Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 Review: Multitasking On Android

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Tab S2 Design & Software

Samsung offers the Galaxy Tab S2 in three color options -- white, black, and gold. It costs $399.99 for the 8.0-inch model and $499.99 for the larger 9.7-inch SKU. The tablets come with a USB charging cable, AC adapter, various documentation, and a metal ejector tool to open the microSD memory card slot.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Horizontal

From a straight on view, the Galaxy Tab S2 looks similar in design to ASUS's ZenTab S 8.0, though they're not carbon copies of one another. Both have a rectangular shape, rounded corners, and a spiffy metal accent, but in addition to being thinner and lighter than the ZenTab, the Galaxy Tab S2 stands a little shorter with smaller borders above and below the Super AMOLED display. It also has a physical button with a built-in fingerprint scanner that works quite well -- it's every bit as good as Apple's polished fingerprint sensors.

Overall this is another premium looking tablet that feels more like a professional gadget than a toy, the opposite being true of Amazon's Fire HD 7. It also has one of the best looking displays we've ever seen. The 2048x1536 Super AMOLED panel displays rich tones and is plenty bright with proper color saturation, and of course viewing angles are superb. There's a crispness here that other panels don't quite match, just be warned that when your friends and family post photos of food on Facebook, you might be tempted to lick the display (there are better ways to clean it, by the way).

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Holding

One thing you might notice about the resolution is that it represents a 4:3 aspect ratio. This decision by Samsung isn't without some controversy, especially since the original Tab S wore a 16:10 aspect ratio. Which is better?

If you're watching movies, 16:10 is the preferred aspect ratio. Many would argue that's also true of playing games, but for reading and magazines, the additional width in portrait mode is appreciated.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Back

Holding the Galaxy Tab S2 elicits an understated joy due to a combination of factors. Some are obvious, like the excellent display with tightly packed pixels, skinny design, and featherweight class. But others are less pronounced, such as the thin metal accents that add visual appeal and the soft-touch composite back panel that has a slight rubbery feel to it.

The back panel doesn't completely thwart fingerprints, but the ones that do show up are easily wiped away. More importantly from a functional standpoint, it feels smooth without being slippery, which is a somewhat rare combination.

Samsung cheated a bit to come up with such a thin design. The measurements don't take into account the rear-facing camera, which bumps out of the backside. Samsung isn't the only one to do this, it just happens to be ever-so-slightly more noticeable here because it's not just the lens itself but a square border that protrudes like an "outie" belly button.

You'll also notice what look like a pair of circular buttons on the back. They're not actually buttons, but magnets for grabbing hold of Samsung's cases.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Volume
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Speakers


Samsung implemented the volume rocker and power button a little bit better than ASUS did on the ZenTab. On the Galaxy Tab S2, the power button sits above the volume rocker, which feels like a better placement to us, and they're not as shallow, making them easier to press.

A microSD card slot sits on the lower third of the right side. The tray is built into the tablet, so you'll need to use the included extractor tool to open the slot

Samsung placed a pair of stereo speakers on the bottom that sandwich the micro USB port and 3.5mm audio jack. The Galaxy Tab S2 pumps out impressive audio for its size with above average clarity, especially in lieu of EQ controls. As with most mobile devices though, bass response is lacking.

Software

Our review model arrived with Android 5.0 Lollipop with an over-the-air update to Android 5.1 ready to download (which we installed). Sitting on top is a mild version of Samsung's TouchWiz UI with a few proprietary apps

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Home Screen
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Multitask
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Apps

Windows-like multitasking is available on the Galaxy Tab S2. By dragging diagonally from the upper left corner, you can reduce an app to a separate window, which you can then move around the screen. Things get a bit cramped on an 8-inch display, though there are situations where it comes in handy, like having a window for Google Music to quickly access your playlist while surfing the web or reading email.

The Galaxy Tab S2 has a few other tricks up its sleeve too. One of them is SideSync, a proprietary feature that lets you wirelessly pair your Samsung phone with the tablet. When you do that, your phone's display appears in a window on the Galaxy Tab S2, where you can make calls, send instant messages, and transfer files back and forth.

Another feature along those same lines is Quick Connect. This allows you to mirror content from the Galaxy Tab S2 to your TV or vice versa, though it requires a compatible Samsung brand television.

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