Samsung is taking another big swing at the tablet market with the launch this week of the Galaxy Tab S, just as many consumers are questioning whether they need a tablet at all.
The popularity of big-screened phones has slowed tablet sales growth. Meanwhile, the market for high-power, highly portable devices is about to get even tighter, thanks in part to super-portable computers such as the MacBook Air, Dell Ultrabook and Microsoft Surface.
That leaves the Galaxy Tab S in a tricky spot. Which is too bad, because in many ways this tablet, which comes with a 10.5-inch or 8.4-inch screen, is the best in its class.
There are few flaws in the design of the Galaxy Tab S, which sports the same dimpled polycarbonate back as the Galaxy S5. The most striking part of the tablet is its screen, which delivers the crisp, almost oversaturated images we've come to associate with Samsung screens.
In many ways, Samsung's smaller tablet actually outshines its iPad counterpart. It's lean, thin body is proportioned like a smartphone, which makes it easy for those who have Samsung smartphones to mirror their phone's display to the tablet. It also has proportions that are a little more palm-friendly than the iPad Mini. And it sports a fingerprint scanner that you can choose to use to unlock the device and authenticate purchases made over PayPal.
While the hardware is pretty good, on the software front, the Galaxy Tab S could use a little work.
Again, there are some standout features. For example, the Galaxy Tab S is compatible with Knox, Samsung's security software, which lets users separate their work data from their personal data. That should be a great selling point for business, and perhaps government offices, that are looking for devices that employees can tote with them. Users can also run multiple apps at once, offering multitasking options that Apple doesn't.
But for all the power in the tablet, the software still hiccuped when running multiple apps — something that's a bit disappointing given that it packs a very high-powered processor. (An Exynos 5 Octa chip, for those who want to know.) Still, the software problems aren't enough to outweigh the overall quality of the tablets.