Samsung Galaxy Tab S4: Design And Build Quality
The overall look of the Galaxy Tab S4 hasn't changed much from last year's model. Save for the larger display and on-screen buttons, it still uses an all glass exterior and is offered in both black and grey. The main difference with this year's model is that the bezels are much slimmer, which is a result of the home buttons being placed directly on the display and not on the bezel itself. This allowed a larger display to be used without dramatically increasing the size of the tablet. The 10.5-inch multi-touch display features a Super-AMOLED panel with a resolution of 2560x1600 -- that equates to 287 pixels-per-inch. The quality of the panel is fantastic'; it offers some of the most vivid and rich images you'll see on any tablet, or laptop for that matter. The only issue is the glossy display can be hard to see under direct sunlight.
The hardware inside the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 isn't exactly new, but it's still respectable for an Android-based tablet. The processor is a octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with a max clock speed of 2.45GHz and there's also 4GB of RAM. This should give us a considerable boost in performance over last years model, in both general and gaming performance.
The model we were sent for evaluation features the grey color scheme, but it can also be found in black. From the front both models are the same, the only difference is the back panel and the color of the S Pen. The grey model tend to mask fingerprints better, though. With a glossy enclosure the black model can quickly start to show smudges, whereas the grey model can still looks passable and less grimy, even after extended use. The glass surface can be a little slippery, but overall we were able to hold onto it without issue.
In total there are four speakers on the Galaxy Tab S4: two on the top and two on the bottom. Like last years model they are tuned by AKG. The difference is the S4 features Dobly Atmos technology. Atmos works by converting individual channels into a virtual Binaural 360° output using two, or in this case four speakers. This makes the audio sound more immersive and makes the sound-stage seem larger than it really is. We were actually impressed with the audio coming from such small drivers. However, like any tablet, don't expect much on the low end of the spectrum. The speakers are loud enough and audio quality is good, but you simply need larger drivers that can move more air to create heavier-hitting bass.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 has both front and rear facing cameras. The Front facing (selfie) camera has an 8MP sensor with an aperture of f1.9. The rear camera features a 13MP sensor, but it has the same aperture rating. Just like we stated during the Tab S3 review, it can be a bit awkward taking images with a tablet. And this year's model is even larger. However, images and video aren't what most people use tablets for. Entertainment is the primary function of a tablet and over the next few pages we will see how the Galaxy Tab S4 fairs in that regard. As for images captured by the Tab S4's cameras, they are good, and perfectly suited to video conferencing, but you won't be tossing out your SLR just yet.
One of the standout features of the Galaxy Tab S4 was the include S Pen. Yes, we know, the Tab S3 came with an S Pen as well, but this years version is something different. The weight and width of the pen made it feel as if we were holding an actual pen in our hands, and not some thing, lightweight piece of plastic. And on screen writing felt as natural as if we we were writing on paper. Granted we aren't artists, but a natural feeling pen made it more comfortable to take notes, sign documents, and navigate the user interface. The only downside is the tablet doesn't have any dedicated storage or a dock for the S Pen.
Like last years model, the UX automatically adapts when using the pen. When the pen is hovered above the screen there's a customizable carousel with various apps to chose from. Also, even If the tablet is locked, you can still take notes using the Screen Off menu.
Along with the Galaxy Tab S4 itself, we also tested Samsung's USB-C to HDMI adapter. This adapter allows people to view movies and pictures on an external display via the Tab S4's USB-C port. The adapter works by simply plugging it into the USB-C port and connecting an HDMI cable to an external display. This is a great tool to improve both entertainment and productivity, as it allows you to connect to a larger display. The only downside is it's not included so it'll add another $31 USD to the overall price tag.
We found the adapter to work well and be quite handy. When we tested it with 4K content connected to a large TV, it performed above our expectations. Both the video and audio quality were top-notch and there was no lag introduced between the tablet and TV.
Let's dive in and see what the software and features like DeX look like next...