Release Date: 9/3/2015
MSRP: $399 (8″ Wifi), $500 (8″ LTE/9.7″ Wifi), $649 (9.7″ LTE)
Colors: Black, Gold, White
It’s been a long time coming, but I have held off for years on larger tablets. This is mainly due to battery life and power, but most importantly, the screen. Sure the iPads have decent screens, but I wanted something amazing that all my larger content can look sharp on; something akin to a PC monitor. I have had my seven-inch Nexus tablets for a few years now and they were great for reading comics, and books, and playing tablet-style games. I have used various other tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, but it was just awful and slow.
After purchasing the Note 5 I took a look at all of Samsung’s newest hardware. The sleek paper-thin design of the Tab S2 caught my eye, but I was wary that it was weak and had an awful screen. I heard great things about the Tab S and Note Pro 10.1, so I took a further look. To my surprise, the Tab S2 was powerful and sported Samsung’s very popular Super AMOLED screens that I have grown to love over the years starting with my Galaxy S4.
Some naysayers may gripe about tablets being steamrolled phones (this was said a lot about the original iPad) and honestly, Microsoft is the only company that has put a PC OS onto a tablet. Apple needs to get OSX working on an iPad and Google needs to seriously think about getting Chrome OS onto tablets, but that’s a debate for a different time. Right now tablets have been nearly perfected and it’s okay to be larger versions of their phone counterparts. Think about it: what do we use tablets for? Movies, reading, and the overall enjoyment of a large screen. First I would like to help people on the fence about tablets and think about these five things when buying one.
1. For the Movie Lover
There are dozens of movie apps on Google Play right now and anyone who watches Netflix in bed or out of the house should be a tablet owner. This also goes for anyone who uses Hulu or any other streaming app. This is also great for people who love ripping or downloading movies and loading them directly from the device.
If you’re a busy student or work in a place that requires a lot of note-taking then a tablet is great for you, but why not a laptop? Tablets are ultra-light, ultra-portable, and do only what you want them to do. There’s no hassle of things going wrong with your laptop, go crashes, BSODs, or anything like that.
Of course, most games are fine on phones, but there are so many great tablet games that you are missing out on. This War of Mine, Talisman, The Witcher Adventure Game, Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Desktop Dungeons, Bard’s Tale, and many more games that are better suited for larger screens. Not to mention that any gamer loves playing on bigger screens.
Tablets became popular due to ebooks. This is what put tablets on the map thanks to devices like the Amazon Kindle. There are many great book apps with Amazon’s Kindle being the most popular with millions of books available the sea is endless. Laying down and reading on a tablet is more convenient as you can do other things in between reading. Take a break and watch a YouTube video or two, video chat with a friend for a little, and go back at it. Tablets are just great to relax with thanks to all the things you can do with them. I personally love reading manga and comics on mine.
Most artists naysay digital art, especially on tablets, but they are great for getting ideas out of your head quickly before they are forgotten. There are many great styli out there for tablets, and while you won’t be able to pump out masterpieces like on your Cintiq tablet at your desk, it can save you from frustration for not being able to get a good idea out.
With that said, these are the people that tablets are aimed at. I nay-said tablets a long time ago thinking I was just fine with my phone but realized the potential I was missing out on.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2’s first feature you will notice when opening the box is the form factor. This is the thinnest tablet I have ever seen and it just looks so sleek and incredibly gorgeous. The tablet is a perfect rectangle shape with rounded edges but has a face that’s familiar to Samsung phone owners. The recent apps button and back button with a physical home button sandwiched in between is iconic. I was also surprised at how light this tablet was at being nearly 10″. The style is borrowed from the current Galaxy series phones with solid power and volume keys (not rockers) and a minimal design.
If you have a wifi tablet you won’t have to worry about this step, but inserting the SIM card for the 4G version was quite easy thanks to the little tool that is provided. Just pop the pin in and insert the card into its carriage and off it goes. The SD card slot is also located just below that slot and works the same way. I was actually so grateful that this tablet came with expandable memory (up to 128GB) as I can now load it with movies, music, and comics while the internal space is used for apps and games. With my Nexus 7, it was a constant balancing act of games and apps over comics with only 32GB to use. The 9.7″ Tab S2 comes with 32GB built-in, but that’s nothing to complain about thanks to the expandable memory.
Once I turned the device on I was amazed at the screen quality, while it was expected, it just looked so beautiful in this size. Everything is clear and crisp and what you would expect from a Samsung display. I will say that the tablet is a typical Samsung Android experience and that’s not really bad, but there are not many device-specific features. There is a fingerprint scanner which is really nice, but I noticed the device lacked the Themes that are present in the current Galaxy phones. Anyone new to a Samsung device will find everything quite convenient, but coming from using Samsung phones I could just dive right in and start setting up the device.
The device ships with the latest version of Lollipop (5.1.1) and Marshmallow is currently in development for the device. There are several features I would like to mention that I love on this tablet regardless of them being standard Android/Samsung features.
First off, the tablet has some great power-saving features as well as an ultra power-saving mode that turns everything black and white and only allows minimal usage. The battery actually lasts quite a while for such a large device and power-hungry screen. I can go on a full charge for about a day before the device dies which is great. I also like the palm mute feature that allows you to place your hand on the screen to mute whatever is going on. While there aren’t as many features as the phones from Samsung, I felt what was here was just right and didn’t feel too gimmicky or overbearing. The more features added, the more the battery can drain. Another feature I liked was the private mod. Enable this and whatever files or folders you selected won’t show up, but can still be accessed by apps. Hiding private photos and videos has never been easier. The Tab S2 also has a slew of security features for finding a lost or stolen device and encryption options. This is great for people with sensitive info on their devices.
Let’s talk about performance. The Tab S2 is the fastest tablet I have used. While the Nexus 7 2013 was fairly slow during KitKat and Lollipop 5.0-5.0.2 it did speed up with 5.1.1. However, the Tab S2 is as fast as my Note 5 and hasn’t stuttered at anything I have thrown at it. The tablet has some pretty beefy hardware under the hood for such a slim device. The device sports Samsung’s flagship CPU chip which is the Exonys 5433 sporting a 1.9 GHz quad-core CPU and another Cortex-A93 chip at 1.3Ghz (quad-core). This provides ultra-fast processing and allows the buttery smooth operation that you experience. The device has 3GB of RAM, not 4 like the Note 5 which was a little bit of a surprise. I noticed no slowdown or chugging when switching and opening up a lot of apps. The tablet comes with the latest Mali GPU the TMP760 @700 Mhz to be exact. This will allow you to play the latest and greatest games without any slow down.
The Tab S2 also has one of the best tablet cameras I have seen in a while. Now, tablet cameras have been notorious for being sub-par to phones, mainly this is due to tablets not being used for pictures quite as often as phones. To reduce production costs the camera is cut down, usually half as many megapixels as current phones, and can make the tablets thinner. The Tab S2 has a rear 8MP camera (no flash) and a 5MP front camera. Both take pictures very well, but the rear camera does not take 60 FPS video which is a disappointment, but we do get Samsung’s newest camera software suite has seen in the Galaxy S6 and Note 5. There is plenty of different ways to take photos and the suite is quite powerful for a tablet. For being a secondary source for a camera, I can say I’m pretty happy with what’s here.
To conclude, the Tab S2 has brought tablets a long way, with super-fast speeds, and an experience similar to their flagship phones, Samsung fans, and Android fans will have one of the best tablets on the market in their hands. Of course, this isn’t a budget tablet and the $500-$650 price range will run most people away compared to sub-8-inch tablet prices. If you want the latest and greatest, gorgeous display, and extremely fast performance then look no further than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2.