I'm not easily impressed by tablets, so I haven't been tempted to buy an upgrade for my (ancient-by-tech-standards) Nexus. But the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and 10.5 are definitely contenders.
The new tablets from Samsung Electronics have two things going for them -- screen and weight.
Both have a Super AMOLED screen with 2560 by 1600 pixel resolution, which looks especially good on the smaller model's 8.4-inch screen. In general, I think the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is the more impressive of the two. Weighing in at 294 grams, it is noticeably lighter than Apple's iPad mini with the Retina display. Just like the smaller iPad, it's priced starting at US$399.
Despite being thin and light, both the Tab S 8.4 and 10.5 feel sturdy.
Samsung has received a lot of criticism for the plastic design of the Galaxy S5 smartphone. The Tab S 8.4 and 10.5 also have a plastic back and have inherited the same design pattern as the smartphone. However, the bronze back with the black front doesn't look half bad. It's design can't compete with Apple's iPads, but is a step up from the S5. But stay away from the "dazzling white," which isn't very dazzling at all.
In addition to the pattern on the back, the Tab S tablets have inherited the fingerprint scanner from the Galaxy S5, the point of which I still don't understand. The tablets don't have "Note" in the name, so there is no S Pen to write and draw on the screen. If I were to buy one of the new Tabs, that would be a feature I'd miss.
Just like Microsoft and Apple, Samsung will offer covers for the Galaxy Tab S. Samsung's Book Cover can position the tablet in a number of different angles. But what makes it interesting is how the cover attaches to the tablet. Samsung apparently doesn't like magnets and has instead decided to use buttons that are pressed together. They aren't as easy to use as magnets, but feel safer once in place.
On the software side, Samsung has developed an app called Kick, which promises "to revolutionize the way European fans consume" soccer, with lots of real-time data as games are played. Revolutionize is a strong word that PR people use too wantonly, but at first glance Kick looks like one of the more useful apps to come from Samsung.
Also praiseworthy is that Galaxy Tab S users can watch Netflix in HD. What's the point of having a high-resolution screen if you can't take advantage of it? Unfortunately, it's only in "select countries," Samsung said, without naming which ones.
The problem for tablet manufacturers is that I am far from alone in either not wanting a new tablet or having a hard time deciding which one to get, which leads a lot of would-be buyers to stick with what they've got. Recently, the boffins at market research company IDC lowered the forecast for how many tablets people will buy this year.
One of the main reasons behind that is that people like me, and maybe you too based on the market data, are keeping our tablets far longer than originally anticipated, especially if we've bought higher-priced models from major vendors. So, while I'm tempted by the new Galaxy Tab S tablets, I think I'll wait to see if Google has something up its sleeve that offers a bit more value for money.
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