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iPad Air 5 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S8: Is your ideal tablet Apple or Android?

Apple has just launched a new iPad Air, weeks after Samsung also unveiled its latest premium tablet. Which one really deserves your money?

If you’re looking for a brand spanking new tablet, then the last couple of weeks have been a particularly exciting time.

Having just been wowed by the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 series, Apple then stepped up to reveal its impressive iPad Air 5 — but if you’re finding it tricky to choose between these two large-screen devices, then read on for a thorough analysis of the two side-by-side.

Design and Screen

The iPad Air 5 sticks to a tried-and-tested formula for its design: it’s practically identical to the iPad Air 4. That’s no bad thing, seeing as we praised this device for its sleek look and comfortable ergonomics. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The screen also appears to be unchanged from the previous version, and here we actually would have preferred a couple of upgrades. The refresh rate is stuck at just 60Hz, and the LCD panel lacks the contrast that would have been afforded by an OLED. Nonetheless, it should be sharp thanks to the 2360 x 1640p resolution and it has a wide P3 gamut of colours.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 display
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8

Equally, the Galaxy Tab S8 feels sturdy and robust, but also lightweight enough even to use just one hand when you’re using it. On top of that, it also has an unmistakably high-end feel as well, with its cool metallic feel.

Its screen has an enhanced 120Hz refresh rate, a 1600 x 2560p resolution, and it’s also slightly larger at 11 inches rather than 10.9 inches.

Camera

The camera is not always the priority when choosing a tablet, but due to the pandemic restrictions we’ve all become a lot more used to making video calls, and so you might want to take into consideration how this aspect of each device performs.

The iPad Air 5 has one 12-megapixel rear camera sensor, but the front-facing 7-megapixel is the one that has seen a recent upgrade. It’s going to support Center Stage, an Apple-only feature that means everyone on a video call should be kept in the frame at all time when using communication apps such as FaceTime.

the Galaxy Tab S8 has dual rear camera sensors, a 13-megapixel main sensor and a 6-megapixel ultrawide. The front-facing snapper is a 12-megapixel ultrawide.

We’ve not had much time to try out the camera system of each tablet, but based on what we know so far we can estimate with confidence that they should be capable of handling video calls and the odd occasion you have your tablet rather than your phone to hand for a quick snap.

Performance

It’s fair to say that both of these tablets are likely to acquit themselves very well when it comes to performance.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 packs a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which is Qualcomm’s top mobile chipset that is set to power this upcoming generation of flagship Android smartphones. While we’re sure this will be impressive, it’s likely that the crown will still go to the iPad Air 5.

The key announcement from the launch event was that it will run on Apple’s M1 chip, the same one that you’ll find inside the iPad Pro 2021, and so we’re expecting great things from this device when it comes to handling anything you choose to throw at it.

On top of the internals, we’ll also take the two operating systems into account; Android’s tablet iteration has attracted rather a lot of criticism over the years for its relatively poor app optimisation, whereas iPadOS has generally impressed us, not only for the on-tablet experience but also for its seamless connection with other products in the sprawling Apple ecosystem.

Battery

The battery performance is one of the most crucial questions to take into consideration when choosing a tablet, yet due to not having reviewed either device it’s also one of the hardest for us to answer at this stage in time.

As far as we know, the new iPad Air has not got a boosted battery capacity over its predecessor, though the new chip’s efficiency may help make some savings. We appreciated the 20W fast charging of this device and found that it would generally get us through the day if we were to use it as a laptop replacement. Apple claimed you could get 10 hours’ video playback on a single charge, which seemed to chime with our experience.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 has a generous 8000mAh cell onboard, and what’s more, it’s supported by 45W charging that is said to be able to fully restore the battery to 100% in just 80 minutes.

Early Verdict

We’ve not had enough hands-on time with these devices to give you our final decision for which one is better, but for now it’s looking like a close-run thing. While the Samsung’s screen might have the edge, Apple’s peerless performance standards and excellent iPadOS software might swing the decision in favour of the iPad Air.

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