Review unit on loan from Samsung Singapore
Samsung has just released the Tab S9 FE series of tablets in October 2023 and that's just three months after the release of the Tab S9 series tablets. That was quick. The two new tablets are the 10.9-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE and the 12.4-inch Tab S9 FE+.
The FE series tablets are designed to be more affordable but the compromise is some features are removed. Listed below are the features from the Tab S9 FE vs the Tab S9:
- 90Hz TFT LCD instead of 120Hz OLED display
- Exynos 1380 vs Snapdragon 8 gen 2
- Slightly heavier and thicker
- S Pen has no Bluetooth features
- No external display support with Samsung Dex
- USB-C port has USB 2 instead of USB 3.2 gen 2 speed
- 2-way instead of 4-way speakers
According to benchmarks, Snapdragon 8 gen 2 is 70%+ faster than Exynos 1380 which is 30%+ faster than then Snapdragon 750 in the Samsung Tab S7 FE.
The base model Tab S9 FE starts with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, and Tab S9 FE+ starts with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. Configurations and options vary depending on regions.
|Galaxy Tab S9 FE||Galaxy Tab S9 FE+|
(Up to 90Hz)
(Up to 90Hz)
|* Measured diagonally as a full rectangle without accounting for the rounded corners. Actual viewable area is less due to the rounded corners and camera hole.|
|Dimensions & Weight||165.8 x 254.3 x 6.5 mm, 523g (Wi-Fi), 524g (5G)||185.4 x 285.4 x 6.5 mm, 627g (Wi-Fi), 628g (5G)|
|Camera||8 MP Rear Camera
12 MP Ultra-Wide Front Camera
|8 MP + 8MP Ultra-Wide Rear Camera
12 MP Ultra-Wide Front Camera
|Memory & Storage||6GB + 128GB
8GB + 256GB
|8GB + 128GB
12GB + 256GB
|* Available storage capacity is subject to preloaded software.
* Memory option may vary by market.
|*Typical value tested under third-party laboratory condition. Typical value is the estimated average value considering the deviation in battery capacity among the battery samples tested under IEC 61960 standard. Actual battery life may vary depending on network environment, usage patterns and other factors.|
|*Wired charging compatible with QC2.0 and AFC.|
|**45W Power Adapter sold separately. Use only Samsung-approved chargers and cables.|
|Network and Connectivity||5G*, LTE**, Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi Direct Bluetooth® v 5.3|
|*5G services are only supported in 5G network enabled locations. Requires optimal 5G connection. Actual speed may vary depending on market, carrier, and user environment.
**Availability of 5G model varies by market and carrier.
*** Wi-Fi 6 network availability may vary by market, network provider and user environment. Requires optimal connection. Will require a Wi-Fi 6 router.
|Sound||Dual Speaker by AKG, Dolby Atmos®|
|Pen||S Pen (BLE not supported) in-box|
|* IP68 Rating: Conducted under lab test conditions. Water resistant in up to 1.5 meters of fresh water for up to 30 minutes and protected from dust, dirt, and sand. Rinse residue/dry after wet. Not advised for beach or pool use. Water and dust resistance of your device is not permanent and may diminish over time.|
|Accessories||S Pen, S Pen Creator Edition
Book Cover Keyboard, Book Cover Keyboard Slim, Smart Book Cover, Outdoor Cover
|* S Pen and USB Type-C cable included inbox. Other accessories are available for purchase separately. Availability of third-party cases may vary by market, carrier and retailer.|
- Tab S9 Ultra with 12GB RAM, 256GB storage - USD 1199, SGD 1688
- Tab S9+ with 12GB RAM, 256GB storage - USD 999, SGD 1388
- Tab S9 with 8GB, 128GB storage - USD 799, SGD 1128
- Tab S9 FE+ with 8GB RAM, 128GB storage - USD 599, SGD 819
- Tab S9 FE+ with 12GB RAM, 256GB storage - USD 699
- Tab S9 FE 6GB RAM & 128GB storage - USD 449, SGD 669
- Tab S9 FE 8GB RAM & 256GB storage - USD 519
- Tab S8 Ultra with 8GB RAM, 128GB storage - USD 949 (original 1099), SGD 2188 (5G)
- Tab S8+ with 8GB RAM, 128GB storage - USD 749 (original 899), SGD 1538
- Tab S8 with 8GB RAM, 128GB storage - USD 549 (original 699), SGD 1188
- Tab S7 FE with 4GB RAM, 64GB storage - USD 529, SGD 898
- Tab S7 FE 5G with 6GB RAM, 128GB storage - SGD 998
- Tab S6 Lite 2022 with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage - USD 249
5G models cost SGD 150 more.
Different countries may have different configurations for RAM, storage, Wifi-only and Wifi + 5G.
If you can stretch your budget slightly, consider the Samsung Tab S8 series tablets that were released in early 2022. Those have been out for more than 1.5 years and can be found heavily discounted on Shopee SG and Lazada SG. I was able to find a 12.4-inch Tab S8+ 5G with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage for SGD 867, just SGD 2 cheaper than the Tab S9 FE+.
Oh, Samsung may have some generous trade-in offers occasionally so you may also want to consider the value of those trade-in programs.
Samsung will provide 4 years of Android OS updates and 5 years of security updates. That means the Tab S8 will stop getting Android OS updates in 2024. I won't worry about that because not getting those updates does not mean your apps will stop running or you can't install apps from the Google Play Store.
- SIM ejection tool
- USB-C to USB-C charging cable
- User manual
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ is using 12.4-inch TFT LCD with 1600 x 2560 resolution that has 90Hz adaptive refresh rate.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE is using 10.9-inch TFT LCD with 1440x 2304 resolution that has 90Hz adaptive refresh rate. The highest resolution video from Youtube app will be 1080P. You can still get 1440P videos from Youtube website, but that will downscale to fit the tablet's resolution.
The resolution for both tablets is actually lower than the Tab S9 but I didn't even notice the difference until I checked the specifications.
Maximum brightness is 600 nits and High Brightness Mode goes up to 720 nits. I'm using the tablet mostly at 50% brightness and more than bright enough for use in a bright room.
Colours available are gray, silver, mint and lavender.
This TFT LCD has glow which is more noticeable at night when compared to the IPS LCD of my iPad Pro.
Here's the size comparison of the two tablets vs the Samsung Tab S9 Ultra which is truly massive.
The design looks good. Bezels are thin. Corners and display are rounded off. These look almost identical to the more expensive Tab S9 series but there are some physical differences.
12.4-inch Tab S9 FE+ weighs 627g and is 6.5mm thick. Tab S9+ weighs 586g and is 5.7mm thick.
11-inch Tab S9 FE weighs 523g and is 6.5mm thick. Tab S9 weighs 498g and is 5.9mm thick.
I could feel the differences in weight and thickness only because I've used the Tab S9 tablets before.
So which size should you get? I recommend getting the larger 12.4-inch tablet if you often use split screen mode, SamsungDex (shown above), apps with lots of UI elements, and use the tablet as a wireless external display. Those use cases are best used with a larger display. Otherwise, you can save the money by getting the 10.9-inch model instead, and that's also noticeably more portable.
If you read PDFs or comics often, go with the larger display because you cannot adjust the text size in PDFs and comics.
The pen can be attached to the side or back of the tablet. On the back there's no visible marked out area to attached the pen, but you can still attach it below the camera.
Build quality is solid with the metal and glass. These tablets feel premium. The body is even IP68 rated for dust and water resistance.
The bottom has a USB-C port with USB 2 transfer speeds and that cannot output video and hence SamsungDex cannot be used with external displays.
There are 2-way stereo speakers and they sound good, but the audio surround quality isn't as good as the Tab S9 series tablets.
The micro SD card slot is still around.
The power button has a fingerprint scanner that works effectively and fast.
The display is reflective with no anti-reflective coating. Viewing angles are great.
I know many people rate OLED displays as better than LCDs but a good LCD can still look great. Samsung is using TFT LCDs for these tablets and the colour support is for 16 million colours. The image quality of these TFT LCDs do look good, but top quality IPS LCDs will look better since they can have higher colour depth and can support up to 1 billion colours.
Since these are still LCD displays, there will be the LCD glow which isn't really noticeable unless you're looking for it, or have an OLED display to compare with. I personally find LCD displays to look better at lower brightness.
The display is laminated so there's no gap between the pen tip and the line when drawing.
Refresh rate is adaptive 90Hz and the animation is certainly smoother compared to 60Hz displays.
There is more latency compared to the Tab S9 tablets and is noticeable with a side by side comparison. Latency also depends on the app used. Medibang Paint has more latency compared to other apps. The lines appearing bit by bit is more noticeable than Tab S9 tablets, again only with a side by side comparison.
I do draw with Medibang Paint so it's a bummer there's actually more latency. I have tested Infinite Painter, Concepts and Clip Studio Paint and the latency seems alright.
I don't have any benchmarks for you. All I can say is overall performance is smooth and responsive. There's the occasionally stutter which usually happens when switching to an app that hasn't been used for a long time, but after the app is active everything's smooth and fast. 6GB RAM is alright for multi-tasking.
Gaming with graphics intensive game is smooth enough with the occasional dropped frames but thankfully isn't too annoying. And of course you won't be gaming at the highest graphics settings.
The S Pen for the Tab S9 FE looks identical to Tab S9's (black). The main difference is the Tab S9's S Pen has battery for Bluetooth features.
The pen is lightweight, matte textured, comfortable to hold and has good build quality. There's one side button but no eraser button. The side button may be customisable depending on the app you use.
The pen supports tilt, 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity and palm rejection. The pen is not powered by battery so no charging or pairing is requirement.
The pen tip is rubberised and has some resistance against glass. The pen tip is firm and has no movement when in contact with glass. The pen is not slippery on glass and feels good for writing and drawing. Replacement pen tips are affordable and easy to find.
These lines were drawn with Medibang Paint.
1. Initial activation force is low. Thin lines can be drawn easily.
2. Lines are able to taper smoothly and sharply.
3. Transition for thin and thick lines is smooth. Thin lines can be drawn easily after drawing thick lines.
4. Consistent line width can be drawn easily by maintaining consistent pressure.
5. Dots can be drawn by tapping the pen.
6. There's no cursor misalignment regardless of how the pen is held. The line always appear beneath the pen tip. Lines can be joined without overshooting or leaving gaps.
Pen performance is consistent and predictable.
That's the 10.9-inch display against A4-sized paper.
That's the 12.4-inch display against A4-sized paper.
If you use apps with lots of UI elements such as Clip Studio Paint or Krita, I highly recommend you go with the larger 12.4-inch tablet. On a larger tablet, you will still have a good amount of space to draw with even when there are palettes by the side.
Anyway, Clip Studio Paint has recently introduced Simple Mode UI for smaller tablets, and it works great although it's still missing lots of features compared to the full interface.
The smaller 10.9-inch tablet works better with apps that have minimal UI interface, such as Infinite Painter (above), Sketchbook, Concepts.
Palm rejection works great. You can rest your hands on the display while drawing and you won't add stray strokes nor activate unintentional finger gestures.
Drawing experience is fantastic. Lines are able to come out exactly the way I want them to. Tilt and pressure works well.
There are many good and capable drawing apps from the Google Play Store.
The few advantages of drawing on the larger display is there's more space for tools and palettes, and you can rest your palm on the display and still see much of the display, and you can see more of your art at the same zoom.
Battery life is around 12-14 hours. This is with 50% brightness which is quite bright with this display and suitable for use even in a bright room environment.
The Tab S9 FE series tablets look beautiful and feel premium. They are not as expensive compared to the Tab S9 tablets but the compromise is many features are removed. The drawing performance and experience is still as good as ever. These tablets are great to draw on.
In terms of value for money, I would highly recommend you compare prices with the Tab S8 series tablets. If the price difference isn't too big, it may be worth spending slightly more to get more features, e.g. higher resolution, OLED, SamsungDex external display support, faster USB-C transfer speed, 4 way speakers, better latency performance, better processor. Tab S8 has so much more to offer.
Of course this review will not be complete without comparing the tablet to the Apple iPad. The iPad 10 cost USD 449 (SGD 685) and that comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage (iPadOS takes up 15GB). Apple Pencil is sold separately for USD 99. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE cost USD 449 (SGD 669) and you get 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, there's a micro SD card slot and S Pen is included. The iPad advantage is there are more graphic design apps that handle typography, layout and vector. For drawing purposes, both iPad and Galaxy tablets are on par.
So is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE and FE+ worth the money? You can decide.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design with IP68 rating for dust and water resistance
+ Solid build quality
+ High resolution LCD with vibrant colours
+ 600 nits brightness
+ 90Hz adaptive refresh rate
+ 12-14 hours battery life
+ 2-way speakers with good audio quality
+ S Pen included
+ S Pen support tilt and pressure sensitivity
+ S Pen is not powered by battery
+ S Pen is accurate
+ S Pen replacement nibs are cheap
+ Palm rejection works well
+ Snappy performance
+ Fingerprint unlock work well
+ Good drawing performance
+ No jitter when drawing diagonal lines slowly
+ Micro SD card slot
+ Android 13
+ Samsung DeX available but cannot output to external display
- TFT LCD instead of IPS LCD
- More latency compared to Tab S9 series
- No face unlock
- Samsung backup does not backup 100% of the tablet
- Occasional stutter when there are loads of apps in the background
- USB-C port only has USB 2 speeds
- No charger is included
- No headphone jack
- S Pen replacement tips not included
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE and Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ will be available in Singapore on 20 October 2023.
Base models 10.9-inch Galaxy Tab S9 FE will cost SGD 669and 12.4-inch Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ is SGD 819.
As part of launch promotions, any purchase of the two tablets between 20 October to 10 November 2023 will get a free Galaxy Buds FE worth S$158.