Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 LTE Review

by Reads (210,174)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Usability
    • 8
    • Design
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 10
    • Features
    • 10
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 10
    • Total Score:
    • 9.20
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Superb screen
    • Solid specs
    • Excellent battery life
    • Expandable memory
    • Easy multiple users
  • Cons

    • Magazine UX customizations can be annoying
    • Lots of unneeded third-party software
    • No NFC

Quick Take

A superb AMOLED display, slim design, and great performance make the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 the best tablet on the market today. Adding 4G LTE makes it even better.

Sporting a spectacular screen, high-end specs, and solid fundamentals, Samsung’s latest answer to the iPad Air not only proves it’s a contender, but that it can go toe-to-toe with any other device on the market and come out looking good.

Before we begin, a note on device versions. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 comes in a variety of flavors. There’s the basic Wi-Fi-only model, of course, with a suggested retail price of $500. But it’s also available with built-in LTE from all four major U.S. carriers. This adds a premium of around $100 to the price, but check with your carrier for exact prices. The version we received for this review is the one available on Sprint, but it’s fundamentally identical to the other models, except for a few notes we’ll make along the way.

Build & Design

On first taking it out of the box, you’ll realize how staggeringly thin and light the Tab S 10.5 really is. At 0.26 inches thick, it’s slimmer even than the Apple iPad Air and a hair lighter (467 grams versus 478 g). Even the older Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE feels like a thick, clumsy antique when compared to the Tab S.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 LTE

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 LTE

Once you get past the thinness, the actual looks of the S 10.5 aren’t anything remarkable. It’s not ugly, but it doesn’t exactly leap out and grab the eye. At least not until you turn on the screen, but we’ll get to that in a second. We think that the white version (shown at right)  looks nicer than the “titanium bronze” we received, but we haven’t seen one in person.

The casing is plastic all over, which will probably disappoint some people, but it’s good quality plastic and not likely to smudge.

Display

The screen is where the Tab S 10.5 fully and completely sets itself apart from competing 10-inch tablets. In place of a conventional LCD screen, the Tab S has an Active Matrix OLED display, something previously found almost exclusively in smartphones, and never before in a 10-inch tablet.

The difference is relatively simple. Conventional LCDs have two layers: One generates the picture, while a light source behind it makes it visible. The pixels on an AMOLED screen form the image and emit their own light, so there’s none of the “waste light” that makes even black areas on regular LCDs a dark grey.

That’s the technical explanation. The real world explanation is much simpler: An AMOLED screen looks absolutely stunning, to the point that a 2560 x 1600 resolution is one of the least amazing things about it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 -- Side Views

Side View

If you’ve never seen one, it’s really hard to overstate how gorgeous an AMOLED screen is. Colors are more vibrant, images seem crisper, and everything pops. A lot of this comes down to the contrast ratio: how much brighter white is than black. A good conventional LCD will manage maybe 1000:1. A plasma TV may manage 10,000 to 1. The OLED display in the Tab S 10.5 is rated at 100,000 to 1. And that’s really just a number to toss around, since the black pixels don’t need to emit any light at all; how do you measure infinity? A good example of this can be seen when using the device in a dark room; it’s impossible to distinguish between black areas of the screen and the device’s bezel.

It performs impressively in more mundane ways, too. The brightness, for example, has an enormous range of adjustment. The lowest end is so dim that it’s not very bright even in a pitch black room, making it very comfortable for reading at night. The highest brightness feels like you could get a tan from it.

Although it does sport a 10.5-inch screen, larger than most other comparable tablets, the difference between that and a 10.1- or 9.7-inch screen isn’t terribly noticeable.

The bottom line is this: The Tab S 10.5 has the best tablet screen that money can buy. The iPad Air can’t compete, and everything else not made by Samsung is so far in in third that they would need binoculars.

Other Buttons and Ports

Stereo speakers occupy the “upper” edges of the device. The only other thing on the left side is the headphone jack, but the righthand side contains the microSD card slot and micro-USB connector, as well as the slot for the SIM card on LTE models. (And on a thankful side note, Sprint has finally joined the rest of the world and adopted SIM cards.)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 -- Rear View

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 — Rear View

Along the top edge, just above the camera, you’ll find a tiny infrared port for Samsung’s increasingly ubiquitous universal remote control feature.

The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 uses a physical home button, placed in a landscape orientation. Usually use on-screen buttons are better for flexibility, but this model does have a good reason for going this way. The home button hides a fingerprint reader of the same type as used on the Samsung Galaxy S5, for locking and unlocking the tablet without a password.

The other benefit of this is that the Tab S can easily recognize various users by their fingerprints. This means the device can be used by everybody in the family, with each person getting their own files, apps, wallpaper, etc. There’s also a “restricted mode” which gives limited access to apps, and a “kids mode” to make sure the youngest users don’t get into trouble.

Fingerprint scanner performance is solid; we had a few mis-reads to be sure, but once you get the hang of how you’re supposed to scan, it’s very consistent, even when your fingers aren’t perfectly clean or if you’re in a bit of a hurry.

Don’t stop now. Page 2 covers the performance of the Galaxy Tab S 10.5.



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2 Comments

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  1. BigLakeSailor

    This Tablet is a piece of garbage that is poorly made and is not backed up by Samsung. I purchased the tablet on 11/4/2014 and kept in a pocket is my padfolio. The tablet had a cover and was never dropped, banged or any other impact damage. In early December I took out the tablet and notices the glass was cracked across the entire screen. One single crack. There was no impact marks or any other indication of damage. I brought the tablet to the Samsung booth and Best Buy and the representative looked at it and said it looked like a defective glass but since it was a4G he couldn’t do anything. He gave me the number to send it in for repair. I called and got an RA and was told that once they inspected it and determined it was defective they would repair as a warranty repair. Well I soon discovered that all that was a lie. I sent it in and 3 days later got an email and bill for $258.72 for repair indicating that it was out of Warranty. When I contacted the Samsung Customer I-Don’t-Care I was told that it was out of warranty and it would be charged to fix. When I said that it was purchased on 11/4 she responded that I could send a receipt but that would not matter since they would charge to repair the screen. I said what about warranty repair and she responded that she could reduce the charge to $150 but since the unit was broken they had to charge to fix. When I stated that it was broken because it was defective she said that was all she could do and wanted my credit card. I declined. This is total Bull S***T. What kind of warranty charges to fix the item? I will get the tablet back and probably use it for target practice. Never again Samsung. You need to learn as a company that when you lie to customers and cheat them they don’t want to deal with you anymore!

    I just received the tablet back from Samsung and there is one more crack in the screen!!! They put another crack in it!!!!

    Update: I posted a review on the Samsung site stating that the screen broke and they would not consider backing it up. I received an email from Samsung stating that my review was rejected. It seems unless you have a good review for their products they will not publish them. What does that tell you about the company?

    Update: After complaining to Samsung that when they returned my tablet they broke the screen even further I was told to send it back for repair. Well today I got the confirmation on the repair and a bill for $258.00 to fix what they broke!!! You have to stay away from this company.

  2. MichelMerlin

    Too thin tablets are FRAGILE and DANGEROUS
    ~–~–~–~ -~–~–~- ~–~–~–~ -~–~–~–
    1. Too thin = too FRAGILE
    I am NOT surprised by “BigLakeSailor” report of 19 Jan 2015. See
    http://www.gsmarena.com/compare.php3?idPhone1=4854&idPhone2=6435&idPhone3=6235
    Comparing Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100, Tab S 8.4 LTE, Tab S 10.5 LTE
    The last one (Tab S 10.5 LTE) is 37 times as long as thick. This can’t help making extremely prone to breaking as soon as you put even a very light pression over it. Which probably happened to poor “BigLakeSailor”.
    By comparison my Note II n7100, already very thin, is “only” 16 times as long as thick.

    2. Too thin = acts as a BLADE
    Some 4 or 5 decades ago I had a friend badly injured in a car accident that should have been benign. But he was listening to a radio set of that era, that he was holding in his hands on his lap. The set entered him and caused bad damages to his internal organs.
    Now just imagine what can do a “radio set” which in addition is 37 times thinner than long, while very sturdy… acting nearly as a knife blade.

    I think makers should better optimize thinness. Sure making devices thin is good, but keep them reasonable please. By making the Tab S 10.5 LTE moderately thicker, say 12mm instead of 6.6mm, makers would be able to make them at the same time STURDIER and LIGHTER, as well as easier to maintain (more room around elements inside).

    Versailles, Sun 19 Jul 2015 18:35:00 +0200