If the fact that Samsung offers you only 16 different tablets to choose from has been keeping you up at night, you can rest easy. The electronics giant has announced a brand new premium tablet line to sit alongside its crowded stable of Galaxy Note, Tab, and Tab Pro models.
Available in both 8.4-inch and 10.5-inch screen sizes, in either white or “titanium bronze”, the Tab S models feature 2500 x 1600 pixel displays and are only 6.6mm thick, giving them a higher resolution and slimmer profile than their iPad rivals. They ship with Android 4.4 KitKat, are powered by quad core processors, and inherit their premium specs and features, not to mention their design and branding, from the company’s flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone. Pricing in the U.S. is set at $400 for the 8.4-inch version and $500 for the 10.5-inch model.
Among the features brought over from the S5 is a fingerprint scanner to unlock your tablet and make secure payments via PayPal. Quick Connect lets the Tab S sync with nearby Samsung devices, including the Gear 2 smartwatch. When synced to your S5, the Tab S can even make and receive calls via Wi-Fi. A Multi Window option allows you to run two apps simultaneously in a split-screen interface, a feature that may be more inviting with a tablet’s larger screen. A kids mode offers parental controls, sandboxing a version of the UI and app store to make them child-safe. A multi user mode lets you manage up to seven user logins on the tablet. Old standbys like Galaxy Gifts subscription promotions for third party services like Dropbox and LinkedIn Premium are included, as is a version of the Milk Music app – Samsung’s streaming radio service – that has been optimized for the tablet platform.
Paper Garden is a new attempt by Samsung to bring the digital magazine format to mainstream audiences. Partnering at launch with Condé Nast titles like Glamour and GQ, the magazine subscription platform offers the sort of print and multimedia attractions that the publishing industry is counting on to remain relevant to advertisers.
null With hardly any new features to unveil, Samsung devoted much of the time in its press briefing to the AMOLED display, which, while coming again from the S5, does have potentially greater impact in a tablet form factor. Interestingly, while many observers have speculated about the technical and cost challenges of producing AMOLED panels large enough for a tablet, a Samsung official from the company’s Display Lab that I spoke with was adamant (through an interpreter) that the delay in bringing this technology to tablets was purely strategic.
Compared to the LCD displays typically found on tablets, Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen offers greater contrast, more saturated colors, better glare resistance, and provides the same levels of brightness while consuming less power. In side by side comparisons in a conference room press briefing, images on the Tab S were noticeably more vivid than those on a current generation Samsung LCD tablet. The AMOLED display is also capable of a wider color gamut, encompassing – according to Samsung – 90% of the Adobe RGB color space. In a move that will be of interest to photographers, one of the color presets on the Tab S actually switches the tablet to the Adobe RGB space, so that images tagged as such will appear correctly. This isn’t ideal, as you would then need to switch back to the standard mode to view the far more ubiquitous sRGB images with accurate color, but it’s a start. And it’s something you cannot do at all on an iOS device.
The display offers a separate reading mode that makes e-book text less straining on the eyes by muting the page background from white to grey, lowering brightness and contrast. Even better is that you can assign specific apps, like Amazon Kindle, to automatically engage this mode when they are active, so you don’t have to manually make the switch back and forth. A nice touch. Samsung showed off its Adaptive Display mode, in which the tablet measures the brightness and color temperature of the ambient light and adjusts its screen display accordingly. In the demo, a Tab S was placed under a smart lightbulb. As the color temperature of the bulb changed from warm to cool, the screen slowly adjusted itself to keep the white background on the screen neutral, avoiding a color cast. The effect was rather subtle, and felt like a solution in search of a problem, but I was told that it would make users, “more comfortable.”
Passing up an opportunity to prune its overwhelming number of offerings, Samsung is not retiring any models with the addition of the Tab S. A Samsung representative explained to me that the company envisions the Tab S series as the entertainment-oriented line of its tablets, distinguishing it from the pen-enabled Notes (creativity), the Tab Pros (productivity), and the basic Tab models (value). Left unexplained, was why you need nearly two dozen SKU numbers (including variants for cellular carriers) to accomplish this. By way of comparison, Apple manages to maintain a 33% share of global tablet sales with essentially just three products.
The tablets have an 8MP rear camera and come with 16GB of memory and a microSD slot. The battery in the 10.5-inch model is a 7,900mAh Li-ion unit while the 8.4-inch version has a 4,900mAh Li-ion battery. Accessories for the Tab S include a full-size Bluetooth keyboard with a hinge and clasp design that allows you to close the tablet and lay it flat against the keyboard for carrying. A snap-on “book cover” that doubles as a three position tablet stand is available in several colors.
The tablets will start shipping in July in Wi-Fi configurations. LTE-enabled versions for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless networks, along with Sprint-compatible models will be coming later this year.
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