Samsung's new Galaxy Tab S tablet looks different.
As soon as I turned
on the screen, I noticed that the colors are stunning and vivid. Red
looks redder, and greens are greener. The lawn and the trees in
"Ghostbusters" look alive, as does a purple-tinted apparition.
Tab S is also thinner than other leading tablets, at a quarter of an
inch (6.6 millimeters). The model with the smaller screen is lighter,
Samsung Electronics Co. achieves all this by using a display
technology previously limited to smartphones. It's called AMOLED, for
active-matrix organic light-emitting diodes. Samsung released an AMOLED
tablet in 2012, but it was expensive and didn't sell well. The new ones
are priced more competitively - the same as iPads of comparable size.
The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 with an 8.4-inch screen, measured diagonally, costs $400, while the
Galaxy Tab S 10.5 with a 10.5-inch screen costs $500.
screens are more expensive than conventional LCD screens, but they
produce richer colors. They also require no backlighting because the
individual pixels produce their own light. That eliminates at least one
layer of material and contributes to thinness.
means the screen is able to produce a true black. On LCD screens, black
isn't really black, but more like a patch of night sky with a hint of
light from nearby stars. These differences are subtle, but noticeable
once you place a Tab S next to Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle Fire
HDX. True black means deeper contrasts in video and photos.
backlighting also saves power, at least for darker images. On the other
hand, AMOLED screens tend to need more energy to match the brightness on
conventional displays. So images with a lot of white and bright colors
might actually drain the battery faster.
On the 10.5-inch model,
the battery level drained to 80 percent after displaying a mostly white
Web page for two hours. By contrast, it drained to just 92 percent with a
mostly black Web page. On the iPad Air, it was down to about 88 percent
in both cases. Nonetheless, battery life on the Tab S is impressive -
more than 12 hours of streaming video on Hulu with the large version and
more than 11 with the small one. That's comparable to what I get on
AMOLED screens have a few other drawbacks besides uneven power consumption:
- As much as I like the rich colors, they can sometimes look unnatural. Caucasian faces sometimes look too orange, for instance.
- AMOLED screens don't perform as well outdoors. Although I can still
make out text and icons, they are easier to see on the iPad and the
And while the Tab S is light and slim, the edges and the
back don't feel as smooth as on an iPad. That's partly from Samsung's
use of plastic rather than metal on the back.
Both S models have a
resolution of 2,560 pixels by 1,600 pixels, which is among the best and
translates into sharper images, particularly noticeable with text. But
beyond a certain point, it's really hard for the eyes to tell. The
iPad's resolution is lower, but text looks as clear.
the Tab S lets you control a Samsung smartphone using Wi-Fi. Currently,
it works only with the latest phone, the Galaxy S5 (Review | Pictures). You can leave your
phone as far as 300 feet away, such as in another room or in the house
when you're in the backyard. The phone's screen appears in a window on
your tablet. From there, you can make or receive calls, send texts and
access any of the apps on your phone.
Another feature lets you
access Windows or Mac computers remotely. The PC doesn't have to be on
the same network, so there's no 300-foot limit. How well it works with
office computers will depend on corporate policies. It worked fine with a
Mac laptop on a non-work network.
I like the ability to unlock
the device with a fingerprint scan instead of a passcode. The Tab S
supports up to eight users, each of whom can store up to three
fingerprints. It would have been neat for the tablet to automatically
pull up the correct profile based on the fingerprint used. Alas, you
need to select your profile first.
The tablet also comes with lots
of freebies, including a 12-month subscription to Bloomberg
Businessweek, and introduces a new magazine app called Papergarden.
Unfortunately, Papergarden works only with selected titles from Conde
Nast, Hearst and a few others at the moment. Businessweek directs you to
its own app. Magazines you buy through Google Play use yet another app.
As much as I like freebies, I hate confusion.
Users of other
Samsung devices might recognize other features, including the ability to
run multiple apps side by side and to keep certain files hidden when
lending a device to others. On-screen keyboards let you use the control
key the way you can on laptops, such as CTRL-C to copy text and CTRL-V
Apple's market-leading iPads are still the ones to beat,
given that they have a wider selection of apps that aren't simply phone
apps made larger. But Samsung has a strong challenger with its new Tab S
devices. The stunning colors might be enough to draw customers.