Samsung Galaxy Tab S Combines Record Specs, Crucial Content

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-06-13
Samsung Galaxy Tab S

Samsung Galaxy Tab S Combines Record Specs, Crucial Content

Samsung has introduced the Galaxy Tab S, a tablet and new flagship device with which it said it is "proudly putting our flag in the ground."

That declaration of victory comes largely thanks to the Tab S's display. While Apple's iPads feature LED displays, the Tab S has a Super AMOLED—the same technology used on its Galaxy S5 and other market-leading smartphones. The display has a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600, or 4 million pixels total, which Samsung said is 30 percent more than the competition. (Read: Apple. The iPad Air has a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536.)

At a evening press event at Madison Square Garden in New York City June 12, Michael Abary, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics America, explained that LCDs can't emit light on their own and require layers of materials—glass, filters, liquid crystals and spacers—that block out of some of the light that can reach a user's eyes, as well as add thickness to a device. AMOLED, or active-matrix organic light-emitting diode, technology, however, is a emissive.

"So, there's nothing to block the light. It gives you unimpeded details," said Abary, showing side-by-side images—of black and white horses, a detail of a tiger's stripes—on LCD and AMOLED displays. "Every pixel is alive."

AMOLED is also 40 percent less reflective than LCD, "so it really excels when you're using it outdoors," Abary added, insisting that people have the right to a good tablet experience poolside.

The narrow width that the display's technology makes possible, again, enabled Samsung to create what it says is the thinnest tablet on the market. It's 6.4mm thin, which Abary likened to "about a stack of five credit cards ... and thinner than most smartphones."

Indeed, the Tab S is so thin, Samsung had to create a little lip around the microUSB 2.0 port, used for charging, which would seem to be the new area of limitation around just how thin a tablet can get.

The Tab S will come in 8.4- and 10-5-inch models (that's the screen size on the diagonal) and in white or gold—a slightly different, and many will likely say improved, shade than was used on the Galaxy S5.

Four Bragging Points

In addition to being thin and light, and having an unrivaled display, Samsung is focusing on two other points: security and seamless collaboration with other (ideally Samsung) devices.

The Tab S runs Samsung's Knox software out of the box; is Samsung Safe for the Enterprise- (SAFE-) certified; includes Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) Support, AES 256-bit encryption and VPN support; integrates with mobile device management software; and, again like the GS5, includes an on-screen fingerprint reader.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S Combines Record Specs, Crucial Content

It can be used in regulated industries, such as finance and health care, while Knox's sandbox-style design offers added flexibility. For example, a physician could use the Tab S to access patient records that are stored in a HIPAA-compliant (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant) manner, while also having the ability to use the Internet to research. Instead of the device being locked down, the sensitive content is.

Earlier in the day, Samsung had showed off the tablet to eWEEK at its Ridgefield Park, N.J., headquarters, explaining how, beyond security, the Tab S could be an asset to businesses. For example, in an obstetrician's office, where expectant parents could be shown black-and-white sonogram images, the added clarity offered by the trueness of the shades of black rendered by the Tab S display would be meaningful.

With some echoes of the features Apple showed off in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Samsung also used its event to showcase a new seamlessness between its devices.

When the first Galaxy Gear smartwatch debuted, you may remember, it was compatible with only one device, the Galaxy Note 3. Samsung's next line of watches arrived with compatibility to dozens of devices, and Tab 3 will, it seems, likewise work with a bevy of Galaxy devices.

A feature called Side Sync, for example, opens in a window on the left side of the display and shows a picture of one's phone, true to size. (A GS5 was used in the demonstration.)

Using the touch-pad on the "phone," a user can place a call over WiFi on the Tab S, or answer calls. Transferring a file between a smartphone and the Tab S is as easy as dragging a file from the tablet onto the Side Sync image of the phone.

All the Rest

At its event, Samsung announced new partnerships with Conde Nast (it's magazines look beautiful on the Tab S display, making it a good partnership, National Geographic and Marvel. The latter deal includes Samsung paying to get a Tab S into the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron film, and Galaxy users receiving access to exclusive Marvel content. 

It also introduced Milk Music, which is powered by Slacker and said to improve music discover. "Milk Music makes listening to music more enjoyable ... than ever," said Abary. The focus of the app is a dial that users turn to navigate and discover new songs, stations and genres. Users can also adjust how often a station plays Popular, New or Favorite songs.

There's now also a Kids Mode (if you've tried this on an Amazon Kindle Fire, you get the idea) and, because many families tend to share tablets, the ability to create eight user accounts. Each family member can log in and find his or her content and everything just as it was left.

Another important detail is that battery life is about 11 hours—enough to enable a user to watch a full season of a sitcom, in a single charge, on a flight from New York to Argentina.

The 8.4-inch model will start (so it's 16GB and WiFi only) at $399, and the 10.5-inch will start at $499. Abary said both sizes with WiFi-only capabilities will arrive in July, and LTE-enabled models will follow "shortly after." (AT&T immediately announced that it will sell an LTE-enabled Tab S.)

"It has a great screen, it's thin, the battery life is good, but it's still a hard price point to sell," Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business at Kantar WorldPanel, told eWEEK.

"It's a great product, and worth the price—don't get me wrong. But we are done with the early adopters," she said. If a consumer is interested in an Android-running tablet, there are plenty of less expensive options. "People are going to ask themselves, 'Do I need to pay $400?'"

She also applauded the services and partnerships Samsung announced.

"It's not just about HD anymore; it's about making an effort on content as well. It was refreshing to see them address that," Milanesi said. "If you don't bring the specs to life with content, you're failing."

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