Samsung Tab S4 review: Expensive, but the best Android tablet in the market

Samsung Tab S4
Handheld devices are in desperate need of unique differentiators. The thinning bezels and expanding screens have brought them dangerously close to looking identical. The phenomenon is more alarming for tablets since phones are quickly hogging their large-screen advantage. But Samsung — like Apple — isn’t done re-inventing its tablets. And the Tab S4 is a worthy cross of tablet, laptop and phone.

At first glance, the Tab S4 looks like any other tablet. Even with thinner bezels than the Tab S3 — which omits the home button and the fingerprint sensor — and a taller aspect ratio of 16:10, Samsung employs no design genius to woo new customers. It’s only when the tablet is horizontally attached to its proprietary keyboard that it begins to look like a portable device capable of grounding a laptop forever. The accessory, of course, comes at an added cost.

Here’s the rub: the tablet is quite unremarkable without its keyboard. Especially because the Tab S4’s unique selling point is a new feature called DeX, a desktop mode that comes alive as soon as the tablet is docked onto the keyboard. DeX is what gives a flagship tablet the legitimacy of a basic laptop. It allows one to simultaneously open and work on multiple tabs and navigate between different apps. More importantly, it lets you feel like you’re working on a computer. The keyboard also doubles as a stand and cover.

The keys are tightly packed. But the key travel distance is short and once you get used to the board, the loss of productivity compared to a computer is marginal. While the S Pen does not have the best grip, its improved functionality should appeal to design enthusiasts.

The Tab S4 runs on a 2.35 GHz Snapdragon octa-core processor, one below Qualcomm’s latest, the Snapdragon 845. Odd, because you’d expect a flagship from Samsung to feature the best. Still, the tablet does not heat up or lag during intense gaming sessions, multi-tasking or playing videos for straight hours. Samsung claims a video playback time of 16 hours and Tab S4’s 7,300mAh battery does bring it impressively close to that promise — 12 hours was my experience. 

The 10.5-inch AMOLED screen at a resolution of 2560x1600 is vivid and offers deep blacks. The speakers, tweaked by AKG, deliver loud and crisp audio, among the best 
I have encountered in a handheld device.

But the angle of the screen once docked can’t be adjusted, which makes it difficult to use while sitting in bed or lying down. It’s otherwise a powerful device designed to be many things on the go, especially with its LTE (SIM) support. At Rs 57,900 (plus Rs 7,500 for the keyboard), it’s expensive but the best Android tablet in the market.  

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel