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Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 initial review: A premium Android ace

, Former reviews editor · ·
Review An assessment or critique of a service, product, or creative endeavour such as art, literature or a performance.

(Pocket-lint) - It was back in 2020 when the premium Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ arrived to market. Some 18 months since and the Korean company has returned with not two but three tablets, adding an extra-large Ultra model into the Tab S8 series - its 14.6-inch screen grabbing much of the series' attention.

But not everyone is going to want such an ultra-large tablet, which is where the smallest slate of the trio, the Tab S8 with its 11-inch panel, fits into the picture. Thing is, compared to the aforementioned Tab S7 there's not a lot that's different. So is the baby Galaxy Tab S8 worth a look?

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Our quick take

On the one hand the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 is a little disappointing in that it's almost identical to the Tab S7 that came 18 months prior. But to solely see it in that way would be shortsighted: for the Tab S8 is a true premium Android tablet with great design and top-end power, which is a relatively rare commodity in this market.

However, if you want a larger screen then the 12.4-inch AMOLED panel of the Tab S8+ might be yet more appealing, while we find the 14.6-inch panel of the Tab S8 Ultra to be to excess for a pure tablet product (fine as a laptop alternative, however, if that's more your aim).

For
  • High-end processor to ensure top-tier performance
  • S Pen stylus included in box
  • Accessories for potential small-scale laptop alternative
Against
  • Barely any different to Tab S7 predecessor - surely a savvy buy for less cash?
  • Lacks OLED panel of Plus/Ultra models
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The Galaxy Tab S8 is a reflection of the earlier Tab S7 - to the point that these two products are identical in size - with no shift in screen scale or resolution either. So in terms of advancements generation on generation it's an almost non-existent. There is a nice Pink Gold option, though, as pictured in this preview.

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However, let's not forget what the Tab S series is: a true premium Android tablet that's powerful enough to take on the best of them, including Apple's iPad range. Indeed, the Tab S8 is every bit a success when it comes to packing in the specification and delivering a top-tier design.

The tablet's metal finish has a soft-touch feel about it, ensuring it doesn't get excessively fingerprint smeared, with neat antenna lines cutting into the design to ensure data can stream freely whether using the Wi-Fi only or the 5G option.

The screen here is an LCD panel - the Plus and Ultra are instead AMOLED - but is an LTPS construct, which ought to give it minor benefits such as a cleaner picture and longer-lasting battery life compared to the IPS panel of the earlier Tab S7. We've not compared the two side by side, and suspect differences would be minor anyway, but can confirm this is still one good-looking panel - even when sat next to the extra-large Ultra by comparison.

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The fingerprint scanner here isn't embedded into the display - again, the reserve of the Plus and Ultra models, given their screen types - but instead is at one with the power button on the side. That'll be easier to use than an in-display one on a much larger screen, we suspect, so makes sense.

There's an S Pen stylus included in the box, hinting that this isn't just a tablet for watching content, it can also be used for productivity, drawing and more. That said, at this 11-inch scale it's easy to transport and watch streaming services while holding it in the one hand.

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The optional accessories expand well beyond the S Pen's inclusion, though, with a keyboard-and-cover combination transforming this tablet into a more laptop-like alternative. Full disclosure, however, we've not been able to see or use any such accessories, so can't comment on how they will function here.

From previous experience, however, we're not totally unconvinced that Samsung's software is quite practical enough to tackle multi-tasking, while Google Android's Play Store isn't as adept at covering all app avenues as, say, a Windows PC. As ever it'll depend on what you're looking for in your workflow as to whether the accessories option is the right kind of path for you.

In terms of raw power Samsung isn't holding back, featuring Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 inside, paired with a decent amount of RAM for performance that ought to be searing. There's even microSD card expansion if the 128/256GB storage options aren't quite enough and you want to carry stacks of content around - a nice and affordable way to upgrade.

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Interestingly the Galaxy S22 phone series uses Samsung's Exynos 2200 instead, but having seen the tablets prior to the Unpacked event we can confirm this is not the case for the Tab S8 series. Indeed, we don't believe Exynos will be used in any of Samsung's tablets in any region.

Last up the Tab S8's cameras get a small boost over the previous Tab S7, upping the resolution for the front-facing camera (from 8MP to 12MP), while the rear ultra-wide camera gets a minor resolution bump too (from 5MP to 6MP). As ever with a tablet we don't see cameras as being critically important overall, but the front-facing update is an increasingly important feature for today's work-from-home society.

To recap

A great premium Android tablet experience with top-tier hardware and a great design. Thing is we could say the very same about the almost identical Tab S7 from 18 months prior, as not much has changed generation to generation.

Writing by Mike Lowe.