Samsung Galaxy Tab S (10.5) vs Apple iPad Air: What's the difference?

Samsung has officially unveiled its Galaxy Tab S tablet at an event in New York, bringing with it many of the rumoured specs that we have seen over the last couple of weeks.

Despite its clean design and borrowed Galaxy S5 features, the new tablet has some stiff competition. Here we put it up against the Apple iPad Air to see how it compares, and whether it brings enough to the table.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S has a bigger, sharper display

The larger of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablets features a 10.5-inch AMOLED display, while the Apple iPad Air has a 9.7-inch Retina display so you will get a slightly larger screen on the Tab S.

You'll also find a slightly sharper display on the Samsung device thanks to the extra pixels packed in. The Galaxy Tab S has a 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution with a 287ppi, compared to the 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution on the iPad Air that provides a pixel density of 264ppi. You might not be able to tell them apart at first glance, however, as both are packed full of details. Samsung mantains that detail at the bigger size, which is the important point.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S is slimmer and lighter

It's almost impossible to compare the design of any two products and draw a conclusion that isn't entirely based on opinion. Some will like the iPad while others will prefer the Samsung.

If you have a Galaxy S5 and are looking for a tablet that matches it, then the Galaxy Tab S will be right up your street, featuring many of the same design cues.

However, if you have an iPhone and again want something with a similar design, then you are likely to be opting for the iPad Air.

We really like the iPad Air's premium design and while we also think the Galaxy Tab S looks great and certainly feels more premium than previous Samsung tablets, we prefer the iPad Air's metal finish.

In terms of the numbers, the iPad Air is slightly heavier than the Galaxy Tab S, weighing 469g compared to 465g. The iPad Air is also slightly thicker, coming in at 7.5mm, while the Galaxy Tab S will fit into the smaller dress size at 6.6mm. Engineered to undercut, you might say.

With that larger display, the Tab S has a bigger footprint, measuring 247.3 x 177.3 x 6.6mm to the iPad's 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S camera has more megapixels, flash

The camera on a tablet doesn't usually get as much attention as the camera on a smartphone, but Samsung hasn't cut the corners too sharply with the Galaxy Tab S.

The Galaxy Tab S has an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2.1-megapixel front camera compared to the 5-megapixel rear snapper and 2.2-megapixel front camera on the iPad Air.

Additionally, the Galaxy Tab S comes with an LED flash bringing an advantage in low light, and it is something the iPad Air doesn't offer.

Performance should be on par

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S features an octa-core Exynos chipset made up of a quad-core 1.9GHz processor and a quad-core 1.3GHz chip, supported by 3GB of RAM so it should be more than capable of performing the tasks you throw at it.

The Apple iPad Air has the A7 processor with 64-bit architecture that the company announced last year, along with the M7 motion co-processor.

When we reviewed the iPad Air, we were impressed with its performance. Until we get to fully review the Galaxy Tab S we won't know exactly how it performs in real life, however neither device is going to be a slouch.

Both offer unique features

Similar to design, software is also a difficult section to compare as again, personal preference will probably be the ultimate decider. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S will come with customised Android 4.4.2 KitKat from the box and offer a number of Samsung features.

Working closely with your Samsung smartphone, the Galaxy Tab S will be able to take calls and send messages on the tablet through SideSync 3.0 and it will offer many of the S5 functions, such as the Ultra Power Saving mode.

On the other hand, Apple's iPad Air runs on iOS 7 and also offers its own unique features, such as Airdrop, Airplay and Siri. You'll also get the iWork apps, which allow you to create and edit documents on the move, plus GarageBand, iPhoto and iMovie come with the iPad Air.

In many cases there are comparable Android apps, but these two ecosystems both have pros and cons.

The Galaxy Tab S could be cheaper

If you haven't been swayed either way yet, then the price could be what tips the balance for you, but Samsung has yet to announce the Galaxy Tab S price.

Only US prices have been announced so far but it is rumoured to be starting at £455 for a Wi-Fi only model with which you could get either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, along with microSD support for up to 128GB expansion.

The iPad Air starts at £399 for the Wi-Fi only model, but that is for the 16GB model and as with all Apple products, there is no microSD support for expansion. You can buy a 128GB version but it will set you back £639, which is likely to make it a lot more expensive than the Galaxy Tab S.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S offers a larger screen, better camera and more storage, along with a slimmer and lighter body.

But the numbers probably won't be what makes you choose between these two devices, because the difference comes down to the operating system, of which you have probably already have your preference.

On paper, the Galaxy Tab S comes out as the winner in terms of specs, but we love the Apple iPad Air and we suspect it would be a mighty challenge to get an Apple user to swtich to this Android tablet.