Samsung Tab S2 9.7 review: Beautiful inside out

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S2
Hands-on Review
Design + Build
Hardware
Software
Performance
Pricing + Value for Money
4.5 Top tablet
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If you’re not an Apple fan and looking for a tablet, then the new Samsung Tab S2 will be a fantastic choice. Sure, it isn’t a huge leap from its predecessor in terms of hardware specs, but it looks great and built solid. It’s thin, light and performs well—ticking all the right boxes in terms of specs and features.

Performance

In terms of synthetic benchmarks, the Tab S2 does commendably well. In AnTuTu, it scored 43,187, sandwiching itself between the Huawei Mate 7 and HTC One M8.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 AnTuTu

GeekBench 3 returns 1,222 and 4,188 points in single-core and multi-core tests respectively.

As a comparison, a Google Nexus 9 hits about 3,400 while the iPad Air 2 around 4,500 in multi-core tests.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 GeekBench3

Benchmarks of course mean nothing in real world use. What’s important for you as a user is that your user experience is snappy, intuitive and fluid. The device should fly through menus, switch between apps seamlessly and without noticeable lag, and play games and videos without dropping frames.

And I’m happy to say that the Tab S2 does all this and more with flying colours. In general use case scenarios including web browsing, word processing, email, social media, watching movies, listening to music, the Tab S2 delivers without a hitch.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

I hit some dropped frames playing Need For Speed but overall, the Tab S2 doesn’t disappoint.

Also thanks to tweaks and optimisations in TouchWiz, the UI feels fast and snappy in general.

The 9.7-inch display is excellent, while not the brightest and sharpest from Samsung. It’s great for movies (I binge watch on iflix) and also games like Fallout Shelter and NFS. I tend to read in bed, so the Tab S2 is great for apps like Flipboard and Amazon Kindle, too.

Make no mistake. Samsung wants you to be productive with the Tab S2. It also wants you to have fun with it. Watch movies, play music, play games. It’s a tablet that aspires to do everything well.

I like Splitscreen mode, which helps in terms of productivity and switching between apps. It doesn’t work on all apps though.

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Audio quality I must say is pretty impressive for a tablet. The built-in speakers do generally well, although I usually plug-in headphones for a more immersive experience.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

In terms of battery life, the Tab S2 powers through the day on a single-charge. I wish it was a little more frugal on standby and in idle mode though. Something the iPad excels in. It’s also disappointing that there’s no fast-charging built-in, so it takes 3-4 hours to charge it up in full. Which can be rather annoying.

Camera

Tablets and cameras aren’t the best of buddies in general, as the form factor just isn’t great for shooting photos, in any scenario. Having said that, and when you need to, it will deliver what you need. Despite the handicap of not having a LED flash, the big aperture f/1.9 lens will return some decent looking shots, especially if you give it good light. Under low light, there’s the usual noise and slow shutter, but noticeably better thanks to the fast lens.

The front number isn’t anything to shout about, decent enough for web chats and perhaps a blur selfie or two.

Sample photos

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 sample photo

With HDR mode

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 sample photo

With Auto Mode

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 sample photo

Beautify filter needed

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 sample photo

Glamour mode on. Prettier than Lee Min Ho

Key specs at a glance

  • Processor: Exynos 5433 (quad-core 1.9GHz Cortex A57 + quad-core 1.3GHz Cortex A53), Mali T760MP6
  • Memory: 3GB RAM LPDDR3
  • Storage: 32GB internal storage, micro-SD (up to 128GB)
  • Screen: 9.7-in Super AMOLED
  • Cameras: 8Mp rear, 2.1Mp front
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/c/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GNSS, microUSB, optional LTE
  • Dimensions: 135 x 199 x 5.6mm, 265g
  • Battery: 5,870mAh
  • OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop
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Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Pros

  • Beautiful design
  • Slim and light form factor
  • Great performance
  • Good screen
  • Good for reading
  • Splitscreen mode
  • Bundled Microsoft Office suite
  • microSD expansion

Cons

  • 4:3 ratio may not be to everyone’s liking
  • No IR blaster
  • Battery life could be better
  • No fast-charging
  • Not cheap, adding the Book Cover Keyboard adds to cost

Pricing and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is priced at RM1,699 (8-inch) and RM1,999 (9.7-inch). Available in Gold, White and Black colour.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Verdict

If you’re not an Apple fan and looking for a tablet, then the new Samsung Tab S2 will be a fantastic choice. Sure, it isn’t a huge leap from its predecessor in terms of hardware specs, but it looks great and built solid. Honestly speaking, Samsung could have done more. It is a ‘good enough’ upgrade from the previous Tab S though.

It’s thin, light and performs well—ticking all the right boxes in terms of specs and features.

I question Samsung’s move from 16:10 to 4:3 aspect ratio from a user standpoint, as I feel the former may be better for media consumption in general. Having said that, it looks like Samsung is pitting the Tab S2 directly against the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 in terms of design, size and specs. If you love to read, great. If you spend your time browsing the web, getting productive, then perfect.

All things aside, it’s one of the best Android tablets out there right now. It isn’t cheap mind you, and adding the excellent Book Cover Keyboard will add even more to the final cost.

You will get a stylish tablet that performs plus extras like Microsoft Office, cloud storage and iflix thrown in.

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