/>
X
Why you can trust ZDNet ZDNet independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNet Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNet's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs iPad Pro 12.9-inch: Big screen tablet showdown

Samsung's latest Ultra tablet packs a massive display with all the Android prowess, but how does it stack up against Apple's best?
1549928918804.jpg
Written by June Wan, Tech Editor on
ipad-pro-vs-tabs8-ultra.png

When evaluating tablets, it's difficult not to compare new entries to Apple's iPad Pro. The device is the embodiment of mobile computing, and through five generations of refinement, Apple has crafted a product that has earned a spot on our best tablet rankings

But competition is fierce, and Samsung's newly-announced Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra carries a spec sheet and several productivity features that may just be enough to take a bite out of Apple.

Whether you're a graphics designer, content creator, or mobile gamer, two of your best options for large-screen tablets are Samsung's latest and Apple's greatest. While this comparison analyzes the key differences between the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra and iPad Pro (12.9-inch), including display performance, camera quality, and other standout features, it will ultimately serve as a guide to help you make the best buying decision. Let's begin.

Displays

Model

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Apple iPad Pro (2021)

Screen size

14.6-inch

12.9-inch

Technology

Super AMOLED

Liquid Retina XDR (mini-LED)

Resolution

2960 x 1848

2732 x 2048

Pixel density

240ppi

264ppi

Refresh rate

120Hz

120Hz

Touch sampling rate

240Hz (in gaming mode)

240Hz (with Apple Pencil)

Aspect ratio

16:10

10:7


Starting with the displays, the biggest difference is in screen size. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra measures in at 14.6-inches diagonal, versus the smaller 12.9-inch of the iPad Pro. Both tablets are huge, but the extra real estate on the Galaxy will come in handy if you're a graphics designer or artist who can use a bigger canvas. It also helps that a stylus comes included with the Tab S8 Ultra. Still, mobile gamers who want a wider field-of-view will find both displays to be quite immersive.

Another factor to weigh in is aspect ratio. It's not often talked about but the aspect ratio of the Apple iPad Pro (10:7) is actually more squared than it is rectangular, unlike the wider Samsung tablet (16:10). Depending on your use cases, this can be good or bad. With a more squared form factor, the iPad Pro is easier to hold (one- or two-handed) and less finger stretching is required to reach the corners of the screen. The drawback is that cinematic movies and videos that follow a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, or anamorphic scope, will leave thick black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. 

Both tablets come with 120Hz refresh rates for ultra smooth animations and the resolutions are as good as they come. Technically, the Tab S8 Ultra's Super AMOLED offers a higher resolution than the iPad Pro's Liquid Retina XDR, but the difference in pixels is so miniscule that you'll have an enjoyable viewing experience no matter which of the two you pick. While Samsung didn't disclose the nits of brightness that the Tab S8 Ultra holds, our testing of the iPad Pro has shown that its peak of 1,600 nits bolds well for outdoor viewing.

Software and performance

1-009-design-tab-s8-ultra-with-book-cover-graphite-hi.jpg
Image: Samsung

Model

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)

Operating system

Android 12, OneUI Tab 4

iPadOS 15

Processor

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

M1 (16-core)

RAM

8GB, 12GB, 16GB

8GB, 16GB (1TB+ storage models only)

Storage capacity

128GB, 256GB, 512GB (MicroSD up to 1TB)

128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB


While ZDNet's review of the Tab S8 Ultra is in progress, enough can be gathered from the spec sheet and our experience with the iPad Pro to advise you of what to look out for. Like choosing between iPhone and Android, you'll face a similar crossroad with these two tablets. 

The iPad Pro runs on iPadOS which, in the simplest terms, is a large scale version of iOS. You still have a dock at the bottom of the home screen which houses your choice of applications, as well as the ones you most frequently use. Apple has also added some notable features to iPadOS for enhanced multitasking, like Split View and Center window, with more to come via software updates. Most importantly, the iPad Pro is powered by Apple's latest M1 silicon, which has proven to be a top-tier and efficient chipset, capable of pushing its 8 or 16GB of RAM to handle the most power-hungry programs.

The Tab S8 Ultra follows closely with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and lives on Samsung's vision of Android: OneUI Tab 4. Making the most of the Tab S8 Ultra's multitasking quirks will require some learning, but once you do, features like DeX and Companion mode come in handy for your professional and casual needs. You'll have the support of up to 16GB of RAM to power through such applications, too. 

The Tab S8 Ultra can also wirelessly connect to an external monitor or Samsung TV, or serve as a secondary monitor alongside your PC or phone. That's especially impressive when compared to the iPad Pro, which can only screen mirror its content.

Also: Best portable monitor

Both devices come in base configurations of 128GB, but the iPad Pro can also be purchased with 1TB or 2TB built-in. The Tab S8 Ultra's highest storage option is 512GB, though it does support MicroSD card expansion up to 1TB. For content creators who plan to video- or photo-edit on the go, having a MicroSD card slot may be enough of a feature to sway you in favor of Samsung.

Camera

staples-black-friday-deals-sales-apple-ipad-pro-tablet.jpg
Image: Apple

Model

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)

Total cameras

4 (including front)

3 (including front)

Rear

13MP wide, 6MP ultra-wide

12MP wide, 10MP ultra-wide

Front

12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide

12MP ultra-wide

Video

4K @ 30fps, 8K @ 60fps

4K @ 30fps, 4K @ 60fps


Speaking of content creation, how do the cameras fare between the two offerings? While tablets aren't designed to replace your DSLR, they sport multi-camera configurations that make it easy to capture stills and video. Sometimes, you just want a quick flick.

With dual front-facing cameras, Samsung hopes that the Tab S8 Ultra will be your go-to device for conducting video calls. The front notch houses a 12MP wide lens and a 12MP ultra-wide, capable of 4K recording and intelligent auto-framing -- similar to Apple's Center Stage. That said, the iPad Pro can do the same with its singular 12MP ultra-wide camera at the front. What's different is the positioning of the iPad Pro's front camera. When held in landscape mode, the camera is situated on the left side of the tablet, instead of the center like the Tab S8 Ultra. That can be nuisance if you typically hold your tablet in landscape orientation and unintentionally block the camera from scanning FaceID and other features.

Both tablets are capable of capturing vibrant and crisp imagery thanks to dual-cameras flanking the back. However, the Tab S8 Ultra does have one trick up it's sleeve: 8K video recording. It's not for everyone, but if you're wanting to record sharp-looking video and pull 4K screencaps from it, now you can.

Megapixels and sensors aside, the overall quality of pictures and videos boils down to how well the Tab S8 Ultra and iPad Pro post-processes and what your visual preference is. Stayed tuned for our in-depth breakdown of the Tab S8 Ultra camera in our full review.

Battery and charging

Model

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)

Battery size

11,200mAh (typical)

10,758mAh (typical)

Wired charging speed

45 W (via USB-C)

18 W (via USB-C)


Both tablets have big screens and in turn, need big batteries to keep the lights on. The Tab S8 Ultra comes fitted with a 11,200mAh cell, which Samsung claims will provide up to 13 hours of video playback. The capacity is larger than that of the iPad Pro, which has an estimate of 10,758mAh. However, your mileage will vary depending on how you use your tablet, and further testing is needed to see how efficient the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset plays with Samsung's operating system.

What is clear is the charging speed advantage on the Tab S8 Ultra. Capable of 45-watt fast charging, a full charge takes just 90 minutes plugged in. While also using USB-C, the iPad Pro's 18-watt charging requires at least three hours for a complete top-up. 

Accessories

tab-s8-ultra-listicle-size.jpg
Image: Samsung

Model

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)

Stylus support

S Pen (included)

Apple Pencil (sold seperately)

Keyboard support

Book Cover Keyboard (sold seperately)

Magic Keyboard (sold seperately)


The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That's the philosophy that drives the ultimate tablet experience and should be weighed in when making your purchase decision. Fortunately, both Samsung and Apple have made great strides in curating useful and modular accessories that not only change the way you use your tablet, but amplify the overall experience.

Let's start with stylus support. An S Pen -- Samsung's term for smart stylus -- comes bundled with the Tab S8 Ultra and there's even a magnetic compartment on the back of the tablet to store it. For precision, the S Pen carries a 2.8ms latency, which means inputs and strokes appear on screen the moment the stylus touches it. Samsung has also integrated some neat software features with the S Pen, including Air Command and image capturing.

As for the iPad Pro, Apple offers one of the most iconic tablet accessories in the Apple Pencil. What seemed like a gimmick at first has become a fundamental companion to the iPad experience. You'll have to buy it separately for $129, but with the Apple Pencil, you gain pixel-perfect precision, thanks to a tilt- and pressure-sensitive touchpoint, and a slew of iPadOS shortcuts. Like the S Pen, the Apple Pencil attaches magnetically to side of the iPad Pro, wirelessly charging itself along the way.

For improved typing and comfort, both Samsung and Apple offer smart keyboard cases that double as stands. The Samsung Book Cover Keyboard isn't cheap at $349, but offers backlit keycaps, customizable shortcuts, a glass-coated touchpad, and ultimately transforms the Tab S8 Ultra into a 2-in-1. Better yet, if you preorder the tablet right now, Samsung will bundle in the $349 keyboard for free.

To compete, the Apple Magic Keyboard provides a similar physical typing experience and also sells for $349. It offers backlit keys with quiet and responsive inputs, multi-touch gestures for iPadOS, and a unique, floating cantilever design. You can basically attach and detach the iPad Pro from the casing with ease.

Connectivity

Model

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 6E

Wi-Fi 6

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 5.2

Bluetooth 5.0

Cellular

5G, LTE (coming soon)

5G, LTE


The biggest difference between the Tab S8 Ultra and iPad Pro, connectivity-wise, is cellular support. Both tablets can be purchased with support for LTE and 5G data via e-sim, which helps if you plan to use your tablet on the subway, at local parks, or anywhere without Wi-Fi. The added convenience does come at a cost, though, as you will have to pay more for the cellular models of the tablets and your preferred data plan.

On the Wi-Fi front, the Tab S8 Ultra outdoes the iPad Pro with the latest Wi-Fi 6E protocol. The new and less-cluttered bandwidth does require you to have a compatible Wi-Fi router, but once you do, expect less connection interference and faster download speeds.

As for Bluetooth, Samsung takes another step forward by offering Bluetooth 5.2 instead of 5.0. The improved technology makes it faster at transferring large files and, for wireless audio listeners, means improved audio quality.

Colors and pricing

Model

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)

Color options

Graphite

Space Gray, Silver

Price

$1,099 - $1,399

$1,099 - $2,399


Lastly, how much will you be spending for either the Tab S8 Ultra or iPad Pro? It all depends on your storage configuration and whether or not you want support for cellular data.

The Tab S8 Ultra starts at $1,099 for the 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage model, and comes in just one color: Graphite. Being that the tablet is still in its preordering period, you can take advantage of Samsung's current promotions, which include trade-ins and free accessories. If you're seeking the cellular model, the company says it will be available in AT&T and T-Mobile stores very soon.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro also starts at $1,099 for the 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage model, and comes in Space Gray and Silver finishes. You'll have to pay an extra $200 for the added benefit of cellular connectivity. But with a little digging, some slick deals can save you a buck or two.

Whether you end up shopping Samsung's latest or find greater use in Apple's tried-and-true, you can expect a portable, dependable, and large-screen tablet experience.

Alternatives

If you're still on the fence, here are some worthy tablet alternatives for your consideration:

  • Microsoft Surface Pro 8: A large-display 2-in-1 that's powered by Microsoft's timeless Windows operating system. It has a replaceable solid-state storage, an included Typer Cover, up to 16 hours of battery life, and a gorgeous 13-inch display.
  • Apple iPad (ninth generation): Perhaps what you need is something with a little less power but a similar feature set as the iPad Pro. The regular Apple iPad has a large 10.2-inch Retina display, is powered by the same iPadOS 15 software, and comes in at a fraction of the cost of the Pro.
  • Google Pixel Slate: A simple and user-friendly interface is what ChromeOS is all about. Surround that with a premium 2-in-1 body and a 12.3-inch display, and you get an excellent Google-made alternative. 

Related

Is the iPad ready to replace your laptop or desktop?
iPad Pro and desktop monitor

Is the iPad ready to replace your laptop or desktop?

iPad
Best early Amazon Prime Day 2022 deals on tablets
Amazon Kindle - Basic with Back Light

Best early Amazon Prime Day 2022 deals on tablets

Tablets
Best early Amazon Prime Day 2022 deals on Samsung devices
Amazon Kindle - Basic with Back Light

Best early Amazon Prime Day 2022 deals on Samsung devices

Samsung