Since their breakthrough several years back, tablets have become an integral part of the consumer electronics market. Millions of people use them for all sorts of tasks, ranging from web browsing to Netflix to writing and more. Versatility and portability have become the name of the game for tablets, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 promises those very things. With powerful specs, a lightweight design and a bar-setting screen, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 looks to be the flagship Android tablet for 2014.
The externals of the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 are the logical place to start. On the back we find a stippled plastic that’s very much the same as can be found on the Galaxy S5. The model I was sent to review is a Titanium Bronze model. In other words, it’s gold. The plastic on the back has nice texture to it, feeling a bit more premium than most high-gloss plastics. The matte finish resisted fingerprints nicely, though the plastic seems prone to scratches, garnering one or two small ones with normal usage.
Also on the back reside the 8-megapixel camera and flash, as well as a gold Samsung logo. In the bottom two corners, you’ll notice small circular sockets. Samsung has dubbed these “Simple Clickers,” and they’re designed to hold cases securely in place. Samsung sent along two cases to review: a $60 Book Cover, which is a case and screen cover that converts into a multi-angle stand, as well as a $40 Simple Cover which is just that: a simple screen cover.
Both cases worked well, staying securely in place once they were clicked in. To put it in perspective, I could dangle the tablet by the case and have no fear of the case coming off. That also happens to be a downside, though, as the cases require a good effort to remove and make a loud sound when they come off. Putting them on also requires a bit of trickery as well as two hands, since it’s not easy to get the cases lined up with the Simple Clickers. Nonetheless, the move works well and should make for some interesting case designs as Samsung is allowing manufacturers to use the Simple Clickers.
Going back to the device itself, we can move along the sides to find an assortment of treasures. On the top left, you’ll find the power button and volume rocker. Smack dab in the center is where an IR blaster calls home, allowing the tablet to be used as a universal remote. The left side contains a speaker and headphone jack, while the bottom is barren apart from a microphone hole. On the right side, there’s another speaker, a microSD card slot and a microUSB charging port. Putting the charging port here was an immensely wise idea, as it allows you to use the tablet in the intended landscape format while it charges. Kudos to Samsung for not putting it on the bottom.
The front of the device is massive expanse of glass, with a Samsung logo and the front-facing camera at the top. Sitting below the screen, a standard Samsung button array is found with a physical home button flanked by capacitative multi-tasking and back buttons.
The ergonomics of the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 are pleasant. The smooth, rounded edges allow an easy grip on the device, while your fingers can still easily reach the power button. Even better, the speakers are high enough on the sides so you won’t block them when holding the device. My biggest beef comes with the physical buttons. Using the device in a vertical format is entirely out of the question due to the button layout. Additionally, its design also won’t win any fashion awards with its plain plastic. That said, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 chooses function over form and does a decent job of it.
The weight and thickness of the Tab S 10.5 deserve a mention. It comes in at a svelte 6.6mm thin, beating out the iPad Air, iPad mini and Nexus 7. The weight clocks in at exactly a pound, matching the iPad Air. While heavier than the Nexus 7, the extra drop in thickness makes the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 feel extremely portable for a 10-inch tablet. If you’re looking for a large, on-the-go tablet, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is right for you.
Now we get to the good stuff. The display of the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is by far the best tablet display I’ve ever laid eyes on. Samsung adorned the Tab S 10.5 with a 10.5-inch 2560×1600 Super AMOLED display. If you’ve ever used a phone with a Super AMOLED display, then you know how great they look. On a tablet, that experience is enhance tenfold. Blacks are deeper, whites are bright and colors pop out of the display.
No matter how many pictures I take, I can’t show off how truly gorgeous the display is. Pictures really can’t do it justice, so you’re better off trying a Galaxy Tab S 10.5 in person, even if that means going to your local Best Buy and having the Samsung Experience reps talk your ear off about “the next big thing.”
Brightness is another important factor to consider with the display, and the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 doesn’t disappoint. Its display is bright and easily readable, even in direct sunlight. In comparison against the Nexus 7, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is visibly brighter and much more saturated. It may be a tad oversaturated, but that extra boost makes the experience much more enjoyable.
Samsung’s choice to use a 2560×1600 resolution is a welcome one. In the world of tablets, pixels still matter more than on smartphones. For example, 1080p on a 5-inch phone might be impeccably sharp, but blowing that up to a display twice the size takes its toll. Fortunately, the high resolution of the Tab S 10.5 alleviates the problem. If you squint closely, you can maybe see a pixel, but in normal usage, the display appears tack sharp.
The only slight knock on the display is the size. 10.5-inches is a size that’s not commonly seen and it stems from the resolution of 2560×1600. The thing about that size is that most video content will leave small black bars on the top and bottom of the display. It’s not an issue, but rather something to note. Unless you’re looking for it, you won’t notice it while using the Tab S 10.5.
Finally, the sound quality. The stereo speakers on the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 are nothing out of the ordinary. Sound levels can reach a decent volume and the speakers are a bit tinny, but they could be worse. Using headphones, I noted that some content that would generally be normal actually sounded very quiet. To hear it, I had to crank the volume levels up to nearly the top. This could have just been a bug, but it’s something to watch for.
So what does it all boil down to? Samsung has created a killer tablet with the Galaxy Tab S 10.5. The hardware of the device is functional, if perhaps a little plain. For portabily, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 also performs well with a thin and light design. The real selling point comes down to the display, which makes you want to take the tablet and make it your own. Far and wide, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has the best display of any tablet on the market, even beating out the Retina display on the iPad Air. If you’re going to be consuming a lot of content on your tablet, get the Galaxy Tab S 10.5. You won’t regret it.