The superportable Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is a gorgeous, durable device for light productivity on the go. Just don't expect this $399 Android tablet to last quite as long on a charge as some competing slates. That makes it a lackluster travel companion, though it makes up for that shortcoming with fast performance and premium hardware.
The Galaxy Tab S2 is a really sturdy slate. There's not a hint of flex in its construction, and it feels extremely solid and well made all around. That's good news for workers who need a reliable tablet that can withstand a bit of abuse on the job. I also like the Tab S2's matte soft-touch back, which feels luxurious and is easier to grip than the all-metal casing on Apple's iPad mini 4.
Commuters and frequent travelers will also appreciate the fact that the Tab S2 (0.22 inches, 9.3 ounces) is a bit thinner and lighter than the iPad mini 4 (0.24 inches, 10.4 ounces), despite having a slightly larger display. The differences in size and weight are so slight, however, that most users probably won't notice them.
The Tab S2 looks great, too. I like the no-nonsense all-black design, and the diamond-cut edging on the tablet's metal frame adds some premium appeal.
Can you be productive on an 8-inch tablet? The Tab S2's supersharp resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels helps make up for its relatively cramped dimensions, matching the resolution of the iPad mini 4's 7.9-inch screen. It's more than adequate for everyday work tasks like checking your email inbox and browsing the Web, but it feels crowded for screen-intensive tasks like viewing large documents.
Size aside, the Tab S2's display is gorgeous to behold. Text looks crisp, and the screen's color accuracy and brightness are well above average.
Performance and configurations
The Tab S2 is one of the fastest Android tablets on the market. It's powered by Samsung's 1.3-GHz Exynos 5433 processor with 3GB of RAM, which provided extremely fast performance and snappy multitasking.
Those impressions were corroborated by our testing data. On the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the Tab S2 racked up an impressive score of 4,113. That handily beats the tablet average of 2,648, and also tops the Dell Venue 8 7000 (2,866) and iPad mini 4 (3,107).
At first blush, the Tab S2's ultraportable design makes it seems like the ideal travel companion. Unfortunately, its lackluster longevity means that it might not last through a long business flight. The tablet ran for a middling 7 hours and 42 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. While that's not too much shorter than the category average of 8 hours and 33 minutes, it lags far behind rival slates like the iPad mini 4 (9:23), Venue 8 7000 (9:47) and HP Pro Slate 8 (9:49).
A handful of excellent productivity apps come preloaded on the Galaxy Tab S2, including mobile versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. They're not quite as full-featured as their desktop counterparts, but they're awfully close, making them an excellent stand-in for light document editing on the go.
Microsoft's OneNote app is also included, which is handy for jotting down notes and saving them to the cloud. And two cloud storage apps — OneDrive and Google Drive — give you several options for storing files and documents to the cloud so they're backed up and accessible from anywhere.
Samsung also included a few of its own apps. One that business users might appreciate is SideSync, which lets you mirror your Samsung smartphone on the Tab S2, so you can take calls and answer text messages on the slate.
Samsung's multiwindow mode isn't the standout feature it once was, now that most competing premium tablets — including the iPad mini 4 — offer similar functionality. Still, business users should really appreciate the feature, which lets you view two apps at once in a split-screen configuration. I like using the feature to reference the Web or use the calculator while I'm composing an email, for example.
And even though most tablets in its price range also offer a multiwindow mode, it's worth pointing out that Samsung's is particularly well-implemented. It's easy to quickly set up multiple windows on the Tab S2, and you can swap out one app for another with just a few taps. I also like the small, floating keyboard, which can be repositioned to any point on the screen while it's in multiwindow mode.
Plus, this feature is one of the better reasons for choosing a premium tablet like the S2 over a budget-priced one, since low-cost slates usually lack true multitasking capabilities.
The fingerprint scanner embedded in the Tab S2's home button worked flawlessly, quickly identifying my prints to unlock the device. It's a nice feature for workers who want to keep their tablet locked down, without fiddling with a password screen every time they wake up the display. Plus, it takes just a few minutes to set up, and lets you add as many as 10 fingers to the registry.
The Tab S2's relatively short endurance is disappointing, but not a deal breaker. The $399 slate has plenty of high points for workers, including a durable design, good security features and handy multitasking tools. It's also one of the fastest tablets we've tested. Business users who absolutely need a longer-lasting slate should check out the iPad mini 4 (also $399) or the slightly cheaper Dell Venue 8 7000 ($349), but everyone else should give the Tab S2 a look.