Finally gotten my hands on Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, the most expensive Android tablet ever. This review is not sponsored. I bought this with my own money (S$1098), just like I bought the Galaxy Tab S3 that I've reviewed before.
I was really reluctant to pay so much money to buy this tablet. If I'm not doing the Youtube thing, I won't be buying this tablet at all. I'm only buying this because there might be artists out there thinking of getting one and wondering if it's good enough for creating digital art. So this review is for people who want to draw on a tablet, but for some reason don't want to get the iPad or iPad Pro.
My review will be from the perspective of an artist. I won't talk about the Samsung Dex. Seriously, get the Microsoft Surface Go (128gb please) for productivity.
|Tab S4 32GB Wifi||US $449|
|Tab S4 64GB Wifi||US $649|
|Tab S4 256GB Wifi||US $749|
|iPad 2018 32GB||US $329|
|iPad 2018 128GB||US $429|
|iPad Pro 10.5 64GB||US $649|
|iPad Pro 10.5 256GB||US $799|
|iPad Pro 10.5 512GB||US $999|
|iPad Pro 12.9 64GB||US $799|
|iPad Pro 12.9 256GB||US $949|
|iPad Pro 12.9 512GB||US $1149|
The Tab S4 is priced exactly the same as the iPad Pro 10.5.
I guess part of the reason why I was reluctant to pay the high price is because I don't expect Android tablets to be priced so high. But this is Samsung, so hey.
The other reason is, I don't really see significant upgrades from the Tab S3. There are a couple of good upgrades but when it comes to the drawing experience, it's essentially the same. If the Tab S4 had been priced US $100 lower, that would have been perfect.
I bought the mine here in Singapore and they are running a promotion where you get the 256GB model for the price of the 64GB model. Go figure.
Let's take a look at the specifications compared to the competition, the iPad 2017 and Microsoft Surface Go.
|Model||Storage||Memory||Expandable storage||Screen size||Resolution||Processor||Price|
|Galaxy Tab S3||32GB||4GB||microSD||9.7-inch||1536 x 2048, 4:3 ratio||Snapdragon 820||US $449|
|Galaxy Tab S4||64GB - 256GB||4GB||microSD||10.5-inch||1600 x 2560 pixels, 16:10 ratio||Snapdragon 835||US $649 - $749|
|Microsoft Surface Go||64GB (eMMC) - 128GB (SSD)||4 - 8GB||microSD||10-inch||1200 x 1800, 3:2 ratio||Intel 4415Y||US $399 - $549|
|iPad Pro 10.5 2017||64 - 512GB||4GB||No||10.5-inch||2048 x 2732, 4:3 ratio||Apple A10X||US $649 - $999|
Design and build quality
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 looks fantastic. The new design sports a larger 10.5-inch Super AMOLED screen over the 9.7-inch of its predecessor. The colours are vibrant and the screen is just a pleasure to look at. I'm actually a fan of IPS panels but the more I use such AMOLED screens, the more I can see their attractiveness.
The aspect ratio has changed from 4:3 to a wider 16:10. It's now closer to typical 16:9 monitor aspect ratio. The large screen and wider aspect ratio allows videos to be played at a larger size. Videos are now almost 1cm more on the top and bottom, and the video fills up most of the screen, leaving smaller black bars.
The resolution is 2560 x 1600, pixel density is 287 ppi. This screen is incredibly sharp. I was watching some 4K gameplay footage (down-sampled to 1440P) on Youtube and was blow away by the details and just how sharp everything is.
The iPad Pro 10.5 has a resolution of 2224×1668 and 264ppi density. It's high resolution but because its long side is smaller than 2560, it's unable to play 1440P videos at full resolution. As a result, videos are sharper on the Tab S4 than on the iPad 10.5.
This picture above is a screenshot from Tab S4 at its original 2560 x 1600 resolution. You can right-click download it to see how much pixels is packed into a 10.5-inch screen.
On the whole, the Tab S4 is slightly longer on the long side, and shorter on the short side.
When drawing on horizontal canvas, it does feel more spacious. When drawing vertically, the working area does feel stretched vertically, like the working space is being cropped off, but of course you know the working area is still the same. The new aspect ratio should be easy to get used to quickly.
Initially I though with the high resolution screen, the user interface (eg toolbars, menus, buttons) of the graphic apps would be smaller, but they are actually of similar size to the Tab S3. This means you're not actually getting more working space (resolution) for your drawing. But you're definitely getting more physical space on the sides since the tablet is wider.
The full glass back is really slippery. And since it's glass, it's going to get fingerprint smudges easily. I'll definitely be getting a case to protect the tablet as well as keep fingerprints away.
Speaking of fingerprints, the fingerprint sensor button on the front is gone. That has been replaced by face and iris scanner which works pretty well. Fingerprint sensor is definitely faster but that has to make way for making the bezels even smaller. The screen-to-body ratio has increased from 72.7% to 78.6%. The bezel is now uniform throughout and I'm glad there's still bezel because you'll still want to hold it without your fingers accidentally activating anything on the screen.
They have finally moved the USB-C charging port to the centre of the tablet. Battery life is around 10 hours or so. Battery has increased in capacity from 6,000 to 7,300mAh. That's a substantial increase, but that's to power the larger and higher resolution screen.
See those speaker grills there. There are four on each four corners. They do sound louder but I feel that Tab S3 still sounds better. To get the best sound, you'll need to adjust the sound settings, more specifically the treble and bass settings. The default setting has audio that sounds like they are coming from the centre of the tablet and not from the corners of the tablet where the speakers are.
Oh yeah, they still have the microSD card slot for expandable storage. This is what I love about Android. You can store your all your files on external storage, and when it comes time to upgrade to a new tablet, you just put the microSD card into the new tablet. And external storage is more affordable than the storage upgrade options offered by companies. Samsung charge US $100 for the upgrade from 64GB to 256GB. Sandisk Ultra microSD 200GB is only US $48 and Sandisk Ultra microSD 400GB is US $150.
The new S Pen now has a glossy surface and no longer has a clip. I actually prefer the matte surface and the pen clip. Even though the new pen is cylindrical, it won't roll off the table because there's a tiny piece of metal that extrudes out from the side.
The S Pen is not powered by battery so no charging required.
The previous S Pen design was good. I don't see how the new one is better.
5 replacement nibs are provided. The white ones are slightly softer and has more friction. The grey nibs are the hard tips and glide on the surface more smoothly.
The overall feeling of drawing with the pen on the screen feels good. There's a right amount of friction with the white tip. If you're someone who writes a lot, the smoother gray tip is more suitable.
The S Pen supports pressure sensitivity and palm rejection. I'm not sure how many levels of pressure sensitivity there are but I can tell that this pen is very sensitive. You can glide lightly without any pressure, as long as the tip is touching the screen, you can get a line.
The S Pen is very accurate. Cursor is always beneath the tip of the pen. And there's no parallax because there is minimal gap between the glass surface and the screen.
Overall drawing experience is great, very satisfactory. Actually, the drawing experience is the same as drawing on the Tab S3. So if you're wondering if this more expensive tablet will provide a better drawing experience, well, it's the same. I've tested all the same apps as I did on the Tab S3 and they perform with the same responsiveness on the Tab S4.
10.5-inch is larger than 9.7-inch that's for sure, but it's not significantly larger. It still feels like drawing on an area that's roughly the same size. The good thing is now the Tab S4 has higher resolution, so there's more space for the user interface, panels, so the leftover working space is larger.
Note that not all drawing apps turn on pressure sensitivity by default so you may have to turn that on manually.
Palm rejection works all the time, but some apps allow you to turn on strict palm rejection so that only the pen can be detected. I always turn on strict palm rejection whenever that feature is available.
Medibang Paint Pro works really well. It's very responsive. Pressure sensitivity works. There's also no jitter or wobble when drawing diagonal lines slowly. Actually, there's no diagonal line jitter problem for all the apps. The S Pen is very accurate.
Adobe Draw has some lag, just like it did on Tab S3. When drawing, the stroke will always trail behind the pen tip by quite a distance. Now, stroke trailing behind the pen is always there even on the iPad Pro with its 120Hz refresh rate. It's just that the distance here is larger than other drawing apps. Adobe Sketch is more responsive.
Artflow is responsive and pressure sensitivity works fine.
Artrage works fine overall but there's lag with certain brushes, just like it did on the Tab S3.
Autodesk Sketchbook Pro is responsive and pressure sensitivity works fine.
Note taking experience is great, similar to Tab S3, It was able to capture my handwriting accurately.
Throughout testing, palm rejection wasn't a problem.
The Galaxy Tab S4 certainly has many improvements over the Tab S3, the most visible being the wider 16:10 aspect ratio, larger screen, higher resolution, and uniform smaller bezels all around.
Under the hood, the performance is very responsive, actually very similar to Tab S3 despite the faster processor Snapdragon 835 (4x2.35 GHz Kryo & 4x1.9 GHz Kryo) vs the previous Snapdragon 820 (2x2.15 GHz Kryo & 2x1.6 GHz Kryo). Geekbench puts the new processor at 1769 over the previous processor's 1532 score. Of course if you play games, then it may make a difference. But for creating digital art, using it as a media device for watching movies, you're not going to see any difference.
I didn't mention Samsung DeX because I feel that it's kinda useless. It basically changes tablet mode into desktop mode by rearranging your home icons into desktop icons, in other words does nothing useful. DeX mode allows you to use apps in floating windows mode, like you can overlap them, maximum or minimise them, and there's a taskbar at the bottom with all the open apps that you can switch to easily. Not all apps support the window mode, meaning they cannot maximise to fullscreen. There are certain tasks that you can do faster for sure, like copy and paste, doing document writing and research. But for creating digital art, DeX is useless.
The Tab S3 was launched at US $599 but the price has since dropped to US $449. That's a more reasonable price now and you can add an additional 200GB for US $50 with the Sandisk microSD. If you just want a good Android device for drawing, the Tab S3 is more worth the money because for drawing, you won't see any difference compared to Tab S4. Yes, the Tab S4 has a larger screen, but just for that 0.8-inch increase, it's not worth the US $200 increase, and that's just for the 64GB storage model.
If you're no preference for Apple iOS or Android, the iPad 6 (review) is properly the one I'll recommend because it's just US $329 for the 32GB model and US $429 for the 128GB one. You do have to spend another US $99 for the Apple Pencil though.
As for Tab S4 vs iPad Pro 10.5, it's difficult for me to say which is better. Hardware-wise, they are both quite evenly matched. So the main difference really comes down to the OS, iOS vs Android. Both platforms have good drawing apps. Some say that with Android, you won't be getting many OS updates, but with iOS, you can get regular updates. Well, I've upgraded the Tab S3 from Android 7 to 8. The only issue I have with lack of OS updates is some apps may not run on older versions of OS. I see this a lot with iOS. Whenever there's a new iOS update, some apps will tell you to update to the new iOS or you won't be able to run the updated apps. Same situation as Android actually.
There are pros and cons to each OS platform. File management for me is the biggest advantage of Android. You can connect the device via USB cable and transfer files like an external storage, and that's a feature I use often with my Android phone. It's also difficult for me to compare the iPad 10.5 to Tab S4 now because the new iPad Pros are supposed to be launching in one or two months' time. That's when I will compare them again.
So my overall recommendation for drawing purposes...
Tab S4 vs Tab S3
Get Tab S3 because you're getting the same performance, and you still have that beautiful Super AMOLED screen, just that the size, aspect ratio and resolution are different. But you save US $200.
Tab S4 vs iPad 6
Tab S4 is significantly more expensive so this comparison is quite similar to Tab S4 vs Tab S3, in which case, get the cheaper iPad 6.
Tab S4 vs iPad Pro 10.5
Wait for the new iPad Pro 10.5 to arrive and decide. Right now, I don't think it's worth it to buy the iPad Pro 10.5 because the new models are coming. If the new models aren't coming, both the Tab S4 and iPad Pro 10.5 are quite evenly match. You get the S Pen included and there's expandable storage. If you have no preference for either iOS or Android, it's really a 50-50 toss up. People will say that iPad Pro is the better for digital artists. Well, let me just say that you're not missing out even if you're not using iPad Pro because the Tab S4 is equally as capable.
+ Beautiful design
+ Solid build quality
+ Lightweight at 482g
+ 4 speakers
+ Very vibrant and bright screen
+ 2560 x 1600 resolution is very sharp
+ 16:10 wider aspect ratio better for watching videos
+ Snappy performance
+ Android 8.1 Oreo
+ S Pen is included
+ 5 replacement nibs are included
+ Excellent pressure sensitivity
+ Palm rejection works almost flawlessly
+ No jitter when drawing diagonal lines slowly
+ S Pen is very accurate
+ MicroSD card slot available
+ Good battery life
+ Lots of decent drawing apps on Android
- Slight colour shift occurs when viewing angle changes (typical AMOLED issue)
- Screen colours are too vibrant, almost unnatural. Take a while to get use to
- No way to change button function on S Pen
- Even more expensive than Tab S3's original retail price of US $599
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