Included, excellent S Pen stylus
Light, attractive, easy to handle
Good battery life
Awkward display size and aspect ratio
Android isn’t a great tablet OS
Performance isn’t remarkable
About the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8
Here are the specs of the tablet we tested:
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
- RAM: 8GB
- Storage: 128GB
- Display: 2560 x 1600 120Hz LCD touchscreen
- Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5
- Wired connectivity: USB-C
- Cameras 13MP wide main camera, 6MP ultrawide secondary camera, 12MP ultrawide front-facing camera
- Battery: 8000mAh
- Weight: 1.01 pounds
- Size: 10 x 6.5 x .25 inches
What we like
Samsung’s S Pen is the killer feature
Apple’s Pencil 2 carries an MSRP of $130 (and rarely goes on sale), a significant sum on top of the iPad’s already expensive pricing. But every Galaxy Tab S8 ships with Samsung’s S Pen in the box—a big win for anyone who likes to use a stylus.
The stylus attaches magnetically to the side or rear of the tablet, and the magnetic dock on the side doubles as a charger. It’s an effective, simple way to keep the stylus topped off, but it’s a bit too easy to knock the pen off the magnets and lose it. This is a problem the Tab S8 shares with Apple’s iPads and Microsoft’s Surface line, however.
Using the S Pen is a joy. The pen has a rounded shape that feels much like a typical mass-production ballpoint pen. It’s easy to hold and maneuver with one hand, even for those with small hands. If anything, those with larger hands may find it too small, as the stylus is not as long as many pens or a classic No. 2 pencil.
It’s a responsive stylus. This is due not only to the pen, which connects over Bluetooth and promises just 6.2 milliseconds of latency, but also the LCD touchscreen, which can refresh at 120Hz. The added refresh rate cuts down on visual latency because the display can update every eight milliseconds. That’s twice as quick as a 60Hz display, which updates once every 16 milliseconds. This is a feature Apple neglected to include in the 5th-gen iPad Air.
To be clear, Samsung’s S Pen doesn’t do anything Apple’s Pencil can’t, and I slightly prefer the chunkier feel of the Pencil. But here’s the thing: the Apple Pencil 2 is an accessory. The S Pen is included. That makes the stylus a key feature of the Galaxy Tab S8, and Samsung’s tablet is the better for it.
It’s attractive, light, and thin
The Galaxy Tab S8’s 11-inch display, thin chassis, and low 1.1-pound weight make for a tablet as nimble as the 5th-gen iPad Air. The Tab S8 is even a half-inch narrower than the Air, which makes the Tab S8 easier to cradle with one hand.
That’s not to say it’s unique, as the Galaxy Tab S8 certainly cribs a few notes from the latest iPad Pro and Air. It’s most notable when held, as the Tab S8’s slab-sided feel, rounded display corners, and pinhole speaker cut-outs all feel reminiscent of an iPad.
There are flaws in Samsung’s reproduction. The tablet has large antenna lines that cut into the metal chassis along the top and bottom. Similar lines can be found on the iPad, but they’re smaller.
Luckily, Samsung found a way to add a touch of unique class: a line of black chrome that extends downward from the camera cut-out. It’s a simple but effective touch that helps the tablet stand out from its peers and keeps attention away from the sizable antenna lines.
Solid battery life
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Galaxy Tab S8’s endurance. The 8000mAh is not large for a modern tablet and high-refresh displays, such as the 120Hz touchscreen on the Tab S8, tend to drain the battery quickly. Thankfully, my worries were unfounded.
Battery life was never a problem in my time with the device. Browsing the web, viewing YouTube, editing documents, and jotting notes with the S Pen drained a bit more than 10% an hour, putting real-world battery life between eight and ten hours. This is similar to my experience with Apple’s 11-inch iPad Pro.
Sleep mode is light on battery consumption, draining no more than 5% each night. Apple’s iPads perform better in this area, draining a couple percent a night, but the Tab S8 performs well for an Android device.
The combination of solid battery life in active use and a power-sipping sleep mode means you won’t have to charge the device frequently if you’re not a heavy user. I found myself charging once every two to three days for the bulk of my time with the device.
The speakers sound great
Most modern tablets have good speakers, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 goes above and beyond. It has an AKG-branded quad-speaker system that includes speakers on not only the top and bottom but also on one edge.
It’s a clever design. The arrangement of the speakers provides a convincing sound stage with a strong sense of a left, right, and center channel, something the 5th-gen iPad Air doesn’t handle as well. It’s also nearly impossible to fully cover the speakers while holding the device. This enhances real-world audio performance when using the Tab S8 like, well, a tablet.
The audio quality is good, if not outstanding. The speakers are so loud that using them at maximum is often a bit uncomfortable, but the oomph is useful if you want to fill a small room with music. Dialogue and other spoken content come across strong and crisp. Music is also generally clear, but bass-heavy music can reverberate unpleasantly within the tablet and muddy the mid-range.
But remember: this is not a huge tablet. The Galaxy Tab S8’s audio performance is great for its size.
What we don’t like
The 11-inch display is awkward
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 has an 11-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 2560 x 1600. That’s a 16:10 aspect ratio which, when held in portrait orientation for tablet use, is taller and more narrow than the 4:3 aspect ratio of Apple’s iPad, but shorter and wider than the 21:9 aspect ratio of many modern Android phones. This becomes a problem.
Consider a common use case: web browsing. Because of its uncommon aspect ratio, web pages often feel narrow and constrained on the horizontal axis. Text is sometimes rendered a bit smaller than what’s comfortable but, in other cases, a web page will default to a mobile view, in which case everything may appear too large.
Documents, such as PDFs and Word documents, also feel strange. Most PDF documents are created for a wider, shorter format, so these documents fit strangely on the Tab S8’s display. Viewing the document at the default level of zoom often results in text that’s too small. You can zoom in, but this means you have to scroll horizontally while reading the document.
It’s a similar story with apps. Open the menu bar in Gmail, for example, and you’re suddenly left with a very slim email view with text that does not adjust itself to fit the new space. Google Drive, on the other hand, defaults to a smartphone-optimized view with oversized icons.
It’s a huge disappointment that Google’s own apps still fail to scale well on tablets in 2022, but here we are.
Android isn’t a great tablet OS
Android’s tablet woes are partially addressed by Samsung’s bundled software. The company has a replacement for nearly every app in the Android ecosystem—there’s even an alternative web browser called “Internet.”
Many of these alternatives are effective. Samsung’s photo, file management, and camera apps are all better than those provided by Google. They have an interface better optimized for the device’s aspect ratio, plus additional options specific to the device.
I especially like the Notes app, which can be summoned at any time by touching a shortcut on the side of the screen. The shortcut only responds to the S Pen, so accidentally activating it is rarely an issue, and lets you quickly jot down a note while performing some other task.
Still, there’s only so much Samsung can do, and Android’s list of tablet mode woes remains long. Aside from the website, document, and app aspect ratio and support issues already discussed, Android struggles with lackluster mouse support, a disappointing default keyboard with lackluster integrations, and confusing multi-tasking.
Samsung’s solutions come with a catch: They are best when used with a Samsung account. That’s not an issue for Samsung superfans, but the company’s ecosystem of services and devices is not as appealing, or as widely available, as those from Apple, Google, and Microsoft. You need to own a Samsung tablet, smartphone, and laptop to fully appreciate the company’s ecosystem. Most people don’t.
Performance is fine, but far behind the iPad Air
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, a new design that has three different types of processor cores. It has a single performance core, three “mid” cores, and four efficiency cores. Samsung pairs this new chip with a respectable 8GB of RAM.
Geekbench 5, a synthetic processor test, spat out a single-core score of 1192 and a multi-core score of 3119. This is not a flattering result, as it falls behind the 9th-gen Apple iPad from late 2021. Apple’s 5th-gen iPad Air, powered by its own M1 chip, can exceed a single-core score of 1700 and a multi-core score of 7200.
The 3DMark Wild Life Extreme test, which primarily tests graphics performance, reached a score of 2306. This is better than the 9th-gen iPad but once again far behind the iPad Air with Apple M1 chip.
I struggled to notice a significant performance difference in real-world use. Web pages, Word documents, and apps open in a flash and whiz by when switching between them. Even editing a smartphone photo or sorting through a large PDF is buttery smooth. Games like Asphalt 9 and Alto’s Odyssey played without a hitch.
Even so, the significant gap between the 5th-gen iPad Air and the Galaxy Tab S8 is difficult to ignore. I expect most people won’t notice it most of the time. But what about two years from now, when new apps are more demanding? What about three, or four? The iPad Air is more future-proof.
The cameras aren’t great
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 has a 13MP rear-facing main camera joined by a 6MP ultrawide camera. They take acceptable photos, but they don’t stand out when compared to photos from recent iPad Air and Pro tablets. This likely comes down to image processing more than raw technical capabilities, as Apple’s 5th-gen iPad Air has a 12MP rear-facing camera. A 12MP front-facing camera is also included and takes usable, though unremarkable, selfies.
You won’t find any of the more advanced features you might expect. Video recording is limited to 4K at 30fps with the rear-facing camera or 1080p 30fps on the front-facing camera. Portrait mode is available but basic with none of the advanced lighting and filter effects common on smartphones. Slow-motion video is absent and HDR is only available for photos.
The Galaxy Tab S8 does support one thing the Air does not: facial recognition login with the front-facing camera. It’s not reliable, however, and may annoy as often as it helps. A fingerprint sensor, available on the power button, proved quicker and more reliable than facial recognition.
Should you buy it?
Maybe, but Apple’s iPad Air 5th-Gen is the better tablet
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8 is a fine tablet despite the quirks of its display aspect ratio and the limitations of the Android operating system. It’s bundled with an excellent stylus, is easy to handle or pack for travel, and has strong battery life. I enjoyed my time with the tablet.
Yet the Galaxy Tab S8 is hard to recommend. It’s slower than Apple’s 5th-gen iPad Air, is saddled with a less impressive app ecosystem, and struggles within the limitations of Android.
Longevity is also an issue. I’m confident the 5th-gen Air will be useful in five years (my personal tablet is a 2017 iPad Pro 10.5, and it works great). Samsung, by contrast, tends to support its tablets for only a few years.
The Galaxy Tab S8 will appeal to Android fans who want a solid tablet and a great stylus at a reasonable price. If you’re not allergic to Apple, however, an iPad is a better choice.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Matthew S. Smith
Matthew S. Smith is a veteran tech journalist and general-purpose PC hardware nerd. Formerly the Lead Editor of Reviews at Digital Trends, he has over a decade of experience covering PC hardware. Matt often flies the virtual skies in Microsoft Flight Simulator and is on a quest to grow the perfect heirloom tomato.
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