Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 showcases sharp design in two sizes (hands-on)

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Samsung’s latest metal-framed Galaxy Tab S2 tablet comes in two familiar sizes, 8 and 9.7 inches, and is slimmer and lighter than its predecessor, the Galaxy Tab S. The Korean electronics giant claims its slates are the “thinnest and lightest tablet of its size ever,” and certainly, the tablet impressed me with its build quality and light weight during my hands-on session with both versions.

Samsung has announced a global release in August, and the tablet has made an early appearance in Singapore, where it will start selling on August 7. Below you’ll find the retail pricing for both models in Singapore, which should give you a good indication of what the tablets will sell for when it hits markets in Australia, the UK and the US (these are approximate converted amounts).

Design

The Tab S2 eschews the large 10.5-inch screen of the original and opts for a more familiar size with 8- and 9.7-inch screens instead, the same as the iPad Air and iPad Mini. The home button has also shifted to where the iPad’s home button is and unsurprisingly, the Samsung home button is also a fingerprint scanner.

Familiar button layout and screen sizes aside, the Tab S2 does look different from the iPad. It’s unabashedly a Samsung product, beautifully designed and you’ll not mistake the design of the tablet for anything else.

The slate is just 5.6mm (0.22 inch) thick, and weighs either 389 grams (13.7 ounces) for the 9.7-inch version and 265 grams (9.3 ounces) for the 8-inch model. It’s incredibly light, especially the 8-inch Tab S2, and the weight is evenly distributed, so I hardly felt the strain even when holding it with one hand.

The rear sports a patterned texture, which makes for a good grip. While it’s plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap and helps when you’re holding up the tablet for a long time while reading with it.

The tablet has a grippy pattern texture on the rear.
Aloysius Low/CNET

Hardware and software

Both tablets use Samsung’s own Super AMOLED display, and the resolution of both screens match Apple’s iPad at 2,048×1,563 pixels. Samsung has also added a few software tweaks to enhance the user experience with the tablet. The Tab S2 features an adaptive display that’s capable of adjusting gamma, saturation and sharpness as well as color temperature based on the app running and the ambient lighting. There’s also a special reading mode that helps to keep the eyes comfortable and avoiding eye strain by adjusting the brightness levels.

Other software features include multitasking and Quick Connect, which works with Samsung Smart TVs to let you easily watch TV on the tablet. The tablets run Android Lollipop 5.0.2 and like newer Samsung devices, such as the
Galaxy S6
and
A8
, come with the Galaxy Life app, which offers lifestyle deals such as discounts for restaurants or spa treatments.

The Super AMOLED display is bright and vibrant.
Aloysius Low/CNET

On the hardware side of things, both versions of the tablet are powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 7 Octa processor, which has a clock speed of 1.9GHz and packs 3GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. The 9.7-inch Tab S2 comes with a 5,870mAh embedded battery, while the 8-inch Tab S2 has a smaller 4,000mAh cell.

Both tablets support the 4G standard Cat 6 LTE, which allows for speeds of up to 300Mbps, but based on the bands Samsung has packed in, the tablet is unlikely able to surf on 4G networks in the US. It will, however, work with Three and EE in the UK, as well as Optus and Vodafone in Australia. The tablet will support all GSM networks, though, and future models are sure to support local networks.

Outlook

Samsung has made a pretty interesting tablet, and aping its main competitor’s sizes seems to have paid off to some extent. That’s not to say Samsung didn’t include its own touches in the form of better reading modes and a design that’s recognisably “Samsung.” I expect there will be some interest for this new tablet, especially given the fact that new iPads are still a few months away.

The Tab S2 comes with a fingerprint sensor on its home button.
Aloysius Low/CNET

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