Samsung leans on high-res Super AMOLED screens with new tablets

The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and Tab S 10.5 both have screens with a 2560-by-1600-pixel resolution

Samsung is banking on the high-resolution Super AMOLED screens on its Galaxy Tab S tablets, which also weigh less than Apple's latest iPads, to help it maintain momentum in a tough market.

Not content with the plethora of tablets with different screen sizes and network configurations it already offers, Samsung Thursday added the Galaxy Tab S to its lineup.

iPad mini vs Galaxy Tab S 8.4
Samsung's Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (left) and Apple's iPad mini, side by side. (image: Mikael Ricknas)

"This new tablet [has] raised the tablet viewing experience," said DJ Lee, head of sales and marketing for the communications division at Samsung Electronics, at an event in New York City's Madison Square Garden.

"It's simply beautiful, like joy," Lee said.

There are two models to choose between, with either an 8.4-inch or a 10.5-inch screen. Both are based on Super AMOLED technology and have a 2560-by-1600-pixel resolution. The company promises better contrast and color reproduction, it said. In comparison, Apple's iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display have a 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution.

LCDs require backlighting and filters to display images and colors, and Super AMOLED reproduces colors more accurately, said Michael Abary, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics North America, at the event.

"With Super AMOLED, each and every pixel is alive," Abary said, saying the reds, greens and blues are brighter and more accurate than on traditional LCDs.

The tablets also have a feature called Adaptive Display, which changes screen settings based on the application.

The tablets are pre-set to adjust the screen when using the built-in apps for movies, photos, e-books, video calls, camera and browsers. The Adaptive Display technology adjusts gamma, contrast and saturation.

Using sensors that detect ambient lighting, Adaptive Display can also adjust brightness and color based on the user's surroundings.

Samsung is hoping that the screen, along with overall size and weight, will separate its new tablets from the competition. The Wi-Fi version of the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 weighs 294 grams, which is 37 grams lighter than the iPad mini with Retina display. The Wi-Fi version of the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is, on the other hand, only 4 grams lighter than the iPad Air at 465 grams.

Both devices are 6.6 millimeters thick, which also compares favorably to the iPad Air's and the iPad Mini's 7.5 millimeter thickness.

Samsung is sticking with a plastic back, but the bronze version of the new tablets looks better than the much maligned Galaxy S5.

Both tablets are based on Android 4.4 and powered by either Samsung's own Exynos 5 processor -- running four cores at 1.9GHz and another four cores at 1.3GHz -- or a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor from Qualcomm with a 2.3GHz clock speed.

They both have an 8-megapixel camera on the back and a 2.1-megapixel camera on the front. They also have either 16GB or 32GB of integrated storage and 3GB of RAM. The integrated storage can be expanded with up to 128GB using the microSD card slot. Just like on the Galaxy S5, there is an integrated fingerprint scanner.

All this will be kept running using a 4,900 mAh battery in the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and 7,900 mAh in the Galaxy Tab S 10.5.

In addition to the Wi-Fi version, there is also an LTE version of both models. The price tags for the Wi-Fi version with 16GB of storage are from $399 for the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and $499 for the Galaxy Tab S 10.5. That matches the cost of Apple's tablets, which highlights how confident Samsung is. The tablets will start shipping in the beginning of July. Preorders in the U.S. start Friday.

Samsung's portfolio expansion -- which earlier in the year saw it introduce the Galaxy Note Pro and the Tab Pro, for example -- comes as the overall tablet market has lost some of its luster. Two weeks ago, market researcher IDC lowered its sales projections for the year.

There are two main reasons for the slowdown: consumers are keeping their tablets, especially higher-cost models from major vendors, far longer than originally anticipated; and the rise of smartphones with 5.5-inch and larger screens is causing many people to second-guess tablet purchases, IDC said.

IDC now expects that 245.4 million units will ship in 2014, down from the previous forecast of 260.9 million units. The new forecast represents a 12.1 percent year-over-year growth rate, which is notably lower than the 51.8 percent the market grew with in 2013.

This year, tablet shipments grew by only 3.9 percent during the first quarter. Apple was still the market leader with 16.4 million units versus Samsung's 11.2 million. However, while Apple's unit sales dropped by 16.1 percent, Samsung's grew by 32 percent year-on-year, according to IDC's data.

Samsung is happy with sales so far this year and it has high hopes for the Galaxy Tab S products, it said. However, catching up and surpassing Apple will be a big mountain for the company to climb.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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