After some tentative steps into the tablet market with their consistently unimpressive Note line, Samsung finally got their act together with the release of the original Tab S. An Android tablet that finally approached the fit and polish of an iPad — at last! Now, with the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet, Android users are a little bit closer to getting a bite out of the Apple.
Let’s start with the big selling points of the S2. It has a Super AMOLED display screen that’s consistently scored as one of the finest screens available on any tablet. It provides deep, pure blacks and terrific brightness, meaning this tablet works well for multimedia applications.
The other major draw to the Samsung Galaxy S2 Tablet is its 32 GB storage capacity. That’s a huge amount of memory for a $400 tablet, and its competitors at that price point — Apple’s iPad Mini and Dell’s Venue 8 — both offer only 16 GB.
The tablet’s other features offer you a full complement of the standards you’d expect from a mature, well-developed tablet. Its 8-megapixel rear camera is more than adequate for taking casual photos, and it comes equipped with a full suite of Samsung software extras that make it a bit more useful.
One last strong point is the subtle but careful design. The tablet (available in 8 or 9.7 inch sizes) is perfectly sized for one-handed use, and the edges are crisp and smooth. This is also an exceptionally slender tablet; it’s thinner (by a tiny fraction) than the iPad Mini.
The processor running the Samsung Galaxy S2 Tablet is an “octacore” chipset created by chaining together two quad core processors running at 9 GHz and 1.3 GHz. RAM is generous at 3 GB. As noted above, it features 32 GB of on-board storage with a microSD slot that can mount an additional 128 GB of storage. Samsung has promised an even more memory-heavy model in the near future that will feature 64 GB, but that edition hasn’t appeared yet.
Besides the 8-megapixel rear camera you get a 2.1-megapixel front camera for video conferencing. Communications are handle by Bluetooth 4.1 (the low-energy or BLE version) and Wi-Fi 802.11 MIMO — an accelerated connection. The operating system is Android Lollipop 5.1 with a proprietary Samsung overlay (TouchWiz).
One of the few potential problems with this tablet is that the machine seems to chug ever so slightly under the load of Android Lollipop 5.1. CNET testing noted that the S2 was roughly equivalent in performance to Dell’s Venue 8 when running Lollipop 5.0.2. Upgrading to 5.1 — the version that now ships standard with the tablet — seriously slowed it down and led to a little bit of stuttering with graphics-intensive apps like games. If you’re a power user who intends to do a lot of gaming you might consider downgrading to a less demanding version of Android.
The S2’s battery performance was more than ample when tested independently. Average lifespan was roughly 13 hours of continuous use. In real-world terms, that translates to charging the tablet only every two or three days unless you’re using it constantly. Standby time was also impressive, with the tablet maintaining a 90 percent charge for more than two days of idle time.
Most of the S2’s advantages are already noted above. It has a world-class display screen and a truly impressive amount of memory for its price point. The other great strengths of the machine are harder to point at. It’s simply a matter of refinement; this Android tablet is put together nearly as well as an iPad. Considering you get twice the memory and a microSD slot in exchange for giving up the aluminum back and the Apple logo, the trade-off is quite reasonable.
Besides the slightly troubling performance issue noted above, the only real problem with the Galaxy S2 is that it doesn’t have any “gee whiz” stand-out feature. It might risk sinking into the overcrowded market for Android tablets without making a splash. Considering how reliable and well-designed this tablet is, that would be quite a shame.