It's getting more difficult to review Samsung Galaxy tablets from the artist perspective because the S Pen drawing performance hasn't evolved much over the years. If it (S Pen) ain't broke, don't fix it. Everything I've said about the drawing performance of the S Pen have been said in earlier reviews for S3, S4, S6, S7 and S8.
By the way, Samsung will release an upgraded S Pen in the future called The S Pen Creator Edition. The release date and pricing are not announced yet. According to Samsung, "The S Pen Creator Edition is designed with textured material for a comfortable grip and a wider tilt angle that makes creating more intuitive".
Upgrades or improvements over Tab S8 series
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 series has several improvements over the previous generation.
The 11-inch model is now uses an OLED display instead of LCD. OLED displays have more vibrant colours and better contrast. Note that OLED displays have PWM so some people with sensitive eyes may notice the PWM flicker.
The tablet and S Pen both have IP68 rating for dust and water resistance.
The OLED displays are Dynamic AMOLED 2X displays with 60 - 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. Galaxy Tab S9 Series have maximum brightness of 420 nits with peak brightness of 750 nits for Tab S9, 650 nits for Tab S9+ and 930 nits for Tab S9 Ultra. Maximum brightness of Tab S8 LCD is 500 nits and Tab S8 Plus and S8 Ultra have 420 nits. Peak brightness was not advertised.
Tab S9 series use Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor (1 x 3.2GHz Cortex X3, 2 x 2.8GHz Cortex A715, 2 x 2.8GHz Cortex A710, 3 x 2.0GHz Cortex A510) with Adreno 740. Tab S8 series use Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor (1 x 3.0GHz Cortex X2, 3 x 2.5GHz Cortex A710, 4 x 1.8GHz Cortex A510) with Adreno 730.
Tab S9 only has one rear 13MP AF camera, front 12MP ultra-wide camera. Total 2 cameras. Tab S9 Plus has rear 13MP AF + 8MP ultra-wide, front 12MP ultra-wide camera. Total 3 cameras. Tab S9 Plus and S9 Ultra have rear 13MP AF + 8MP ultra-wide, front 12MP + 12MP ultra-wide camera. Total 4 cameras. Rear cameras are bigger and may cause fitting problems with Tab S8 cases and stands.
These are incremental upgrades that do not affect the overall functionality of the tablet, maybe except the ability to use the tablet outdoors while it's raining. From the Tab S6 to S7, a bigger Plus model was added and pen latency was improved. From S7 to S8, the humongous Ultra model was released.
Things included with the purchase
There's just the tablet, USB-C to USB-C charging cable (no video support), SIM ejection tool, S Pen and quick start guide.
There's no charger. And there's not even one spare S Pen nib that's included.
|Galaxy Tab S9||Galaxy Tab S9+||Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra|
|Display*||11-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X (60 ~ 120Hz), 2560 x 1600, 276 PPI||12.4-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X (60~ 120Hz), 2800 x 1752, 266 PPI||14.6-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X (60 ~ 120Hz), 2960 x 1848, 240 PPI|
|* 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||165.8 x 254.3 x 5.9mm||185.4 x 285.4 x 5.7mm||208.6 x 326.4 x 5.5mm|
|Weight||498g (Wi-Fi) / 500g (5G)||581g (Wi-Fi) / 586g (5G)||732g (Wi-Fi) / 737g (5G)|
|Camera||Rear||13MP AF||13MP AF + 8MP Ultra-Wide|
|Front||12MP Ultra-Wide||12MP + 12MP Ultra-Wide|
|Memory & Storage*||8GB + 128GB
12GB + 256GBmicroSD up to 1TB**
|12GB + 256GB
12GB + 512GB
microSD up to 1TB**
|12GB + 256GB
12GB + 512GB
16GB + 1TB
microSD up to 1TB**
|* Storage availability may differ by market, model, color or carrier. Actual storage space availability may vary depending on pre-installed software and by market, model, file size and format.
** MicroSD card sold separately.
|AP||Qualcomm Snapdragon® 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy|
|Battery*||8,400mAh (typical)||10,090mAh (typical)||11,200mAh (typical)|
|* 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.|
|Connectivity||5G*, LTE**, Wi-Fi 6E***, 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 LTE model varies by market or carrier.
***Wi-Fi 6E network availability may vary by market, network provider and user environment. Requires optimal connection. Will require a Wi-Fi 6E router.
|* Product color availability may vary by market or carrier.|
|Sound||Quad Stereo Speakers with Sound by AKG, Dolby Atmos®|
|Biometric Authentication||Fingerprint on Display (FOD)|
|Accessories*||S Pen (BLE, Inbox), S Pen Creator Edition
Book Cover Keyboard, Book Cover Keyboard Slim, Smart Book Cover, Outdoor Cover, Notepaper Screen, Privacy Screen
|* 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 (8GB 128GB) - SGD 1128, USD 799
- Tab S9 Plus - SGD 1388, USD 999
- Tab S9 Ultra - SGD 1688, USD 1199
The LTE models cost SGD 200 or USD 150 more. I'm from Singapore which is why SGD is listed.
Different countries have different deals. E.g. Samsung US offers double the amount of storage for the same price. In Singapore, the included goodies are keyboard case, mouse and a 45W charger.
Here are the prices for the Wifi models of Tab S8 Ultra from 2022:
- Tab S8 (256GB) - SGD 1188, USD 699
- Tab S8 Plus (256GB) - SGD 1538, USD 899
- Tab S8 Ultra 5G (256GB) - SGD 2188, USD 1099
It seems like prices have increased for USA. In Singapore, the price has dropped quite significantly and I totally did not expect that nice surprise.
I bought the Tab S8 Ultra 5G for SGD 1528 with a trade-in offer, and it came bundled with a keyboard case and a 512GB Samsung T5 SSD which was incredibly useful and I use that to backup the tablet.
I bought the Tab S9 Ultra wifi model for SGD 453 (USD 340) after trading in the Tab S8 Ultra for SGD 1135 ($885 + 250 overtrade bonus) and adding a $100 coupon from a Samsung newsletter I signed up.
Here are the prices compared to other tablets:
- Tab S9 Ultra wifi (256GB) - SGD 1688, USD 1199
- M2 iPad Pro 12.9 (256GB) - SGD 1866, USD 1199
- Surface Pro 9 (256GB) - SGD 1649, USD 1099
Samsung S Pen is included but Apple Pencil 2 and Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 are not included. And Samsung still has the microSD card slot and has the largest display. Samsung's pricing is very competitive.
The phyiscal design of the Tab S9 series tablets (right) look rather similar to the previous generation.
The main difference in design is the larger 13MP AF + 8MP ultra-wide cameras (top) on the back.
The camera cutout of the previous keyboard case is too small for the larger cameras.
When the old keyboard case is attached, a pop-up will appear telling you the keyboard may not function properly.
Anyway, the old keyboard case still works. Function shortcuts work.
Thankfully, the magnetic stand for the Tab S8 Ultra still works because the camera cutout is big enough.
But because the cameras are moved closer to the edge, the tablet has to shift about 2mm to the right on the magnetic plate so the alignment is not perfect. The magnets are still strong and I will still be using the magnetic stand.
Anyway, nowadays, I recommend the USD 40 universal non-magnetic stand (right) instead since it can work with any tablet.
Which size to get?
The smaller 11-inch Tab S9 is good for those who value portability above anything else. The screen is smaller so it's not as ideal for working with drawing apps that have lots of UI elements, e.g. Krita, Clip Studio Paint. This tablet can be used as a portable sketchpad and is light enough even with a case on.
The medium size 12.4-inch Tab S9 Plus is good for those who want a larger display. I consider this to be a table-top tablet due to the larger size and is even more heavy with an added case. If you hold the tablet, it's best to get a slim case that you can detach easily.
The 14.6-inch Tab S9 Ultra is huge and weighs 732g (wifi mode). The tablet is almost the size of A4-sized paper. The weight can go close to 1kg with an added case so this is definitely a table-top tablet. The tablet is also more unwieldy and I highly recommend you be very careful when holding it. I dropped the Tab S8 Ultra two time in the first month, thankfully on carpet and on wood so no damage was done.
The massive display means this tablet will work great with drawing apps with lots of UI elements, e.g. Krita, CSP.
The tablet S9 Ultra also works great as an external wireless display with the help of apps such as SuperDisplay, SpaceDesk, Duet Display and of course Samsung Second screen. Due to the size and 2960 x 1848 resolution, this tablet works well as a vertical display too.
The 14.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display looks stunning. Colours are vibrant. Standard brightness is up to 420 nits, with peak brightness up to 930 nits. Contrast ratio up to 1,000,000 to 1.
The display now supports adaptive refresh rate from 60 - 120Hz.
Corners are rounded off. The bezels are thin. Camera notch is still there. Biometric unlock with face and fingerprint works effectively and fast.
The display is laminated so there's no gap between the glass and the OLED display so there's no parallax. When drawing or writing, there is no gap between the pen tip and the line. Cursor tracking is accurate up to the extreme edge. There's no cursor misalignment regardless of how the pen is held.
The glass surface is glossy and reflection without anti-reflective coating. The tablet on the right is the iPad Pro with anti-reflective coating, and the white clouds are less bright.
The rubberised pen has slight resistance on it so it's not too slippery. The pen tip is soft so there's no tapping sound.
The quad speakers are now 20% bigger and sound louder. Audio quality is terrific from AKG speaker system with Dolby Atmos immersive sound. Together with the awesome display, you will get fantastic visual and audio experience when watching shows or gaming.
The USB-C port has USB 3.2 gen 2 speeds with video output.
Snapdragon 8 gen 2 is the new processor in the tablet. It's powerful chip that's capable of gaming at high visual settings. Samsung has also designed a new vapor chamber to help with the cooling.
For gaming, the controls on left and right are further on this much larger and wider tablet. The tablet is too heavy to hold for gaming for long period of time. It's better to have the tablet on a stand for gaming.
Based on the analytics from the AccuBattery Pro app, the battery life is estimated to be around 9 hours and 30 minutes with auto brightness. This is higher than the 8 hours from Tab S8 Ultra.
45W fast charging is provided and that's said to charge 100% in 80 minutes. From my tests, you can get around 50% charge with an hour.
Battery life is good, and together with fast charging capability, it's highly unlikely to run out of battery life with a day's use unless you use the tablet 9 hours continuously without access to a power source.
Samsung One UI and SamsungDex
Tab S9 tablets are currently using Samsung One UI 5.1.1 which works great and has many features, actually too many for me to even cover.
The one feature I do want to talk about is SamsungDex which is the desktop UI workspace that lets you use apps as floating windows, just like in a computer environment. SamsungDex can be used on external display or on the tablet itself. When used with an external display, you have two workspaces and can move the cursor across them (feature not enabled by default). You can copy and paste stuff from one workspace to the other. You can't open the same app on both workspaces though.
When used with keyboard and mouse, SamsungDex will give you more flexibility and productivity in return. E.g. I can write this review while having my Whatsapp messenger app open to chat, and track my package live with a delivery app, and switch between different apps easily.
This video above shows the pros and cons of SamsungDex.
The maximum resolution for SamsungDex still doesn't go beyound 1440P+ resolution though.
Samsung S Pen
Design of the Samsung S Pen is similar to the one you get with Tab S7 and S8. The pen has a good size, is comfortableto hold and build quality is good.
The S Pen supports palm rejection, tilt and pressure sensitivity. The pen uses Wacom EMR technology and does not require a battery to write and draw, but there is a battery though for Bluetooth features.
The pen latency is 2.8ms which is great. However you can only achieve that latency with selected apps, e.g. Samsung Notes.
Many drawing apps have not been updated to take advantage of that latency so you will still see the line trying to catch up with the pen tip while drawing. If you test for latency, you will see it but it's not something I will notice or bothers me while I'm drawing. The app shown above is Medibang Paint.
The only difference is the SAMSUNG logo on the new pen is darker and can't really be seen on the pen.
If you don't like the S Pen design, there are other S Pen alternatives you can choose from.
The pen is still matte textured and almost cylindrical with a flat side that allows you to attach to the tablet's back for charging the battery, or attach to the side of the tablet.
The shortcut for the side button may be customised depending on the app you use.
You'll get to get replacement nibs yourself and there are three types: plastic, soft tip and metal. The plastic or metal tip will work better with matte screen protectors. I do not use any screen protector on my tablet and I prefer the soft tip.
Some popular drawing apps available from the Google Play Store are:
- Clip Studio Paint
- Infinite Painter
- Medibang Paint
- Tayasui Sketches
There's no shortage of capable drawing apps on Android.
The only limitation with Android for me as a visual content creator is the lack of graphic design apps that handle typography, layout and vector.
1. Initial activation force is low but the Lamy and Staedtler pens have much lower initial activation force. This is more noticeable when canvas resolution is low. The canvas above is 1000 x 1500px.
2. Lines are able to taper smoothly and sharply.
3. Line transition from thin to thick and back is smooth.
4. It's easy to maintain consistent pressure to draw lines with consistent width.
5. Dots can be drawn easily.
6. Cursor tracking is accurate. It's easy to join the lines without over-shooting or leaving gaps.
Tilt sensitivity works fine. The lines are from 6B Pencil from Infinite Painter.
It's definitely better to draw on the tablet with a proper stand and the one I use is the Parblo PR100.
Here's a sketch of a residential neighbourhood in Singapore drawn with Concepts app.
I gave up drawing halfway because there's too much details for me to draw.
Anyway for the sketch, I did not use any brush that requires pressure sensitivity. The line width variation are from the software. The takeaway point for the sketch above is there's no wobble or jitter with the diagonal lines.
This was drawn with Infinite Painter.
I used the Coarse Inker brush and was able to get the thin and thick lines with pressure sensitivity.
My overall drawing experience is very positive.
The pen is accurate and sensitivity. I was able to get the lines to come out the way I expect them to. Drawing performance is consistent and predictable.
The two drawings above were from Medibang Paint.
Palm rejection works great. You can rest your palm on the display while drawing and won't introduce stray strokes or call up other gesture shortcuts accidentally.
You can also use the tablet vertically for drawing of course.
A word on the colour support when creating art
Colours on the display are so vibrant that I actually use the tablet in Natural instead of Vivid mode. If you use the display with Vivid mode for drawing, the artworks you create will look dull when viewed on other displays. And if your artwork has to go to print, you must check the colours on a colour calibrated display before sending off to print.
A word on upgrading
Before you trade-in or sell your old tablet, make sure you backup all your artworks, user configs, workspaces, keyboard shortcuts, app settings, etc. And after you have transferred to the new tablet, check if everything has been properly transferred overed.
There are three backup options provided by Samsung and all three do not backup 100% of the tablet. Artworks saved within certain drawing apps may be left out from the backup.
For example, Infinite Painter saves its files, your artworks, at this location (folder) on Android (v10 or newer):
That's the folder you need to backup manually and transfer to the new tablet.
You may have to do so for other drawing apps you use.
I just want to make this point extremely clear.
Because Samsung backup options do not backup 100% of the tablet, you will have to backup your artworks manually, regardless of whether you're upgrading to another tablet.
Imagine if your tablet is lost, stolen or damaged. Will you be able to restore all your art from the backup you've created?
Samsung vs Apple
Pricing for the 256GB wifi model for both Samsung Tab S9 Ultra and Apple M2 iPad Pro 12.9 is similar at USD 1199, but the pen is included with the Samsung tablet.
The Apple advantage for artists is there are more graphic design apps that handle typography, layout and vector. For drawing purposes, the Samsung tablet is on par with the iPad and Apple Pencil.
Samsung offers more features in the form of IP68 rating, microSD card slot, familiar file management system, SamsungDex and you can use the tablet as an external storage and transfer files directly through cable.
Many like to mention the lack of popular drawing app Procreate which is exclusive to the Apple App Store. There are many capable drawing apps from the Google Play Store and if you think you can't draw without Procreate, it's not because you can't draw because there's no Procreate, but because you don't want to learn the other drawing apps which are actually quite easy to learn, unlike desktop software.
One extremely useful feature provided by Apple is their iCloud service can backup everything on the tablet.
Do you need a screen protector?
One week after writing this review, my tablet on the stand slammed face down onto my laminated floor and now there are five tiny scratches at the bezels area, and two on the main display. The only consolation is they aren't that visible. I didn't know the glass was that soft and can be scratched so easily.
The OnePlus Pad that I reviewed end of June 2023, one and half months ago, now has one small scratch. I only use that tablet with the keyboard case and never bring it outdoors and one day a small scratch appeared.
And then there's the Huawei MatePad 10.8 (2021) that my 18-month daughter used to wipe the floor with the glass display facing down. Needless to say, that tablet has so many scratches.
I don't consider myself to be a fussy person but having scratches on glass still sucks. And this is obviously gonna affect the trade-in value of this tablet.
This is definitely the best Android tablet, and one of the best tablets around in the market now for those with the budget. If this is your first tablet, I'm sure you will be extremely satisfied.
I would say it's only worth upgrading to if your old tablet is really old, e.g. Tab S6 or older. If you have the Tab S7 or S8, you're spending money to buy a new tablet that does whatever your old tablet can already do. UNLESS of course the trade-in deals in your country is terrific, in which case, go ahead and upgrade.
The drawing performance is good with the Samsung S Pen, but you can get even better drawing performance with the LAMY AL-star black EMR pen and Staedtler Noris Digital pen which have lower initial activation force. Overall drawing experience is very positive.
The main downside or limitation for the Ultra is the huge size makes it less portable compared to the 12.4 and 11-inch models. So the question you have to ask yourself is do you need to get such a big display? If your main drawing apps are Krita and Clip Studio Paint, the larger display is ideal since you'll have more space and resolution for the many palettes. If you want a portable digital sketchpad to bring outdoors, I recommend the smaller tablets instead.
The Ultra model works great as a external wireless display and as a computer too with SamsungDex as long as you can work around the limitations of Android as a desktop OS.
Whether this tablet is worth the money is for you to decide. All I can say is this is a beautiful and well built tablet that's packed with many useful features. This is a very capable tablet.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design with IP68 rating for dust and water resistance
+ Three tablet sizes available, all compact and portable
+ Solid build quality
+ High resolution OLED display with vibrant colours
+ Adaptive refresh rate from 60 - 120Hz
+ Good battery life
+ 4-way speakers with good audio quality
+ Ultra wide angle camera included with standard camera
+ S Pen included
+ Good pen latency, but only with supported apps
+ 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 work well
+ Good drawing performance
+ No jitter when drawing diagonal lines slowly
+ Micro SD card slot
+ Android 13
+ Samsung DeX available
- Samsung backup does not backup 100% of the tablet
- Ultra model is too big and is mostly a table-top tablet
- Hand held gaming not ideal due to weight and size, unless tablet is on a stand
- Old accessories may not work or fit the new S9 design due to larger cameras
- Included USB-C cable does not transmit video
- No charger is included
- No headphone jack
- S Pen replacement tips not included
- S Pen is not as sensitive compared to Lamy EMR and Staedtler Noris Digital pens
- OLED colours too vibrant and will make the same art look less saturated on LCD displays
- OLED may have PWM that can affect people with sensitive eyes
- Keyboard and Android text editing takes time to get used to
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