'

AT&T Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 review: World's thinnest Android tablet offers less than Samsung smartphones

  • Editors' rating
    7.0 Very good
  • $419.99

Pros

  • Fabulous vivid display
  • Thin and light design
  • Fast LTE performance
  • Responsive tablet experience

Cons

  • Limited battery life
  • Terrible multi-application implementation

While people do not upgrade their tablet as frequently as their phone, there is still a growing tablet market. Samsung continues to release new tablets, including the AT&T Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 I spent that last two weeks using during my commute, traveling across the country, in my home, and in the office.

In June of last year, Samsung had a whopping ten available tablets that seemed to confuse a customer already uncertain about the tablet market. Samsung appears to finally focusing its tablet efforts on the Galaxy Tab brand with fewer screen size options. The Galaxy Tab S2 is available with 8 inch and 9.7 inch displays, with 4G LTE as an option on some carriers.

Specifications

  • Processor: Samsung Exynos 5433 octa-core
  • Display: 9.7 inch Super AMOLED at 2048 x 1536 pixels resolution, 4:3 aspect ratio
  • Operating system: Android 5.1.1
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1 BLE, NFC
  • Storage: 32GB internal with microSD expansion card support
  • Cameras: Rear 8 megapixel and 2.1 megapixel front facing camera
  • Battery: 5,870 mAh battery
  • Dimensions: 237.3 x 169 x 5.6 mm and 392 grams

The specifications look great for a tablet, although Samsung made the decision to reduce the battery capacity in order to make the tablet thinner. I never tested the previous Tab S, but heard from others that battery life has taken a hit over last year's model.

Given the focus on media content with tablets, it is nice to see Samsung include a microSD expansion card slot.

Hardware

Last year's Galaxy Tab S had a 16:10 display that provided an excellent movie and TV show viewing experience. While I personally use tablets primarily for such media watching, Samsung switched the new Tab S2 to a 4:3 aspect ratio. The 4:3 ratio is better for reading, but I'm not convinced it's the way to go for an Android tablet.

The Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 inch display is vibrant, bright, and clear, which is what you would expect from a Samsung Super AMOLED screen. The home button is centered below the display and supports the latest, reliable Samsung fingerprint scanning technology. A task switcher and back button are found on either side of the home button.

Top ZDNET Reviews

There is nothing on the top or left side of the Tab S2 while the power and volume buttons, as well as the microSD and SIM card slots, are found on the right. The speakers, headphone jack, and microUSB port are all found on the bottom.

Despite the fact that the Galaxy Note 5 has fast charging and fast wireless charging, neither is present on the Tab S2. While wireless charging may be awkward for a tablet, I don't understand the lack of fast charging functionality. Samsung actually states it could take five hours to charge up the Tab S2. That's unacceptable if you plan to use the Tab S2 on the road, but maybe Samsung just wants you to use it as a rec room accessory.

The camera is centered on the upper back and there is no flash present. Rear cameras on tablets are really only needed for capturing documents and shouldn't be used in place of a smartphone or dedicated camera.

There are two round case accessory attachment points located on the right side of the back. You will also see there are beveled edges on the right and left side of the back. The entire back has a smooth soft touch finish with AT&T and Samsung branding.

Samsung includes a shiny beveled edge around the front in the aluminum edge material. The Tab S2 is well designed and feels solid in your hand while the weight and thin form factor make it easy to carry and use.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 runs the latest version of Android with the scaled-down version of TouchWiz. It's a similar software experience to what we see on the Note 5 and latest Galaxy S6 devices.

There are not too many apps loaded out of the box, but since this is an AT&T LTE model you get plenty of bloatware from this US carrier. AT&T apps include myAT&T, AT&T AllAccess, AT&T Locker, Device Help, AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Ready2Go, YP, WildTangent Games, and AT&T Messages. Given the recent DIRECTV deal, you will also find a DIRECTV app installed on the Tab S2.

Samsung apps include Galaxy Apps, Hancom Office Viewer, Memo, Samsung Milk Music, SideSync, and Smart Manager. You will also find several Google apps, but these have been reduced by Google so loading up your preferred Google apps is up to your own preferences in many cases.

One of the reasons to pick up a Samsung tablet is to be able to use a couple apps at the same time in a side-by-side format. As you can see in a couple of screenshots in my gallery, many apps look absolutely terrible in this format and neither app ends up being useful.

Pricing and competition

The AT&T Galaxy Tab S2 is available for $30 per month for 20 months. You can also purchase it for $499.99 on a two-year contract or $599.99 with no contract.

The Tab S2 can be added to your existing Mobile Share plan for $10 per month. If you are not an AT&T customer, then you can purchase a DataConnect plan for $14.99/month for 250MB, $30/month for 3GB, or $50/month for 5GB.

To help you be more productive with the 9.7 inch Galaxy Tab S2, there is an optional keyboard cover that snaps into the two back openings on the Tab S2. You can purchase the keyboard for $149.99 in black or white.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

I enjoyed using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 for the past couple of weeks, but given the terrible experience using two apps at once and the lack of optimized Android tablet apps I primarily used it for media content. The display was excellent for media, but the device is too expensive for such limited use.

It has been a while since I owned an Android tablet or iPad and given my tendency to use large display smartphones I would primarily only use a tablet for enjoying media on a larger display. Given the new low price Amazon Fire tablets I don't see where something like the Galaxy Tab S2 fits into the tablet market.

When I owned an iPad in the past, it seemed like I never thought about charging it up as the battery seemed to last for days on end. The battery life of the Tab S2 was a bit disappointing and I had to make sure to charge it before heading out for a trip. The lack of fast charging is a mistake on Samsung's part as well.

The AT&T LTE service performed well and the convenience of having integrated LTE may justify the additional $100, plus monthly service, for many people.

Specifications

Display
Touchscreen Multi-Touch
Multi-Touch Display Yes
Technology Super AMOLED
Diagonal Size 8 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 20.31 cm
Native Resolution 2048 x 1536
Miscellaneous
Features Adobe Flash support, MIMO technology
Color black
Color Category black
Bluetooth Profiles Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP), HID Over GATT Profile (HOGP), Headset Profile (HSP), Human Interface Device Profile (HID), Object Push Profile (OPP), Personal Area Networking Profile (PAN)
Processor
Clock Speed 1.9 GHz
Number of Cores 8-core
Type Exynos 5433
Memory
Storage 32 GB
RAM 3 GB
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Security Protocols & Features ANT+, Wi-Fi Direct
Camera
Digital Zoom 4
Focus Adjustment automatic
Video Resolutions 2560 x 1440
Features CMOS sensor
Networking
Wireless Connectivity Bluetooth 4.1, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Input Device
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Multimedia
Audio Stereo speakers
Battery
Run Time (Up To) 14 sec
Run Time Details Audio playback: up to 74 hour(s)
Web browsing over Wi-Fi: up to 10 hour(s)
Video playback: up to 14 hour(s)
Technology lithium ion
Capacity 4000 mAh
Header
Brand Samsung
Product Line Samsung Galaxy
Model Tab S2
Packaged Quantity 1
Expansion and Connectivity
Expansion Slots 1 x microSD
Interfaces 1 x USB 2.0
1 x headphones mini jack (3.5mm)
System
Platform Android
Handheld Type tablet
Security Devices fingerprint reader
RAM
Installed Size 3 GB
Flash Memory
Installed Size 32 GB
Card Reader
Slots (for SD) microSD slot
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSD, microSDXC
Flash Memory Cards Max Supported Capacity 128 GB
Digital Camera
Cameras (for SD) rear camera + front camera
Rear-facing Camera Yes
Digital Zoom 4
Focus Adjustment automatic
Video Resolutions 2560 x 1440
Features CMOS sensor
Audio Output
Type stereo speakers
GPS System
Navigation GPS/GLONASS receiver
Expansion Slots
Type microSD
Total Qty 1
Interface Provided
Interface USB 2.0, headphones mini jack (3.5mm)
Qty 1
OS Provided
Type Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
Cable Details
Type micro-USB cable
PDA Software
Type Audio Streaming, Microsoft Excel Mobile, Microsoft PowerPoint Mobile, Microsoft Word Mobile, Multi Window, OneDrive, S Voice, Samsung KNOX
Environmental Standards
ENERGY STAR Certified Yes
Battery Life Details
Usage Mode audio playback, video playback, web browsing over Wi-Fi
Run Time (Up To) 10 hour(s), 14 hour(s), 74 hour(s)
Dimensions & Weight
Width 5.3 in
Depth 0.2 in
Height 7.8 in
Weight 9.35 oz

Top ZDNET Reviews

Where To Buy

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 - tablet - Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) - 32 GB - 8"

Part Number: SM-T713NZKEXAR
Price
$419.99