Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review

A great, if pricey, compact tablet, with a top-quality screen, fast performance and superb battery life

Bobby MacPherson
29 Aug 2014
5
Price when reviewed 
319

AMOLED screens are usually the preserve of smartphones and expensive TVs, but Samsung has bucked the trend with the Galaxy Tab S 8.4in – this tiny tablet uses one of Samsung’s pixel-packed Super AMOLED panels with an eye-prickling resolution of 1,600 x 2,560. See also: what's the best compact tablet of 2014?

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review: AMOLED display

It looks fabulous, no doubt about that. One of the benefits of OLED displays is that they have no backlight and so deliver a perfect, or effectively infinite, contrast ratio. The result is a vivacious, highly dynamic image that’s great at displaying everything from the deepest blacks to the brightest whites. Out of the box, we found the colours were completely over the top and over saturated, but this is easy enough to change; there are a number of alternatives to the lurid default Adaptive mode in the tablet’s display menu settings, and we found the Basic setting delivered the most accurate colours.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review

The screen isn’t perfect, however. Since it’s an OLED display, maximum brightness isn’t that high. We measured it at 276cd/m2, and it isn’t as easy to read outdoors in bright light as the iPad mini with Retina display. This type of display also tends to suffer burn and discolouration over time - more so than IPS LCD - and it likely won’t look quite as good in a couple of years. Plus, the high resolution is mostly pointless. On a screen of this size, 1,200 x 1,920 is all you need.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review: build and connectivity

Still, the tablet itself is a handsome thing, measuring a mere 6.6mm thick and weighing only 290g; that’s lighter than the Nexus 7, despite the larger screen. The finish is all plastic, with a dimpled white rear and metallic bronze edging, in a similar style to Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone, and there are a couple of circular clips, flush to the rear, where the official covers attach. It’s pleasant enough to hold, but not a patch on the sleek, metal iPad mini.

It bests the iPad mini in other areas, though. The 8-megapixel rear camera produces more detailed shots, and comes equipped with a flash, where the iPad mini has none. There’s a microSD card slot for memory expansion, too, and 802.11ac wireless where the iPad mini is stuck with 802.11n.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review: performance

Performance is generally excellent. Processing power comes from a Samsung Exynos Octa 5 SoC, which has four cores clocked at 1.9GHz for the heavy lifting, and four cores clocked at 1.3GHz for lighter loads. It scored 477ms in the SunSpider test, where it was only just beaten by the Apple iPad mini with Retina's score of 418ms, and surged past the Apple tablet in the multi-core Geekbench test with a score of 2,768. Battery life was impressive, too: the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4in lasted 12hrs 22mins in our looping video test.

The only disappointment was gaming, where the high resolution screen dragged its performance down. In the GFXBench test, it gained only 14fps - for the most demanding Android titles, the Samsung's pixel-dense screen may prove more of a curse than a blessing.

That’s a disappointing result for a premium compact tablet, but we were equally unimpressed by the heavy-handed custom Android UI that Samsung employs on its tablets. The tile-based “Magazine UX” news-feed, accessed with a swipe to the right, feels like an unnecessarily fussy addition. It’s simply not very useful.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review: verdict

There’s no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is an excellent Android tablet, but it’s expensive, and there are too many little niggles to nudge it into to the upper echelons. For our money, the iPad mini and Nexus 7 remain the compact tablets to beat.

Price when reviewed 
319(£266 exc VAT)

Detail

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical

Dimensions 126 x 6.6 x 213mm (WDH)
Weight 294.000kg

Display

Screen size 8.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 2,560
Resolution screen vertical 1,600
Display type IPS touchscreen
Panel technology IPS

Battery

Battery capacity 4,900mAh

Core specifications

CPU frequency, MHz 2MHz
Integrated memory 16.0GB
RAM capacity 3MB

Camera

Camera megapixel rating 8.0mp
Focus type Autofocus
Built-in flash? yes
Built-in flash type Single LED
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Other

WiFi standard 802.11ac

Software

Mobile operating system Android 4.4

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