iPad Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 comparison

iPad Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5

Apple's iPad Air 2 arrived in October, joining fierce competition in the tablet market from rivals. Here, we put Apple's latest 10in tablet head-to-head with Samsung's flagship offering in our iPad Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 comparison. 

You might also want to read our round-up of the best tablets of 2014/2015.

iPad Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Price and UK availability

The first thing we'll explore is the price and UK availability of these two tablets, as that could be the main deciding factor when choosing which to buy. Apple's iPad Air 2 starts at £399, and is widely available in the UK from Apple itself, as well as Apple Premium Resellers and mobile networks.

Here's the full breakdown of iPad Air 2 prices:

WiFi-only iPad Air 2, 16GB: £399

WiFi-only iPad Air 2, 64GB: £479

WiFi-only iPad Air 2, 128GB: £559

WiFi + Cellular iPad Air 2, 16GB: £499

WiFi + Cellular iPad Air 2, 64GB: £579

WiFi + Cellular iPad Air 2, 128GB: £659

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is actually priced very similarly, also starting at £399, and is in stock on Samsung's website in addition to being available to buy from third-party resellers and mobile networks.

WiFi-only Galaxy Tab S 10.5 16GB: £399

WiFi + Cellular Galaxy Tab S 10.5 16GB: £479

Samsung only offers the 16GB model of the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 because it has a microSD slot that allows you to add up to an extra 128GB of space, and that space will work out much cheaper to buy than the bigger capacity models of iPad Air 2.

For example, you could boost the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 to 80GB for around £30, which would be a total cost of £429 compared with the £479 of the 64GB iPad Air 2.

iPad Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Design and build

When the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 was launched in June, the iPad Air was pushed off of the pedestal for being the thinnest tablet, as the Samsung offering is 6.6mm while the original iPad Air is 7.5mm. So Apple decided to make its already super-thin tablet even thinner by making it 18 per cent thinner at 6.1mm thin.

Honestly, though, we think it's unnecessary. The iPad Air was plenty thin enough, and 6.6mm certainly doesn't make the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 a thick tablet, so we don't think that should be a deciding factor between these two.

They're both incredibly light, too. The iPad Air 2weighs 437g, while the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is slightly heavier at 465g. You do get a bigger screen on the Tab S, though, so the extra weight isn't all that surprising.

There are two colour options for the Tab S and three for the iPad Air 2. You'll get the option of Dazzling White or Titanium Bronze for the Tab S, which are the equivalent of Apple's Silver (which has a silver back and white front) and new Gold option. There's also a Space Grey option for the iPad Air 2 which is basically a black model.

We prefer the aluminium chassis of the iPad Air 2 to the dimpled plastic of the Tab S 10.5, as it gives the tablet a more premium look and feel. The Bronze version of the Tab S 10.5 does look more upmarket than the White model, though, and they both look less plasticky than the Galaxy S5.

iPad Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Display

As mentioned above, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has a bigger screen than the iPad Air 2, at (you've guessed it) 10.5in compared with 9.7in. They both fall into the 10in tablet category, but that extra 0.8in is actually quite noticeable.

The Samsung tablet uses Super AMOLED technology, and has a resolution of 2560 x 1600, equating to a pixel density of 280ppi with a pretty standard aspect ratio of 16:10. It's beautifully crisp and great for watching movies and TV shows, for example.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 also has an adaptive display mode to make the display even better, adjusting the gamma, saturation and sharpness depending on the content.

The iPad Air 2, on the other hand, has a more unusual 4:3 aspect ration (though that has become the norm for Apple's tablets) and a resolution of 2048 x1536 pixels, which makes a slightly lower pixel density of 264ppi. The IPS screen is still excellent though, and Apple has added an anti-reflective coating, which we found to be pretty effective during our testing.

Overall, though, these two tablets have screens that are very similar when it comes to quality, but if you think you'd appreciate that extra 0.8in added to the screen size then perhaps the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is for you. On the other hand, if you'd prefer a tad more portability then the smaller screen and therefore slightly smaller as a whole iPad Air 2 might be the better choice, though Samsung has done well to keep the Tab S's dimensions to a minimum.

Thinking about a smaller tablet? Take a look at our iPad mini vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 comparison.

iPad Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Processor and hardware

Inside the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is an Exynos 5 Octa-core processor, or a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 depending on where you buy it. That's paired with 3GB or RAM. As mentioned earlier, the built-in capacity is 16GB with a microSD slot for up to 128GB more.

The iPad Air 2 has Apple's A8X chip, and is paired with 1GB of RAM, and there's an M8 motion coprocessor designed to make the tablet more efficient. You can choose between 16GB, 64GB and 128GB options, but there's no microSD slot for expansion.

When it comes to benchmark tests, the Samsung Tab S managed a good 2769 points in the GeekBench 3 processor test, and a reasonable 1079ms in the web browsing SunSpider test. It underperformed in the graphics tests, though, scoring just 14fps in the GFXBench T-Rex test and a paltry 2.9fps in the demanding Manhattan test.

We found the Tab S laggy at times, particularly when playing games on it.

If that concerns you then you might want to consider the iPad Air 2, which scored much better in the same tests. In the Geekbench speed test it scored a whopping 4520, an amazing 287ms in the SunSpider test (where lower scores are better) and an incredible 52fps in the T-Rex onscreen test and 24.5fps GFXBench in the Manhattan test.

So when it comes to power the iPad Air 2 blows the Tab S 10.5 out of the water. If you want to play games or run power-intensive apps on your tablet, the iPad Air 2 is the better choice for you.

The iPad Air 2 does lack the IR blaster and NFC that the Tab S 10.5 has, but both offer fingerprint scanners and 802.11ac WiFi, as well as 4G-connectivity if you opt for the cellular model and Bluetooth 4.0.

iPad Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Cameras

If you're a tablet photographer then the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5's camera offering might tempt you to choose it over the iPad Air 2.

It has an 8Mp rear-facing camera with an LED flash and a 2.1Mp front facing camera.

The iPad Air 2's rear-facing camera is also 8Mp, but doesn't offer an LED flash and the front-facing camera is 1.2Mp.

Both are capable of recording 1080p video, too.

It's a close call, but the Tab S 10.5 does just about win here, so if the camera is the most important factor it could be the tablet for you.

iPad Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Software

The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop, while the iPad Air 2 runs iOS 8. Both are the latest mobile operating systems from Google and Apple respectively, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. We've found that, with software, it always comes down to personal preference.

If you've only used Android or only used iOS but are considering making the switch, we'd recommend trying the software out (perhaps you can borrow a friends phone for an hour or two) to see which you prefer.

You can find out more about Android and iOS in our Android Lollipop vs iOS 8 comparison.

Apple iPad Air 2: Specs

  • Apple A8X processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB / 64GB / 128GB onboard storage
  • iOS 8.1
  • LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 1536 x 2048 pixels, 9.7 inches, 264 ppi pixel density
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • 8Mp, 1.2Mp cameras
  • 240x169.5x6.1mm
  • 437g
  • Apple A8X processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB / 64GB / 128GB onboard storage
  • iOS 8.1
  • LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 1536 x 2048 pixels, 9.7 inches, 264 ppi pixel density
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • 8Mp, 1.2Mp cameras
  • 240x169.5x6.1mm
  • 437g

OUR VERDICT

In many ways, the iPad Air 2 is the better of the two tablets here. It is the most powerful by far, so is better suited to those planning on playing games or running graphics-intensive apps. Both tablets have excellent screens, though the Tab S's is slightly better, and the same goes for the camera.

However, could save a significant amount of money by opting for the Tab S and increasing the memory using a microSD card, though, so if you're on a budget but want that extra space to store movies, games, photos and more then buying the Tab S and expanding it later is a good option – that's not possible with the iPad Air 2 so you'll have to decide upon purchase how much space you think you'll need.