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Galaxy Tab S8 review: Samsung's new tablet exceeds expectations

Samsung's new Galaxy Tab S8 builds upon the S7 with a new processor, better cameras, and improved S Pen latency. If you can get a good trade-in deal, then you may want to consider an upgrade.
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Written by Matthew Miller, Contributor on

After Samsung announced its lineup of three new Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 models, I hoped that Samsung PR would reach out to offer the high-end Tab S8 Ultra for testing. But the company instead offered the Tab S8 and I figured it was better than not being able to test out any model. After three weeks of use, the Tab S8 may be one of the best tablets for the way I work and play.

A couple of years ago I tried out the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus and it was great for getting work done on the go, syncing to other Samsung gear, and serving as an extremely capable Android tablet. The only thing I did not like about that tablet was the under-display fingerprint sensor that was awkward to use in most situations. 

Like
  • S Pen in the box, powerful functionality
  • Reliable power button fingerprint sensor
  • Samsung DeX is very capable
  • Great size for portable tablet use
  • Premium fit and finish
Don't Like
  • LCD, no brilliant AMOLED display
  • About the same as the S7
  • Slim keyboard has limited functionality

I enjoy using Samsung DeX with the tablet, especially now with the full second screen support for VMware. Samsung's Galaxy Tab S8 devices are built for productivity and while Android apps may need better optimization for tablets, iOS apps are not perfect either, and after using an iPad for a month there are still many apps that need to be improved for iPads.

Galaxy Tab S8 specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
  • Display: 11-inch, 2560 x 1600 pixels resolution LCD with 120 Hz refresh rate
  • Operating system: Android 12
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: 13MP main and 6MP ultra-wide rear cameras. 12MP ultra-wide front-facing camera
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, Bluetooth 5.2
  • Battery: 8,000 mAh
  • Audio: Four speakers tuned by AKG with Dolby Atmos technology, three microphones
  • Dimensions: 253.8 x 165.3 x 6.3 mm and 503 grams
  • Colors: Graphite, Silver, Pink Gold

The S Pen comes with the Tab S8 and attaches magnetically to the back of the tablet. It also charges up wirelessly since it supports Bluetooth functions and Air Actions. An extra S Pen is $59.99. You can also purchase a tablet with 5G cellular functionality.

Also: Galaxy Tab S7 Plus review: The best Android tablet is also best for business

Hardware

Samsung also sent a silver WiFi model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. One key feature I love about the smallest Tab S8 model is the fingerprint sensor located on the power button. In landscape orientation, the default for tablet use, the fingerprint sensor/power button is on the left side of the top so it's easy to swipe my left index finger across it. It's also easy enough to use my right finger and manipulate the volume buttons too. For tablet use, I prefer the side button sensor over the fingerprint on display that is found on the S8 Plus and S8 Ultra.

It was pretty clear after turning on the Tab S8 that Samsung's punchy Super AMOLED display was not present since the blacks were not as vibrant as I've seen on other tablets. That said, the colors look great and everything is crystal clear on the display.

A uniform black bezel is found around the display, just enough to hold the tablet without impacting the display. The bezels appear to be the same width as those found on the Tab S7 Plus. The ultra-wide front-facing camera is found in the bezel at the top center of the display when sitting in landscape orientation.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: in pictures

The fingerprint sensor/power, volume buttons, and microSD card slot are positioned along the top of the tablet. The four stereo speakers are found on the top and bottom of both the left and right sides, and landscape orientation is the default. The USB-C port is on the right side. Connectors for the keyboard are found on the bottom.

The two rear cameras are found on the back upper part of the tablet near where the fingerprint sensor/power button is located. A long oblong black glossy part is found to the left of the cameras and serves as the S Pen charging station. Unlike Apple, Samsung includes the S Pen in the package with the tablet, which is a significant savings to the customer and encourages stylus use.

Book Cover Keyboard accessory

The Book Cover Keyboard Slimis sold separately for $139.99. Unlike the larger Book Cover Keyboard, there is no trackpad on the slim keyboard and it is intended primarily for text entry. There is only a single angle for the tablet as the back connects via magnets and then you flip out the bottom of the tablet into the keyboard connectors where the back of the case then props up the tablet.

There is no keyboard backlighting, but the keys are large and well-spaced with a good depth of travel. There is a function key to quickly toggle in and out of DeX mode, which is important for a Samsung tablet. Press Fn>1 to see a list of keyboard shortcuts available to you with this combo. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts for brightness, volume, and other common shortcuts we've seen on other keyboards to help make the keyboard more useful. There should also be a utility that allows you to create custom functions to alleviate these missed opportunities by Samsung.

There are five rows of keys, including a top number/function row. The width of the tablet, in landscape orientation, is enough to provide for a comfortable typing experience.

The edges of the tablet are not protected and there is an opening for the S Pen, but you can place the S Pen down on a hinge magnet when traveling. However, if it is placed there, then the S Pen will not charge for Bluetooth actions. If you received the keyboard as part of a bundle, it might be worth it, but I would not recommend the slim version for $140. The full Book Cover Keyboard is a better option for getting work done on the go.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 launches with Android 12 and OneUI 4.1 so it is running the latest and greatest software out of the box. Samsung DeX has also been improved so you can switch or live in DeX and have a laptop equivalent tablet in your hands.

We seem to hear a lot of angst about Android on tablets and while there are still some problematic apps, (for example, Instagram only appears in full-screen portrait orientation) Samsung has put a lot of work into optimizing the tablet experience and it is not as bad as some make it out to be. All Samsung apps work very well on the tablet and many are also optimized to show split-screen views for improved productivity. Google also optimizes some apps, such as Gmail and Google Maps, for the tablet display.

Nearly every other application I installed works well on the tablet and many developers also offer excellent tablet experiences. Microsoft does a solid job with some of its apps, such as Outlook, Office, ToDo, and OneNote, but there is room for improvement with others like Teams. The ability to sync Samsung Notes with OneNote is now possible and this capability has me using the S Pen even more.

Also: Best Android tablets: Ditch the iPad

Looking at my iPad next to the Galaxy Tab S8, I honestly don't see any apps that are on the iPad that are not available on the Tab or have equivalents with similar functionality. The gap between Android tablets and the iPad may be more perceived than reality and I would love to know more about specific concerns people have with Android tablets.

You can set up the ability to sync your calls and texts between your Samsung phone and the Tab S8 so this has been great to keep the flow of work going no matter which device I am working with. This is a similar experience to what iPhone owners see with a connected iPad.

Daily experiences and conclusions

I packed the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 on a recent business trip and thought I would be using it for enjoying media on the flight and other basic functions as I tested it out. It turns out, I was able to leave my backpack in my hotel room and capture all of my notes with the S Pen, conduct business emails and Teams conversation with the Slim Keyboard, and get work done all day while still having plenty of battery left for evening viewing. The Tab S8 size was easy to handle all day and yet the display was large enough to make writing on it with the S Pen an enjoyable experience. The S Pen flowed flawlessly over the display too.

The Galaxy Tab S8 has surprised me with its appeal over the past few weeks and has exceeded my expectations. It's not a major upgrade over the Tab S7 with the same form factor, but it does have the latest and greatest processor, improved cameras on the front and back, and improved S Pen latency. For those looking for a tablet companion to their laptop and smartphone, the Tab S8 is a worthy option and with a microSD card, you could choose the $699.99 entry model and likely have all you need. Remember, Samsung throws in the S Pen too so unlike Apple you won't have to pay another $100 plus for the stylus.

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