April 17, 2024
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Plus sitting on a shelf.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Tendencies

“Android tablets are a misplaced trigger.” I come throughout this recurring theme extra usually than I would love, however there’s some reality to it. As somebody who pushes Android tablets as a every day workhorse, I’ve defended on quite a few events how the ecosystem has matured over the previous few years after Android 12L and foldable arrived on the scene.

However in comparison with the iPad, Android tablets hold falling brief. With each model making an attempt to create its personal distinctive software program taste for tablets that fluctuate dramatically when it comes to firepower, no two Android tablets appear to supply a uniform expertise. iPads, then again, do ship expertise uniformity no matter the display screen dimension.

However within the Android world, Samsung provides probably the most mature expertise, particularly on its flagship tablets. And should you actually push these machines, they even serve a greater worth than some iPads. Following the July Unpacked 2023 occasion, Samsung is again within the flagship pill recreation with the Galaxy Tab S9 trio. They appear promising, however I’m additionally nervous a couple of cycle of serving finesse with out depth.

The Galaxy Tab S9 collection makes a leap

Someone holding the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Plus.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Tendencies

On the floor, the Galaxy Tab S9 collection seems like a modest improve, however even at that, the adjustments run deeper than a typical generation-over-generation improve for an iPad. Even the most cost effective mannequin now options an AMOLED show with a dynamic 120Hz refresh fee. For comparability, the 11-inch iPad Professional nonetheless has an LCD display screen for $799.

There’s a neat Imaginative and prescient Booster system that bumps up the colour distinction primarily based on the ambient gentle scenario to supply the very best viewing expertise. Samsung has the quickest Qualcomm processor within the chipmaker’s stock and has added an IP68 ranking to each the pill in addition to the included stylus. That’s one other enormous win over Apple.

Going a step forward, Samsung reworked the interior {hardware} and employed a bi-directional warmth dissipation system to maintain the Galaxy Tab S9 cool. For the primary time, Samsung even put a vapor chamber cooling system that one often finds in both gaming telephones or top-tier Android flagships just like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Extremely.

Using the S Pen on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Extremely Joe Maring / Digital Tendencies

The battery dimension has additionally gone up, which is at all times a welcome change. Total, it seems like Samsung spared no expense underneath the hood whereas designing the Galaxy Tab S9 collection. The truth is, if one have been to do a side-by-side {hardware} comparability, the Galaxy Tab S9 simply would possibly appear to be the higher deal for $799 in comparison with Apple’s present iPad Professional. However I’m fairly skeptical about the entire scenario right here.

As soon as once more, an underwhelming software program showcase

Someone using multiple apps on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra.
Joe Maring / Digital Tendencies

Curiously, Samsung centered on how it’s bringing some productiveness apps like LumaFusion for video modifying, Goodnotes (which seems awfully just like Apple’s Freeform app), and ArcSite to the Galaxy Tab S9 collection. It’s an ideal initiative. In spite of everything, why have all that firepower if there aren’t any apps to make use of within the first place?

However what actually shocked me was that Samsung didn’t dig into the One UI expertise for its new tablets. And that’s as a result of there aren’t any iterative upgrades on the software program facet — not less than not proper now. I’ve repeatedly labeled One UI as probably the most functionally rewarding and versatile pores and skin for Android tablets, particularly if you would like a desktop-like expertise to get work performed.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Plus and Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra next to each other.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 collection tablets Joe Maring / Digital Tendencies

And but, Samsung appeared worryingly distant from discussing its One UI 5.1 software program. That’s as a result of there don’t appear to be any new noteworthy additions. Even Samsung’s expertise information handed out to media personnel propped up options which can be already out there on the Galaxy Tab S8 collection, corresponding to multi-window and pop-up view for working a number of apps, DeX mode, multi-control, fast share, and secondary display screen help.

These are all superb options and get you as near the cross-device connectivity within the Apple ecosystem because it will get. The truth is, Samsung’s window administration was superior to Apple’s Stage Supervisor — even in its most superior type in iPadOS 17. However it will have been nice to see not less than a number of new One UI 5.1 tips.

Samsung can’t nod off on progress

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 in the hands of a user.
The superb multi-window expertise on Galaxy Tab S8 Nadeem Sarwar / DigitalTrends

For higher or worse, Samsung is the torchbearer for Android tablets. And it has been loyal to the trigger longer than some other model. Even Google — the Lord of Android — has had a frustratingly on-off dedication to Android tablets. Even with the Google Pixel Pill, the main focus stays on sensible dwelling help and leisure fairly than hardcore large-screen productiveness.

For one more yr, the onus is on Samsung to redeem Android tablets as a standalone class of large-screen productiveness machines, and the Galaxy Tab S9 is the check mattress. A wholesome bunch of my colleagues balks on the concept of One UI being part of their every day smartphone routine, and for legitimate causes. I, for one, have remained a One UI fanatic for the pill expertise.

Nevertheless it looks as if Samsung is squandering a lead right here. iPadOS began off as a stretched-out iOS interface tailor-made for Apple tablets. With the discharge of iPadOS 17 (at present in public beta), it seems extra mature than ever. Stage Supervisor is lastly usable , and even with the new-found window administration flexibility, app scaling will not be a problem in any respect.

One UI 5.1, regardless of providing extra versatility in window administration in its newest construct, nonetheless suffers from badly scaled app interfaces. Apple wins as a result of it dictates the foundations of consumer expertise for each in-house in addition to third-party apps. Samsung doesn’t. That half is Google’s duty, however I’ve waited years — in useless — for it to get sorted.

Hope forward, however historical past speaks for itself

Galaxy Tab S8 atop the tenth generation iPad.
Samsung and Apple tablets Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Tendencies

Android 14’s largest focus appears to be on apps scaling properly throughout the big screens on tablets and foldables. As soon as once more, I’m skeptically hopeful. However even when it occurs, that have will solely arrive on Android tablets by the top of this yr or the following. Crucially, this could nonetheless imply Google remains to be taking part in a recreation of catch-up with iPadOS and never main forward.

Samsung is aware of that each one too effectively, and it has tried to masks these flaws utilizing its personal tips in One UI. That’s additionally the explanation why I used to be mighty excited for this yr’s ultimate Unpacked occasion to see what Samsung has performed with One UI for its tablets. I really like the significant {hardware} upgrades and may’t wait to attempt the brand new pro-grade apps like LumaFusion.

However a pill is barely pretty much as good because the software program expertise it delivers. If it will probably’t wow anymore with significant upgrades, there may be little purpose to drop near a thousand {dollars} on it, particularly when the iPad Professional can ship a meaningfully deeper choice of apps and a extra streamlined expertise.

Perhaps Samsung is ready for Android 14 to reach within the coming weeks to element the enhancements it has made to One UI for tablets. However not less than saying them at Unpacked wouldn’t have harm. Ignoring it sends a message that Samsung has both not performed sufficient work on the software program facet, or it isn’t assured in flaunting One UI as a worthy competitor to the iPad expertise. Both means, it’s disappointing to see.

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