Test: Samsung’s Tab S8 Ultra is a challenger for the iPad Pro

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Who is Samsung’s new top-of-the-line 14.6-inch Tab S8 Ultra designed for? It’s a question that’s been on my mind since I started reviewing the sleek new device.

On the one hand, it’s something of a marvel: a super-large, powerful, ultra-slim tablet with one of the best displays you could ask for. It also comes with Samsung’s impressive S Pen stylus, which is handy for signing work documents or scribbling notes. The battery life is decent and the speakers are really excellent.

In short, it’s by far the best Android tablet out there, and probably the best overall tablet I’ve ever used to watch a movie.

On the other hand, how many people find this Android tablet profile useful? Due to the lack of apps and lack of support from corporate IT, Android tablets have mostly not yet established themselves as mainstream replacements for work laptops like some iPad Pro models have. Can this high-end model fight against this status quo? Or is it something of a novelty device designed to showcase what Samsung can do at the high-end in the hopes that most of us will consider one of its smaller, more affordable S8 tablets?

From a hardware perspective, there’s certainly enough going on here to mark it as the most interesting tablet of the year so far.

1. SCREEN

The absolute central highlight is the grandiose 14.6 inch (16:10) screen. This is an Oled 3K display, which means absolutely stunning color contrasts with Netflix where black is really black instead of dark gray (on most tablets). As you’d expect, it’s also nice and fast at 120Hz. The only minor compromise Samsung makes is the screen brightness, which is a little below what you can get from an iPad Pro, possibly to extend battery life.

Nevertheless, Samsung is really flexible here. The display is without question the only reason you would buy this tablet.

The larger screen size also has an interesting effect on pen use. I’m just an occasional stylus user, for example for signing documents. But because this tablet is so big and I didn’t use a keyboard with it as much as I do with an iPad Pro, I was naturally more inclined to use the (included) S Pen stylus for things like note-taking, ideas, and project storyboarding . For this type of activity, size is everything – I find that the tablets or laptops that do this best are either under 9 inches (can be grasped with one hand) or over 13 inches and lie flat on a desk or lap.

2. WEBCAM

Thankfully, Samsung has decided that releasing such an expensive, premium tablet without a proper webcam setup isn’t worth it. So two front-facing 4K webcams were installed, one wide and one ultrawide. These are generally very good compared to what you mostly get in laptops. They’re certainly on par with the iPad Pro’s front-facing webcam, and they have one major advantage – they’re placed on the top horizontal bezel (know their own mini-notch). this means that when you’re on a video call, you appear to be looking more at the person you’re talking to than on the iPad Pro, where the webcam is on the left side.

3. BATTERY LIFE

Can the battery handle such a huge, high-end screen in such a thin tablet? Yes, although it’s probably more accurate to say the battery is decent rather than outstanding. The 11,200mAh battery under the hood sounds huge, but I found this to perform around par with an iPad Pro. That means just five to six hours if you’re hammering it multitasking, and up to eight or nine hours if you’re a bit more passive and watching full-length streamed movies on it. It keeps the battery really good if you don’t use it for days.

4. PERFORMANCE

Interestingly, this high-end tablet packs less power than some of Samsung’s current S22 phones. While the Tab S8 Ultra has a top-end Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, it only has 8GB of RAM compared to the 12GB in the S22 Ultra phone. I didn’t find any lag or lag for anything I used the tablet for, but Samsung has clearly decided that a tablet doesn’t necessarily need the beefy engine that some laptops have.

5. WORK WITH IT

For that, Samsung has a work-friendly keyboard case called “2-in-1 Book Cover Keyboard”. The retail price is €359, but Samsung is currently selling it at a €251 discount on its Irish website.

I didn’t get a chance to test this keyboard cover, but the specs look decent – backlit keys, a touchpad for cursor control, and a kickstand. If I’m buying a Tab S8 Ultra for casual work use, I think the Book Cover Keyboard might be a necessity.

This is especially true given Samsung’s “Dex” mode, a Windows-like layout you can enable on Samsung tablets and phones. Designed for use with external monitors and keyboards, it pairs perfectly with the Book Cover Keyboard – there’s even a dedicated button to activate the mode.

6. NEGATIVES

Being an Android tablet, it falls under the relatively poor Android tablet app ecosystem. There are workarounds for many of them, and some of the main ones – like Microsoft Office – are fine. But overall, this is a second-tier OS for productivity apps (and other apps) on a big tablet screen. This isn’t Samsung’s fault at all, but it still needs to be pointed out.

7. PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

The Tab S8 Ultra is only available in one color (Graphite) and only two of the three memory configurations are currently available directly from Samsung in Ireland. These are 128GB (€1,179) and 256GB (€1,279). A 512GB model is also mentioned but doesn’t appear to be available here.

https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/review-samsungs-tab-s8-ultra-is-an-ipad-pro-challenger-41470527.html Test: Samsung’s Tab S8 Ultra is a challenger for the iPad Pro

Fry Electronics Team

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