Even though Apple’s (AAPL) share of the tablet market it essentially created has shrunk to just over a quarter of the total, the company still leads all other tablet manufacturers by volume.
Thanks to strong sales of its Galaxy Tab and Note line of tablets, Samsung (SSNLF) has been making steady gains — and leads all Android manufacturers — but Apple’s lead has proven tough to catch. Worse, with its own phablets proving more popular than expected and cannibalizing small tablet sales, Samsung’s growth is slowing.
According to the latest IDC stats, Samsung’s tablet sales grew just 1.6% year-over-year for the quarter and it actually lost ground in market share: 17.2% compared to 18.8% this time last year.
After having gone bigger, smaller and cheaper than the iPad, Samsung is aiming directly at it this time.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is the company’s consumer flagship tablet and it’s intended to compete directly with Apple’s iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina Display. Rather than take on surging Chinese manufacturers with cheap tablets running Google’s (GOOG) Android, Samsung is hoping to take a bite out of Apple’s share.
Does this tablet have what it takes to compete with the best? Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S review to find out.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S Review: Thinner and Lighter than Air
Let’s do some comparisons: Apple’s iPad Air is 0.29 inches thick and weighs exactly one pound. The iPad Mini with Retina Display comes is also 0.29 inches thick, but weighs 11.7 ounces. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 that I was sent was just 0.26 inches thick and tipped the scales at 10.4 ounces.
In other words, the Galaxy Tab is not only thinner and lighter than the iPad Air, it’s also thinner and lighter than the iPad Mini with Retina Display.
You can see this in the photo — the Galaxy Tab S is on the top, the iPad beneath.
Mind you, the new Galaxy Tab achieves at least some of this weight loss through use of plastic instead of metal. If you don’t care for the perforated faux leather back on the Galaxy S5 (reviewed here), you’re not going to like the look of this tablet much either. Even if it does have gold trim.
Did I mention it has gold trim?
Regardless of the case color you choose, Samsung has adorned the edges with gold paint –perhaps a reaction to the demand for Apple’s Gold iPhone 5S. Like the iPhone, the Galaxy Tab S also incorporates a fingerprint scanner.
That makes it thinner and lighter than an iPad. And at $399.99 it’s priced to match Apple’s smaller iPad Mini with Retina Display and is $100 cheaper than the iPad Air. It supports multiple app windows, includes an IR blaster TV remote, the 16GB storage is expandable to 128GB using cheap microSD cards, and the new Samsung Galaxy Tab has gold trim and a fingerprint scanner.
And there’s an even bigger advantage…
Samsung Galaxy Tab S Review: Standout Display
Apple’s iPads use IPS LCD displays. Their Retina display resolution is 2048 x 1536 pixels, giving them pixel densities of 264 ppi (pixels per inch) for the iPad Air and 326 ppi for the iPad Mini with Retina Display.
The 8.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab S has a 2560 x 1600 pixel display (more than 4 million pixels) for a razor sharp 360 ppi. That even beats the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle Fire HDX 8.9’s 339 ppi.
But the display isn’t just a higher resolution than the competition. Because Samsung opted to go with Super AMOLED technology, the screen has incredible color reproduction. Samsung says it’s 94% color accurate (compared to 73% for traditional LCD), and the 100,000:1 contrast ratio is 100 times better than LCD.
The Galaxy Tab review unit looked amazing — the screen was bright, vivid and incredibly crisp. With video content, it was exceptional.
When it comes to display, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S has an edge over both iPads.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S Review: Specs
- 8.4-inch 2560 x 1600 Super AMOLED display
- Exynos 5 Octa processor with 3GB RAM*
- 16 GB storage, plus microSD card slot expansion up to 128 GB
- 8 MB primary camera with flash, 2.1 MP front-facing camera
- 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi with MIMO support
- Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, IR Blaster
- 4900 mAh battery rated at up to 10 hours Internet use
- Android 4.4 KitKat with Samsung TouchWiz
- 0.26-inches thick, weighs 10.4 oz
- Available in Titanium Bronze or Arctic White (Galaxy Tab review unit was Bronze)
- MSRP $399.99
*LTE model uses a Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 800 CPU
Samsung Galaxy Tab S Review: Conclusion
Taking on the iPad directly is a tough job. It’s a lot easier going after the people who can’t afford an iPad or who want something bigger than it is to try to outclass the iPad Air and iPad Mini With Retina Display. This new Samsung Galaxy Tab tries and does a pretty decent job of it.
The display is a big selling feature, and the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S is thinner and lighter than Apple’s flagship tablets wins SSNLF some bragging points.
However … the gold trim is liable to turn off some potential buyers (personally, I found it a bit gaudy) and the plastic case doesn’t quite match the quality feel the metal-clad iPads project. Apple is also expected to release new models in the fall, likely incorporating the Touch ID fingerprint sensor introduced with the iPhone 5S.
That leaves the Super AMOLED display.
Is it a superior viewing experience enough for the new Samsung Galaxy Tab to convince iPad owners to jump ship? DisplayMate compared flagship tablets last fall and discovered the Kindle Fire HDX was superior to the iPad Air, proclaiming it “the best performing Tablet display that we have ever tested.”
If you check that IDC report (the one that shows Apple still holds a 26.9% share), you’ll find Amazon doesn’t even rank an entry on the tablet market — Acer with 2% is the final company spiked out — so don’t expect screen performance alone to inspire Apple fans to make the switch.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.