If you are offering a tablet for the price of a laptop, it is better that it performs flawlessly and can also be used for work. This is in a nutshell what the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is trying to do. Can she do it?
Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, the S4 is essentially an Android competitor to the two in one Windows 10 such as the NovaGo at Asus, the Envy x2 at HP and the Miix 630 at Lenovo. The main arguments of this product family are autonomy, 4G connectivity (optional) that allows to work anywhere. However, Android works better than Windows with the Snapdragon, which gives the Samsung tablet an advantage.
It is sold for 699 euros in the Wi-Fi version and 759 euros in the 4G version, without its Book Cover keyboard, which costs 150 euros. That’s pretty expensive for an Android tablet in a market full of hybrid Windows and Chromebook tablets capable of running both Web and Android applications.
- 10.5 inch Super Amoled 2560 x 1600 pixel display ;
- Exynos 8895 octo-core processor, 2.35 GHz / 1.9 GHz ;
- 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage ;
- 13 megapixel rear camera and 8 megapixel front camera ;
- Wi-Fi 802.11ac MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 ;
- Android 8.1 (Upgrade to Android 9.0 planned later).
The S Pen supplied with the tablet is an excellent addition. It is comfortable to hold and use and does not need to be recharged. Pressing its button opens a menu of productivity tools. You can write on the screen without opening an application or even unlocking the tablet, which makes it especially handy for writing down a to-do or shopping list. Although writing on glass is not quite the same as writing with a pen on paper, the S Pen’s lead offers a smooth glide with minimal latency.
But as useful as this pen is, it’s the Book Cover keyboard that’s at the heart of this tablet’s productivity argument, as is the DeX system that turns the tablet’s Android interface into a desktop experience. It will not replace a PC or even a Chromebook, but it works very well.
You can switch to DeX from the S4’s quick access panel or, for those who have the keyboard, do so automatically as soon as you position the tablet to type text. Simply plug in a USB-C adapter with an HDMI output and you can then work on an external display while using the Tab S4 as a giant touchpad, or use the S stylus and use the display as a Wacom tablet.
You can also keep the tablet in an Android configuration, for example, to watch a video while working on a PowerPoint presentation on another screen. It is possible to connect a mouse via USB or Bluetooth.
What’s irritating is the lack of a touchpad on the keyboard. Microsoft has managed to drag a fully usable one onto its even smaller Surface Go keyboard. To tell the truth, there are several things we didn’t like about this keyboard… starting with the fact that it’s optional and expensive. Although it allows a relatively quick strike, it is too narrow and is not backlit. The screen can only be oriented at one angle, which is fine for desktop use but not really anything else. And we’ve suffered unexplained cuts while it’s connected to the tablet by magnetic pins. In addition, as soon as the tablet is unplugged from the keyboard, the screen locks and you must enter a PIN code or use iris scan if the option is enabled.
Aside from the keyboard, the DeX experience is pretty decent if you just need to do a few simple tasks without having to take out a laptop: send an email or make a last-minute presentation before jumping on a plane or train, make a Skype call while viewing a spreadsheet on a second screen?
There are a dozen DeX-optimized applications, including Microsoft Office (requires a subscription for writing and editing). Google Docs and Gmail worked well, you can display them side by side and resize the windows. It is also possible to drag and drop between applications, but this is currently only supported with Messages, My Files, Samsung Notes, Gallery, the email application and Gmail.
Application performance in DeX is generally smooth, but we have noticed that it gets a bit stuck when moving windows with multiple applications running. Typing text into Word also seemed a bit slow at times.
Although tablets can be good working tools, it is mainly for entertainment that they excel and the Tab S4 is no exception to this rule. Its 10.5-inch Super Amoled 2560 x 1600 pixel screen is coupled to four Dolby Atmos-compatible AKG speakers. The tablet is ideal for watching videos. The display has excellent colour, contrast and brightness.
Video game performance also seems to have improved compared to the Galaxy Tab S3. We did some PUBG games with high graphics. The gameplay was fluid and the sound powerful.
Samsung claims up to 16 hours of video playback and the 7,300 mAh battery is compatible with fast charging via its USB-C port. We’re still testing the range, but in routine use it has lasted about 7 hours of mixed use.
With its excellent display, good audio quality and solid performance, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 does not disappoint as a high-end Android tablet. However, the DeX interface is only half a measure, just good enough for basic office tasks. The 4G LTE option seems to us the most interesting to be able to work anywhere without depending on a Wi-Fi connection.