An amazing screen attached to a decent tablet
It’s been hard to get excited about Android tablets since… well, ever. I will admit to being a little excited about the original Nexus 7, but things went downhill quickly after that. I don’t know if you should get excited about the Galaxy Tab S8+, but maybe you can finally look forward to being excited about Android tablets in the near future. The hardware is excellent, with possibly the prettiest OLED panel I’ve ever laid eyes on, and the best version of Samsung’s S Pen yet.
The software experience has improved, and it will improve more later this year when Android 12L rolls out, but there are still too many issues with Android on tablets to strongly recommend the Tab S8+. If you can look past a few head-shaking flubs, using Android on the Tab S8+ can be enjoyable.
- Storage: 128, 256GB
- CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
- Memory: 8, 12GB
- Operating System: Android 12 with One UI 4.1
- Battery: 10090 mAh
- Camera (Rear, Front): 13MP primary, 6MP ultrawide, 12MP selfie
- Display (Size, Resolution): 12.4-inch OLED, 1752 x 2800 @ 120Hz
- Price: $899.99
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, USB-C 3.2
- Measurements: 285 x 185 x 5.7 mm, 567g
- Gorgeous display
- Slim, elegant design
- Includes S Pen
- Better multitasking than other Android tablets
- Widescreen ratio isn’t ideal for a large tablet
- Android still lacks tablet optimizations
- Keyboard cover is expensive and not very good
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
If you’ve used a Tab S7 FE, the Tab S8+ will feel familiar. It’s an ultra-slim aluminum platter with a screen on one side. In fact, the Tab S8+ is almost all screen, and that’s the way I like it. The bezels are narrow and symmetrical all the way around (no notch here), offering just enough room to comfortably hold the tablet without touching the screen. The 12.4-inch OLED clocks in at 1752 x 2800 with a 120Hz refresh rate. The maximum brightness doesn’t hit the lofty peaks of Samsung’s phones, but it’s still more than bright enough for usage across most lighting conditions. It’s brighter than most similarly sized laptop screens.
There’s an optical fingerprint sensor similar to the one used on Samsung’s cheaper FE and A-series phones. It’s on the right side of the screen (landscape) and unlocks the device as reliably as any modern optical sensor (and a little slower than Samsung’s ultrasonic sensors). I can’t complain too much, but for $900, an ultrasonic sensor like the one used in the S22 family would have been nice.
Samsung is now several generations removed from its last square ratio tablets, which are similar in shape to the iPad. Now, it’s back to widescreen OLEDs on its tablets, 16:10 in this case. That makes the 12.4-inch slate ungainly to use in portrait orientation, but the overall package is light enough that you can muddle through—it’s not as hefty as competing tablets, like the largest iPad which is 80g heavier. It’s actually not bad for reading long documents, and the S Pen is perfect for adding notes or doodling on them.
The left and right edges have two speakers each, and they sound noticeably better than your average laptop. They are easy to block while holding the tablet, though. There are two camera sensors on the back (part of that plus upgrade), and next to the sensor island is a glass insert for the S Pen. Samsung includes the stylus with the tablet, and it has the full suite of S Pen functionality via Bluetooth connectivity. The pen charges whenever it’s docked to the back of the tablet, to which it adheres magnetically. The pen stays put when it’s attached, but finding the alignment blind can be challenging. While the magnets are strong enough to hold it, they aren’t strong enough to line it up for you unless you can get close to the mark on your own. The S Pen is physically identical to the previous generation. It’s about the size of a traditional pen, which makes it more comfortable to hold long-term than the miniature version in the S22 Ultra. Samsung says the latency has been lowered to 6.2ms, which is higher than the S22, but I can’t detect any difference when comparing them directly, and the S Pen is still miles ahead of the stylus on any other Android tablet I’ve used.
Despite the significant size of this slate, there’s no headphone jack. I suppose that shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore, but I can’t shake the feeling that Samsung could have included a tiny 3.5mm jack on this thing. You do get a microSD card slot on the opposite end, which is a nice bonus in this day and age. The only port is a USB-C on the right edge (in landscape). The solid, tactile buttons are on the top of the tablet, which keeps them in reach if you do want to use the device in portrait orientation.
The haptic motor doesn’t feel as precise or powerful as I’d like, given the price. In fact, my first review unit had a defective motor that produced very little vibration and a lot of buzzing noises. The replacement has been fine, but again, the feedback is just okay.
The bottom edge of the tablet has pogo pins for linking with Samsung’s keyboard case, which came free with pre-orders. Given the form factor and the amazing screen that I’d feel terrible scratching up, I think you’ll want a Galaxy Tab S8+ case of some sort. However, if you didn’t get the keyboard case for free, you shouldn’t spend $170 on it. It protects the tablet well, and the exterior feels nice, but the keyboard part is substandard. The keys don’t have much travel, as you’d expect, but they’re also rattly and mushy. Not a great typing experience, and there’s no trackpad like you get with the Tab S8 Ultra’s keyboard cover.
Samsung isn’t offering the free cover anymore, and you don’t find any goodies in the box to make up for that. You get the tablet itself, the S Pen, and a cable. No, there’s no plug for the tablet. I still don’t like the idea of something that costs $900 arriving without a charger, but it’s a bit less galling here because I suspect anyone who buys this tablet will already have a newer Android phone with a USB-C charger.
Software, performance, and battery
You’ve probably heard more times than you can count that Android is not well-optimized for tablets. That’s still true, but Samsung is doing more to support large form factors than anyone else with Android 12 on the Tab S8+. Comparing something like the Lenovo Tab P12 Pro to the S8+, the Samsung experience is on a completely different level. Basic features like the keyboard and home screen have been tweaked to make better use of space on Samsung’s slate, whereas “stock” Android on tablets is still just a big phone.
Tab S8+ with three apps running in multi-window.
Samsung has worked with Google to make Android better for the large screen, and it shows. I’ve talked about this at length when discussing foldables, but Samsung’s powerful split-screen functionality makes Android on tablets surprisingly livable. The Tab S8+ has the same app panel on the edge, allowing quick access to groups of up to three apps that launch in your chosen split configuration. You can rearrange and resize the apps as you like, and you can even open them in floating windows. Just a few years ago, apps would become crashy messes when running in windows, but now that’s the exception rather than the rule. If you’re willing to live a split-screen life, this makes Android apps feel more tablet friendly. I also quite like the S Pen now supports writing directly in text fields without bringing up the keyboard first.
There have been times when I’m jamming along, split screening apps, sharing files, marking up documents, and I think, “Hey’s what’s so wrong with Android on tablets?” And then I open an app that only works in full-screen portrait orientation, and the universe answers my rhetorical question. Android software is too disparate, or dare I say fragmented, for Google and Samsung to fix this overnight. Android still lacks truly tablet-optimized apps. I would kill to have proper Photoshop on this device, which is something you can get on the iPad.
Samsung still has its desktop-like DeX interface, but this feels even less necessary than it once did. The standard Android UI is more usable with new multi-window and S Pen features, and DeX invents numerous inconsistent UI conventions that ignore all of that. For example, there’s no gesture navigation, and most of the system tools are crammed awkwardly into the DeX taskbar. If you’re as into that instant handwriting feature as I am, you can kiss it goodbye whenever you’re in DeX mode. In a similar vein, you can use the S8+ as desktop computer monitor with touch input, no DeX required. Just turn on the second screen toggle, and connect with Win+K. The wireless connection is a bit more sluggish than a wired monitor, but it works surprisingly well.
The Tab S8+ runs the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 as the North American variant of the S22. Samsung got in hot water for throttling the performance on those phones, running at full speed only when performing a benchmark, and the Tab S8+ appears to do something similar. We’ve noted higher benchmark scores dropping by about 15% when using a spoofed version of Geekbench pretending to be Genshin Impact, so there may be more devices headed to the banned list. That said, I’ve had no issue playing complex games like Civilization VI on this tablet. The tablet also has no trouble running three apps in split-screen mode. I regularly open Slack, Gmail, and Chrome on the Tab S8+, which is everything I need to do my job. Working from this tablet is totally doable, and I don’t hate it. It’s plenty fast enough, even if it’s not running at maximum speed.
If you want a tablet that can float around for a week and still have plenty of battery, this is not the device for you. The battery life is acceptable but not impressive. With heavy use, the Tab S8+ can last through two days of gaming and multi-window apps.
Most tablets don’t have any cameras worth caring about, and that’s still mostly true in the case of the Tab S8+. However, upgrading from the base model gets you a second rear camera, and the three total sensors on this device are better than what you usually see on tablets. Here are a few samples from the main camera array.
You should not expect the same level of performance as Samsung’s S-series smartphones. The S8+ main camera is 13MP with an f/2.0 aperture, and the ultrawide is only 6MP at f/2.2. They’re not stabilized, which can make it difficult to snap photos with something this heavy. Colors are vibrant but exposure trends longer, making movement difficult to capture. The S8+ lacks the second front-facing camera of the Ultra, but the one you do get is acceptable for video calls. It’s sharper than the webcam on most laptops.
Should you buy it?
Maybe, but only if you want to believe in the future of Android tablets. Samsung is already ahead of the curve with the refined tablet features on the Tab S8+, but this device will also get Android 12L later this year. I’m confident the Tab S8+ will get better with time as Google finally acknowledges that tablets are an important part of the Android ecosystem, and Samsung has promised to keep this device updated for five years with four years of major Android OS updates. That’s years longer than you’ll get from anyone else making tablets.
You get all of that with the cheaper Tab S8, so why spend $900 on this one? It’s all about that screen. The colors are rich, images are ultra-sharp, and the brightness makes it suitable for using indoors or out. You can even use the Tab S8+ in bed at night without blinding yourself—no small miracle with a 12.4-inch OLED panel. The upgrade over the LCD-equipped Tab S8 is worth it. But objectively? Most people won’t want or need a high-end Android tablet right now.
Now that Samsung’s pre-order bonanza has ended, I would say hold off on buying the Tab S8+. It’s the best option for a high-end Android tablet, but it’s nine hundred dollars, and the official cases (which you probably want) are spendy. Wait for a sale, unless you are all-in with Android tablets.
Buy it if…
- You need a large, high-end tablet and an iPad won’t do.
- You believe in the future of Android tablets.
Don’t buy it if…
- You only want a tablet to watch Netflix.
- A big phone is enough for you.
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