The Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 is Samsung’s latest flagship mini-tablet. It targets the same segment of the market as Apple’s new iPad Mini 4.
Packed with custom Samsung technologies and a new, refreshingly slick design, the Galaxy Tab S2 is one of the best Android tablets on the market. But its use of Samsung’s TouchWiz skin will delay how fast it will be updated to Android Marshmallow.
Traditionally, Samsung has always struggled to compete with Apple in the design arena. However, in 2014 this all changed when Samsung unveiled its flagship Galaxy S6 smartphone.
The handset features a stellar design of metal and Gorilla Glass, and made past Samsung devices look like cheap, plastic toys. Thankfully, with the release of the Galaxy Tab S2, Samsung’s continued its design push and created one of its best-looking tablets to date.
The tablet has metal sides, a matte-finish plastic rear and Gorilla Glass front. While the back is plastic, it feels significantly sturdier and top-end than past Samsung tablets. This is in part due to its slightly rubberised finish, which helps it ward of scratches.
During an accidental drop-test onto a carpeted floor, the Galaxy Tab S2 proved it's well built. It survived the experience scratch-, chip- and crack-free.
Measuring in at 135 x 199 x 5.6mm and weighing 265g (Wi-Fi-only), the tablet is comfortable to hold and small and light enough to be carried around in a satche.
Security-conscious buyers will be pleased to learn that the Galaxy Tab S2 features a custom fingerprint scanner. It's built into the tablet’s front-facing physical home button. It offers the same functionality as the scanner seen on Samsung’s top-end Galaxy smartphones, and enables users to set the tablet to unlock, or approve specific actions, only after its holder has proven their identity.
I found that the scanner is reasonably accurate and successfully read my thumbprint 99% of the time. However, its accuracy dropped significantly when my thumb was even moderately wet, or moist. Coming in after a run, the tablet constantly struggled to recognise me.
I also found that after one failed scan, the sensor would go a little haywire and refuse to recognise any subsequent attempts – until I put it back to sleep and re-woke it.
The Galaxy Tab S2’s 8in 2,048 x 1,536, 320 ppi, Super AMOLED touchscreen is one of its biggest selling points.
I’ve always been big fan of Samsung smartphone and tablets’ screens, feeling their use of Super AMOLED technology puts them a cut above many competing devices.
The technology offers all the benefits of normal AMOLED screens, which are able to display deeper and richer blacks by electrically charging individual pixels to generate colours. This means they can create blacks simply by halting the charge of pixels. The deeper blacks in turn make colours pop and improve the screen’s overall performance.
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As an added perk Super AMOLED displays also reduce the screen's power consumption. By integrating the capacitive touchscreen layer directly into the display, instead of overlaying it on top, they remove the need for the phone to charge two components at once.
Testing the tech on the Galaxy Tab S2 8.0, my positive experience with the technology remained true. The Galaxy Tab S2’s screen features great brightness levels and uniformly deep and consistent blacks. Colours, while slightly overcooked, are also acceptable. Viewing angles are excellent.
My only slight disappointment with the Galaxy Tab S2’s screen stems from its use of Samsung’s hit-and-miss Adaptive Display tech.
Adaptive Display technology aims to let the Galaxy Tab S2 automatically optimise the tablet’s display to perform better in specific lighting, or when displaying certain types of content. While this sounds great, its attempts at optimisation are hit and miss. During my tests, the feature did little more than needlessly adjust the screen’s RGB level and brightness.
You can turn of Adaptive Display, but to do so will involve having to pick one of the Galaxy Tab S2’s AMOLED Cinema, AMOLDED Photo, Basic or Reading presets – all of which don’t look great and make detrimental changes to the tablet’s out-of-the-box calibration.