honest, I don’t think I would ever use Samsung Dex again except for this review. I love to open two apps side by side on Android tablets but that is a standard feature since Nougat. But well, maybe Samsung Dex is useful for some.
S Pen Stylus & Features
Let’s take a look at the S Pen. You get this stylus with the tablet for free, just like with its predecessor. I don’t like that the pen is made of a glossy plastic because it kind of feels cheap. The Microsoft Surface Pen and Apple Pencil feel much nicer. However, you have to buy those separately. At least the S Pen is included for free.
Now, the stylus might not feel very high-end, but it is up to date technically and that is what counts. Like with other premium tablets, the S Pen supports 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity. That means you can draw thicker lines just by pressing it harder. I also like that it does not need a battery and it does not need to be charged. That is a major advantage compared to most competitors.
On the software side, the pen works quite well too. There are a lot of features built-in that you might know from the Galaxy Tab S3 of the Galaxy Note series already. For example, there is a shortcut menu which you can use to quickly cut something out, take a screenshot and annotate it, translate words or just to leave a quick note.
Read: The Best Tablets With Pen Support
Another interesting feature is that you can use the pen while the screen is turned off. For that, you just hold the button of the pen and tip onto the screen twice. Once you do that, you can immediately start to take notes. Other features include handwriting recognition and a drawing app is included as well. In addition to that, you can obviously get other apps from the Play Store.
I think the S Pen is great if you like handwritten notes or need to edit PDFs. Overall, the stylus works very nicely. However, if you want to edit photos or need the pen for other things professionally, you would probably be happier with an iPad and the Apple Pencil. There are way more desktop-class apps for iOS like Affinity Photo. You can’t get apps like these for Android.
In my battery test, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 got very good results. In fact, the 7300mAh battery managed to keep the tablet running for 14 hours. For my battery test, I’m always looping the same HD video at half brightness and turned on WiFi.
As you can see in my battery comparison, 14 hours is a very good result. While I have reviewed tablets with a better runtime in the past, they’re either very old by now or have weaker hardware. So, those 14 hours are excellent.
This is what was my experience during my time with the tablet as well. Obviously, when playing Fortnite, the battery will last a couple of hours only. But if you’re using Chrome, Word, and YouTube, it should last you a day without any problems. And, with normal use, I’m sure you won’t have to charge more than evert two or three days. Well, except when you’re playing Fortnite.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 Review: Final Verdict
Alright, that is my Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review. So, is it a good tablet? It surely is. I think it is the best Android tablet you can get right now. Not only is it faster than its competition, but it also features an outstanding Super AMOLED display and the S Pen works nicely too. At the same time, the software is great and it will probably get at least two major updates. Other aspects like the battery life and build quality are very good as well.
It’s a bit sad that we’re not getting a fingerprint scanner. But the iris and facial recognition work good enough. The speakers are solid too but could be just a bit better. So, as you can see, I could not find any major downsides. Well, except one. Starting at 649 US Dollars I think the Galaxy Tab S4 is quite expensive. Too expensive.
Yes, if you really need the best Android tablet and are fine with paying a premium price, or a finding a good deal, then I’m sure you will be happy with this tablet. As I said, the Galaxy Tab S4 is a great tablet. And for some, it might be worth it to spend a bit more. For example, if you want to have those likely updates. However, since it is this expensive it might be worth it to take a look at a couple of alternatives.
A very interesting competitor is the Huawei MediaPad M5 10 (review). It is not as powerful, but you probably won’t notice any differences in everyday use. The screen has the same resolution, but it is an IPS panel and not an AMOLED display. With this one, I like that we’re getting a full metal body, four speakers as well and a fingerprint sensor. Sadly, I’m not sure if it will ever get major software updates. With that being said, the MediaPad M5 10 is much cheaper starting at just 359 US Dollars.
The Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro might be a nice alternative too because it offers a pen as well. However, the pen is not supported through as many software features.
If you are willing to spend those 649 US Dollars, you probably should check out the iPad Pro as well. Apple is updating them much longer than any Android tablet will ever get updated. And you can get an active pen and good speakers as well. In addition to that, you can use those desktop-class apps that iOS supports only like Affinity Photo or Luma Fusion. You could also check out the iPad 2018 (review) if you don’t need as good of a display. That one is less than half the price.
- Outstanding Super AMOLED display
- Very good performance
- S Pen stylus included
- Long battery life
- Up to date software
- Four speakers
- Very pricey
- No fingerprint sensor
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March 3, 2019 at 6:18 am
Great review. Thanks!
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