The smaller of Samsung's two new tablets, the 8-inch Tab S2 is a powerful little slate featuring a stunning AMOLED display and a fast octa-core Exynos processor in a very svelte, lightweight design. While its battery life could be better, when it comes to the best Samsung tablets, the Tab S2 should not be overlooked by anyone in search of a compelling Android tablet.
The Galaxy Tab S2 is sleek and sexy without being pretentious. It's an all-black slab with shiny bezels and rounded corners. It's crazy thin, but it doesn't feel fragile, possibly thanks to a matte, soft-touch back that makes it grippier than competitors like the iPad Mini 3.
Directly below the display are the standard Android device controls: the back icon, the physical home button and the icon which shows all opened apps and controls multi-window mode.
Measuring 7.8 x 5.3 x .22 inches and weighing 9.3 ounces, the Tab S2 is thinner and lighter than the $399 iPad Mini 3 (7.87 x 5.3 x 0.29-inches, 12 ounces), as well as the Dell Venue 8 7000 (8.5 x 4.88 x 0.24-inches, 10.72 ounces) and the HP Pro Slate 8 (8.2 x 5.4 x 0.31-inches, 12 ounces).
The 8-inch, 2048 x 1536-pixel AMOLED display on the Tab S2 is a beauty, rendering images with rich colors. When watching the trailer for Sony's "The Secret Life of Pets" , he pinks and purples of a sunset, yellows and greens of bird feathers and golden browns and tans of a rotisserie chicken popped off the screen with such vibrancy that it fooled me into thinking I was a part of this crazy, adorable animal world.
It's not surprising that the Tab S2 can display an incredible range of color, displaying 184.9 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That's better than the Dell Venue 8 7000 (173.3 percent), the HP Pro Slate 8 (94.3) and the iPad Mini 3 (67.3 percent).
The screen isalso fairly accurate when presenting those colors, scoring 2.87 on our color accuracy scale (closer to 0 is better). That's better than the tablet category average (5.3) and the Venue 8 7000 (4.2), but the iPad Mini 3 was slightly better (2.4).
The Tab S2 is a bright tablet as well, notching 420 nits on our test. That's well over the category average (352), the Venue 8 7000 (235) and the iPad Mini 3 (383), and it just beats the Pro Slate 8 (417) as well.
The 8MP rear camera on the Tab S2 took fairly crisp photos. The pictures I snapped around my office of potted plants, boldly colored walls and desk toys were so true-to-life that they almost looked better than the actual spaces themselves.
However, the 2.1-MP front-facing wasn't great.
While my skin tone looked accurate, the outlines of my face and hair were blurry. The beauty tool at the top of the camera window smooths skin and makes it look porcelain-perfect. There are also live-effects you can place over images as you take them, including monochrome filters and faded color.
Android OS and Software
The Galaxy Tab S2 runs Android Lollipop with Samsung's TouchWiz overlay, which allows you to quickly access settings as well as run two apps side by side via the Multi Window feature.
In addition to Google's typical app suite, the Tab S2 comes with Microsoft apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype. While I work primarily in Google Docs, it was nice to have those Microsoft programs on the tablet just in case I was sent something from work that would require me to use our company OneDrive.
Samsung added some of its apps, but there's no bloat here. There's Samsung Milk Music for streaming tunes, Samsung+ for logging into your account and backing up data from your tablet, and SideSync, which you can use to mirror your smartphone on the tablet.
The Tab S2 is powered by a 1.3 GHz octa-core Exynos 5433 processor, with 3GB of RAM and your choice of 32 or 64GB of storage. You can also add more storage up to 128GB using the microSD slot on the tablet. During my time with the Tab S2, I experienced no hiccups when browsing the web in multiple Chrome tabs, or when I switched back and forth between multiple apps. I also experienced little to no lag time when starting videos on YouTube.
The Tab S2 performed similarly well on various benchmarks. On the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the tablet scored 4,113. That's better than your average tablet (2,528), and it beats the iPad Mini 3 (2,481), the Dell Venue 8 7000 (2,866) and the HP Pro Slate 8 (2,723).
The Tab S2 took just 4 minutes and 26 seconds to transcode an HD video to 480p resolution in the Vidtrim app. That's faster than the average tablet (7:02), and faster than the Venue 8 7000 (5:01) and the Pro Slate 8 (5:55).
We ran the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test to measure that tablet's graphics performance, and the Tab S2 scored 19,388. This score trumps the iPad Mini 3 (10,699) and the Pro Slate 8 (18,447), but the Venue 8 7000 (20,602) just beat it.
The Tab S2's 4,000 mAh battery lasted 7 hours and 42 minutes on our test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 46 percent brightness. Unfortunately, that falls short of the tablet category average (8:33), the Venue 8 7000 (9:47) and the Pro Slate 8 (9:49).
If you're looking for a small tablet, you should check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. It has a gorgeous screen that's great for reading or watching videos and a thin-and-light design that not only makes it super portable, but also beautiful. Android Lollipop shines on the Tab S2 - thanks to its solid octa-core performance. But while we can forgive the lackluster front camera, the Tab S2's short battery life holds this slate back from being a top pick. Overall, though, the Tab S2 is an enjoyable Android tablet that's worth the investment.
|CPU||1.3 GHz Quad-core Exynos 5433|
|Storage Drive Size||32GB|
|Storage Drive Type|
|Display Resolution||2048 x 1536|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution||2.1MP|
|Ports||3.5mm audio jack|
|Card Reader Size||128GB|
|Warranty / Support|
|Size||5.3 x 7.8 x .22-inches|