Connections: Wi-Fi (Wireless-AC), Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, A-GPS
Dimensions:9.34 x 6.65 x 0.22 inches
Weight: 389 grams
Comes in Black and White
Android tablets come in varying sizes from various manufacturers, though not all stand out in the crowd. Samsung has tried to push the notion that an Android tablet can be as refined and powerful as anything the competition has to offer. The Galaxy Tab S2 is the company’s elite tablet, designed to do everything you would expect of such a device. So, how well does it deliver?
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is the successor to last year’s Tab S—Samsung’s first real attempt at crafting a premium tablet. The premise changes little this time around, except for the subtle changes that make it look and feel a little different this time around.
Unlike the widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio of last year, the Tab S2 squares things to a 4:3 ratio, making this wider, yet a little shorter than before. The same superb quad HD resolution pops out of the 9.7-inch Super AMOLED display. It’s typical Samsung. Vibrant, with saturated colours and a fair bit of brightness.
Gone is the dimpled plastic back in favour of a smooth plastic with a slight rubberized texture for better grip. There are two clips for attaching compatible cases, which I’ll get to a little further down. The only hint of metal is the frame fusing the front and back, which is a nice little design treatment. Despite the abundance of plastic found here, the Tab S2 feels sturdy and elegant, though to be fair, the competition on the Android side hasn’t exactly pushed the bar very high. This is THE premium Android tablet available.
And it is very thin and light. At a mere 5.6mm, it’s the thinnest tablet of its size. And at 389 grams, it’s under a pound.
Under the hood, the Tab S2 is powerful enough to run just about anything, and the speed and fluidity in navigating around the interface is evident from the outset. I can truly say this is the most consistent tablet Samsung has produced to date.
Performance and software
As has become customary with Samsung’s mobile devices, there is an overlap in the features they offer. The same fingerprint reader that became standard with this year’s Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and Note 5 is found here in the Tab S2.
The Galaxy and Samsung-flavoured apps that used to be crammed into smartphones and tablets are now (mostly) optional standalone apps you can download from the Galaxy App Store. The Tab S2 falls in line with the other devices this year, freeing up some storage space and making the interface look less cluttered than in years past.
What is pre-installed otherwise is more handy. Google’s suite of apps (which are better than Samsung’s anyway) are put aside in their own folder, as is Microsoft’s Office suite of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Skype and OneDrive. In fact, the MS Office suite is included, making the Galaxy Tab S2 much more suited as a productivity tablet. This fact is driven home further by a specific Bluetooth keyboard case, allowing you to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, meeting slides: basically most of the things you'd do in a typical work or school day.
Multitasking, or Multi-Window, has been a staple feature of Samsung’s tablets and smartphones going back to 2014. Easily enabled by holding down the multitasking button, splitting the screen with two apps is a drag-and-drop affair, except that not all apps are compatible. Not only that, but getting the two apps to work together isn’t always straightforward. Copying text from, say, a note app and into OneNote or a browser is pretty simple, but transferring media or copying files, for instance, is a mixed bag. This is partly a consequence of third-party developers not embracing Multi-Window, which they need to do in order to make this process easier. This means that not all your apps will appear in the app tray when turning the feature on, which is unfortunate.
Samsung has also long touted the ability to push content from their tablets to their smart TVs. I don’t have a Samsung TV, so I couldn’t test this, but I get the sense that casting content over via a Chromecast or even AirPlay (to any TV, regardless of make) produces a similar experience.
Personally, I’m not one to take photos with a tablet, but many people do and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 offers a decent camera. Photos won’t be exceptional (like you'd get with a 4K camera) and colours are a little muted for my tastes. You can shoot video in 2K, double the resolution of 1080p. Again, that will produce fairly decent quality images in brighter settings, though be careful since image quality will get worse as the ambient light dims.
To go as thin and light as Samsung did here, it sacrificed the size of the battery to make it happen. Not surprisingly, it dies faster than its predecessor did. I managed to get about seven hours of HD video before the lights went out, which is a shame compared to the 10+ hours I experienced with the original Tab S. This is a trade-off that I suspect may give you pause like it did for me: some people will not mind the sacrifice given the benefits gained: I found the Tab S2 easy to transport and carry around. However, on a couple of occasions I had forgotten to top it up, so I made sure to bring its charger along with me, just in case.
Having not tested the 8-inch Tab S2, I figure it might be a good alternative because its battery is not that much smaller, yet offers up to three hours more life per charge.
The Tab S2 stands out as a premium tablet. It doesn’t have a major competitor in the Android tablet space, and that can be taken in a couple of different ways. The iPad Air 2 is really the competition the device is meant to go up against, though if your buying decision is more Android vs. iOS, then the Tab S2 isn’t necessarily your only option. If performance and screen size matter, then the Tab S2 is a great choice and is worth a look.
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.