Jul 11, 2014 03:49 AM EDT
On Thursday night, Samsung unveiled what was widely expected to be its response to the Apple iPad Air. Samsung's latest volley in the tablet wars comes in the form of two brilliant Super AMOLED screens in two sizes, both called the Samsung Galaxy Tab S.
The biggest thing about the Samsung Galaxy S, which comes in 10.5-inch and 8.4-inch variants, is what the S stands for: the Super AMOLED tablet screen, which inaugurates the next generation of high resolution, high contrast, richly-colored slates not made by Apple. Samsung was clearly excited about it, and spent most of its premier event in New York talking about the screen.
"The tablet is becoming a popular personal viewing device for enjoying content, which makes the quality of the display a critical feature," said JK Shin, CEO and President of Samsung Mobile. "With the launch of the Galaxy Tab S, Samsung is setting the industry bar higher for the entire mobile industry. It will provide consumers with a visual and entertainment experience that brings colors to life, beautifully packaged in a sleek and ultra-portable mobile device."
Both versions of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S feature the screen technology -- previously only seen in Samsung's high-end smartphone and phablet "Note" series -- which brings a lot of advantages to the large-screen mobile arena. Perhaps most importantly to heavy tablet users, Super AMOLED technology doesn't use a backlight, so it's much less battery-intensive than LCD screens, like the ones Apple puts in its iPads. Samsung says the Galaxy Tab S can provide up to an incredible 11 hours of HD video playback, all while keeping the weight of its new devices, at the heaviest, at around a pound.
That also translates into thinner tablets, and Samsung slimmed the Galaxy Tab S down to 6.6 millimeters thick. That's just barely over a quarter inch, thinner than the iPad Air, which is 7.5 millimeters thick.
Samsung is bragging that the Galaxy Tab S -- especially the 298g Tab S 8.4 -- is the thinnest and lightest tablet yet. Samsung apparently doesn't count the Xperia Z2 Tablet, with its 6.4-mm chassis, in the running, but pedantry aside, the Tab S is impressive, and not just for its size.
With all the slimming and power-saving advantages of the Tab S's Super AMOLED screen, the device's screen still pumps out an amazing WQXGA (2560 x 1600p) resolution. On the Tab S 10.5's large screen, that translates to a stunning but not record-breaking 288 pixels per inch. On the Tab S 8.4, the resolution comes to 359 ppi, a pixel-packing tablet screen that rivals many high-end (and smaller-screened) smartphones.
The Super AMOLED screens on the Galaxy Tab S series also translates to brilliant, true-to-life colors, and Samsung has added the ability to sense and adapt to ambient lighting conditions, meaning it can automatically change the screen's brightness, contrast, and white balance to best match your surroundings. And Super AMOLED is much better in the glare outside.
Samsung made sure its new high-end tablets are more than just a pretty screen, though. Both variants of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S come packed with hardware and special features befitting a would-be Apple iPad rival.
Both Galaxy Tab S Wi-Fi-only models come with Samsung's Exynos Octa 5422, which means two quad-core Cortex CPUs, plus a GPU, and running 3GB RAM. For LTE, you get a Snapdragon 800 clocked at 2.3GHz with 3GB of RAM. In either case, don't expect these tablets to start feeling slow for a long time.
For power, the Tab S 10.5 has an ample 7,900 mAh battery, while the smaller 8.4 Tab S packs a 4,900 mAh battery. We'll have to wait for independent tests to see how long these slates really last, but with the combination of large batteries and Super AMOLED screens, it'll likely be pretty impressive.
No one should take pictures with a tablet, it just looks dumb. But people do and will continue to, so Samsung has loaded an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash on the back of both tabs. A 2.1-megapixel front-facer will give you full HD video chatting capabilities.
For all those pictures and HD movies, you've got to have enough storage. But since it's Samsung, you can always add microSD storage -- now up to 128GB worth of extra storage -- so both sizes of the Galaxy Tab S come with a cost-saving minimal 16GB internal storage, along with an option for 32GB.
The Galaxy Tab S also comes with Bluetooth 4.0 LE, GPS, Dual-band Wi-Fi, and a fingerprint scanner built into the home button. It will run the latest Android OS, KitKat 4.4.
But it also comes with a slew of other features that Samsung hopes will rival Apple's strong suit -- interconnectivity, ease of use, and a seamless ecosystem. For example, the Adaptive Display comes with pre-set professional modes for watching movies or showing off pictures called AMOLED Cinema and AMOLED Photo. Also, Samsung's new SlideSync 3.0 app allows the Tab S and Galaxy S5 smartphone to share files and transfer phone calls using Call Forwarding, instantly through Wi-Fi Direct.
Other bonuses include three months of access to the Marvel Unlimited app, Papergarden, a magazine service partnered with publishers like Conde Nast and National Geographic, and Kindle for Samsung, which includes a free book-of-the-month from Samsung.
Samsung will release the Galaxy Tab S in stores in July, with price points that exactly match the iPad mini and iPad Air: $399 and $499, for the 8.4 and 10.5-inch models, respectively. According to Daily Tech, there's already a pre-order deal from Sears (of all places) that will offer a free case and $105 in "Shop Your Way" points, which can be used at participating stores.
Samsung hasn't said when exactly the LTE versions will be available, other than sometime this year, nor has it hinted at the price.
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