Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus Review: Excellent Android Tablet For On The Go

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8.5

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus

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Like Great performance and battery life Helpful productivity features S Pen included Bright AMOLED display Dislike Keyboard cover and charger add to an already high cost

The Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is the overlooked middle child of Samsung’s latest line of tablets, but it deserves your attention. Its pricier sibling, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, topped the Plus when it was announced in February, largely because of its huge display. But while it’s tempting to give in to FOMO and buy the highest-end device just to have the cream of the crop, the extra expense doesn’t seem worth it. Consider the more travel-friendly plus instead.

The Ultra’s display is hard to miss: it’s a 14.6-inch Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2,960 x 1,848 pixels at 240 pixels per inch and a refresh rate of 120 Hz. For comparison, the currently largest iPad Pro is 12.9 inches and has a resolution of 2,732 x 2,048 pixels at 264 ppi. The Tab S8 Plus sports a 12.4-inch Super AMOLED display with 2800 x 1752 pixels and a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s the smallest of the three displays, but it’s a great display to build a tablet around (or technically behind) it.

Take a look: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8 seems like a promising alternative to the iPad Pro

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Both the Ultra and Plus (and the regular Tab S8, for that matter) run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 system-on-chip, and the base models come with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage (a microSD slot also supports cards up to 1TB). The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is available in Graphite and starts at $1,100 (£999, AU$1,799), while the Tab S8 Plus is available in Graphite, Silver and Rose Gold from $900 (£849, AU$1,499).

The Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is the Android tablet that most people need.

Josh Goldman/CNET

The extra $200 for the Ultra is justified by the larger display, larger battery that powers it, and a second wide-angle 12-megapixel camera on the front (as well as an unsightly camera notch for it). It can be configured with up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage – double that of the S8 Plus – but that’s where the differences end.

In general, widescreen tablets larger than the Tab S8 Plus are too large to comfortably hold in hand for long periods of time. Measuring almost 15 inches in size and weighing 726 grams, the Ultra is best used flat on a desk, on your lap, or on a stand. The 12.4-inch Plus is just small and light enough (at 1.3 pounds, 576 grams) to hold it in your hands for gaming, reading, streaming video, or browsing the web. It also fits better on a small desk for taking notes in class or in a meeting. But it’s also big enough to do office or school work.

S Pen included but little else

Samsung, Apple, Microsoft and others regularly position large tablets as productivity machines when paired with a detachable keyboard. The Tab S8 Plus is certainly marketed as an option for someone looking for a device that’s suitable for both work and play, but the crucial keyboard isn’t included in the box.

Samsung sent me one of their keyboard covers to test with the Tab S8 Plus. It’s comfortable and I wrote the entire review on it. However, because it’s the most affordable book cover with keyboard, the keyboard doesn’t have a backlight, there’s no trackpad, the case has only one screen position, and the keyboard can’t be detached from the back cover for stand-only use — and it still costs $110. The two-piece keyboard case with trackpad costs around $150.

The included S Pen charges when magnetically attached to the back.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Going without a keyboard would be less of an issue if Samsung didn’t spend so much time touting this tablet as a productivity tablet. My suggestion: look for a bundle or promotion that includes a keyboard to take full advantage of the Tab S8 Plus.

In Samsung’s favor, an S Pen is included for drawing and writing and works beautifully. It’s convenient to charge when it’s magnetically attached to the back, but can also snap securely on the top edge. The soft tip creates just enough resistance on the screen to make writing and drawing equally comfortable and with little noticeable latency. I wouldn’t call it pen on paper, but I felt like I had more control when shading a drawing, for example.

My 13-year-old daughter – an avid user of the second-gen Apple Pencil for sketching – used the six-month subscription to Clip Studio Paint included with the Tab S8 to create this with the included S Pen and said the experience was similar to that of the pencil.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Along with the S Pen, Samsung includes a USB-C cable for data and charging. However, there is no charger included in the box, and if you want the fastest fast-charging capabilities, you’ll need a 45-watt charger. This will get you from zero to full in about an hour and a half. The large battery lasted 10 hours and 24 minutes in our video streaming test with display brightness and audio at 50%. The Tab S8 battery can also be used to charge other devices.

(Almost) a laptop replacement

Samsung’s DeX interface actually gives the Tab S8 Plus more multitasking flexibility than a simple Android operating system. Like Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS, DeX in Windows lets you display multiple apps on the screen. However, not all apps resize well, and moving and working in windows can sometimes be laggy.

The Tab S8 Plus is the only model that supports 5G.

Josh Goldman/CNET

I could write in the Word app side-by-side with Chrome while a YouTube video was playing in the corner or while chatting on Zoom. Would the experience be better on a $900 Windows or Chrome two-in-one? Yes. And as more Android apps are supported on both platforms, the need for devices like the Tab S8 Plus will decrease. However, Android apps will still perform better on this tablet. You can also use DeX to connect to an external display via the tablet’s USB-C port and extend the Tab S8 Plus desktop experience to a larger display.

Samsung has also increased the camera performance of the Tab S8s. The Plus has a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle front camera with intelligent autoframing software that’s similar to Apple’s Center Stage. Autoframing isn’t as responsive as Center Stage, but it works and the camera is on the correct side of the tablet. Another handy extra is that you can record both your camera and your screen at the same time. For example, you can present a slide deck while appearing in the corner of the screen to explain the presentation.

An external display can be connected via the USB-C port.

Josh Goldman/CNET Added value for Galaxy fans

Samsung has made sure its Galaxy devices work together over the past few years, and that continues with these tablets. For example, the Tab S8 Plus can instantly sync content between your Galaxy phone and tablet, and Galaxy Buds can also automatically switch between the two without the need for a pairing process. And now, Samsung Galaxy Watch users can sync Samsung Health stats to the Tab S8 for a larger display.

However, the best feature is the ability to turn the Tab S8 Plus into a second wireless display for your Windows laptop. And not just a Samsung Galaxy Book, any Windows 11 laptop will work. Press the Windows key plus K and tap Second screen in the tablet settings panel. The connection is almost instantaneous. Considering that a portable external OLED display can cost hundreds of dollars, the price really is easier to stomach when the Tab S8 Plus can do it along with everything else.

Josh Goldman/CNET

When Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab S8 range, it said that many people had turned to their tablets for work, school, games and videos over the past two years. And apparently those people were craving bigger screens: Sales of large-screen tablets rose 24%, according to Samsung, based on analysis by NPD Group. But for most people, the Ultra might be a step too far, and in comparison, the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is a better size that’s just right for work and play.

Geekbench 5 multi-core

iPad Air (M1, 2022) 7232iPad Pro 11 (M1, 2021) 7261iPad (A13 Bionic, 2021) 3358Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus (Qualcomm SM8450, 2022) 3403Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE 1876

Note: (longer bars mean better performance) GeekBench 5 single core

iPad Air (M1, 2022) 1699iPad Pro 11 (M1, 2021) 1689iPad (A13 Bionic, 2021) 1332Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ (Qualcomm SM8450, 2022) 1185Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE 654

Note: (longer bars mean better performance) 3DMark Wildlife Extreme Unlimited

iPad Air (M1, 2022) 4038iPad Pro 11 (M1, 2021) 4760iPad (A13 Bionic, 2021) 1866Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ (Qualcomm SM8450, 2022) 1903Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE 1108

Note: (longer bars mean better performance)

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