According to Samsung, the Tab S8 models sold twice as many pre-orders compared to Tab S7. And half of the Tab S8 models are for the Tab S8 Ultra, the most expensive model that cost as much as a laptop.
For the longest time, I've actually wished for a larger tablet from Samsung because while the 12.4-inch tablets are big, due to the wide aspect ratio, those tablets don't feel as big compared to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro that feels considerably larger due to 4:3 aspect ratio.
Here's the bottomline. If you have the budget for a high end Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is going to deliver. If you're looking for a laptop replacement, this tablet may be more effective than the iPad Pro, but that of course will depend on the apps you use and your workflow.
Below's a table comparing the three models (full specs here):
|Galaxy Tab S8||Galaxy Tab S8+||Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra|
|Display||11-inch LTPS TFT, 500 nits||12.4-inch Super AMOLED, 420 nits||14.6-inch Super AMOLED, 420 nits|
|Resolution||2560 x 1600, 276 PPI||2800 x 1752, 266 PPI||2960 x 1848, 240 PPI|
|Refresh rate||Adaptive up to 120Hz||Either 60Hz or 120Hz||Either 60Hz or 120Hz|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1|
|Storage||128 - 256GB||128 - 256GB||128 - 512GB|
|Camera||Rear 13MP wide, 6MP ultra-wide, front 12MP ultra-wide||Rear 13MP wide, 6MP ultra-wide, front 12MP ultra-wide||Rear 13MP wide, 6MP ultra-wide, front 12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide|
|MicroSD card slot||Yes, up to 1TB||Yes, up to 1TB||Yes, up to 1TB|
|Battery (fast charging 45W)||8000 mAh||10090 mAh||11200 mAh|
|Connectivity||Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE||Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE||Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE|
|Ports||USB C gen 3.2||USB C gen 3.2||USB C gen 3.2|
|Speakers||Quad speakers by AKG, Dolby Atmos||Quad speakers by AKG, Dolby Atmos||Quad speakers by AKG, Dolby Atmos|
|Biometric authentication||Fingerprint on side button, face unlock||Fingerprint on display, face unlock||Fingerprint on display, face unlock|
|Dimensions||165.3 x 253.8 x 6.3mm||185.0 x 285.0 x 5.7mm||208.6 x 326.4 x 5.5mm|
|Price USD||From $699||From $899||From $1099|
|Price in Singapore (256GB model)||From SGD 1188 (Wifi), SGD 1388 (5G)||From SGD 1538(Wifi), SGD 1738 (5G)||From SGD 2188 (5G)|
The tablet with the best value is probably the one with 128GB storage because you can get an affordable MicroSD card slot for storage expansion. A 1TB Sandisk MicroSD card is currently US $134 which is really worth the money because you can always use the card again when you upgrade to another tablet in the future.
You will definitely want more storage with this tablet. Out of the box, 37.9GB of internal storage is already used up which is strange because there's only Android 11 and just a handful of pre-installed such as PENUP and Netflix.
FOR THOSE IN SINGAPORE
The models in Singapore only come with 256GB storage.
Here in Singapore, prices for the Wifi models are SGD 50 cheaper than the Tab S7 models. If you're using either the Tab S7 or Tab S7+, it's not worth upgrading since the Tab S7 models with the Snapdragon 865+ is still very powerful. I'm still using the Tab S7+ and overall performance is still smooth and lag-free. The main reason to upgrade would be to get the Ultra model with the 14.6-inch Super AMOLED display.
The price of Tab S8 Ultra in Singapore is expensive at SGD 2188. At that price, you can get a LG Gram 16 which weighs 1.19kg for SGD $2099. With the Tab S8 Ultra, you're basically paying laptop price for a tablet. So unless you really need the S Pen and features, it's probably a better deal to just get a laptop.
To sweeten the deal in Singapore, the pre-order goodies thrown in are the SGD 548 (US 349) Samsung Book Cover Keyboard and a 500GB Samsung T5 portable SSD. There's also a Samsung Trade Up program where you can trade in old devices for rebates. I was able to trade in my Samsung Note 20 5G for SGD 640 ($440 + $200 Overtrade bonus), so I paid SGD 1548 for the Tab S8 Ultra. The extra keyboard case and T5 SSD makes the overall deal more reasonable. If you're just getting the Tab S8 Ultra at the official retail price without bundle, I'm not sure if it's worth the money.
By the way, the 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro 256GB (SGD 1799) and Apple Pencil 2 (SGD 189) are SGD 1988. The Surface Pro 8 with 256Gb storage (SGD 1799) and Slim Pen 2 (SGD 179) is SGD 1978. Yeah, the Tab S8 Ultra is more expensive than those two.
Inside the box are the SIM ejection tool, USB-C charging cable, Samsung S Pen and the quick start guide.
The USB-C cable does not transmit video.
There's no charger included. The tablet supports 45W fast charging so it's recommended that you use a fast charger. Charging the large battery with a slow charger takes a long time.
If you have the keyboard case bundle, the keyboard case will be included in the box.
The Samsung Book Cover Keyboard comes in two separate pieces: the stand and the keyboard which both attach magnetically to the tablet. There's a protruded slot on the back of the stand to protect the S Pen. The protruded slot does not look good to me but it actually is props up the tablet off the table which makes it easier to pick up the tablet.
A stand is definitely needed to prop up the tablet. Based on my experience of using the Tab S7+ for more than a year, I mostly use the tablet on a table with a stand. The 11-inch tablet is the one that can be hand-held with ease, not the larger tablets, at least not for extended periods of time.
For drawing on the tablet, a more sturdy stand is needed as the keyboard case can't hold its position when you press down while drawing. I recommend the Parblo PR100 stand that I've been using for years.
The keyboard case is well designed and has good build quality. The soft matte textured surface feels nice and is easy to clean. The chiclet keys have good travel and feedback. Keys have back light. Overall typing experience is good. Function keys are useful. Touchpad is big and works fine.
There's no incline on the keyboard so it feels no different compared to typing on flat keyboards on laptops.
When using the keyboard case for typing, coupled with such a big display, it really feels like you're using a laptop, a really slim laptop.
The keyboard case and stand do make the tablet two times thicker though, but still thinner compared to most laptops, e.g. Macbook Air.
There are some quibbles I have with the keyboard case:
- There's no Ctrl button on the right
- Backspace button is too long and gets pressed often when you actually want the = button
- In tablet model, touchpad cursor cannot double click words to select the whole word (works only with SamsungDex mode)
- Double finger tap to call up contextual menu only works with Samsung Internet browser
- To call up contextual menu with other web browsers, you have to press and hold with double fingers
- Cursor selection has a tendency to select one character to the left of where the cursor is placed
- After typing, the touchpad doesn't respond the first time you touch it
- Occasionally, when using the touchpad, the cursor will stray to the far left for some reason
The tablet is just 5.5mm thick which is even thinner than the tab S8 and S8+, 6.3mm and 5.7mm respectively. I'm quite amazed at how thin the tablet is.
The Tab S8 Ultra's 16:10 aspect ratio is noticeably wider compared to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and provides more surface area for drawing.
The 14.6-inch Super AMOLED display is the main highlight with its vibrant colours and excellent contrast ratio. Brightness is up to 420 nits. HDR effect looks good, at least with the HDR videos I found on Youtube. I don't have Netflix so I can't test HDR there. Google TV doesn't seem to support HDR movies. Watching movies on such a big and beautiful display is so satisfying. Audio quality from the four way speakers is loud and clear.
Resolution is 2960 x 1848 at 240 PPI. All visuals look sharp.
The notch protrudes out by less than half a centimetre and is easy to get used to. It's less obtrusive compared to the notch found on the iPhone and Macbook Pro 14 and 16 (2021).
The Super AMOLED display has PWM. People with sensitive eyes may notice the PWM flicker. I personally don't notice PWM. But if you have sensitive eyes, I recommend you check out the tablet in person rather than order the tablet unseen. If you look at the many Youtube review videos online, you'll see that the Super AMOLED display flicker. And for some reason, flicker is more obvious compared to the display on the Tab S7+, at least based on what my camera can capture.
This photo was taken with my camera settings adjusted to show how the screen refreshes with PWM. I don't see any banding in real life.
The display is laminated so there's no gap between the line and the pen tip.
Samsung S Pen
The included S Pen looks similar to the one that came with the Tab S7 tablets. The pen is well built, has a matte textured surface, nice to hold, has one side button and a firm rubberised tip.
The S Pen is almost cylindrical except for the flat side which is used for snapping magnetically to the back for charging, or to the side of the tablet. You don't need battery power to draw or write with the S Pen. The battery is for Bluetooth features, such as using pen gestures for shortcuts.
The S Pen supports palm rejection, tilt and pressure sensitivity.
Latency is said to have improved from 9ms with the Tab S7 tablets to 2.8ms. The improved latency with the 120Hz refresh rate makes the pen feel very responsive. However, do note that you can only get the advertised 2.8ms latency with selected apps, e.g. Samsung Notes. When drawing with Medibang Pro Pro or Concepts, you can still see a noticeable gap as the line tries to catch up with the pen tip.
These are lines tests from Medibang Paint Pro.
1. There's no jitter with slowly drawn diagonal lines.
2. Initial activation force is minimum. You can draw thin lines easily even if you don't apply pressure as long as the pen tip is in contact with the surface.
3. Strokes can taper smoothly and sharply.
4. Dots can be drawn easily by tapping the pen.
5. Line transition from thin to thick is smooth..
6. It's easy to maintain consistent pressure to draw lines with consistent width.
Drawn with Medibang Paint Pro
Strokes taper really smoothly with Clip Studio Paint.
Huion Sketch is a pretty good drawing app too.
The S Pen is sensitive and accurate, performance is consistent and predictable. The main difference between this and the Apple Pencil is the latter has a hard tip while the S Pen has rubberised tip that does not produce audible tapping sounds. The tip is quite smooth on the glass surface. I don't recommend getting a matte screen protector because it will affect the image quality of the OLED display, and wear down the pen tip faster.
It's a fantastic experience to draw on such a large display. Due to the combination of 16:10 aspect ratio, large display and high resolution, you can fit columns of palettes on the left and right and still have a good amount of canvas space leftover for drawing. There aren't many products in the market that offers portability and such a large display for drawing.
Here's a sketch drawn with Concepts inside a restaurant. Shown in the photo above is me resting the Tab S8 Ultra on my lap against the side of the table (there's food on the table). The Tab 12.4-inch S8+ and 14.6-inch S8 Ultra are tabletop tablets which means you'll need to rest them against a surface for drawing. Only the 11-inch Tab S8 can be held in hand for drawing for longer periods of time. You have to factor in the weight of the case as well.
It's satisfying to draw on such a big display. In this case, at least with Concepts with its minimal UI, there's no advantage to drawing on a 14.6 vs 12.4 or even 11-inch tablet. Clip Studio Paint benefits from the large and high resolution display because that app has many palettes that has to be visible to be productive.
I didn't experience any issues with the drawing process. For apps with strict palm rejection, e.g. apps that accepts only pen input for drawing, you will get perfect palm rejection.
Multi-tasking works well on a display with wide aspect ratio. There are many ways to resize and move windows.
Multi-tasking in SamsungDex mode works better. When you're drawing, you pin a reference photo so that it's always floating on top of your drawing app. Or just connect an external monitor and put your reference photo there. You can't do this with an iPad.
Creative and drawing apps
The variety of creative and drawing apps on Android is not as huge compared to what you can find from the Apple App Store. Currently, the main limitation is actually the lack of full featured graphic design apps such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer.
The best drawing app is probably Clip Studio Paint which has the same feature set as the desktop app. It's a monthly subscription app though. Other good drawing apps are Infinite Painter, Sketchbook, Medibang Paint, Concepts (one of my favourite apps).
For editing photos, there's Adobe Lightroom.
For editing videos, Samsung is bringing over LumaFusion in the near future.
For graphic design apps, you can find some from the Google Play Store but the quality and feature set of those apps will not be able to match Adobe Photoshop or Affinity Photo. There are web versions of graphic design apps available, such as Pixlr and Photopea, but the performance is not as smooth compared to installed apps.
For vector art, again there are any apps from the Google Play Store that can match Adobe Illustrator of Affinity Designer in terms of features and functionality.
It would be an incredible boost to the Android ecosystem if Samsung can bring the Affinity apps over, just like how they brought Clip Studio Paint and LumaFusion over.
You don't really need that many apps, you just need one or two really good apps in each category.
For more creative apps, visit https://www.parkablogs.com/picture/alternatives-adobe-drawing-painting-s...
I was able to get at least 8 hours of battery life with normal use and auto-brightness. It's not as long compared to the 10 hours I could get with the M1 iPad Pro but at least it's better compared to the Tab S7+ (7 hours).
The tablet supports 45W charging but there's no charger included. I highly recommend you get a fast Gallium Nitride (GaN) charger. I'm using a Prolink (Singapore brand) GaN charger and it works great.
Other things I like
This is the best Android tablet so it obviously can be used for gaming. Audio quality from the four ways speakers is fantastic.
There's also a microSD card slot that allows you to expand storage easily. I'm still using a 400GB microSD card that I bought many years ago.
File management is straightforward and not very different from Windows file management. File transfer via cable is fast. When connected to a computer, the tablet appears as an external storage. File management can be intergrated with Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox.
You can connect an external display to the tablet, or you can use the tablet as an external display with Windows computer via Samsung Second Screen feature. However, Second Screen features are limited. E.g. I can't get Second Screen to use 16:10 aspect ratio so when connected to my Windows computer, it shows 16:9 with black bars at the top and bottom. So instead I have to use SuperDisplay app from Google Play Store which allows you to use whatever resolution and aspect ratio you like.
Samsung One UI 4
Samsung One UI 4 actually has lots of useful features, too many for me to cover anyway, and many I've yet to discover.
One feature allows you to have apps open at their preferred aspect ratio.
This app is Instagram but you can't tell because it's stretched beyond recognition.
For apps that can't scale properly, you can set them to open at their preferred aspect ratio.
Things I don't like
I've already mentioned the keyboard issues at the top.
The retail price of the Samsung Book Cover Keyboard at SGD 548 (US $349) is ridiculous. Even the best Logitech keyboard does not cost this much. If the keyboard case is not bundled, it's definitely not worth the money to buy the keyboard case on its own.
The included USB-C cable cannot transmit video. It would be great if Samsung could have included a USB-C video cable instead.
There's no charger included. It's probably better for the environment to not include the charger. You can get yourself a good Gallium Nitride (GaN) with multiple ports can be used with multiple devices.
Position of the power button is still too close to the volume buttons. I always press the power button by mistake when trying to change the volume.
Compared to other large tablets
The two direct competitors would obviously be the 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro and 13-inch Surface Pro 8 which are both cheaper at the same configuration (8GB RAM, 256GB storage).
Each OS has its advantage.
I'm going to talk specifically about the pros and cons that relates to using these tablets for drawing and graphic design.
For iPadOS, the main advantage is huge variety of high quality drawing, graphic design, vector, photo and video editing apps. iPadOS is part of the Apple ecosystem and works great with other Apple devices. Main downsides foe me are the file management which sucks and you can't connect an external monitor to it.
For Surface Pro 8 which runs Windows, the main advantage is also the huge variety high quality creative and desktop apps available. Default palm rejection doesn't work as well compared to Android and iPadOS. On Windows, there's the taskbar at the bottom, the left and right edge where you can swipe to display widgets of panels. When you rest your palm at the edges, you may press buttons on the taskbar or swipe the edge for widgets. In terms of versatility, and as a laptop replacement, Windows is better than Android and iPadOS. The Surface Pro 8 with its Slim Pen 2 has also fixed the diagonal wobble/jitter problem that has plagued the Surface Pen for many years. Downside would be the battery life which is not as long as iPad Pro and Tab S8 Ultra.
As for Samsung, Samsung One UI 4 on top of Android 11 has many useful features. Things I like are the file management, microSD card slot, external display support, SamsungDex. Downside would be the lack of good graphic design and vector apps. Unfortunately SamsungDex does not support extended desktop mode so you can't drag a window from one display to another. SamsungDex gives you a desktop interface on your external display, and the tablet UI on your tablet, which is still better than what iPad offers. You can read all about what SamsungDex can do here.
If you already have a computer with desktop OS, it makes more sense to get the iPad Pro or Samsung tablet.
If you have a Mac, it makes more sense to get the iPad Pro. If you have Windows, Android may make more sense.
If you are upgrading your computer and want an all-in-one, the Surface Pro 8 is good.
The pens from the three tablets now have comparable drawing performance. The drawing experience is different due to the design of the pens. E.g. Apple Pencil has a hard tip. S Pen has rubberised tip. Slim Pen 2 has haptic feedback. It's difficult to say which pen has better drawing performance because now they all perform really well. All three tablets can be used to create professional art.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is the no doubt the best Android tablet, and a strong contender for the best tablet overall. It's an amazing tablet that looks great and performs well.
Whether it's worth the money will depend on what you're going to use the tablet for. If you have the budget for this huge tablet, I'm pretty sure you will be very satisfied.
You will have to factor in extra money to buy a stand because this tablet is going to be used on the table most of the time. 728g is considered lightweight for a tablet this size, but it's not light enough to hold comfortably for long periods of time, especially if you have a case on which adds more weight. It's a portable tablet, but it's not an ultra portable tablet (11-inch and below).
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design
+ Three tablet sizes available, all compact and portable
+ Solid build quality
+ High resolution OLED display with vibrant colours
+ Good battery life but could be better
+ 4-way speakers with good audio quality
+ Ultra wide angle camera included with standard camera
+ S Pen included
+ Improved pen latency
+ S Pen support tilt and pressure sensitivity
+ S Pen is powered by battery but you don't need power to draw or write
+ S Pen is accurate
+ S Pen replacement nibs are cheap
+ Palm rejection works well
+ Snappy performance
+ Face and fingerprint unlock works better than previous models
+ Good drawing performance
+ No jitter when drawing diagonal lines slowly
+ Micro SD card slot
+ Base model with 8GB RAM, 128GB storage
+ Android 11
+ Samsung DeX available
- Included USB-C cable does not transmit video
- No charger is included
- No headphone jack
- S Pen replacement tips not included
- OLED colours too vibrant and will make the same art look less saturated on LCD displays
- Tab S8 Ultra model is extremely pricey
- OLED may have PWM that can affect people with sensitive eyes
- Keyboard and Android text editing takes time to get used to
- 120Hz drains battery faster than 60Hz
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