First look: Samsung's new Galaxy Tab S tablet takes displays to a higher level

Samsung is  trying its best to become, if not the sole purveyor of Android devices, certainly the top source. With all the usual sound and fury (this time, introduction was at NYC’s Madison Square Garden), the company has announced its latest tablet: the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, a new high-end device with sleek lines, an impressively light weight and a very bright, sharp screen. 

First, the facts: The Galaxy Tab S will come in two sizes: an 8.4-in and 10.5-in., in Wi-Fi and LTE versions, and in two colors: titanium bronze and white. The Wi-Fi versions (shipping in July) will offer an Exnos 5 Octa quad-core processor; the LTE version, which will ship later, will come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800. Both sizes come with 3GB of memory and 16GB of storage, and comes loaded with Android 4.4 (Kit Kat).


One of the first features that Samsung emphasized is the quality of the screen (at the announcement, it all but compared its new product to the difference between a black & white and color TV). The Galaxy Tab S has a Super AMOLED Gorilla Glass display with a display resolution of 2560 x 1600 and 300 pixels per inch. If you watched Samsung's streaming video of the event, you'll know how much emphasis the presenters put on things like  increased color spectrum and wider color range (not to mention outdoor visibility).

I was able to play with the product for a little while and I have to say, it was pretty impressive. I looked at a variety of images and ran a video, and in all cases, the colors were vibrant and sharp, the blacks excellent. There are two speakers, one on either side on the edge, and while the sound wasn’t the best I’ve heard from a tablet, it was certainly loud enough.

The tablets come with a micro USB 2.0 port, a 3.5mm headphone out port, and a microSD port (so you can extend your storage if you wish). There is a back-facing 8 megapixel camera and a front-facing 2.1 megapixel camera. The smaller version comes with a 4,900 mAh battery while the larger comes with a 7,900mAh battery; Samsung claims up to 75 hours of music playback time with the smaller and 121 hours with the larger (up to 11 hours of video playback).

But what is almost startling at first glance is the sleekness of the device. The 8.4-in. unit measures 4.9 x 8.3 x .26 in. and weighs 10.4 oz.; the larger 10.5-in tablet measures 9.7 x 6.9 x .26 in. and weighs a still easy-to-carry 16.5 oz. I’ve always been wary of 10-in. tablets, because their weight never made them something I’d want to just pop into my bag; I could certainly make an effort with Galaxy S, even though it’s larger than the usual 10.1-in. models out there today.

Just beneath the display is a home button (Samsung has never felt comfortable without at least one physical button) and the usual Android touch buttons for paging back and recently-visited apps. The back has a textured finish (very like that of the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone) to keep it from being too slick to hold; there are also two small indentations for a cover to click into.

Despite all the balloons and confetti, Samsung is presenting this as not only a high-end consumer product, but very much as an enterprise-ready product. It comes enabled for Samsung’s Knox 2.0 enterprise security software; Samsung also offers (as a Knox-based add-on) containerization software to separate personal from work software. It has fingerprint recognition. It has the ability to easily mirror its contents to a larger screen and comes with, among other things, Hancom Mobile Office (which, according to Samsung, can handle MIcrosoft Office documents). 

And as is usual with Samsung, there are a bunch of partner offerings, along with a plethora of consumer apps and add-ons (including something called Content Home).

And the prices for the Wi-Fi version?  $399 for the 8.4-in. version and $499 for the 10.5-in. version -- not excessive.

The verdict? I've always hesitant to make any judgements on hardware after only a few minutes of work with it -- in my experience, you never really know a product until you've lived with it for at least several hours, if not several days. In addition, Samsung has a tendency to become overenthusiastic in its Android tweaks, something that also becomes more evident after you've had some experience with the product. 

With any luck, we'll be offering a more nuanced and deep-dive examination of the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S when the first tablets come out in July. But on first look, I've got to say, this looks like a really slick product.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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