Hands-on: Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review

In a sharp contrast to its smartphone range, Samsung has never really had a flagship tablet. However, based on first impressions, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is a luxurious Samsung tablet worthy of flagship status.

Priced at £319 for the 8in device, and £399 for the 9.7in model, Samsung is clearly positioning its tablet as a direct competitor to the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2. Based on our first impressions, Samsung’s tablet isn’t capable of dethroning the almighty iPad, but it definitely puts forward a better case for owning an Android tablet than anything we’ve seen previously.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2: Design

No matter which of the two sizes you opt for, the first thing you’ll notice on picking up the Tab S2 is how thin it is. Both devices are just 5.6mm thick – that’s thinner than the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3 and the unnervingly thin Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review - Gold Corner

Both tablets may be thinner than their predecessors, but they’re wider due to a 4:3 screen ratio. These new proportions make both versions of the Tab S2 a pleasure to use when reading websites or generally viewing content in portrait mode. The viewability of the screen is also helped by an incredibly glossy front, which is framed by a high-quality faux-metal (plastic, if you insist) trim. This may not sound as appealing as an all-metal body, but the Tab S2 doesn’t feel cheap. Despite a light weight of just 256g for the 8in model and 389g for the 9.7in version, both feel sturdier in the hand than previous Tab S devices.

Along the bottom of both Galaxy Tab S2 devices, you’ll find two speakers, a micro-USB port and a headphone jack, with microSD and nano-SIM slots hidden away along the right-hand side.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2: Display

As both of the new tablets are smaller than their Tab S counterparts, Samsung has dropped screen resolution down from 2,560 x 1,600 to 2,048 x 1,536, which equates to 320ppi on the 8in model and 264ppi on the 9.7in. However, even with the slightly reduced resolution, both devices look beautiful thanks to Samsung’s Super AMOLED panels. Colours are vibrant, the contrast seems near-perfect, and images are incredibly crisp.

Samsung has also included two display modes, which it automatically switches between depending on what you’re doing. Adaptive Display is designed to make images pop and videos look fantastic even in bright sunlight, and a Reading Mode adjusts the colours onscreen to make them more readable when using ebooks or magazines.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 specs:

Both versions of the Tab S2 are using the outdated Android version 5.0.1, skinned with Samsung’s awful TouchWiz UI, but they feel brisk and powerful in use. This is mostly thanks to Samsung’s octa-core Exynos 5433 processor, Mali-T760 MP6 GPU and 3GB of RAM.

Samsung has decided not to bother producing a 16GB version of its tablet; for most people, 32GB is the only viable option. If you’d like even more space, the Tab S2 also comes in a 64GB variant, and storage is expandable via support for 128GB microSD cards.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review – Bottom

As you’d expect, the Tab S2 includes Bluetooth 4 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and there are 4G LTE options available. For some reason, Samsung has opted for micro-USB instead of the latest USB Type-C. The Tab S2 also has an improved fingerprint sensor to match those on the S6 and S6 Edge, allowing you to simply touch the reader instead of slide your finger over it.

Although you’ll have to wait for our full review for complete battery tests, judging by specs alone neither Galaxy Tab S2 model should have too many problems. The 8in tablet has a non-removable 4,000mAh battery, with the 9.7in cramming in a meaty 5,870mAh.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2: Camera

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For the Tab S2, Samsung seems to have done away with the LED camera flash seen on the previous version, instead backing the low-light capabilities of its new 8-megapixel rear camera. Although it retains the the same resolution as before, the Tab S2’s rear camera has been improved to include the same low f/1.9 aperture found in the S6 and S6 Edge. The 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera is unchanged.

The camera isn’t too bad for a tablet, but it’s nothing to shout about. Images came out quite noisy, which could have been down to low-light conditions at the venue, and autofocus was also quite slow.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2: Initial verdict

Alphr’s final verdict on the Galaxy Tab S2 can’t come until we’ve had a chance to properly benchmark it, but on first impressions Samsung has built a really impressive pair of tablets. I, for one, look forward to taking an even closer look at what the Tab S2 is capable of.

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