Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, S8+, and S8 Ultra Review: Best Of The Best?
In this review, you learn everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, Galaxy Tab S8+, and Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra tablets.
With the Galaxy Tab S8 series Samsung introduced the newest generation of their flagship tablets which are the successors to the Galaxy Tab S7. This time we don’t just get an 11-inch Galaxy Tab S8 and a 12.4-inch S8+, but also a very large one with a 14.6-inch display called the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. How good are they? That’s what you’ll learn in this review.
Let’s check out prices first. The cheapest version of the 11-inch Galaxy Tab S8 starts at 700 US Dollars. If you want the 12.4-inch Galaxy Tab S8+, you’ll have to pay at least 900 Dollars. And the large 14.6-inch Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra starts at 1100 US Dollars. At an additional price, you can get more storage and 5G is an option as well. The S Pen is always included.
Displays: LCD & AMOLED
We start this test with the screens. Compared to the S7 predecessors, not much has changed with the Galaxy Tab S8 and S8+ regarding this. The S8 has an 11-inch LCD with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels and it’s quite bright with 500 nits. It’s a very good IPS display with wide viewing angles and saturated colors but the blacks are not as deep. That’s normal with LCDs.
The Galaxy Tab S8+ has a 12.4-inch Super AMOLED display which has a higher contrast, saturated colors, as well as excellent deep blacks. Here we get a resolution of 2800 x 1752 pixels. It’s a bit darker than the LCD.
Samsung is shipping the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra with a Super AMOLED screen as well but this one is much larger at 14.6 inches. It’s a very similar display, looks super nice, and has a resolution of 2960 x 1848 pixels. With this one, the pixel density is the lowest and if you look carefully, it does not look as sharp as the standard S8. But still, a good one especially for this size.
Read: The Best Samsung Tablets Tested
All three screens are fully laminated and support 120Hz. That means that animations in general and writing with the S Pen, in particular, look very smooth and instant. Some games support a higher refresh rate too.
The 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro with its XDR display has a kind of blooming or glowing problem. Especially when having a high contrast from dark to bright in a dark room. That’s why I wanted to test the same on Samsungs tablets. And indeed, I was able to see this kind of blooming effect on the AMOLEDs of the S8+ and S8 Ultra but it’s not visible on the S8. With that being said, in this case, the blooming is barely visible so it’s not as much of a problem as it is on the iPad.
Netflix & Speakers
All three devices have a Widevine Level of L1. That means you can watch Netflix and other streaming services with HD quality. Movies and TV shows look fantastic on their screens, especially on the AMOLED ones. The S8+ and S8 Ultra do support HDR 10, by the way, which the S8 does not.
I love the four speakers we get on the sides of all three. They offer the best sound of any Android tablet available right now. In a direct comparison, the S8+ and S8 Ultra speakers are a little bit better than the S8s. I think that’s simply due to their size.
S Pen: How Good Is The Stylus?
A big highlight of Samsung’s premium tablets is the S Pen stylus. That one is included and does not have to be bought extra. I love that because, with Microsoft, Apple, and Lenovo, you usually have to pay around 100 dollars extra for a pen. On a negative note, the S Pen is a bit thinner than most others and is made of plastic. However, I love that all S Pens are interchangeable.
As with its competition, the stylus supports over 4000 levels of pressure sensitivity. On its side, there’s a button, and on the back of the tablets, there’s a magnetic area where you charge the pens inductively. But it’s important to know that the S Pen does not have to be charged for handwritten notes or if you want to draw something. The battery is needed for very few gestures only.
The pen is very precise, just as with the S7 series. And due to the 120Hz screen, it looks like the stylus reacts super fast, almost instant, just like a real pencil. Palm rejection works great too, so you can rest your palm while writing without any problems.
On the software side, the pen is well supported. Samsung included tons of interesting features. The most important one is the Samsung Notes app which is a fantastic notes app. With it, you can write down handwritten notes, draw something, annotate PDFs, and convert handwritten text into computer text.
Read: The Best Tablets With Stylus Support
In addition to that, we get the Air Commands with which you can quickly start a new note or take a screenshot and annotate it. There are tons of more features built-in like a translation feature and even a magnifying glass. If you quickly need to write something down even though the screen is turned off, you can use the Screen-Off-Memo feature. Yes, there are tons of features like this.
Very new is the S Pen to Text feature. With this, you can use handwriting in almost every text field and it gets converted into computer text. Sometimes that works very well like in the browser. However, it’s not as seamless as Apple’s Scribble feature. In Gmail, for instance, you can write the subject but you can’t use handwriting in the large message field. That works on iPads, however.
For all of these features, the S Pen does not have to be charged. The battery is needed for a few gestures only that you can use without touching the screen. For instance, you can use the S Pen as a remote in the camera app. And, in theory, you can use it as a remote in Microsoft PowerPoint too. That feature worked great on the S7 but was a bit buggy for me on the S8, maybe it needs an update.
So, I think the S Pen is fantastic and we get tons of great software for the stylus. A nice feature.
Hardware & Performance
In all three tablets, we get the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor which is supported by 128GB or 256GB of internal storage and 8GB of RAM. You can get the S8 Ultra with 12GB and 16GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of storage. 5G is an option for all tablets. I’ve got the cheapest version with 8GB RAM and my S8+ has 5G.
Benchmark tests like Geekbench 5 and 3D Mark Wild Life show that all Galaxy Tab S8 versions are faster than every other Android tablet out there right now. Compared to the Galaxy Tab S7, there’s not much difference regarding CPU performance. But the graphics are much faster. You can also clearly see that the iPad Mini and especially the iPad Pro continues to be more powerful.
Real-life performance is fantastic. Apps like Chrome and YouTube run super smooth and I loved editing photos in Adobe Lightroom. That’s a fantastic app for the large 14.6-inch S8 Ultra and is lots of fun.
Multitasking works very well too. You can open three or four apps at the same time without any lagging – either in the split-screen view or as a popup. Multitasking is more useful on larger screens, of course. And in some situations, it can be very useful to have Chrome, YouTube, Microsoft Office, and Samsung Notes open, for instance.
Samsung DeX works smoothly and without any stutters too. That mode is even better for multitasking.
Gaming Test & Video Editing
So, the performance is fantastic and that’s what my gaming test confirms. I was able to select the highest graphics on all games. With Fortnite, you can set the graphics to “epic” and the framerate to “60fps”. In reality, I got a frame rate of between 30 and 50fps, depending on the amount of action.
With Call of Duty and PUBG Mobile, you can set the graphics up all the way too and both games run great. That’s the case for Shadow Fight 3, World of Tanks, and Genshin Impact too.
In my Adobe Premiere Rush Render test, the S8 series is much faster than other Android tablets. For this, I’m always rendering the same 9-minute 4K video. That test also shows that the old Apple iPad 8 is almost twice as fast when rendering a video, however. Apple’s chips are crazy powerful.
Software: Android 12
Out of the box, all three tablets are running Android 12 with OneUI in version 4.1. In the past, Samsung has been exemplary with updates, and this time, they want to get even better. The Galaxy Tab S8 series is said to get updates for 5 years with four big version updates. That’s fantastic. Just the premium devices from Microsoft and Apple will probably get longer support.
We get standard Android 12 with tons of customizations and additional features, as is common with Samsung. I mentioned the S Pen features already. In addition to that, we get great multitasking including a popup view that lets you open apps in free-floating windows.
Samsung DeX can be very useful. That’s a desktop mode that kind of transforms Android into a desktop operating system. In this mode, apps are always opened in a free-floating window and we get a taskbar at the bottom.
Read: The Best Android Tablets Available Today
DeX is super useful if you want to work with your tablet. The S8 series can be used pretty much like a standard computer. With a USB C hub, you can connect USB mice and keyboards, as well as external monitors. And you can attach external SSDs and other accessories.
If you then open Chrome, Microsoft Word, and Excel, that almost looks and feels like working under Windows or macOS.
Not everything is perfect, of course. These apps are still Android apps. And sometimes you can feel that Android wasn’t developed with mouse and keyboard as a default input. I wouldn’t fully replace my laptop with an S8 tablet. But as a second device, it works great. And I really enjoy working with DeX and the keyboard covers in a café or train.
Keyboards: Two Choices
Samsung is selling two different kinds of keyboards for the Galaxy Tab S8 tablets and they are compatible with the S7 series. That also means if you already own a keyboard cover for the Galaxy Tab S7+, you can use the same one with the S8+. Sometimes there are nice deals but if you can’t find one, you’ve got to pay between 140 and 350 US Dollars for those.
If you like to work with your tablet a lot, I think the Book Cover Keyboards are the best choice for you. These are a bit better-made keyboard covers from Samsung with a great keyboard and an integrated touchpad. With these, the Samsung DeX desktop mode makes sense the most. Here I love that the back cover with its integrated kickstand can be used separately from the keyboard.
The second type of keyboard cover is called Book Cover Keyboard Slim. It’s more of a traditional cover that’s meant to mainly protect the tablets but also has a keyboard built-in. This one is cheaper, lighter, but there’s no touchpad. I like typing on these too. However, since there’s no touchpad, it makes no sense to use Samsung DeX with these. I think the Slim keyboards are a great choice if you want to write occasionally only.
Design & Built Quality
Regarding the design, almost nothing has changed compared to the older S7 tablets. That’s why the same accessories are compatible. With all three tablets, we get very premium-feeling metal bodies. If you hold them in your hands, you do have the feeling of holding something expensive. And that’s what they are.
The thinnest one is the S8 Ultra with just 5.5mm, followed by the 5.7mm S8+ and the thickest is the standard one with 6.3mm. The smallest one is the lightest, of course, here we get 503, 567, and 726g. So, the S8 Ultra is the heaviest, but because it’s so thin and large, it does not seem that heavy. Except when you start to hold it in your hands for a longer time.
On all of them, we get four speakers and a USB C 3.2 Gen 1 port. You can connect USB C hubs, external monitors, and so on. There are microSD card slots on all of them too. The S8 has a fingerprint scanner that’s built into the power button. On the S8+ and S8 Ultra, the fingerprint scanner sits underneath the screens. All of them work fast and precisely.
We get 13 megapixel main cameras on the back, as well as 6-megapixel ultra-wide-angle cameras. All of them have an LED flash. The quality is fantastic for a tablet but the 6-megapixel wide-angle camera is lacking some detail.
On the front, we get 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle cameras on all three tablets – just like on the iPad Pro. And similar to Apple, the camera can be zoomed in a bit and follows you around when having a video chat. On the S8 ultra, we get a second 12-megapixel webcam which is zoomed in a bit, so it has better quality when using the webcam zoomed in.
In my battery test, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 has the shortest runtime with 7.5 hours, while the S8+ and S8 Ultra lasted 9 hours. That’s probably due to their Super AMOLED screens which don’t need as much energy. For this test, I’m always looping an HD YouTube video at maximum brightness.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Series Review: Final Verdict
So, let’s get to my final verdict. Are the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 tablets a good choice and can I recommend them? Yes, of course, I can. I think they are the best Android tablets you can buy right now. And that probably will stay this way because Samsung is one of very few brands making premium Android tablets.
You’ve seen that the Galaxy Tab S8 series is faster than every other Android tablet available today. At the same time, we get premium-feeling metal bodies, the fantastic S Pen, good keyboards, pretty screens, and I especially love the large AMOLED displays. I also like that Samsung is releasing updates for many years to come and the S Pen features and Samsung DeX are very useful.
Sadly, the 11-inch Galaxy Tab S8 has an LCD only. A good one, sure, but I love the 11-inch form factor and would have liked to get an AMOLED display here too.
If you’re thinking of getting an S8 tablet, I suggest you base your decision on the screen size you like most. Regarding everything else, the S8, S8+, and S8 Ultra are almost identical, as you’ve seen.
In case you own a Galaxy Tab S7 or S7+ already, I think it makes no sense to upgrade. Besides a bit better graphics performance, they are almost the same.
Let’s check out the alternatives.
Galaxy Tab S8 Alternatives
The most interesting alternatives to the Galaxy Tab S8 series are the Apple iPad Pro tablets. Here we get two choices with 11-inch and 12.9-inch screens and the features are very similar. Apple is offering a premium built quality too, as well as great speakers, good keyboard covers, and a fantastic Apple Pencil. Regarding many aspects, many features are almost the same, but the performance of the Apple M1 chipset is much better than what Samsung offers. It’s lacking a desktop mode like Samsung DeX but more apps are optimized for tablets.
I don’t think there’s a better choice running Android right now but there are cheaper options. A similar but much cheaper tablet is the Xiaomi Pad 5 which is a direct competitor to the 11-inch Galaxy Tab S8. Everything is a bit weaker but we do get a nice design, a good display, an optional pen, as well as a decent performance and an optional keyboard.
In case you’re looking for a work device only, keep in mind that you can get Windows tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro 8. It’s not as good of an entertainment tablet but for work, it offers an outstanding keyboard, a great stylus, a pretty screen, lots of performance, and Windows 11.
- Premium design
- Pretty displays
- Very good S Pen
- Up-to-date software
- Powerful hardware
- Fingerprint scanner
- Good speakers
- 11-inch with LCD only
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