It’s a good time for Samsung: they recently released the excellent Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone lineup and the Tab S8 tablet series; they enjoy a comfortable lead in the Android market and constantly push the boundaries of technology with their products. Now, I’m not really a fan of tablets, I think they occupy a precarious space between laptops and smartphones. But I got to test the top-of-the-range Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra tablet for a few weeks, and it made me reconsider my assumptions. If they evolve at this pace, tablets have a future. Read this review to see my conclusions:
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra: who is it good for?
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is an excellent choice for:
- Graphic designers, painters, or sketchers who want the best tools for their trade
- Users in search of the best Android tablet
- People who enjoy watching videos or listening to music while they are traveling and can afford this fantastic tablet
- Travelers who want to pack lightly and don’t want to carry a laptop but still need to work while on the road
Pros and cons
After testing the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, there are lots of things that I liked:
- The design of the tablet is breathtaking, with a thickness of under 6 mm and a giant 14.6-inch screen
- Its build quality is second to none
- The AMOLED screen is very good and has wide viewing angles
- The S-Pen is useful not just for drawing and taking notes, it also functions as a remote control
- The performance of the tablet is up there with the best
- The tablet has expandable storage (microSD card slot)
- Samsung DeX simulates a desktop environment and thus cancels many drawbacks of working on an Android tablet
There are just a few things that could be improved:
- The package doesn’t include a charger. Considering the long charge times with generic chargers, this can be a real problem
- The price of the tablet takes it dangerously close to some ultraportable laptops or 2-in-1s
- The Book Cover Keyboard is also very expensive, and it’s not as rigid as it should be.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is, hands down, the best Android tablet there is, at least for the time being. It’s quite expensive, but you get the best of the best: the fastest chipset, a beautiful (and large) screen, great sound, the excellent S-Pen, and a refined user interface. It’s a useful tool for productivity tasks (especially with the optional accessories) and for graphic designers and artists. Of course, it’s also excellent for media playback, thanks to its AMOLED screen and top-notch speakers. If you have the budget for it, do not hesitate to buy it.
Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra's box is very slim. Its dimensions are 13.58 x 8.93 x 0.78 inches (345 x 227 x 20 mm). The white background emphasizes the picture of the tablet and the name on the front of the box. There are very few other features on the sides and back of the box.
Inside, you find the tablet, packed in a soft, protective pouch, and the accessories: a USB-C to USB-C cable, an S-Pen, a SIM tray tool, and the manuals. Sadly, there is no charger included, but it’s assumed that you already have a smartphone that has a charger. Unless that smartphone is a Samsung Galaxy S21 FE or any of the newer Galaxy smartphones, which don’t include one either.
The unboxing experience of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is in line with many Samsung premium devices: few accessories, premium packaging, monochromatic box design. Once in a blue moon, it would be nice if Samsung would include a fast charger with its premium devices.
Design and hardware specifications
Once you get the tablet out of its package, you cannot help but be amazed by how far tablet design has come. The tablet looks simply stunning, with a thickness of just 0.21 inches (5.5 millimeters). It’s way thinner than any modern smartphone and as thin as a tablet gets these days. Not only is it thin, but it’s also huge: the width and height of the tablet are 8.23 x 12.83 inches (209 x 326 mm). Its weight is 1.60 lb or 728 grams. Despite the dimensions, the beautiful brushed aluminum chassis is solid and doesn’t flex at all. The screen is naturally huge as well, with a diagonal of 14.6 inches and a resolution of 2960x1848 pixels. This equates to a pixel density of roughly 240 pixels per inch. The panel is a Super AMOLED capable of a 120 Hz refresh rate and HDR10+. It’s protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. Apart from the impressive screen and the small camera notch, there are no features on the front of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra.
The back of the device has a similar lack of features: the only thing you’ll see here is the dual-camera assembly, which is raised a few millimeters and continues with a black plastic strip. The strip is not there just for show, it’s also the “parking space” for the S-Pen. That is the only location where the S-Pen can charge (wirelessly), and its orientation is essential. The magnetic retention only works if the S-Pen is positioned with the tip facing the cameras.
The top and the bottom of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra (or the left and right sides, if you hold it in landscape mode) house four speakers, two on each side. The bottom also contains a USB-C port, while on the top you will find a microphone.
The buttons (volume rocker and power) are located on the right side of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. Also on the right side, there is a microphone and a SIM tray (for the 5G model). The tray also holds an SD card. Expandable storage, yay!
The left side houses the metallic contacts for the Book Cover Keyboard, which we also received with the product. You should note that the keyboard, together with the back cover, is sold separately at the steep price of $350.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is powered by the very latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset - an octa-core CPU coupled with an Adreno 730 GPU. It has between 8 and 16 GB of RAM, depending on the model, and 128, 256, or 512 GB of storage. I tested the 8GB/128GB model.
The battery is massive as well: it has a capacity of 11200 mAh. I suspect that with such a large screen, it needs it. Its advertised charging time with a 45W fast charger is 82 minutes.
Since I mentioned the cameras before, here are a few details about them:
- The front (selfie) cameras both have 12 MP sensors, but one is behind an f/2.2, 26mm (wide) lens, while the other uses an f/2.4 ultrawide lens with a 120-degree field of view.
- The cameras on the back have different sensors: one is a 13 MP and has an f/2.0, 26mm wide-angle lens, while the other is a 6 MP, f/2.2 ultrawide.
The tablet has GPS (with GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, and A-GPS), Wi-Fi 6e, Bluetooth 5.2, but no NFC. The S-Pen is a technological marvel: it has Bluetooth, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and it is charged wirelessly. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra has an under-screen optical fingerprint sensor and the usual range of sensors: accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, and a light sensor.
For more information about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, visit the product page here: Compare Galaxy Tab S8, S8+ & S8 Ultra.
Using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra
After looking at the technical specifications, I expected the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra to perform very well, whatever I threw at it. Sure enough, the experience was really special. The fast chipset is definitely helped by the good user interface and animations, which make everything look smooth and blazing fast. But what I wasn’t expecting was the brilliant multimedia experience. The screen is almost perfect, with rich colors and solid contrast. The viewing angles are amazing, and you don’t see any color shift even when viewing at extreme angles. The only place where it doesn’t excel is the brightness, but the screen remains usable in bright light.
It’s not just the screen, though. The speakers are excellent as well, loud and with sufficient bass. Turn on Dolby Atmos, and you will be truly surprised by what the four speakers can deliver. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra performs flawlessly in games too. I played PUBG Mobile for hours with all the settings cranked up, and I had zero issues. The frame rate was good, the device never got more than a little warm, and the responsiveness of the touchscreen was perfect for competitive gaming.
I also tried drawing on the tablet. I am not an expert in this field, but I’m pretty sure graphic designers will love using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. The S-Pen is very accurate, its low latency (2.8 ms) makes it visually similar to drawing with a real pen, and the palm rejection from the screen is excellent (so you can rest your hand on the screen without issues when drawing).
If you enjoy writing by hand, you can also take notes with handwriting. Most of the time, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is able to recognize the writing and convert it to editable text. It struggles with some characters and writing styles (for example, I’m left-handed, so my handwriting doesn’t have the same “flow”), but overall the OCR does a pretty good job.
Let’s talk about the S-Pen some more. As I mentioned before, it has a few sensors that aren’t usually present on a stylus: a gyroscope and an accelerometer. Here’s why: in several applications (like media players or browsers), you can use the S-Pen as a remote by making gestures. No, not on the screen, in the air. Like a wand. For example, you can skip to the next song or video by pressing the button on the S-Pen while simultaneously swiping right with it. Or you can increase the volume by keeping the button pressed and swiping up. Wingardium Leviosa, anyone? Pressing the S-Pen button for more than two seconds starts the Camera app, then pressing the button again takes a picture.
While the S-Pen only charges when it’s placed on the back of the tablet, you can place it on other parts of the tablet, and it will stick to it. It’s an excellent design choice that compensates somewhat for the fact that the S-Pen doesn’t sit flush somewhere on the tablet and can be easily displaced when it’s charging. If you want to make sure that the stylus stays put when charging, you’ll have to dish out more money for the back cover (which includes a compartment for securing the S-Pen to its charging location). More on that in the last chapter of the review.
Phone calls worked great, and the front-facing cameras are more than enough for video calling when there is enough light. A nice feature: the camera system has Auto Framing - it automatically zooms and adjusts to keep you in the frame.
I do not recommend using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra for taking pictures, as its main camera performance is mediocre at best. Also, you’ll look really funny trying to take a picture with a laptop-sized tablet. That being said, selfies are passable for social media or sending a portrait to your loved ones.
The battery life is just average. I managed about 8 hours of continuous video playback or heavy gaming, and using the tablet for about 2 hours per day gave me an easy three days of battery life. I wasn’t able to test the fast charging time, unfortunately, but I did notice that with a generic 18 Watt charger, it takes quite a long time to recharge (more than three hours).
Overall, my experience with using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra was great. I enjoyed every minute of it - from gaming to media playback, doodling and productivity tasks. I didn’t really find anything to criticize about the tablet, and if you read my reviews, you know that I really complain a lot.
On the next page, I analyze the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra software environment, use our usual benchmarks to test its raw performance and battery life and finally tell you about some of its optional accessories - a backlit keyboard and a very useful back cover. Let's go!