Tablets – remember them? A few years ago they were phones, tablets and then phablets, a phrase reserved for large-screen smartphones. It’s another world in 2018. We don’t hear the term phablet anymore and tablet launches are few and far between. Large screen smartphones are now our ‘go to’ devices where everything from email to gaming to Netflix converges. Smaller 7-inch tablets have all but disappeared. But Apple and Samsung believe there’s still a ‘use case scenario’ for a productivity tab that slips through your thinnest messenger bag and can get heaps of work done. Apple unveiled a whole new version of the iPad Pro while Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S4 claims to be a device ready for ‘Super tasking’. Is this the Android tab to beat?
That’s the easy part to answer. If you’re in the market for an Android tab, the Tab S4 is almost a no-brainer. The more important question is whether you really need a tab and what your purchase driver is. First, let’s get the Tab S4’s entertainment creds out of the way. The Tab S4 is a fantastic option for Content Consumption and short bouts of gaming – you’d rather use your smartphone for gaming marathons. The device’s sports a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display (1600 x 2560 pixels) that packs 287 Pixels per inch (PPI) and is truly vibrant. Add the AKG-tuned quad speakers and a battery (7300 mAh) with fast charging that promises 16-hours of video playback and you’re clearly sorted. It’s just what you need for binge-watching on the move or even read a book or a graphic novel. If you’re the type who prefers large screen entertainment vis-a-vis catching shows or movies on a smartphone, you’re better off with a tab like the S4.
Almost since the first iPad debuted in 2010, we’ve been trying to get stuff done on tabs with limited success. It’s a struggle even if your productivity: entertainment mix is as low as 25%: 75%. Beyond typing longish emails or working on Word docs it’s tough to get heavy duty work done. I used the Samsung book cover keyboard (An optional accessory not bundled with the Tab S4) to type this review and it was a breeze. The tough part is wading through complex Excel spreadsheets or crafting killer PowerPoint decks for key business pitches. And then there’s the whole multi-tasking issue. Tabs are just not quite up there with your MacBook or Windows Notebooks in this area. This is compounded by the fact that you’re using a smartphone version of Android on Tabs. The truth is Android tabs are a rarity these days.
The Galaxy Tab S4 has a couple of things that mildly sway the productivity debate in its favour. It’s easier to move files thanks to the Android ecosystem. You can use a Micro SD card (The Tab S4 supports extendable up to 400GB). You could also use a USB-C dongle to transfer files in and out of the tab. The keyboard is slightly cramped but it’s a decent option especially when you factor in the portability. The Tab S4 lets you take advantage of Samsung DeX – available for the first time on a tablet, to connect to a larger screen via an HDMI adapter. You could add an external keyboard and a mouse thanks to the DeX solution.
The other killer feature is the multi-functional S-Pen that’s part of the standard bundle (unlike the Apple Pencil which is an optional accessory). It’s what has made Samsung’s premium tabs and the Note series a favourite with Creative professionals. This pen is extremely intuitive and is a great accessory for meetings. Then again, if you already own a Samsung Galaxy Note device it’s a tough sell. The Tab S4 has an impressive hardware spec sheet. This is after all Samsung’s showpiece tab. The device is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal memory.
We’re back where we started. If you’re looking at a tab primarily as a productivity device where you can create Content, then the Tab S4 will disappoint you. And that’s not a limitation of this device, it’s a problem that the tab category still has to contend with. Microsoft’s Surface devices are probably better for users looking for work devices that allow you to occasionally flip to entertainment mode. The Tab S4 is a great option for Content consumption and some light productivity tasks on the go. If that’s all you need from your Android tab then the Tab S4 is the best Android tab your money can buy.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 costs Rs 57,990. The book cover keyboard costs Rs 7,499.