Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Screen
How can we describe the Galaxy Tab S 8.4’s screen? Bright, vivid, sharp, clear, deep. Outstanding. They all fit. Being Super AMOLED, its contrast and black level is in a different league to any LCD-screened tablet out there. Blacks looks truly and magnificently black. Videos look deep and detailed; photos are rich with colour and impact. It’s damn impressive.
Combine this with the super-sharp 2,560 x 1,600 resolution, which on a 8.4-inch amounts to 353 pixels per inch, and you have a truly stunning screen. The 8.4-inch size is an ideal one, too. Like the iPad mini, the Tab S 8.4 is easy to hold in one hand and is the perfect size for reading on the move. This is a great commuter tablet.
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All this praise is richly deserved, though it does come with a few of small caveats. None change our opinion that this is the best screen we’ve seen on any tablet, but they’re worth knowing if you choose to buy a Tab S 8.4.
One is that you need to turn off Samsung’s ‘Adaptive Display’ system. It aims to improve your experience by adapting to ambient conditions, like adjusting the white balance for incandescent light. But this is pointless — when was the last time you wished your tablet adjusted for the slightly yellow light in your living room? Instead, Adaptive Display supercharges colours to the point of unreality. Skin tones have the quality of Punch and Judy dolls; sultry blue skies are rendered ‘smurf’ blue; subtle dark lighting in videos often has a jarring green hue. It’s all a bit of a mess.
Thankfully, all you need do is turn it off, select the ‘Basic’ mode and leave it at that. In this mode you still enjoy the outstanding colour range, contrast and black level, but without any of the distractingly weird colours. This screen is good enough to not need all this nonsensical interference: leave it alone, Samsung!
Viewing angles also aren’t quite as good as you might imagine. While the screen remains comfortably viewable from even extreme angles, a subtle blue colour cast appears even from slightly off-centre. This is an effect unique to AMOLED, but it’s a very subtle one and one you really need a white background to see clearly.
Finally, those of you interested in these things should know the Tab S 8.4’s screen uses a Diamond PenTile sub-pixel array. This gives the screen an ever so slightly less sharp appearance than equivalent LCD screens, but if you can detect it then you’re probably looking so close as to damage your eyes. From a normal viewing distance it’s a non-issue — text looks razor sharp.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Speakers
Samsung employs stereo speakers on the Tab S 8.4 and they’re situated just of centre at each end of the tablet. This lets them create a moderately convincing stereo image, while the off-centre position means you can hold the Tab S in landscape without blocking the speakers with your hands.
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This isn’t the last word in sound quality, though. The main positive is dialogue is very clear and crisp, and the speakers reach a decent volume without obvious distortion. But there’s very little mid or low-end here, so there’s a real lack of warmth and body to the sound. They’re good for TV dramas and documentaries, but they fall short with music and anything action packed.