The latest business tablet from Samsung sports a super-thin design, deep security features and a stunning display. But how does the Samsung Galaxy Tab S stack up against the iPad Air, Apple's flagship tablet? Both offer powerful processors that will easily meet the needs of business users, but Samsung's slate has a thinner design, a sharper display and a fingerprint reader for added security. Does that make it the better business slate? Read on for a feature-for-feature comparison.
Tab S: Samsung's Galaxy Tab S comes in two sizes: an 8.4-inch model, and a 10.5-inch model. The larger 10.5-inch version is the slate that will go head-to-head with the 9.7-inch iPad Air. Samsung's tablet boasts a larger display, and that could benefit business users who need to perform screen-intensive tasks on their tablet such as editing a spreadsheet. And the AMOLED display on the Tab S offers better picture quality than the LCD screen on the iPad Air, with better contrast and more-saturated colors, as well as wider viewing angles. That makes even basic business tasks like checking email or browsing the Web easier on the eyes.
The Tab S is the thinner of the two slates, measuring just 0.26 inches thick, compared with 0.29 inches for the iPad Air. It's also lighter, weighing just 1.02 lbs. compared with 11.7 lbs. for the Air. That makes the Tab S a good pick for frequent travelers who want a tablet that won't weigh them down. One potential downside is that the Tab S sports a plastic shell, not the premium metal body of the iPad Air.
iPad Air: The iPad Air's 9.7-inch Retina screen isn't lacking in brightness or resolution, with a high-res 2048 x 1536-pixel display that offers bright, accurate colors. It's the smaller of the two tablets, but that could be a perk for commuters who want a slate that fits easily into their bag. The smaller overall size also makes it easier to hold the iPad Air in one hand.
The iPad Air's metal body offers a more-premium feel compared to the plastic body of the Tab S, but Apple's tablet is heavier. One perk is that the iPad Air has a physical home button below the display, while the Tab S uses on-screen touch-based buttons that slightly reduce the available screen space.
Tab S: The biggest difference between the Galaxy Tab S and the iPad Air is the operating system both slates run on. The Tab S runs on Android, with an app library that offers almost everything a business user could need for taking notes, editing documents or balancing a budget. Android also includes Google Now, an intelligent personal assistant that can help business users stay on track and never miss a flight, meeting or appointment.
The Tab S itself includes a variety of productivity-boosting software features, including Multi-Window, which lets you run two apps on-screen at once in a split-screen view. That makes it easier to multitask on your tablet, since you can compose an email while conducting research in the Web browser, for example. The feature works well on the large 10.5-inch version of the Tab S, since it offers a lot of screen real estate to display both applications.
A variety of accessories are available for the Tab S, including a folio case that double as a kickstand, and a sturdy, full-size keyboard dock that snaps onto the tablet so you can use it like a laptop computer.
iPad Air: The iPad Air runs on iOS 7, Apple's mobile operating system. Its main draws are an extremely easy-to-use interface and an app library that's arguably better than Android's. Though most iPad apps are also available on Android, new releases and major updates usually come to iOS first. The iPad also offers Siri, a voice-activated personal assistant that lets you look up information, create calendar appointments and more using verbal commands.
The iPad Air is compatible with a variety of Bluetooth keyboards, but unlike Android it does not include Bluetooth mouse support. That means you'll have to make do with touch input, even if you want to use your iPad for tasks that require precision such as editing a spreadsheet.
Tab S: The Tab S adds a ton of security buffs, including a fingerprint scanner embedded right in the Home button, which lets you lock and unlock your device with a quick slide of your finger. That's a big perk for anyone who wants to access confidential client data on their tablet. The scanner can also be used to access Private Mode, a special folder for storing your most sensitive messages and documents.
Also included is KNOX, a suite of security features that offers a separate secure space to run for business applications. Secure KNOX apps can't be accessed by other apps, ensuring your business data remains secure. KNOX also adds special tools for enterprise users, such as letting administrators restrict which apps an employee can download, or remotely wipe a company tablet.
iOS: The iPhone 5s has a fingerprint scanner, but Apple has yet to debut a tablet with that particular feature. Still, the iPad is a good business tablet with solid security options. For starters, iOS is inherently a more secure operating system than Android, since it's virtually impossible to install apps from unofficial sources – unless you go out of your way to jailbreak your iPad. That shields your tablet from malware and viruses that could find their way onto your Android slate.
And a few notable security improvements are coming with the upcoming release of iOS 8, including better password protection for individual apps. Messaging will also get a security boost, since iOS 8 can encrypt individual email messages.
Tab S: With the Tab S, Samsung is introducing a new software feature that lets you control your Samsung smartphone from your tablet display. It's called SideSync and it works by linking your tablet to your phone when both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Your smartphone display will appear in its own window right on the screen of your tablet. You can resize the window and move it around, and even launch smartphone apps. But the best feature of SideSync is the ability to take and place phone calls right on your Tab S tablet. The slate leverages your smartphone's connection, then acts as a phone using its own microphone and speaker.
iPad Air: Apple is introducing a slew of connectivity features with iOS 8, a new operating system for the iPad and iPhone scheduled for release later this year. That includes Handoff, a new feature that lets you seamlessly send an in-progress document or email from your Mac to your mobile device – or vice versa – with just one tap. When you're working on your desktop Mac computer, just swipe up on your iPad Air to immediately beam the document to the mobile device. And if you're tapping out an email on your iPad, you can click the Handoff icon on your computer desktop to switch in the opposite direction.
The Galaxy Tab S and iPad Air are both capable business tablets. Which is right for you depends on your needs. The Tab S offers a bigger screen and better security options. Meanwhile, the iPad Air offers a better selection of apps, with a slew of upgrades coming with the release of iOS 8 later this year.