During a surprise livestreamed event today, Samsung officially took the wraps off the much-leaked Galaxy Tab S4. The numerically-inclined among you probably realize that it’s the follow-up to the Galaxy Tab S3, Samsung’s last flagship tablet, and just about the only Android tablet to challenge the iPad Pro at its game.
From a hardware perspective, Samsung definitely isn’t fixing what wasn’t broke. The biggest thing that Samsung has changed from the Galaxy Tab S3 is the design: gone is the home button, replaced with thinner bezels and gesture controls to get around. The removal of the home button has also enabled Samsung to install a larger 10.5-inch screen, up from the 9.7-inch display in the Tab S3. It has a resolution of 2500 x 1600 and keeps Samsung’s favorite Super AMOLED technology, the same as found on last year’s model. Given that last year’s Tab S3 had one of the best mobile displays around, and the Tab S4 has kept the screen technology but increased the pixels per inch, the screen is likely to be the highlight on this device.
The other hardware tweaks mostly involve audio in some capacity or another. There’s four AKG speakers packed into the Tab S4 with support for Dolby Atmos, which promises the best audio you can expect from a mobile device. Coupled with the 10.5-inch AMOLED display, that should make for a good movie-watching experience.
Samsung also claims that it’s packed far-field microphone technology into the Tab S4. Far-field microphones are normally found in smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home, and Samsung has included them in its new tablet for the same reason. The Galaxy Tab S4 comes with support for the Google Assistant out of the box, which is particularly excellent news, since it means Samsung’s choosing to not promote Bixby, its (not-as-good) personal assistant. In theory, the Google Assistant’s excellent voice recognition coupled with far-field microphone hardware means you should be able to shout at your tablet from across the room.
When you’re not watching movies or yelling at your tablet, Samsung has installed its DeX mobile desktop software on the Galaxy Tab S4. We first saw DeX on the Galaxy S line of smartphones, and in that case, it was designed so that you could plug your phone into a computer monitor, attach a keyboard and a mouse, and have a desktop-type experience using your smartphone as the brains.
With the Galaxy Tab S4 and DeX, things have changed a little. Samsung has designed it so that you sit the Galaxy Tab S4 in its keyboard case, pair a Bluetooth mouse, and then use it exactly like a laptop computer. DeX provides a desktop-like interface with a multitasking bar along the bottom and fast window swapping, which gives you an interface more suited to working with spreadsheets or presentations than the usual tablet touch interface.
Specs-wise, all models of the Galaxy Tab S4 come with that 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display, and includes an S Pen stylus in the box. There’s a 13MP F/1.9 rear-facing camera, a 8MP front-facing camera, last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB RAM, and 64GB or 256GB storage options, expandable via microSD. It comes in the choice of black or white, and starts at $649, with the 256GB option running $749.
We’re still waiting on news of the release date, but the Galaxy Tab S4 already has a listing on Best Buy’s site, so it will likely be on sale within a few weeks at most. The big question, of course, is whether anyone actually wants to pay $650 for an Android tablet. Apple hasn’t had overly good sales of its more expensive iPad Pros in recent years, and it introduced a cheaper $329 iPad earlier this year. Samsung’s inclusion of DeX on the Galaxy Tab S4 seems like a smart idea: by positioning it as an alternative to cheaper Chromebooks, rather than other Android tablets, that $650 pricetag becomes easier to swallow.