Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Tablet Review

Rating:

The second generation of the highly acclaimed Samsung Tablet Galaxy Series, the Galaxy Tab S2 (“Tab S2”) tries to one-up last year’s model in a fiercely competitive and maturing tablet market.

Besting the Tab S in every single department is no small feat, especially when the Tab S2 is priced at $599 and positioned as a “premium” tablet.

You can clearly tell that Samsung has put a lot of effort and consideration into building and designing the best tablet on the market, with the overarching themes of speed and thinness housed in a featherlight package. Let’s see if the Tab S2 has what it takes to unthrone its elder brother.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Unboxing

While I have owned a Samsung product that was the Nexus S a few years ago, it seems that they’ve really made the unboxing experience as pleasurable and simple as possible, akin to their other major competitors. The anticipation and excitement of lifting the lid of the box and just marvelling at the design, engineering, thought, deliberation and effort to get it the Tab S2 in your hand is something that Samsung has turned into a science it seems.

The box

The standard fare

Firing up the Tab S2

Close up of the back and rear camera

Pretty darn light

 

User Experience

The onboarding experience was quick and painless and took all of under 15 minutes to get set up and running with the barebones set up and none of my apps installed. However, I was thinking to myself, it would be a much better experience if I could somehow automatically download all my previously downloaded apps and get them the Tab S2 to really make it feel like it was mine right away.

With Samsung’s “Smart Switch” app that allows users to port their content from their other devices, be it iOS or Android, to be able to have a consistent mobile experience across all devices and have it feel the device feel like it’s truly yours right out of the box.

It was interesting to see that Samsung added a step in terms of creating a Samsung account to get access to “premium” and “exclusive” services to differentiate from the vanilla Android experience. I haven’t dived into what they provide that truly differentiates the Samsung experience from other Android tablet experiences.

One last note, was while there were a bunch of pre-loaded Samsung apps and a Next Issue app that I wasn’t enthused to see even though there was a free 3 month subscription offer attached. The exceptions were Microsoft’s Office apps for Android came pre-installed, which was a nice to touch and a time saver, especially if you’re looking to get some extra productivity while on the go. If you overlook those minor annoyances, you’re still in for a treat in terms of the overall Tab S2 experience.

Galaxy Tab S2 Preinstalled apps

Fingerprint security

One of the options was to use the fingerprint scanner security during the on boarding process. Of course I figured why not use my fingerprint to get access to my tablet versus having to type in a password to get access to the Tab S2. By my estimation, it took me around 2 minutes for the Tab S2 to get the full scan of my finger print.

While in theory, it should work without a hiccup, I find that the sensor can be really finicky as it recognizes my finger print about 75% of the time, until I’m prompted to type in my password. Maybe this is due to the thin band design for the button.

However, when it works, it works brilliantly.

Probably my biggest qualm, and this is not Samsung’s fault, being that I’m a bit of a privacy nut and because of my use of 1Password, having to retrieve my passwords by typing in my master password or even my short password is a bit of a pain. If only the finger print sensor was supported in 1Password’s Android app, my experience would be much better.

Camera

Galaxy Tab S2 Dual Camera mode

The 8.0 MP rear camera is quite impressive. While not the first instinct to use your tablet to capture photos or video, you won’t be disappointed with the software bells and whistles that the “Pro” mode that comes standard in their camera software suite. It empowers the everyday user with the granular camera controls that even a photography professional would appreciate.

I find myself having oodles fun with the different modes that the Tab S2 camera provides. Some of the modes include Pro that I’ve previously mentioned, Panorama, Virtual Shot (allows you take a 360 degree shot of an object), HDR, Shot & more (pretty much a burst mode that allows you to capture the perfect photo out of the series of photos) and the super fun Dual Camera that takes a picture with the rear camera and front of the camera (sort of like the app FrontBack). Then there’s even more modes, which I’ve yet to explore.

Finally, the front camera affords a generous 2.1 MP, that will allow you to take the best selfies to your heart’s content.

 

Galaxy Tab S2 Panorama mode

Galaxy Tab S2 Dual Camera mode (again)

Galaxy Tab S2 Cartoon mode

Design

Simply put, the design is simple and unpronounced. Upon unboxing it, I was delighted by how light and thin the Tab S2 is. While the tablet is 9.7”, its thickness is 5.6mm, which is the thinnest in the world to date. It clocks in at a featherlight 389 grams, which is perfect while reading or on the go. For comparison, my Nexus 7 is 290 grams, a full 100 grams heavier compared to a 7” tablet, which is quite a remarkable engineering and design feat.

The overall feel of the Tab S2 in terms of the material choice made me feel conflicted at first. Taking the same approach as last year, except without the dimpled rubberized back, it doesn’t quite feel so premium. Perhaps this was a deliberate choice in terms of cutting down on the weight to get the Tab S2 as light as possible, but with the $599 price tag, it doesn’t feel as luxurious as say an iPad with its full metal body.

However, and this is a big however, after a day or so of use, I became accustomed to the feel and actually prefer the tactile feel that the rubberized back affords. It adds a sense of security that it won’t easily slip out of my hands as I’m walking across a hallway or carrying it in my hand as I’m scuttling off somewhere during my commute.

It was nice to see that the Tab S2 sports a metal chamfered border as an added touch of sophistication and sturdiness, which adds to the overall feel that this is in fact a premium product that you’re holding in your hands.

The two speaker grilles at the bottom are able to belt out music and audio that’s enough to fill an entire room. The headphone jack is placed on the bottom as well which makes it easy to plug in your favourite headphones. To its right is the micro-USB charging port. On the right side you’ll find the power and volume rocker buttons.

Mini USB charging port and speaker grille

Mini USB charging port and speaker grille

headphone jack

headphone jack

galaxy tab s2 volume rocker

Volume rocker and power button

Screen

Samsung has really outdone itself with its QXGA Super AMOLED display with its 2048×1536 resolution. Comparing an iPad Mini 4 (whose Retina resolution is 2048×1536 as well), the two come off as almost the same. To me the Samsung screen looks just a bit better in terms of sharpness and colour saturation, but either way, Samsung’s screen is absolutely top notch.

iPad Mini 3 Retina vs Galaxy Tab S2

left is iPad Mini 3, right is Tab S2

One thing to note that the screen does attract finger prints and smudges.

Smudge magnet

Battery life

Probably the biggest let down this year is its battery life, which is understandable as the Tab S2 emphasizes thinness and lightness, packing a 5,870 mAh cell compared to last year’s 7900 mAh. Even with its thin frame, you’re looking at about 10 hours with its brightness turned on auto, that will adjust according to the ambient light levels of wherever you are.

One last thing to note is how fast (or more appropriately how slow) the battery charges. As you’re charging through the micro-USB port, you’re looking at around 3 hours to get a decent charge on your Tab S2.

Specs

  • 9.7” Tablet (245.8mm)
  • 5.6mm thin
  • Exynos Octa-core 1.9 GHz processor
  • QXGA Super AMOLED Display (2048×1536)
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 8.0 MP AF rear camera + 2.1 MP front camera
  • Video recording Resolution: QHD (2560 x 1440) @ 30 fps
  • 32 GB Memory (expandable to 128 GB with microSD)
  • Battery life – 10 hrs with Wifi, with video up 14 hrs, audio up to 74
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop OS with Samsung TouchWiz UI

The Bottom Line

You’ll be hard pressed to find an Android based tablet that’s just as good as the Tab S2. Not a total game changer in terms of the tablet space, but its certainly a welcome evolution of their Tab S lineup. From lightness, to speed, and its thinness, getting over the initial rubbery back feel, you’ll quickly come to appreciate the lightness and feel of the tablet. It should be a welcome addition to your mobile productivity endeavours or a heavy content consumer, the Tab S2 should be right up your alley.

This Product is Perfect for:  anyone who’s looking  for a premium tablet experience, from the student to the casual content consumer, the Netflix/YouTube junkie or the office productivity professional.

Key Things To Be Aware Of: Mini USB charging port is slow to charge, rubberized/plasticky build might not be for everyone, but will grow on you. While 32 GB may be plenty for some, can be expandable up to 128 GB.

Final Review Score: 4.5 / 5 – An absolute joy of a tablet once you get beyond the rubberized/plasticky feel of the tablet, you’ll appreciate how much thought and consideration is put into the Galaxy Tab S2 feeling “just right”.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Tablet
Author Rating
4
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Will obsesses over the latest and greatest in gadgets, startups, does CrossFit and writes about technology, growth marketing, programming and personal development. He curates the Startup Digest in Toronto and is a coffee enthusiast.

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