Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8 review

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 models are the successors to last year's original Galaxy Tab S range, which featured the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and the Galaxy Tab S 10.5. We thought they were the firm's best ever tablets, so we had been looking forward to the arrival of the second generation. We're pleased to say that they don't disappoint. Read on for our review of the Galaxy Tab S2 8. Also see: Best tech to take on holiday 2016.

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Update 13 April 2016: Those holding off buying the Galaxy Tab S2 as they wait for a Tab S3 will be interested to note a refreshed version of the Tab S2 has been spotted running the Snapdragon 652 processor for slightly improved performance and Android 6 Marshmallow out of the box. Check the spec before you buy to see which version you are getting, but with performance already very good and Marshmallow available as an update for the original Tab S2 it shouldn't be a dealbreaker. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8 review: Price & availability

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 models became available to buy in the UK on 4 September to coincide with the release of the new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ (that's a mouthful, isn't it?). Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2016.

The Galaxy Tab S2 will cost you £319 from Samsung. That positions it at the top of the tablet market, alongside the £319 iPad mini 4, and we think it deserves that price tag thanks to its gorgeous, slim design and top specs. Its predecessor was £329.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8 review: Design & build

There are two sizes of the Galaxy Tab S2 available, in a similar move to Apple's iPad range. Here, we're talking about the smaller 8in model, but there's also a 9.7in model available. If you're an Apple fan, those sizes might sound familiar, as the iPad mini is 7.9in and the iPad Air is 9.7in.

We'll talk a bit more about the screen in a moment, but first let's explore the design and build of the Galaxy Tab S2 8, which is a delight to hold and certainly felt on par with the iPad mini in terms of quality and comfort. It's an incredible 5.6mm thick, and weighs just 265g, which is a whole millimetre thinner than its predecessor, and also thinner than the 6.1mm iPad mini 4 and lighter, too (the iPad mini 4 weights 299g). You can really feel the difference.

Our review unit of the Tab S2 8 is black, but we've also spent some time with the white model, both of which are gorgeous. The back of the tablet is made with plastic, but it manages to look more premium thanks to the metal edges and completely glass front. Also see: 100 funny things to ask S Voice

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S2  8 review: Display

As mentioned, the screen sizes of the two Tab S models have decreased, a move that's opposite to the way smartphones are heading where bigger seems to be better. With the decrease in size comes a decrease in pixels, as can be expected. Both have the same resolution, though, down from 2560x1600 to 2048x1536. For the 8in model, that means a pixel density of 320ppi.

That display is Super AMOLED, as can be expected from Samsung, and the company has said that they deliver 94 percent Adobe RGB. There are also two display features to make it look even better: Adaptive Display, which can automatically adjust gamma, saturation and sharpness, and Reading Mode for the perfect brightness for your eyes.

We've found the screen to be stunningly good. It's bright and crisp, and the colours seem to pop, making a great experience if you plan on using your Tab S2 for watching videos and playing games.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8 review: New features & specs

Inside the Galaxy Tab S2 8 is an Exynos 5433 Octa-core processor and Mali T760MP6 for graphics, as well as 3GB RAM, which makes for a smooth and speedy little tablet. We didn't experience any lag, even when playing graphics-intensive games and switching between apps.

In our benchmark tests, the Galaxy Tab S2 managed some impressive results as expected, scoring a whopping 4305 in the Geekbench 3 processor test and therefore blowing the iPad mini 4's 3101 out of the water, coming much closer to the 4523 scored by the iPad Air 2.

When it comes to graphics, the Galaxy Tab S2 couldn't quite match the iPad mini 4's performance but it did come close. It managed 26fps on the T-Rex GFXBench test and 11fps, in the Manhattan test. The iPad mini 4 can manage 37fps in T-Rex and 15fps in Manhattan.

We also ran the Geekbench 3.0 battery test, in which the Tab S2 lasted 6 hours 34 mins with a battery score of 3913 points.

Internal storage is 32GB or 64GB, and there's a microSD card slot to allow you to add up to 128GB more space, so you won't be running out of room for more videos, photos or apps any time soon.

When it comes to connectivity, you'll find 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, GNSS and optional 4G LTE, so essentially all of the connectivity features you'd expect from a flagship tablet these days, which we're pleased to see.

You'll also get a fingerprint sensor, which has been improved since the previous generation to match the Galaxy S6 phones, replacing the swipe requirement with a much easier-to-use touch mechanism like Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor found on the latest iPads.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 hands-on: Cameras

The cameras on the Galaxy Tab S2 8 are good for a tablet, but not great when you compare them with the cameras you'll find on flagship smartphones. But we don't know many people who take lots of photos using their table, so we're not disappointed. The front-facing camera is 2.1Mp, while the rear-facing camera is 8Mp like the iPad mini 4.

Pictures were a little grainy and shutter speed isn't great, but you should find the images you're able to capture satisfactory, and it's more likely you'll be using a smartphone or dedicated camera for anything important you want to take a photo of. There are some good modes available, though, including Panorama, HDR, Virtual Shot, Dual Camera and more.

Below are a few example photos taken using the Galaxy Tab S2 8's rear camera, which we've resized to 1200 pixels wide down from 3264 pixels.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8 review: Software

The Tab S2 comes with Android Lollipop 5.0 pre-installed, and we expect to see an Android M update in the near future. As a bonus, you'll get Microsoft Office and 100GB of OneDrive free for two years with your tablet. Samsung has added some of its own features to the software, including the Pop-Up Window and Smart Manager features.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8: Specs

  • Processor Exynos 5433 (quad-core 1.9GHz Cortex A57, quad-core 1.3GHz Cortex A53), Mali T760MP6 Memory 3GB RAM LPDDR3 Storage 32/64GB internal storage, Micro-SD (up to 128GB) Screen 8in Super AMOLED Cameras 8Mp rear, 2.1Mp front Connectivity 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GNSS, microUSB, optional LTE Dimensions 135 x 199 x 5.6mm, 265g OS Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Processor Exynos 5433 (quad-core 1.9GHz Cortex A57, quad-core 1.3GHz Cortex A53), Mali T760MP6 Memory 3GB RAM LPDDR3 Storage 32/64GB internal storage, Micro-SD (up to 128GB) Screen 8in Super AMOLED Cameras 8Mp rear, 2.1Mp front Connectivity 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GNSS, microUSB, optional LTE Dimensions 135 x 199 x 5.6mm, 265g OS Android 5.0 Lollipop

OUR VERDICT

We loved the Galaxy Tab S2 since the very first time we got our hands on it back in August, and upon further investigation and after spending more time with it we just love it even more. It's a tablet well worth considering if you've been thinking about buying the iPad mini 4, as it can contend and sometimes outshine Apple's tablet when it comes to design and power. It's almost unbelievably thin and light and that screen is a joy to use.