[Review] Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 – The Power Slate

[Review] Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 – The Power Slate

Announced slightly before the Galaxy Note9 and arriving about a month after its official debut, the Galaxy Tab S4 is an interesting take by Samsung on a tablet as it attempts to redefine just what a slate can do by vastly expanding its functionality and integrating Samsung’s new DeX desktop interface in a deeper, more robust fashion than that seen on the Galaxy Note9.

Prior to this, we covered the Galaxy Tab S4 with an initial hands-on though since that time we’ve put it through its paces. For a more in-depth look as to its construction, build quality and other salient aspects, swing by our hands-on feature here.

In terms of hardware, the Galaxy Tab S4 come with a large 10.5-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 pixel Super AMOLED display while the tablet itself runs Android 8.1 on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor paired up with 4GB RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. For image capture duties the slate comes with a 13-MP rear camera with an LED flash while the front has an 8-MP camera for selfies.

Unlike Samsung’s more recent nigh bezelless phones, the Tab S4 still has a smidgen of a bezel around the display though its far less than others of its ilk. The back itself is otherwise a smooth, unadorned expanse of glass save for the rear camera in the upper third quadrant of the tablet.

The bundled S Pen stylus is somewhat chunkier with dimensions resembling a normal fountain pen rather than the super slim ones seen integrated into Note series phones but that added girth is welcome as it makes it easier to hold though specifications are otherwise similar with 4,096 levels of sensitivity along with the ability to draw, doodle and interact with the menus via their Air Commands. At launch, they’re throwing in a free cover with it though you’ll get far more utility with the optional book cover which you’ll have to acquire as a separate purchase.

Galaxy Tab S4 Performance

On paper, the Galaxy Tab S4 seems a bit long in the tooth as it packs last year’s Snapdragon 835 processor but fortunately this isn’t the case under actual conditions as the slate proved swift and responsive when subjected to standard usage workloads.

In GeekBench 40, it got a single core score of 1,888 and a multi-core score of 5,915. In 3D Mark’s Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL ES 3.1, it got a score of 3,368 while in Sling Shot Extreme -Vulkan it got a score of 2,792. In PCMark’s Work 2.0 Performance test, it got a respectable score of 6,854. In Antutu 3D, it got a decent score of 193,524. While not stellar compared to recent offerings packing a Snapdragon 845, it’s nonetheless very capable.

In its normal Android Oreo 8.1 mode, the slate works as intended with an emphasis on content consumption. The large, vibrant display made watching movies a treat and web browsing a pleasure as there’s little need to pinch zoom to pore through web pages. Reading ebooks and emagazines proved to be a pleasant experience as well as the large display which is about the size of an A4 page allows your eye to take in everything at a glance.

Colours are bright and vibrant along with great viewing angles though the reflective finish on the display is irksome when used under direct overhead sunlight. The tablet’s AKG-tuned quad speakers also made it quite a dab hand at movie watching duties with pretty good levels of clarity and detail along with a modest amount of bass.

Galaxy tab S4 S Pen stylus well

You are also able to take full advantage of the S Pen stylus and its Air Commands so you’re able to draw, doodle, sketch and do everything you’d expect on a Galaxy Note series phone bar the ability to control certain apps remotely like the Galaxy Note9. All the usual niceties like the ability to do a screencap and then annotate it or to capture a long scrolling webpage as a single image are all present and correct.

The hardware is fairly up to snuff as well and it’s able to tackle PUBG on high settings along with a host of other games without keeling over. Productivity related tasks like using the Office suite, opening multiple browsers and the like were handled in a snappy fashion without any apparent lag.

While it does have a front and rear camera, their performance is perfunctory, allowing you to take pictures of your parking spot or mayhaps the odd food Instagram snap in a well lit environment. The front camera is all right for Skype calls and the like. In any case, using a slate to take pictures may not be the most viable option available.

Overall, the Galaxy Tab S4 is a solid performer as far as tablets go but where it truly exceeds its compatriots is its unique adaption of Samsung’s DeX mode which comes in handy if you are wont to multitask.

DeXtrously Efficient

Unlike the Galaxy Note9 where DeX mode is contingent on you having the proper hardware hooked up for it to work – a HDMI to USB Type-C cable at the very least along with a monitor – the Tab S4 allows you to trigger the DeX desktop mode at will by simply toggling it in the settings so that it becomes the default interface on the Tab S4. It also automatically deploys once you dock it to the optional keyboard cover. You can also use it as originally intended mode by hooking it up via the aforementioned HDMI cable to a display, allowing for more screen real estate to work on.

For the uninitiated, Samsung’s DeX mode, which first debuted on the Galaxy Note8 last year and which was further refined in the Note9 eschews the touch-based interface common to Android and overlays it with a Windows-style desktop interface with all the niceties you’d associate with the format including the aforementioned desktop, the ability to drag and drop apps, the use a taskbar, the ability to resize windows and the like. This is inestimably useful, especially if you’re a heavy user of productivity apps like the Windows Office suite, Outlook, and the like.

The implementation here is excellent, with Samsung taking full advantage of the larger screen real estate available on the Tab S4’s display to allow users to open up multiple windows. Even at full tilt with one window running a YouTube stream, two open Google documents, email and several web pages open all the same time onscreen, the Tab S4 did not lag.

Unfortunately, not all apps play well with DeX mode and some can only be opened in a windowed mode. By and large, if you’re using it for word processing, basic photo editing and spreadsheets, it works just fine with the Microsoft Office suite and Google Docs allowing you to handle most of it in a fairly seamless fashion in full screen mode.

The provided keyboard cover worked a treat with good key travel and a fairly well spaced layout that allows seasoned typists to go at full tilt. Unfortunately, the nature of how the POGO pins are aligned means that you can’t really adjust the angle of the Tab S4 when using the keyboard though it’s still quite usable when placed in your lap with best results when placed on a table.

Unfortunately, some interesting quibbles came up due to its unique implementation. For starters, the S Pen’s Air Commands are grayed out in DeX mode, reducing it to the status of a pointer though you can fiddle through the app selection screen to manually activate the Samsung Notes app. Another quibble is that unlike the implementation of DeX on the Galaxy Note9 where you can use its touchscreen as a touchpad, the Tab S4 requires you to have a mouse to get about and to right click on folders and the like though you can still use the S Pen as a pointer along with your fingers for most tasks.

Price, Battery Life and Conclusion

The Galaxy Tab S4 sports a large 7,300mAh battery and even with fairly heavy use throughout the day including several hours of video streaming and WiFi constantly on, it easily managed to go through a day and  the better part of next day before seriously needing a juicing.

As far as performance goes, the tablet does not disappoint and remains a solid contender among its peers, edging out on account of its unique DeX mode which makes it a proposition for those looking for something more capable than a conventional tablet but lighter than an ultrabook. The provided S Pen offers a wealth of creative options for skilled users though you’ll need to invest in either the optional book cover and, at the very least, tote a wireless mouse in your kit to make full use of DeX mode.

As it stands, the Galaxy Tab S4 is an immensely capable productivity device for enterprise use and serious work with its innovative DeX mode and solid hardware. Granted, it has a rather premium price tag and the cost ramps up with additional accessories like its optional keyboard cover but this is effectively the best Android tablet that money can currently buy for both  work and play.

What we Liked – Bright and crisp display, DeX mode, long battery life, can make phone calls, light and portable, good quad speakers, responsive SPen
What we didn’t – Not cheap, finish is a fingerprint magnet, needs keyboard cover to maximise functionality, average cameras
We Say – The Galaxy Tab S4 is one of the best Android slates that money can buy  with a vibrant and crisp display along with solid performance. Where it stands out from the crowd is on account of its innovative DeX desktop mode that makes it useful for power users though this innovation comes at a premium.

Price RM3,099
Display 10.5-inch WQCGA Super AMOLED display, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels
Processor Snapdragon 835 2.35GHz octacore
OS Android 8.1
Memory 4GB RAM/ 64GB
Camera 13-MP w/ flash (rear) + 8-MP (front)
Battery 7,300mAh
Size/Weight 249.3 x 164.3 x 7.1mm / 483g
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia


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