The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is the all-bells-and-whistles big-screen Android tablet with an exceptional build, stunningly detailed (and huge) 14.6-inch 120Hz AMOLED display, impressive processing power and long battery life. However, it’s very similar to its much cheaper predecessor, and its large dimensions mean it’s not as portable as you might expect, making it more of a niche option than the regular Tab S9 or Tab S9 Plus.
- Big display is ideal for movies and multitasking
- IP68 water resistance
- Access to previously iOS-exclusive apps
- S Pen is great for note-taking
- Not as portable as a regular tablet
- More expensive
- Very similar to its predecessor
- 14.6-inch Super AMOLED 2X displayThe display is not only one of the biggest around at a whopping 14.6 inches, but it boasts vibrant colours and inky blacks, a super smooth 120Hz refresh rate and a peak brightness of 1,750nits.
- Improved water resistanceThough it looks very similar to its predecessor, the Tab S9 Ultra boasts full IP68 water resistance for added peace of mind – something that not even the iPad offers.
- Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for GalaxyThe inclusion of Qualcomm’s custom variant of its top-end Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 exclusive for Galaxy devices makes the Tab S9 Ultra a processing powerhouse.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is the biggest, most expensive tablet of the Tab S9 collection – and the tablet market in general, to be honest – but the question is, is it too much?
It might not look that different from its predecessor, but key upgrades to the build with IP68 resistance, Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy power and useful accessories make the Tab S9 Ultra the ultimate premium Android tablet – as long as you can get over just how huge the 14.6-inch tablet is, anyway.
The biggest hurdle for most will be price, starting at a whopping £1199/$1199 with 256GB of storage – an increase on the already-expensive £999/$999 Tab S8 Ultra – making it a hard sell, especially with so many similarities with the older model, which can now be found at comfortably less than its RRP.
So the question is, is the Tab S9 Ultra worth the even higher price tag? Here’s what I think of the Samsung Tab S9 Ultra after using it as my main tablet for two weeks.
- Incredibly thin at 5.5mm thick
- IP68 dust and water resistance
- Large 14.6-inch 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED 2X display
To say that the Samsung Tab S9 Ultra is one of the biggest consumer-focused tablets around doesn’t really do this behemoth any justice. This thing is huge, with a whopping 14.6-inch display that makes even the 12.9-inch iPad Pro feel relatively portable.
It truly is a two-handed device, not because it’s overly heavy at a relatively lightweight 732g for the size, but because it’s just a bit unwieldy. That said, it is incredibly thin at just 5.5mm thick, making it a thing of beauty you can truly marvel at – especially when combined with an aluminium body and fabulously thin bezels.
However, the large dimensions also mean it’s not the ideal size for some tablet-themed activities. Scrolling through TikTok in bed on such a large tablet is a recipe for disaster, especially if it slips from your grip and lands on your face like it did to me. It’s not exactly the most portable of devices either, taking up the same footprint as my MacBook Pro 13 in my rucksack.
This is no different than the Tab S8 Ultra, with the exact same dimensions, but it’s worth reiterating for those new to the Ultra category of Samsung’s tablet collection.
What is new, however, is IP68 dust and water resistance – a first for any premium tablet on the market, and a huge benefit compared to Apple’s iPad collection, which offers no kind of water resistance at all.
Pulling back from the specifics, the Tab S9 Ultra looks and feels every bit like a premium tablet should. The cool-to-the-touch aluminium frame and angled edges feel nice in the hand, and the matte finish on the rear further adds to that high-end look.
My only complaint is that it’s only available in rather muted Beige and Graphite finishes. It’s a common trend among high-end tablets – you don’t see the iPad Pro in any fun finishes, do you? – but one that I’m keen to see the end of. The Tab S9 Ultra would look stunning in a dark shade of blue or green, in my opinion.
- 14.6-inch AMOLED display
- Vivid, detailed and bright
- Plenty of space for multitasking
For all the potential issues about portability, the 14.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display is truly something to behold.
Its massive dimensions make everyday tablet tasks like watching YouTube videos and scrolling through Twitter an absolute joy. The level of detail on offer here is great, despite the large dimensions that could easily make text look a little soft, with gorgeously vibrant colours that make Netflix titles like David Attenborough’s Life in Colour especially vivid and stunning.
That’s paired with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate that not only helps make animations and scrolling feel buttery smooth, but can drop down to as little as 1Hz to save battery life – an area where the Tab S9 Ultra excels despite the huge screen.
The 16:10 aspect ratio lends itself well to movie-watching, with very little in the way of black bars when watching standard 16:9 content. I’m not one for watching movies on a tablet, but I found myself bingeing Guardians of the Galaxy 3 on Disney+ with absolutely no complaints.
That’s also helped by support for HDR with a whopping peak brightness of 1750nits that matches that of the top-end Galaxy S23 Ultra. This not only delivers a more dynamic movie-watching experience with brighter peaks and darker shadows when watching HDR content in apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, but also allows it to ramp up the brightness when outdoors.
It’s still reflective in bright environments, but overall visibility isn’t too much of an issue.
The display’s sheer size also lends itself particularly well to split-screen multitasking. It’s not something I find myself doing often, but it’s an option for those who like to scroll through X and Threads instantaneously. It doesn’t stop at two apps either; you can open additional apps in a smaller floating window. While this would look cramped on pretty much any other tablet, it actually feels like a usable option on the 14.6-inch panel.
- Updated S Pen offers IP68 dust and water resistance
- Minimal response time
- Charges on the rear of the tablet
It’s the accessories that unlock the Tab S9 Ultra’s potential, which makes the fact that the S Pen is included in the box even more of a win. That’s complete with IP68 dust and water resistance, complementing the tablet’s upgraded protection.
It’s a handy accessory that allows you to doodle freely and scribble notes on that large display, even when the display is off for quick note-taking, and it plays well with apps like Goodnotes.
In fact, with a response time of just 2.8ms, it’s much more responsive than Apple’s competing Apple Pencil 2. It’s not quite as instantaneous as good old pen and paper, but it’s not too far off.
The problem is that it still attaches to the rear of the tablet via magnets, which while strong enough to snap it into place, makes it easy to knock off when carrying the tablet. It happened multiple times during my review period, mainly when the Tab S9 Ultra was in my rucksack. It also means it doesn’t sit flat when the pen is docked.
A side-docking system like that used by the iPad Pro and even the OnePlus Pad would’ve been preferable here.
- Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
- Up to 16GB of RAM
- Rapid everyday performance
Given the Tab S9 Ultra’s premium price point, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the tablet is a true powerhouse of processing power.
It sports Snapdragon’s modified Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy – the same as in the S23 range – which boasts additional benefits like higher CPU clock speeds and an extra GPU core to achieve the best performance possible. Compared to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 within the Tab S8 Ultra, the Tab S9 is more powerful and power-efficient.
That’s paired with either 12- or 16GB of RAM and 256GB, 512GB or 1TB depending on the variant you go for. The 1TB model, for reference, is exclusive to the Samsung website, though storage is expandable via the microSD card slot.
With all that in mind, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is incredibly responsive in everyday use, comfortably able to handle whatever I could throw at it.
That’s not only in the form of playing mobile games like Call of Duty Mobile running with top-end graphics enabled, but split-screen multitasking with multiple floating windows, and I opened plenty of apps in the DeX mode without even the slightest hint of stuttering. Saving photo edits in the Gallery app was near-instant, and swiping between apps saw them immediately burst into life.
That’s all illustrated in benchmark testing too, with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra comfortably delivering some of the best benchmark scores of any Android tablet we’ve tested to date – even with an exquisitely high-res display – though it is still behind the M2 chipset of the latest iPad Pro.
Audio is delivered from quad speakers – one in each corner – with AKG Harman tuning and Dolby Atmos support. It’s not only plenty loud, but it’s detailed enough to comfortably watch a movie on Netflix without scrambling for the nearest pair of headphones.
However, if you have a pair of compatible Bluetooth headphones handy, you’ll benefit from high-res audio support.
- Dual front and rear cameras
- Selfie cameras are fine for video
- Rear-facing ultrawide can be noisy
Neither the 13MP primary or 8MP ultrawide rear cameras will win awards for quality, especially with rather noisy images from the ultrawide lens in spots. Still, the primary camera is more than enough for a quick snap or use with AR-enabled apps with decent levels of light, detail and colour in well-lit environments.
What’s more important to the tablet experience is good-quality selfie cameras, and the Tab S9 Ultra has that covered with dual 12MP primary and ultrawide lenses perched within a small notch on the longer edge of the tablet – ideal for video chats.
The 12MP primary camera is on par with the rear snapper, delivering decent detail for selfies and video calls, with the ultrawide coming in handy if you want to squeeze someone else into the shot.
Video caps out at a respectable 4K@60fps, though as with photography, it’s not really a video-first device – you’d get much better results from the small slab in your pocket, even if it’s a couple of years old at this point.
- OneUI 5.1 based on Android 13
- Great third-party app support
- One of the best long-term software promises around
In terms of software, you’ll find Samsung’s OneUI 5.1 based on Android 13 out of the box.
All the staples of the big-screen tablet experience are present and accounted for, including split-screen multitasking with support for several additional pop-up windows and a handy iPad-esque toolbar with recent apps, providing a more polished experience than the likes of the OnePlus Pad.
More importantly, Samsung has managed to get a few big-name iPad app developers to work on Android variants of apps, with Goodnotes, LumaFusion, Clip Studio Paint and ArcSite all exclusively available on Samsung’s latest tablet collection – for now, at least.
However, even with the addition of several big-name iPad apps, there are still a few notable omissions that stop true pro-level creators from picking up the tablet. Apps like Procreate, arguably the most popular graphic design tool on iPad, have no Android equivalent, and it’s a similar story with a few other big-name iPad apps too.
Android tablets also still have the age-old issue of not displaying apps correctly on large displays. As a result, some Android apps simply won’t load in a tablet-like horizontal aspect ratio, and when they do, many apps seem to be merely blown-up phone apps rather than bespoke layouts designed for large-screen tablets like the S9 Ultra.
So, while Samsung has come a long way with its software and has done a great job tempting iOS developers to Android, it’s still not entirely on par with what you’d get from an iPad.
- Large 11,200mAh battery
- Great battery life & standby times
- 45W charging, but no charger in the box
The Tab S9 Ultra makes use of its XL chassis by stuffing in a whopping 11,200mAh battery within. For reference, the OnePlus Pad sports a 9510mAh battery while the iPad Pro 12.9 comes in at 10,758mAh.
With that in mind, I found the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra would keep going. I used it most evenings to scroll through TikTok and Instagram, browse the web and occasionally watch YouTube videos, and even after a week, there was still around 15% charge left in the tank. That impressive standby time is also highlighted by the fact that I’ve only had to charge the tablet once in the two weeks I’ve been using it.
I was pretty surprised, given the sheer size of the display. I expected it to run flat pretty quickly, especially when gaming, but 30 minutes of Call of Duty Mobile saw only 6% drain, while an hour of HDR Netflix playback saw a similarly impressive 7%.
It has pretty speedy 45W charging, though rather disappointingly for a tablet that costs well over a grand, it doesn’t ship with a charger in the box. Even when I used my UGreen 100W USB-C PD charger, I noticed that the tablet would only charge at around 25-28W, regaining 23% charge in 30 minutes, while a full charge took two hours and 23 minutes.
You’re better off forking out for the official Samsung charger to ensure you get the best charge speeds possible.
Should you buy it?
You want the ultimate big-screen tablet: With a premium 14.6-inch dynamic AMOLED 2X display on offer, the Tab S9 Ultra offers an unparalleled movie-watching and gaming experience.
You need a portable tablet: As epic as the Tab S9 Ultra is, it’s not exactly the most portable of devices, taking up a similar footprint in a rucksack to a MacBook Pro. The regular Tab S9 boasts all the same key features with a much smaller 11-inch screen.
The Samsung Tab S9 Ultra may not be that different from its predecessor, but welcome improvements to overall build and improved performance could make the Tab S9 Ultra the premium Android tablet to get – as long as you’re happy with the downsides of owning such a large-screen tablet, that is.
If you can get over that, however, the Tab S9 Ultra offers an exceptionally premium Android tablet experience, from the build with IP68 dust and water resistance to the top-end Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip which confidently handles everything you could throw at it.
The high price and issues with portability mean it’ll likely remain a niche compared to the smaller, more affordable Tab S9 and Tab S9 Plus, both of which offer the same IP68 resistance, display quality and top-end power as the Ultra model.
If you can deal with missing out on Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 power and IP68 water resistance, you could save a pretty penny by opting for the older and much cheaper Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. There are also plenty of other great Android tablets on the market, many of which are much cheaper than Samsung’s latest option.
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Used for 14 days before review
Reviewed alongside S Pen
Benchmarked with industry-standard tools
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