Samsung's 9.7-inch Galaxy Tab S2 is a premium tablet that's thinner and lighter than an iPad, making it an enticing option for light productivity on the go. But while commuters will love the Tab S2's sleek design, frequent travelers will lament its relatively short battery life.
But the Tab S2 still manages to impress, with fast performance, solid security features and refined multitasking capabilities. You also get a microSD card slot for expanding the slate's storage, something you won't find on any Apple tablet. That makes the Tab S2, which starts at $499, a good pick for workers in the market for a premium tablet.
Thanks to its metal frame, the Galaxy Tab S2 is about as sturdy as the all-metal iPad Air 2. The Tab S2 feels solid and well-built overall, and I didn't notice a hint of flex in its construction. That's a perk for workers who need a reliable slate that can stand up to a bit of abuse.
And since the plastic back has a soft-touch finish, you're probably less likely to drop the Tab S2 in the first place, compared to competing Android devices. This plastic covering arguably feels less premium than the aluminum back of the iPad Air 2, but that's fine because the soft-touch back is more practical.
Because of the slate's svelte dimensions, it's easy to lug the Tab S2 around in your bag; they also make it easy to hold the tablet up while you're working. Weighing 13.8 ounces and measuring 0.22 inches thick, it's both thinner and lighter than the iPad Air 2 (15.4 ounces and 0.24 inches). That disparity might sound slight, but it makes a noticeable difference when you're holding the slate up for extended periods of time while you read a document or manage your email in-box.
The Tab S2's 9.7-inch display is nice and roomy, giving you ample space to work on. That's especially apparent when using the slate's multiwindow feature, which lets you view apps in a split-screen view. This feature is much more useful on the 9.7-inch version of the Tab S2 than on its smaller, 8-inch cousin.
Samsung switched to a slightly unorthodox 4:3 aspect ratio for the Tab S2's display, which means that it's wider when held in portrait mode than your average tablet screen. That's good news for workers; since the wider format has similar dimensions to the average sheet of paper, it's better for viewing documents. For the record, iPads have always used the same, 4:3 aspect ratio.
With a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, the display panel is supersharp, and text looks crisp. Our tests showed that the Tab S2's screen also produces more-vibrant, accurate colors than most other Android slates, though the iPad Air 2 matched it. The Tab S2's display is brighter, though, which makes it easier to view outdoors or in direct sunlight.
The Tab S2 offers blazing-fast performance for everyday work tasks, though it didn't quite match the iPad Air 2 on most performance benchmarks. In practical terms, though, the two slates feel about equally fast.
Samsung's tablet is powered by a 1.3-GHz Exynos 5433 processor with 3GB of RAM, which provided extremely snappy multitasking. Testing data backed up that impression, with the Tab S2 scoring an impressive 5,175 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That trounces scores earned by the Dell Venue 10 7000 (2,900) and Microsoft Surface 3 (3,531). The iPad Air 2 outperformed the Tab S2 slightly, though, scoring 3,531.
The Tab S2 can be purchased with varying amounts of internal storage. The entry-level model starts at $499, with 32 GB of storage. The pricier model includes double the storage (64GB) for $599. Both models include a microSD card slot that lets you add up to 128GB of additional storage.
In comparison, the iPad Air 2 starts at the same $499 but with just 16GB of storage, half that of the entry-level Tab S2.
The Tab S2 is so thin and light that you won't even notice it in your travel bag. Unfortunately, the slate's relatively lackluster longevity means it might not last through a long business flight, especially if there's a layover. It ran for 7 hours and 32 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's by no means terrible, but it is well below the tablet category average of 9 hours, and it also falls short of competing slates like the Surface 3 (8:01) and iPad Air 2 (9:20). Workers who need long battery life might be better off with one of those devices.
The Tab S2 comes preloaded with a handful of good productivity apps. Most notably, you get mobile versions of Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint that are nearly as full-featured as their desktop counterparts. They're great for light productivity on the go, especially if you subscribe to Microsoft's Office 365 service, which ensures that your documents are automatically synced across your devices.
Workers should also appreciate the inclusion of Microsoft's OneNote app, which makes it easy to jot down notes quickly and save them to the cloud. You also get two cloud-storage apps: OneDrive and Google Drive. Both provide workers with an easy way to keep files and documents stored in the cloud, so they're backed up and accessible from anywhere.
The slate also includes a few of Samsung's own apps. The best one is SideSync, which lets you mirror your Samsung smartphone on the Tab S2, and then take calls and answer text messages on the slate.
I used to consider Samsung's multiwindow mode a standout feature on the manufacturer's tablets, but these days, most competing tablets offer similar functionality. That includes the iPad Air 2. Regardless, the feature will really benefit business users, since it lets you view two apps side by side in a split-screen configuration. I like using it when I'm composing an email and need to reference another app, say, the calculator or Web browser.
Samsung's multiwindow mode is also more refined than what you'll find on most other Android tablets. It's easy to quickly enter split-screen view, and you can seamlessly swap out one app for another with a few taps.
You should also consider that budget slates usually lack multiwindow functionality altogether, making the feature a good reason to consider a premium device like the Tab S2 in the first place.
The Tab S2's fingerprint scanner, which is embedded inconspicuously in the slate's home button. worked flawlessly during my testing. It quickly identified my prints and unlocked the device. This feature provides business users with a good way to keep their tablets locked down, ensuring that private work data stay secure, without the need to fuss with password screens. Plus, the Tab S2's scanner can be set up quickly and easily, letting you register up to 10 fingers at a time.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab S2 is an excellent work tablet that's somewhat held back by its short battery life. Still, the $499 slate deserves to be in the running among other premium tablets, thanks to its durable design, solid security features and useful multitasking tools. It doesn't hurt that it's also one of the speediest tablets on the market. If longer battery life is a must, consider the iPad Air 2 ($499) instead — but remember that it's heavier than the Tab S2, comes with half the internal storage and lacks an SD card slot.