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The Samsung Galaxy Tab S is about to be surpassed by the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. That is good news for those looking for a cutting edge tablet. It is also good news for those looking for an excellent tablet that will remain available at a reduced price.

I reviewed the 10.5” Samsung Galaxy Tab S with16 GB of memory. Last year when it was released it was selling for $499. This year I have seen it as low $379, so if you shop around you can get a lot more bang for your buck with this version. As I write this, we know that the Tab S2 will only come in two sizes, 8” and 9.7”. So if you want a really good-size tablet, the 10.5” Tab S may be the one to choose. Although the difference between a 9.7” and 10.5 “, may not seem like a lot, when we are talking about screen size it can may quite a difference.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S Review

Design

Weighing in at a little over one pound and measuring slightly over 0.26-inch (6.6mm) thick, this tablet is one of the thinnest and lightest currently on the market. It comes in black, white, and titanium bronze. The bronze color of my review unit along with its slightly dimpled back make the device look expensive. Although the back is made of plastic, it feels and looks solid and well-built.  On the back you will also notice two small circles called “Simple Clickers.” These are used to attach the optional Samsung cases which include the Simple Cover ($40) and the Book Cover ($70), both of which come in an assortment of bright colors. Other cases like the Logitech Keyboard case are also available.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S - Back

The back of the Tab S is both fingerprint and scratch resistant. The blunt edges and soft touch of the back make it comfortable for holding even if you decide not to purchase a case.

The top edge of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S holds the power button, volume rocker, and IR blaster. The microSD card slot and micro-USB port are on the right edge. The card slot can take capacities up to 128GB allowing you to upgrade the storage at any time, unlike iPads where extra storage adds to the purchase price and makes you guess about how much storage you will need. There is a headphone jack on the left edge.

Front

The home button, back and recent buttons sit on the bottom edge of the front. The screen is surrounded with a black bezel that is ½” on the top and bottom and ¼” on the sides.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S - Front

Display

Th Galaxy Tab S has a spectacular 10.5” 2560 x 1600 (WQXGA) Super AMOLED display. This gives a pixel density of 287 ppi, which is slightly sharper than the 264 ppi of the iPad Air. Colors are vibrant and blacks are even slightly blacker than the iPad’s Retina Display. One nice feature is that the screen can be seen quite well in bright sunlight. Also there is an RGB sensor that adjusts the color balance depending on your surroundings. This is often so subtle that you hardly notice it. But it is quite useful in low light situations.

Audio & Video Playback

Stereo speakers are located on each side of the unit giving it solid stereo separation that you don’t usually find in a tablet. It supports MP3, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, Vorbis, and FLAC.

The screen size, vivid display, and stereo speakers of this tablet make it a close-to-perfect Android media tablet. It supports a variety of formats including VideoH.263, H.264(AVC), MPEG4, VC-1, Sorenson Spark, MP43, WMV7, WMV8, and VP8. Playback is WQHD (2560 x 1440) @30fps. This makes watching a movie an extremely pleasant experience.

Battery

Samsung projects this device to have a 9-hour battery life. It also has an Ultra Power Saving Mode that lets you keep using the tablet even when the battery is critically low. This works by changing the screen to black-and-white and shutting down nonessential apps.

Cameras

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S sports an 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and a 2.1-megapixel front camera. In daylight, the camera takes photos with good color reproduction and details, as shown in this photo.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S - Photo Sample

The camera’s autofocus is quick and accurate and there is also a tap-to-focus option.  The camera settings are, as shown in this screen shot, easy to control. There is are settings for ISO, metering, video stabilization, face detection, burst mode, and more. There are modes for HDR, Face, panoramas, burst shots, and even a dual camera mode. Low light shots can be slightly grainy.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S - Photo Settings

You won’t want to write home about the videos you take with this tablet, but you will be able to adequately capture the moment at settings up to 1920 x 1080 @30fps.

Finger Scanner

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S also has a fingerprint reader which Samsung refers to as a finger scanner. This is still a rarity on tablets so it’s a nice feature to have.

Found under Settings – Device – Personalization, the setup of the fingerprint scanner is a little more time-consuming than the iPhone fingerprint scanner. However, once set up, it is pretty accurate. Like the iPhone, you press your finger on the home button to have it identify you. The home button is in the middle of the bottom bezel. Although this placement is good for a smaller device, it is a bit awkward in this 10.5” device. Also, because of the size of the tablet and the placement of the button, you do not always have your finger in the same place as it was when you registered it. That can cause the reader to seem a bit temperamental.

You can also set up an alphanumeric password to use if your fingers are slightly damp or the finger scanner doesn’t work properly. And you don’t have to use a password at all unless you want to.

Samsun Galaxy Tab S Other Features

Although some units may come with Android KitKat 4.4, they can easily be updated. My review unit is running Android Lollipop 5.0.2 with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. This TouchWiz UI has come a long way and actually provides a useful colorful overlay with little bloat. There are still some apps like Evernote that cannot be deleted, but they can be hidden and with a Micro USB card you don’t have to worry about storage space.

With the Galaxy Tab S, Samsung announced several new software features. The first of those called Paper Garden, a magazine offering, just didn’t catch on and has now been terminated. The second is Samsung’s free streaming music service called Milk Music provided by Slacker. Milk was announced at CES 2015 and is still available. It has a likeable interface and audio that sounds good on the Tab. The third feature is called SideSync an app that allows you to sync your Galaxy S5 phone screen with the screen on the Tab S. You can also sync it to your PC or Mac. Using SideSync you can make and receive calls and send and receive text messages using your PC or Tab screen the same way you would use your Galaxy S5 phone screen.

There is also a Kids Mode that lets you create separate user accounts for the little ones. With this mode you can set up restricted access to apps that you don’t want the kids to mess around with. There is also a new Multi User Mode that lets you add up to seven user accounts. Each can have a different password and its own distinct set of fingerprints.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S has a stunning screen and long battery life in a thin but strong and well-designed tablet.  The large screen makes it a joy to do everything from playing solitaire to watching movies. The stereo speakers and good sound quality will appeal to all types of music lovers. It also excels as a productivity tool. So no matter what you want to do with your tablet, Samsung has you covered with this one.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up’s Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.