- Beautiful, high resolution display
- Outstanding performance
- 32GB of storage and 3GB of RM
- Biometric security
- Weak side-by-side multitasking
- Silkscreened buttons too easy to hit accidentally
- Battery life less than average
Quick TakeA beautiful display and powerful processor help make the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 the best Android tablet on the market today.
Samsung’s new flagship tablet is the Galaxy Tab S2 9.7, a redesigned and updated version of last year’s popular Galaxy Tab S 10.5. Like its predecessor, this Android model has an AMOLED screen, but it boasts a much faster processor, a slimmer shape, and biometric security.
The Tab S2 9.7 with WiFi and 32GB of storage is available as of this writing for $499.99.
Build and Design
Samsung went for extra slim and light when it was designing this tablet, pushing it down to just 0.22 inches (5.6mm) thick and 0.8 pounds (390g). The result that the Galaxy S2 9.7 feels like a premium product, and one that’s comfortable to hold. It isn’t as solid as it could be though, flexing slightly when twisted.
The bezels on either side of the screen aren’t overly wide, but neither are they particularly thin, resulting in a device that’s 9.3 x 6.7 inches (237 x 169 mm).
The trim around the outside is metal, but the back is plastic. The front is, of course, all glass. The overall look is quite professional.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 sports an Active Matrix Organic LED (AMOLED) screen, a display type that’s superior to the more typical and less expensive LCD (often referred to as LED on spec sheets). Each pixel in displays of this type glows on its own, so no backlight is necessary, and screens can be easily used outdoors, even in direct sunlight. Colors are extremely vivid, and blacks are very black.
Screen resolution is 2048 x 1536 pixels, giving it a pixel density of about 264 ppi, which is fairly high. The rival iPad Air 2 has the same pixel density, but the HTC Nexus 9’s is 288. The Microsoft Surface 3 has a 213 ppi pixel density.
One of the major changes between this model and last year’s Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is the size of the screen; the latest version has a 9.7-inch display, down from the 10.5-inch one in its predecessor.
This was part of changing the aspect ratio from 16:10 to 4:3, which means that the display is squarer. Samsung has embraced the 4:3 aspect ratio of late, also using it on the Galaxy Tab A 9.7 from this spring.
The smaller screen is a mixed blessing. A squarer screen is easier to read on, and by making this change this tablet is easier to hold in portrait mode. It also makes it more suitable for productivity tasks like spreadsheet work, as Microsoft demonstrated with the Surface Pro 3. On the other hand, watching video on 16:10 display is a superior experience because it matches the ratio of many TVs, and the decrease in size also came with a slight decrease in pixel density, down from 288 ppi.
Taking all factors into account, the Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 has the best looking screen of any tablet on the currently on market thanks to its AMOLED technology. It’s most serious rival is its immediate predecessor, although the iPad Air 2 gives it some competition.
Buttons, Ports, and Speakers
Like Apple’s recent tablets, Samsung built a biometric fingerprint scanner into the Home button on its new flagship model. This can be tremendously convenient, even if it’s only used to unlock the device without having to type in a password, but it can also be used to take the place of passwords in websites. In our tests, the scanner worked very well, always recognizing the finger it had been trained for and giving no false positives. A typed password can be used as a backup.
As mentioned, there is a physical Home button, with the Recent Apps and Back buttons silkscreened on either side. On many Android models these are virtual buttons, appearing only onscreen. Having a physical Home button is often convenient, but the other two are too easy to accidentally press.
The Power button and volume rocker are located on the right side. Samsung put the microSD card slot just below them, and it protects cards from being accidentally ejected by requiring a paperclip or pin.
A pair of speakers can be found on the bottom edge of this tablet, one on either side of the microUSB charge and data port. These are capable of producing quite a lot of volume, to the point of crackling. Reducing the volume results in decent quality sound, however.
Samsung has a set of proprietary connectors on the back of its tablets designed to allow cases to attach securely.