With the original Galaxy Tab S, Samsung finally provided Apple’s iPad with some serious competition in the tablet space. Now, the Korean company is back with what’s perhaps its most overt attempt to deliver its own iPad-like experience – and for the most part, the Galaxy Tab S2 succeeds nicely.
Direct comparisons to Apple’s tablets are easy to make, with the S2 adopting the iPad’s signature 4:3 aspect ratio and eschewing the 10.5-inch and 8.4-inch displays of the original Tab S in favour of 9.7-inch and 8-inch versions – exactly the same as the iPad Air and iPad Mini.
The larger model’s also been rotated 90 degrees, with its home button (which now sports a slicker touch-based fingerprint scanner) moved to make the tablet more comfortable when held vertically. While this might annoy those who use their tablets primarily for viewing video content, it makes web browsing and reading feel much more natural.
While the iPad was very obviously an inspirational factor in the S2’s form, the rest of the tablet is pure Samsung.
The Galaxy Tab S2 has a metal frame with a thin chrome edging and a rear that’s made of smooth plastic. Sure, it’s not particularly grippy or quite as premium as the iPad’s aluminium chassis, but it’s very comfortable to hold in the hand.
It’s also lighter and thinner than the iPad Air 2, weighing in at just 392g for the 9.7-inch and 272g for the 8-inch, with a thickness of only 5.6mm for both models (for comparison’s sake, the iPad Air 2 weighs 444g and is 6.1mm thick).
Samsung’s signature capacitive buttons make a return, and the device’s power button can still be found on its side. It’s also got a microSD Card slot, which can be used to add up to an additional 128GB of storage, and just below that (on the LTE models of the Tab S2) is where you’ll find a Nano-SIM slot.
The Galaxy Tab S2’s display matches the iPad Air 2’s resolution exactly (1,536 x 2,048 pixels), even sharing the same 264ppi pixel density (320ppi on the 8-inch version) as Apple’s IPS display.
That said, we might give the edge to the Galaxy Tab S2, as its Super AMOLED display is breathtakingly vibrant, with a brightness and depth of colour and contrast that make the iPad Air 2 seem muted by comparison.
Though Samsung’s latest runs a slightly outdated version of the Android OS (5.0.2 Lollipop), it does boast some software tweaks of its own, including Quick Connect functionality – this allows you to sync up with a nearby (compatible) Samsung smart TV to throw video content between the two.
In terms of performance, the Galaxy Tab S2 performs admirably, if not spectacularly. Though it’s much quicker than the original Tab S, it uses an older Exynos 5433 octa-core processor developed for last year’s Galaxy Note 4. Unsurprisingly, it performed similarly to that handset in our graphical benchmark tests, but was left in the newer Galaxy S6’s Exynos 7420-sporting dust.
Its battery capacity is also a downgrade from the Tab S1 – the 9.7-inch Tab S2 has a 5,870 mAh battery (compared to the 7,900 mAh battery found in the 10.5-inch Tab S), while the 8-inch model sports a 4,000 mAh battery (4,900 mAh in the original 8.4-inch version). Still, in PCMark 8 Android’s tough battery life test, this 9.7-inch model lasted a respectable 7:12hr.
Though it’s perhaps a little disappointing that the Galaxy Tab S2 doesn’t pack Samsung’s latest Exynos CPU, it’s by far the most attractive tablet the company has ever made, and also the most pleasurable to use. It feels as though Samsung’s finally nailed its iPad competitor this time around.
Verdict: It’s not the most powerful tablet, but the S2 is beautifully designed, with a gorgeous and vibrant display.
Price: 8-inch Wi-Fi, $499; 8-inch LTE, $649; 9.7-inch Wi-Fi, $599; 9.7-inch LTE, $749