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Galaxy Tab S4 vs. iPad Pro: Which Tablet Is Right for You?

Samsung's new Galaxy Tab S4 is a very good tablet, offering a gorgeous OLED screen, desktop-like DeX mode and snappy overall performance.

But how does it match up to Apple's 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which offers excellent stylus input, fantastic battery life and a bright, vivid display of its own? Let's find out.

iPad Pro vs. Galaxy Tab S4

10.5-inch iPad ProGalaxy Tab S4
Starting Price$649$649
CPUA10X FusionQualcomm Snapdragon 835
Memory (RAM)4GB4GB
Display10.5-inch Super AMOLED (2224 x 1668 pixels)10.5-inch LCD (2560 x 1600 pixels)
Storage64GB64GB
microSD CardNoYes (up to 400GB)
Battery Life13:559:34
Size9.8 x 6.8 x 0.24 inches59.8 x 6.5 x 0.28 inches
Weight1.1 pounds1.1 pounds

Design

The Galaxy Tab S4's biggest change is that it doesn't feature a home button, which Samsung dropped to shave the slate's bezels down. The iPad Pro's got slightly thicker bezels, but not so much that it looks antiquated.  

The front-facing cameras inside the Tab S4 enable biometric logins, while the iPad Pro's home button offers Touch ID authentication.

Otherwise, these tablets are pretty similar.  The biggest aesthetic difference is that the iPad Pro's got a brushed-aluminum back, while the Tab S4's back panel is made of glass.

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The iPad Pro (9.8 x 6.8 x 0.24 inches) is slightly thinner than the Galaxy Tab S4 (9.8 x 6.5 x 0.28 inches), though Samsung's tablet is narrower. Both slates weigh 1.1 pounds.

Winner: Tie

Display

When it comes to their screens, the Tab S4 and iPad Pro differ in the ways we always expect from Samsung and Apple devices. While watching a trailer for The Meg, we noticed stronger color from the Tab S4, with oceans looking bluer, a glowing sphere emitting more-intense light and clothing rendering in hues that popped off the screen.

This created a spike in contrast and loss of detail, however, as a character's hair and Jason Statham's face appeared darker on the Tab S4 than on the iPad Pro. Fortunately, the Tab S4 gives you multiple screen modes, so we remedied this issue by switching from the default screen setting (Adaptive Display) to AMOLED cinema mode, which brought the colors back to realistic tones and restored detail.

According to our colorimeter, the Tab S4 produces an amazing 219 percent of the sRGB gamut, a rating that is high above the 122 percent we found in the iPad Pro. The Galaxy Tab S4 emits up to 463 nits of brightness, which is slightly dimmer than the 477 nits from the iPad Pro.

Both slates offer impressive viewing angles, with colors staying strong at 80 degrees to the left and right.

Winner: Tab S4

Audio

When I listened to music and podcasts on each tablet side by side, the winner was a no-brainer (literally). The DJ Khaled song "No Brainer," for example, sounded fuller and stronger on the iPad Pro, which offered a wider soundstage, allowing for stronger vocals and harder bass. On the Tab S4, the same song came out flatter.

I noticed an even greater difference while watching The Polygon Show podcast, in which the hosts' voices sounded bright and chipper on the iPad Pro and slightly muted on the Tab S4.

Winner: iPad Pro

Keyboard

I've never written a face-off in which I didn't want to name a victor, but with keyboards like these, it's hard to say anyone's truly winning. Testing both the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard ($159) and the Tab S4's Book Cover Keyboard ($150) was an exercise in frustration, as my fingers flailed away at the too-soft keys.

I hit similar rates with the two keyboards on the 10fastfingers typing test, with 63 words per minute (and 98.4 percent accuracy) on the iPad Pro and 64 words per minute (with 92.4 percent accuracy) on the Tab S4.

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The iPad Pro's keyboard is the worst of the two, as it presents users with fabric-covered keys that don't click as much as they move down. The Tab S4's keyboard isn't much better, with its flimsy-feeling keys, but at least those have 0.7mm of vertical travel, which is 20 percent more than the 0.5mm in the iPad Pro keys.

Winner: Galaxy Tab S4

Stylus

To compare the iPad Pro's Apple Pencil (sold separately; $100) and the Tab S4's S Pen (included), I asked Laptop Mag Deputy Director of Photography Jef Castro to draw with both styli in Adobe Photoshop Sketch. When I asked for his feedback, he said, "Well, the S Pen's just a hair slower than the Apple Pencil, which draws more naturally and fluidly."

Physically, Jef said, the styli were equals in terms of how they felt in his hand and the sense of feedback they gave when pressed against each tablet's glass screen.

Winner: iPad Pro

Performance

Apple's iPad Pro may be over a year old, but it's not slowing down. The iPad Pro's A10X Fusion CPU with 4GB of RAM holds up against modern competition, repeatedly offering more speed than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 CPU with 4GB of RAM in the Tab S4.

I saw no stutter when splitting either tablet's screen between a 1080p YouTube video and 12 web browser tabs, and both ran Fortnite at relatively smooth rates.

Synthetic testing gave a nod to the iPad Pro, which earned a 9,233 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, scoring much higher than the Tab S4 and its 6,592. The iPad Pro also won in the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme graphics benchmark test, in which it posted a score of 4299, beating the Tab S4's 3481.  

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The iPad Pro also won our video test, transcoding a 4K video to 1080p in 38 seconds, a small fraction of the 2:50 time from the Tab S4 (which required Adobe Premiere Clip to be side loaded).

Winner: iPad Pro

Desktop productivity

The iPad Pro and the Tab S4 both aim to make the tablet a more-productive device, but which is closer to replacing your laptop? The biggest difference between the two is the maximum number of simultaneous open windows they allow; the iPad Pro hits a ceiling at three, with two apps in split-view and a third in slide over. The Tab S4's DeX mode, though, has a higher cap, allowing up to 20 windows open at once (though it could use a snap-to-corner functionality).

Admittedly, both the iPad Pro and the Tab S4 are limited by their operating systems, as iOS and Android will reset an app if it lingers in the background for too long.

Winner: Tab S4

Battery life

The Tab S4 lasts a decent amount of time on a charge, but the iPad Pro made it even longer. The Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 150 nits) took 9 hours and 34 minutes to drain the Tab S4 of its charge, while the iPad Pro posted a time of 13 hours and 55 minutes.

Winner: iPad Pro

Value

These tablets provide pretty similar features, but one stands out with its perks. The Tab S4 and iPad Pro start at the same $649 and include the same amount of storage (64GB) and memory (4GB). But while Samsung throws in its S Pen for free, Apple will charge you an extra $100 for its Pencil stylus. Also, the 256GB version of the Tab S4 costs $749, which is $50 cheaper than the $799 256GB iPad Pro.

Winner: Tab S4

Overall Winner: It's a tie!

10.5-inch iPad ProGalaxy Tab S4
Design/PortsXX
DiplayX
AudioX
KeyboardX
StylusX
PerformanceX
Desktop ProductivityX
Battery LifeX
ValueX
Total55

Samsung is finally catching up to Apple in the tablet arena. Not only is the Tab S4's DeX mode better for productivity, but the included S Pen also gives you more flexibility out of the box.

But if you want the longest battery life, the speediest stylus and the strongest overall performance, the iPad Pro is the tablet for you. Plus, Apple has the larger selection of tablet-friendly apps.

Which tablet are you thinking of getting? Let us know in the comments!

Credit: Laptop Mag

Henry is a senior writer at Laptop Mag, covering security, Apple and operating systems. Prior to joining Laptop Mag — where he's the self-described Rare Oreo Expert — he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. You can find him at your local pro wrestling events, and wondering why Apple decided to ditch its MagSafe power adapters.