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Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 Review: Hands-on

Price when reviewed
  • From $649
The iPad Pro is the tablet that aims to replace your laptop but it's had very little competition other than Microsoft's Surface Pro. Well Samsung has taken its Android tablet range and updated it to compete with a keyboard case, quad speakers, and DeX software built-in. Here's our hands-on review.

There have been a few Android tablets with keyboards over the years such as the Google Pixel C, Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro and the unusual Lenovo Yoga Book. However, none have really hit the nail on the head.

That's what Samsung is hoping to do with the Galaxy Tab S4 and we've spent some time with it to see if that's true.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
In Apple-esque fashion, the Tab S4 is the same price as the previous model. So it starts at £599 in the UK with a higher storage capacity option at £699 – they are Wi-Fi only, with LTE models starting at £649.

In the US, the tablet is priced at $650 of $750.

Like a lot of similar devices, the almost necessary Book Cover Keyboard is £119/$149 and pre-orders will come with one for free. There's also a docking station that's £49.

This is a high-end tablet then so you'll need to shell out a lot of cash for the complete kit. This is still cheaper than a lot of phones and laptops, so maybe it's not so bad if the device can really replace your laptop.

It is cheaper than the equivalent iPad Pro, though, which starts at £619 and the Smart Keyboard is £159. That's £60 more with the same storage capacity.

DESIGN AND BUILD
When it comes to design, the Tab S4 is similar to the Tab S3 from 2017. Samsung has made a few tweaks and improvements, though.

The main change comes at the front where Samsung has managed to shrink the bezels around the screen significantly. So the display is bigger but the overall size of the slate isn't much bigger than before – it's just 1mm thicker, which you won't notice, a little taller and actually not as wide.

Smaller bezels mean that the traditional Samsung physical home button and accompanying touch sensitive buttons are gone. You'll need to rely on the on-screen buttons instead.

The back of the device is once again glass and looks stylish but does mean it's both slippery and gets grubby easily. Samsung has kept the headphone port which is always good to see.
Then there's the keyboard cover which is an optional extra but really this is needed to use the Tab S4 in its fullest. The tablet slots in nice and easy with metal pogo pin connectors meaning you don't need to faff around with Bluetooth.

It acts as a protective case and also has a slot to hold the S Pen stylus (it doesn't slot into the tablet itself like the Note phones).

If this tablet is going to replace your laptop then you'll need to be able to do a lot of typing. Our first impressions are fairly good with minimal mistakes. There are however, some annoyingly small keys such as delete. We're also a bit miffed by a dedicated key for summoning the on-screen keyboard rather than some navigation buttons for home, back and recent apps.

You can also connect a Bluetooth mouse to help with productivity and using the DeX mode a lot easier – we'll talk about that later.

There's also a pogo charging dock which, when in position, will show the new Daily Board on the screen. It's a sort of handy desk clock with information such as weather and calendar events.

SPECS AND FEATURES
Samsung's tablet is more of an iPad Pro rival because it's followed in Apple's footsteps by increasing the screen size from 9.7- to 10.5in. It sounds like a small change but it's a noticeable amount of additional real estate that helps a lot when trying to do various things.

The display, as we've come to expect from Samsung, is brilliantly crisp, colourful and bright. It's got a decent resolution of 2560x1600 resulting in a pixel density of 287ppi. There's a shift to 16:10, still with HDR support.

Inside is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor rather than the newer 845 which is a shame. It's still a quick chip but it doesn't future proof the tablet as much. There's 4GB of RAM which should be enough for most tasks, although some phones come with more.

As standard, the device has 64GB of storage but you can jump to 256GB if that won't be enough. The iPad Pro comes in a 512GB model, but the Tab S4 does at least have a micoSD card slot that can take 400GB.

We need to test the Tab S4 in our lab but it felt generally slick during our hands-on time. It does take a few seconds to switch in and out of DeX mode, though.

As before, the tablet has four speakers (just like the iPad Pro) and they're tuned by AKG. There's now Dolby Atmos support, too. We need more time with the device to comment on audio but it's promising.

We also need to test the 13- and 8Mp cameras and the 7300mAh battery which should provide, according to Samsung, a whopping 16 hours of video playback.

Including the S Pen in the box makes the Tab S4 a better value deal than the iPad Pro – the Apple Pencil is £89 on its own. The stylus might not be quite the same level as the Pencil, but it works well and will come in handy for many.

DeX
DeX being built-in is the main software upgrade here. Previously the mode was used for Galaxy phones and you needed a DeX docking station as well as other things like a monitor to create a desktop experience.

Now, there's simply a DeX icon in the quick settings so you can beckon it easily. It takes a few seconds to load and then you're off. It's Android, but in a Windows style environment where you can have a mouse cursor and your apps in different windows.

Connecting a mouse will help and you can also use the tablet as a second screen or an input device if you connect it to a larger screen.

You will need an adapter not supplied for this. The odd thing is that DeX doesn't support screen rotation: understandable for portrait perhaps but not when you want to use it the other way around propped up by the book cover.

It all seems great in theory but whether it can do everything you would on your regular laptop. We had a few reservations when reviewing the DeX dock.
We're looking forward to finding out what it's like on the Tab S4 when we test it properly out in the real world.

SPECS
  • Android Oreo
  • 10.5in, SuperAMOLED, 2560x1600, 287ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, octa-core processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64/256GB storage
  • MicroSD (400GB)
  • S Pen, 4096 pressure levels
  • 13Mp rear camera, f/1.9 with auto focus
  • 8Mp front camera, f/1.9
  • Wi-Fi 11ac
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • USB 3.1 gen 1
  • Quad speakers with AKG tuning and Dolby Atmos
  • 7300mAh battery with Fast Charging
  • Up to 16 hours video playback
  • 249x164x7.1mm
  • 482g (Wi-Fi) 483g (LTE)
  • Black or Grey

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