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This review was originally published on June 6, 2022, and was updated on May 3, 2023.
When Samsung announced its Galaxy Tab S8 series last year, all eyes were reasonably glued to the largest 14.6-inch Ultra model. In it were some of the highest spec configurations we had seen on any Android tablet, such as 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and a massive Super AMOLED display that put laptops to shame. Then came the price tag; a lofty $1,279 that could sticker-shock any unsuspecting consumer.
That's why the middle child, the Tab S8 Plus, is equally worthy of your consideration if you're in search of the best Android tablet. The Plus size, which is armed with similar hardware and software features as the Ultra, currently starts at $829 on Samsung's website. Save for the extra front-facing camera and larger display and battery size, you're getting a near-identical flagship tablet experience for hundreds of dollars less.
Nearly a year after its release, the Tab S8 Plus is still a "would recommend" for what you're paying. Here's why.
285 x 185 x 5.7 mm
572 g (1.26 lbs)
|Display||12.4'' Super AMOLED (2,800 x 1,752) at 120Hz|
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
8GB RAM with 128GB/256GB (expandable via MicroSD)
|Camera||13MP wide, 6MP ultra-wide, and a 12MP front |
|Battery||10,090 mAh with up to 45W fast charging|
|Connection ports||1x USB-C 3.2, 1x MicroSD card slot, keyboard pins|
Comparing base models alone, the Tab S8 Plus is on equal footing with the Ultra, which is great. It's got a large Super AMOLED panel that refreshes at 120Hz, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB that's expandable up to 1TB via MicroSD. There's also a healthy 10,090mAh battery powering the unit, with support for 45W fast charging. (You'll have to buy the charger separately, though.) The model that I tested was the 5G variant from AT&T, which allowed me to tap into the GSM network when I was out and about.
In the hand, the Tab S8 Plus feels just how a premium tablet should. It's remarkably thin at 5.7mm, but the weighted full-aluminum unibody is sturdy and reassuring. With cheaper tablets, pressing the screens can feel hollow and empty underneath. That's not the case here; Samsung isn't skimping on external or internal hardware.
Still, I wouldn't say that the design of the Tab S8 Plus will raise eyebrows. It's just a dull slab of glass and metal that serves its purpose: being a portable work and entertainment machine. The colors available are silver, graphite, and pink gold, and each one is as subtle and forgettable as the next. (That's still one more color than what Apple offers for the iPad Pro, so I guess it could be worse.)
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Surrounding the tablet are four Dolby Atmos-supported speakers, a power button, volume rocker, MicroSD card slot, USB-C port, and pegs to connect the optional keyboard cover. The first-party accessory is not a "must-have" for the Tab S8 Plus, but I'd highly recommend it for students or professionals who seek 2-in-1 functionality.
Samsung bundles a $59 S Pen stylus with the Tab S8 Plus. For a freebie, the S Pen is remarkably handy and gives the Tab S8 Plus more functionality. The stylus connects to the tablet automatically and carries 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. That means that your penmanship depends on how you glide the stylus across the display, as well as how hard you press down.
While my use cases of the S Pen are generally more two-dimensional -- I'm either jotting down meeting notes or signing NDAs -- I can see professionals, like designers and artists, pushing the wireless accessory to its full potential.
Samsung has been at the top of its game when it comes to display technology and the Tab S8 Plus is no exception. Its 12.4-inch Super AMOLED panel produces some of the best colors I've seen on a tablet yet. And thanks to the power of OLED, the display accurately visualizes both lighter and darker scenes, while getting plenty bright (up to 400 nits). The tell-tale sign of a good display, at least to me, is how well it can retain colors when viewed from different angles. Lower-quality panels tend to shift in blue or greyish hues, but both shades were absent when tilting the device in any direction.
The tablet follows a wider 16:10 aspect ratio, which makes it work better in landscape mode than in portrait. (That's compared to the squarish 4:3 dimensions of the iPad Pro.) While we continue to see tablets trend in this direction, I've found the wider form factor to be clumsy to handle.
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Don't get me wrong, the Tab S8 Plus is a killer entertainment machine (see image below). But for day-to-day use -- and I partially blame Google/Android for this -- apps and windows just aren't optimized for the aspect ratio. In most cases, services like Asana and some Google Chrome websites simply aren't engineered to take advantage of the broader real estate.
Fortunately, there are solutions to this, like Samsung's DeX mode and the "View desktop site" that most mobile browser apps offer. I'll cover DeX a little more in the performance section.
Android's lack of app optimization on tablets is still a big problem. While Samsung has done a commendable job at leveling its batch of home-grown apps, like Notes, Internet, and Calendar, with the tablet platform, there's still work to be done for Android as a whole.
As I mentioned before, commonly used apps such as Slack and Instagram, just look like blown-out versions of their smartphone counterparts. Obviously, this isn't the case with all apps, as I've had pleasant experiences using Microsoft Outlook, Google Drive, and even the Google Feed on the home screen. But for how much money people are spending on these tablets, they deserve a more tailored software experience.
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On a brighter note, the Tab S8 Plus is among the few S series tablets that qualify for Samsung's five-year update policy. (It's technically four years of major OS upgrades and five years of security patches, but a generous commitment nonetheless.) That makes the Tab S8 Plus all the more reliable for years down the road and is an advantage over any other Android manufacturer.
With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and 8GB of RAM, the Tab S8 Plus runs and manages most, if not all, apps that you throw at it. From my time testing it, the tablet was more than capable of being my background media player (YouTube, Netflix, Spotify), secondary monitor (Calendar, Google Drive, Outlook), and on-the-go computer (Slack, Zoom, Google Maps). Only the Tab S8 Ultra has 12/16GB RAM configurations, but I've found the 8GB on the Plus to be more than sufficient.
The AKG-tuned speakers on the Tab S8 Plus get vigorously loud and admirably sharp, too. My only complaint is the placement of the side speakers, as they're easily covered when holding the tablet. Otherwise, the sound system didn't make me miss the headphone jack at all.
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Samsung DeX was what I used the most when it came to working on the Tab S8 Plus. DeX, short for desktop experience, transforms the user interface of the tablet into a desktop-like layout, versus the standard Android home screen of apps and widgets. The change goes beyond the home screen, as apps can then be opened in dedicated windows for multitasking and navigation. Toss in resizing and you have a tablet that can run upwards of five apps at once. (I was content with two or three, though.)
Oh, and about that S Pen. The tip has this rubberized material that allows it to smoothly glide across the Tab S8 Plus screen, and the tablet does a magical job at palm rejection. Thanks to its wireless capabilities, the S Pen can prompt Samsung's signature Air Actions, which include Screen write, Smart select, Live messages, and AR Doodle. They're all features that have thrived on Galaxy Note devices for years and some are definitely less gimmicky than others.
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Screen write and Smart select were the most useful for my workflow. The former captures a screenshot for you to draw over, like directions on a map or notes on a PDF. Smart select lets you highlight an area on the screen to either save as an image, convert to text or GIF, or remove the text from its background. It's very handy when working with photos and videos.
Much like the iPhone and iPad, the Samsung tablet works best with a Samsung phone. Together you can take advantage of features like Quick Share (similar to Apple's AirDrop) or Galaxy connectivity to automatically sync notes, files, and audio recordings across Samsung devices. All of the apps that support the latter feature are Samsung exclusives, so keep that in mind if you're on any other Android device.
As for camera performance, the Tab S8 Plus is a step above its smaller sibling thanks to the additional 6MP ultra-wide lens. Paired with the normal 13MP wide lens, the tablet is good enough for casual flicks and document scans. But at 1.26 pounds, I wouldn't recommend using the device as a dedicated camera and the slippery matte sides certainly don't help with stabilization.
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What's worth pointing out is the new 12MP front-facing shooter, which supports facial tracking and auto framing (similar to Apple's Center Stage). Fittingly, the new lens also has a wider field of view; it's 120 degrees now compared to its predecessor's 80.
The 10,090mAh cell on the Tab S8 Plus has proven to be reliable and economical. On a typical week, the tablet lasted me three days per charge -- slightly more or less depending on what I was doing. If you plan on connecting the tablet to mobile data and/or using it as a dedicated workstation, then I'd estimate at most two days of endurance.
To charge, Samsung includes a USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, but no power adapter. While I'm less nitpicky about smartphones ditching the charging brick, receiving a toned-down box for a tablet felt like a robbery. Fortunately, my existing 65W phone charger was more than capable enough to power the Tab S8 Plus at its 45W limit.
I'm a firm believer that you should never buy a product for its promise of future updates. The Tab S8 Plus is an exception. Not only does the Samsung tablet impress in hardware, but it delivers software features (for the stylus as well!) that no other Android manufacturer is doing. And with up to five years of software support, there's a lot more upside for this mid-sized Galaxy tablet.
At a starting price of $899, the Tab S8 Plus falls in the premium flagship territory. That means it shouldn't be compared to cheaper options from Amazon or even Apple. Instead, the Tab S8 Plus is ideal for power users who want a tablet that's less bulky than the Tab S8 Ultra. If you're not in a rush, I'd even wait it out to see if Samsung releases an upgraded Tab S9 lineup later this year. If the company follows a similar launch schedule, the newest tablets should come very soon.
With similar internals but an even smaller form factor, the base Galaxy Tab S8 model is a great alternative for cross-shoppers.
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