Just as in smartphones, Samsung has really been coming on strong in tablets, grabbing market share from category king Apple in recent months. Judging by the South Korean company’s new Galaxy Tab S 10.5, it’s easy to see why.
Samsung’s updated flagship tablet is about as strong a contender to the iPad as there is on the market today. It has a number of features going for it that in some ways make it a superior choice, with just a few niggles that hold it back from indeed claiming that mantle.
Chief among the pluses are nearly identical specs in the ways that count: weight and display. At 465 grams, the Tab S is a full four grams lighter than the base model of Apple’s flagship device, the iPad Air. Samsung’s tablet is also just 6.6 millimetres thick, or almost a full millimetre thinner.
Yup, these tiny numbers are relatively inconsequential minutiae that few users are likely to detect, but they do show that Samsung has effectively matched Apple at its own size-and-weight game. Either way, both tablets are incredibly light and easy to handle.
The Tab S’s display is also fantastic and on par with its rival in every way. Samsung’s 10.5-inch super AMOLED screen features a pixel resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, or about 288 pixels per inch. That’s slightly bigger than the Air’s 9.7-inch screen, and sharper – Apple’s tablet has a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels, or 264 pixels per inch.
Again, these are microscopic details that no one is really going to care about. Both tablet screens are super sharp and great to look at.
Where they diverge is, of course, with their operating systems. Apple’s iOS offers an arguably slicker and more unified experience, while the Galaxy’s Android is a more open system that allows for tinkering. One thing I really like about Android, for example, is that it has a PC-like folder structure where you can find all the various files you’ve saved or downloaded onto your device.
With iOS on the other hand, I often have to go hunting for files that I know are somewhere on the device, but lord knows where.
In that vein, Android devices are usually also more open in regards to the things you can connect to them. The Tab S is no exception, with a micro-USB port and micro-SD card slot, for connecting other devices and charges or for expanding storage, respectively. The tablet also has stereo speakers on its sides, which makes for a better audio experience than the iPad Air.
On the downside, I found web surfing to be a little laggy on the Samsung device. Scrolling up and down sites in the Chrome browser often comes with a microsecond delay or so, which isn’t enough to ruin the experience but enough to be noticeable. The iPad Air, on the other hand, is smooth as silk.
There’s also a fingerprint scanner, but just as with Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone, I found it to be a chore to use, so I ended up shutting it down in short order.
The base models of both Samsung’s and Apple’s tablets sell for the exact same price ($519 in Canada), but the Tab S comes with a host of freebie goodies, such as several months of free access to the likes of LinkedIn Premium, the Wall Street Journal, the Globe and Mail, Next Issue and even Marvel Unlimited. It’s a wide cross section of content, making for a heck of a deal.
Ultimately, the Galaxy Tab S offers a little more bang for one’s buck and delivers a slightly more customizable Android experience than Apple’s rival tablet. The iPad Air, on the other hand, still feels a little slicker and runs a tad bit smoother. Your buying decision in this case will likely come down to whether you’re in Camp Android or Camp Apple.
At this point in the evolution of tablets, there aren’t too many downsides to being in either.