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Last Updated on March 29, 2020
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is the latest tablet aiming to replace your laptop. Using proprietary DeX software, Samsung have tried to create a tablet that rivals the Microsoft Surface or iPad Pro range.
Have they succeeded and created the first decent, albeit only, Android 2-in-1 tablet? Let’s take a look.
Before we get into the intricacies of the DeX software, let’s take a look at the external features of this stylish tablet. The Galaxy Tab S4 uses Samsung’s familiar, uncomplicated, industrial design.
A metal body, which is lightweight and slim, it has a Gorilla Glass covered back panel. Although it is sturdy enough to throw into a backpack, it can feel slippery to hold and attracts greasy fingerprints.
Along the metal frame, you will find AKG-tuned quad speakers, a power button, volume rocker, 3.5mm audio jack, microSD card slot, and a USB-C charging port.
On the edge of the longer side, you will also find gold contacts for connecting the keyboard—more about that later.
The front of the tablet is one of the most impressive-looking on the market, with a slimmer bezel design, allowing for a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display. The smaller bezels mean that it loses the physical home button and fingerprint reader of previous models, opting for an iris and face scanner instead.
Display and Audio
Samsung knows how to make great displays—it doesn’t skimp on the Tab S4, using Super AMOLED tech, similar to that found in high-end televisions. With an impressive 2560 x 1600 QHD, it boasts a pixel density of 287 ppi, even sharper than the iPad Pro.
The 10.5-inch screen is also HDR-enabled, for a better picture when watching HDR content from services like Netflix or Prime Video.
Watching movies, the Galaxy Tab S4 speakers are some of the best you will find on a tablet. Music also sounds clear, with a punch bass and surprisingly loud for a tablet—no need for extra Bluetooth speakers. Made by first-rate audio company AKG, also owned by Samsung, the four speakers support Dolby ATMOS for a more immersive sound.
Performance and Battery Life
A lot of the Tab S4’s weight is due to the massive 7,300 mAh battery, which beats the offerings from the Surface and iPad Pro.
Samsung advertises an impressive battery life of 16 hours, but in reality, the larger screen, when used at full brightness, will zap it quicker. If you use the Tab S4 more prudently, with no GPS, no Bluetooth and at 50 percent brightness, you may hit the 16-hour mark.
Performance wise, the Tab S4 uses the Snapdragon 835 processor—disappointing, considering the faster Snapdragon 845 is available. With 4GB of RAM, it’s enough for most tablet tasks, but when you have a dozen or so windows open in DeX, it can become sluggish and unresponsive.
DeX: What’s it all About?
Finally, we get to DeX, which you may have thought we would have spent more time talking about. However, what should be the main selling feature of this tablet, is also its weakest point.
DeX is a graphical interface which uses Android OS 8.1 and simulates a desktop environment. A system tray, taskbar and re-sizeable windows for apps, look very similar to a Windows desktop. On the latest Samsung Galaxy smartphones, a dock is used to turn them into a DeX workbook; on the Tab S4, it’s just a software feature.
Many of the apps on the Play store haven’t yet been optimized for DeX and tend to crash, including stalwarts like Google Docs or Netflix. The user interface isn’t as touch-friendly as rival systems, and you will need the optional Tab S4 keyboard to get the most out of DeX.
Keyboard and S Pen
The keyboard which Samsung provides for the Tab S4 is just “alright.” The keys have an okay tactile feedback but it doesn’t reach the levels of the Microsoft Surface keyboard.
It can be quite cramped, and extra keys, which may have seemed like a good idea, can be quite redundant. Keys to bring up an on-screen keyboard or change the language are something normally done on-screen and can be a hindrance if accidentally pressed.
The keyboard, surprisingly, also lacks a trackpad—you’re going to need a Bluetooth mouse to make the most of the DeX interface. You can use the provided S Pen as an alternative pointing method, but it feels clumsy and makes the whole thing seem less portable.
The S Pen is one thing we can’t find fault with. Provided in the box (Apple and Microsoft, please take note!), it’s better quality than last years Tab S3 pen and feels more like a Microsoft Surface Pen.
With 4,096 levels of sensitivity, you can use it to sketch detailed pictures, or simply annotate screenshots, translate text, and—new for this year—send live messages.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 could have been one of the best Android tablets on the market, if only Samsung hadn’t tried so hard. As a tablet for media consumption and light productivity tasks, the excellent screen and display would make it an ideal choice, if only it was a couple of hundred dollars less.
As a 2-in-1 productivity tool, the DeX software and its integration seem half-baked. Although cheaper than many of its rivals, especially with the included S Pen, the Tab S4 isn’t special enough to justify the price.
If you want a laptop replacement, then simply go buy a laptop, Chromebook, Microsoft Surface, or even an iPad Pro, for more productivity options.
Introducing the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 official manufacturer’s YouTube video: