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Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 review: Rugged Android tablet built for business in the field

matthew-miller
Written by Matthew Miller on
samsung-galaxy-tab-active2-10.jpg
9.3/10

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2 - tablet - Android 7.1 (Nougat) - 16 GB - 8"

Spectacular
$400 at Amazon
Pros
  • Solid design with crisp, clear display
  • S Pen support with hefty stylus
  • Removable long-lasting high capacity battery
  • microSD expansion card slot
  • Water, dust, and drop resistant
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
Cons
  • Older version of Android (7.1 Nougat)
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

The Apple iPad is a superb tablet for home, office, and school use, but isn't great when you are outside working in the dirt, gravel, slime, and other harsh elements to get work done. This is where the new Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 drops in and helps you take on the day.

Samsung clearly makes some of the best smartphones available, but is also still competitive in the tablet market. The Galaxy Tab Active2 is clearly focused on field workers with its ruggedized design and size that is perfect for one hand while your other hand keeps you secure in your environment.

It is well specced and affordably priced too. Samsung has partnerships with enterprise providers such as IBM Maximo, Scandit, and Omnitracs XRS. We use Maximo for asset management on passenger ferry systems so using a Galaxy Tab Active2 in the shipyard to catalog systems is a perfect application for this new tablet.

Galaxy Tab Active2 Specifications

  • Processor: Samsung Exynos 1.6 GHz octa-core
  • Display: 8.0 inch, 1280 x 800 pixels resolution LCD
  • Operating system: Android 7.1 Nougat
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Storage: 16GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: 8 megapixel rear and 5 megapixel front-facing cameras
  • Water and resistance: IP68 rating
  • Rugged certification: MIL-STD-810G compliant
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, ANT+, GPS, NFC
  • Battery: 4,450 mAh removable
  • Dimensions: 214.7 x 127.6 x 9.9 mm and 415 grams

The tablet is available in black and comes with the water-resistant S Pen. The retail package includes an A/C adapter, USB-C cable, and a rubber cover that protects the back and sides while also providing a holder for the S Pen.

Hardware

While Samsung's OLED panels rule the smartphone world, the display on this tablet is a LCD. It still looks great and functions well, even in sunlight. My yard projects took place in direct sunlight and I was still able to read the display. It wasn't as vibrant as an OLED, but honestly most of my field work is not in direct sunlight anyway.

The tablet felt hefty and well-built in the hand with hard plastic and a matte finish back. I used the included rubber cover most of the time for even better grip and to carry the S Pen with the tablet.

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The power button is on the top right with two volume buttons below it. There is a USB-C port on the bottom for charging, along with the mono speaker and 3.5mm headset jack. Pogo pins are on the left side for connecting to other accessories.

There are three hardware buttons below the display for the app switcher, home, and back. The home button also serves as a fingerprint scanner for security. A front facing camera is just to the right of center above the display while an 8 megapixel rear camera is centered above a flash light in the upper back.

I am able to hold the tablet in one hand with my thumb and fingers extending about 1/2 inch above the display on either side. It works well in portrait and landscape mode too.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2: in pictures

Software

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus runs Android 7.1 Nougat with the 1 February 2018 Android security patch. There is very little extra loaded onto the tablet, just a few utilities that help you work best. These include PENUP, image gallery, Samsung Notes, email, Samsung's fantastic internet browser, Samsung Flow, SmartThings, calendar, and Microsoft apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, ONeNote, and Skype). The core Google apps are also installed.

Bixby is present only as a Bixby Home panel, but that can be toggled off too if you don't like it. I turned it off since it is not really optimized for a tablet display with content only appearing in the middle section of the display with wide white areas on either side.

It's a typical Android experience with no extra surprises or application specific to the tablet.

Price and availability

The WiFi model Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 is available now for $419.99. You can also purchase a SIM-unlocked one with LTE support for GSM networks for just $100 more, $519.99.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

Unfortunately, I didn't have a trip scheduled to a shipyard during my trial period with this tablet so couldn't test it out during an actual survey. However, I was moving around dirt and gravel while also building a new shed so put it through its paces on a construction site.

The Galaxy Tab Active2 is sized perfectly for field work since you can still hold it in one hand or easily slip it into a small bag or large coat pocket and get around your work environment. It is nice to hold in one hand and look at it while you use the other hand to pick things up, measure the site, or even use the S Pen to sketch in the rain.

The battery lasted for days of occasional use and it never let me down. For serious field work without easy access to power, you can always buy and swap out batteries as needed so you can go without worry with the Tab Active2.

The included case worked well for protecting the back and sides from bumps and bruises. The S Pen holder did a good job of securing the S Pen, but there is also a lanyard opening on the S Pen so you can even better secure it to the tablet case.

While I put down the older version of Android as a con, for the work most of us do in the field the version installed on the Tab Active2 is more than adequate. I would like to see the monthly Android security patch be more current and know that Samsung has an excellent track record for timeliness on its smartphones.

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