Those in the market for a full-size Android tablet have surely considered the two most recent models from Samsung. The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 ($499) costs almost twice as much as the Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 ($299) so it’s clearly the better model, but is it worth the extra money?
Build & Design
These tablets are roughly the same size and weight, so neither has a significant advantage in this area. And because both were designed by Samsung, they look very similar.
The Galaxy Tab S has a 10.5-inch display, larger than the 10.1-inch one in the Tab 4, but our review of the Tab S says the difference “isn’t terribly noticeable.”
What is noticeable is the Tab S sports a Super AMOLED screen, rather than the standard LCD on the other Samsung device. The Tab S is the first full-size tablet with this type of screen, and our review of this model says, “Colors are more vibrant, images seem crisper, and everything pops.”
The icing on the cake is that the Tab S has a 2560 x 1600 display, while the Tab 4 has a 1280 x 800 one, which means the Tab S has a much higher pixel density: 288 ppi vs. 149 ppi. As was complained in our Tab 4 review, “it’s possible to identify individual pixels on the screen at a glance, even from arm’s length.”
Our review of the Tab S summarizes the situation with, “The Tab S 10.5 has the best tablet screen that money can buy.”
Buttons and Ports
Unlike most other Android models, both the Tab S and Tab 4 have a physical home button, but the Tab S takes it to the next level by making it a biometric scanner for unlocking the device without typing in a passcode.
Each of these devices has a microSD memory card slot, so users can add additional storage capacity, but the Tab S is the only one that can includes an infrared port, allowing the tablet to be used as a universal remote.
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 has a Exynos 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, a decent but certainly not top-of-the-line one. This is evidenced by its 8743 score on the Quadrant benchmarking tool.
The Galaxy Tab S 10.5, by contrast, has a high-end Samsung Exynos 5420 octa-core CPU, so its Quadrant score is 19985.
The Tab 4 has 1.5 GB of RAM, while the Tab S has twice as much.
Although benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, our time putting these two tablets through their paces indicated that the Galaxy Tab S has noticeably better performance than the Tab 4.
Although both these devices run Google Android 4.4 KitKat, there’s a significant difference between them … and it may cause some to be more interested in the less expensive version. The Tab 4 10.1 has a nearly “stock” interface, so anyone who is accustomed to using Android is already generally familiar with the it. The Tab S 10.5, on the other hand, has Samsung’s proprietary Magazine UX, so it looks and acts quite differently from standard Android.
With its higher price tag, Samsung was able to include a significantly better set of cameras in the Tab S. It has an 8 MP rear-facing one, and a 2.1 MP front camera. The Tab 4 has a more modest 3 MP rear camera and a 1.3 MP front-facing one.
So is the Galaxy Tab S so much better than the Galaxy Tab 4 that it justifies paying the additional $200?
Naturally, the answer to this varies from person to person.
Those looking for a tablet for basic functions like browsing web sites, watching videos, or playing casual games would probably be satisfied with the more affordable Galaxy Tab 4 10.1. As we wrote in our review, “Although it has a low display resolution and barely acceptable cameras, this tablet will provide a pleasant and reliable experience in everyday usage.”
That said, those looking for the best tablet they can get should go with the Galaxy Tab S, especially if they intend to use it for watching video or playing high-end games. Not only does its screen have nearly twice the pixel density, it uses a technology that makes it look vastly better than the one in the Tab 4. And the Tab S’s powerful processor gives it performance that easily handles the most demanding software available. Samsung even throws in some bells and whistles like a fingerprint scanner and universal remote.
As our review says, “The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is not just a great tablet; it’s arguably the best tablet on the market today.”