Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 -- great tablet, but is it better than iPad Air? [Review]

PicsArt_7_16_2014 9_59_58 PM

Android is a very capable operating system. With it, Google accomplished the unthinkable -- widespread Linux use by average home users. Linus Torvalds popularized his kernel with nerds and the enterprise, but the search giant made it accessible for all. Here's the thing though -- the fact that Android is powered by Linux doesn't matter. No, to the average consumer, all that matters is the experience. What lies beneath is inconsequential.

Samsung recently released the Galaxy Tab S 10.5, its newest flagship tablet. The device's closest competitor is the iPad Air -- which is a tablet I love. Besides Apple's tablet, there is really no other product to consider at the $500 price point. So, if you are considering a $500 general-use tablet, the only question that must be asked is -- is it better than the iPad Air?


Boy, what a tough question to answer -- tough, but not impossible. I've been using them both, side by side, for some time now and I have some definitive thoughts.

Galaxy Tab S 10.5 Specs

  • Network -- Wi-Fi Only
  • Processor -- Exynos 5 Octa (1.9 GHz QuadCore + 1.3 GHz QuadCore)
  • Display -- 10.5-inch WQXGA (2560x1600) Super AMOLED, 287ppi
  • OS -- Android 4.4 (KitKat)
  • Camera -- Rear: 8.0 Megapixel Auto Focus Camera with LED Flash, Front: 2.1 Megapixel
  • Connectivity -- Dual-Band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac MIMO, BT v4.0, USB 2.0
  • Memory 3GB RAM, 16GB Internal Memory, microSD (Up to 128GB)
  • Battery -- Li-ion 7,900mAh (10.5)

PicsArt_7_16_2014 10_04_40 PM


The first thing you notice upon taking the Tab S from the box is just how thin and light it is. Shockingly, at 6.6mm and 465 grams, it is even thinner and lighter than the iPad Air. This makes it very easy to hold and reduces arm-fatigue. Of course, at this point, we are splitting hairs -- both tablets are really thin and light.

If you are in the market for a 10 inch tablet, the screen should be a huge factor in your decision. For a while, the iPad Air display was one of the best, if not the best. The retina display, while partly marketing-speak, produced beautiful and vivid images. While the display on Apple's tablet is still great, it can no longer be called the best.

The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 offers a 2560 x 1600 resolution, but that is only part of the allure. The real news is the Super AMOLED technology, that recreates the most beautiful colors and imagery. Some may argue that this technology over-saturates the colors -- I must disagree. True, colors are more vivid, but not to the point of creating a mockery by any means. No, it instead treats the user to a more life-like experience.

PicsArt_7_16_2014 10_03_29 PM

Where it really shines is in the sun (pun intended). In my backyard on a sunny day, the iPad Air is unusable. It is impossible to decipher what is on the screen, so I must head for shade. The display on the Galaxy Tab S, is a totally different story. Samsung's technologies allow the user to have a better experience under sunlight. This is achieved using sensors that adjust the display to your surroundings.

Much like its smartphones, Samsung has implemented its TouchWiz improvements to the otherwise boring Android interface. When compared to the stock experience of something like a Nexus 10, TouchWiz makes the user experience much more colorful and lively. Things get taken to a new level with this tablet though, as it takes advantage of a tablet-optimized "magazine" mode, which I rather like. Don't like it? Install Nova Launcher. It's not a big deal, guys. Android gives you the option to choose.

PicsArt_7_16_2014 9_58_40 PM

The iPad does not allow you to easily add additional memory. While you can jailbreak and access SD cards and flash drives, under normal usage that is not allowed outside of photo importing. Samsung's tablet offers a microSD slot, so you can add up to 128GB of additional storage on the cheap. While newer versions of Android are making it problematic for apps to use the card, it will work wonderfully for storing media, docs and any other file you want.

PicsArt_7_16_2014 10_06_46 PMThe rear camera on the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is actually not bad. Should it become your dedicated camera? No. Still, for a tablet, it is quite capable. There is very little noise and shutter is quick. However, the front-facing camera is pretty bad. Pictures come out very grainy, but it serves its purpose as a video-chat camera for services like Hangouts and Skype.

Sound on the tablet is remarkable. While not front-facing like the class-leading Surface Pro 3, there are at least stereo speakers located on the sides, that lend to solid stereo separation. The user can actually make out right and left channels, something that can be lost when the speakers are positioned on the bottom or rear. Watching a movie on this tablet is a dream -- the combination of speakers and display make it the perfect Android-powered media tablet.

PicsArt_7_16_2014 10_00_56 PM

Unfortunately, and strangely, the tablet uses USB 2.0 for connectivity. I understand that many people are moving towards the cloud and connecting to a PC is becoming a rarer occurrence. However, why implement USB 3.0 on the Galaxy S5 smartphone, but not on this flagship tablet? What is good for the goose, should be good for the gander, I say.

The Tab S 10.5 uses a mixture of capacitive buttons and a hardware button on the long end of the rectangular bezel. Capacitive buttons are OK on a smartphone, but fail on a tablet. In other words, the hardware home button is fine -- the capacitive ones are the hindrance.

PicsArt_7_16_2014 10_01_51 PM 1

When holding the Tab S vertically, my thumb is constantly hitting these touch-sensitive buttons. It ruins the experience when doing something like reading, as you want to be immersed in the story. Very often, when I relax and get comfortable, my thumb wanders to those buttons and ruins it all. Could this just be a learning curve? Sure, maybe I can train myself not to hit those buttons, but that should not be necessary. You can see what I am talking about in the above photo.

For internet activity, it is a Wi-Fi only affair. This is fine, as I mostly use tablets in my home. If it does leave the house, I simply tether using my phone. The wireless chip in the Tab S is top-notch though, offering 802.11AC. When connecting to my Apple Airport Extreme, the 5GHz band was visible, it connected quickly and was super-fast. Nice!

The iPad Air is a class-leader in battery life, but the Tab S is no slouch. While I did have to charge it more often than the iPad with equal usage, it still outperformed any other Android tablet I have used. On average, I would say it achieved about 10 hours of use between recharges, which for my usage, meant it would be charged about every three days. It would be in standby when not in use.

My favorite aspect of the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the fingerprint reader. I am happy to say that it is equally accurate on the Tab S. However, I find it a bit awkward to use on a 10 inch tablet, when located on the middle of the bottom-horizontal bezel. I would prefer it to be located on the top right of the face, so I can easily slide my finger. This means the fingerprint reader and the button should be separated on tablets. Do I appreciate having it? Yes. Do I use it often? Yes. Is it ideally located? No.

PicsArt_7_16_2014 10_05_47 PM

Owners of the Samsung Galaxy S5 are in for a special treat. A new feature called SideSync 3.0 allows that smartphone and the Tab S to wirelessly connect. As you would expect, you can transfer files between the two devices when connected. However, the true magic is that you can view and control the S5 screen on the tablet. This includes controlling all apps. Best of all though, you can make and receive calls on the tablet without touching the phone.

You can see an awesome example of this feature in the video below. This was taken by BetaNews at the launch event for the tablet. In my own testing, it works just as flawlessly -- amazing.


Samsung is the leading Android manufacturer for good reason -- it makes quality devices that people like. There is no mystery, or advertisement brainwashing. It is a great tablet. It is fast and fluid, full of features and of course, has the best screen of any tablet. If you want to consume media, this is the tablet to buy. If you want to play Android games on a 10 inch tablet form factor, this is the tablet to buy.

Is it better than the iPad Air? Tough call. For the money, absolutely -- you are getting much more value. Of course, people entrenched in an Apple lifestyle should probably stay there. If you covet a mindless and easy to use device, the iPad Air is probably the way to go. Please don't misconstrue -- sometimes we all want a mindless and easy to use experience. I am not knocking Apple's tablet, I do love it.

With all of that said, if I owned neither tablet and had $500, I am going with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S. The better screen, expandable memory and fingerprint reader push it over the top. Are there issues with accidental presses of the capacitive buttons on the bezel? Yes, it sometimes drives me nuts, but the benefits of the rest of the package outweigh it by far. Highly recommended.

21 Responses to Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 -- great tablet, but is it better than iPad Air? [Review]

  1. Artem S. Tashkinov says:

    Anything that is not based on iOS is better.

    • 1DaveN says:

      Yup. My Surface 2 and ThinkPad Tablet 2 are awesome productivity devices. In particular, the TPT2 lets me do anything my desktop PC can do. (Well, subject to the limitations of the slower processor and lack of a second monitor).

  2. PS Vita Roundup says:

    Love the AMOLED on my Vita, guess this is better as using three years' newer tech. Very tempted, but hope the CPU doesn't warp the back like some 8.4" models seems to be doing...

  3. Bill de Haan says:

    I picked up my 10.5" Tablet S two weeks ago. It replaces a three year old Asus TF101. It's quadruple the resolution, less than half the weight, and considerably faster. Of course, it's not cheap, but then neither was the TF101 in its' day.

    My only complaint so far is the one mentioned in the article - when in portrait mode, I've hit the capacitive buttons more than once. The problem was solved by turning it upside down, so that buttons are on the side of the stationary hand holding the tablet, but you're right, it's an annoyance.

    I'm not a fan of the Samsung skin; I'd much prefer stock Android. But that's an irritation, not a show stopper.

    So far, I've been using it solely for book/magazine/comic and web page consumption; I haven't started playing with the other features yet. The supplied demo video really shows off the display in stunning detail.

    Outside of the high price, I can't see any major complaint with the tablet. Strongly recommended.

  4. derekaw says:

    Is this the tablet that get really hot and melts the plastic?

  5. RobertSGrant says:

    Start working at home with Google! It's by-far the best job I've had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail



  6. BVence1943 says:

    my co-worker's step-sister makes $88 /hour on the laptop . She has been unemployed for 6 months but last month her check was $19788 just working on the laptop for a few hours.

    you could try here ..▶▶▶▶▶▶▶▶▶▶▶▶

  7. barbarajwebster says:

    My Uncle
    Riley got an almost new red GMC Canyon just by some parttime working online
    with a laptop. visit their website C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  8. GS5 says:

    When you talk hardware , iPad is better. If you talk software, Android is better and more useful. Everything on iOS is made to be "beautiful" rather than useful. And because of the animations everything is slower. Just try closing 20 open apps by flipping them upwards 20 times, hen try the same thing with Android. And iOS's notifications bar is horrible compared to Android.

    • Colin says:

      I do not agree with you on Hardware. Apple and all the positive reviews quote screen quality, thinness, lightness as well as battery life as the key reasons the iPad was the best tablet and I agreed. Now we have a thinner, lighter tablet with a much better and bigger screen despite the overall dimensions being much different with a great battery life too. Its cameras and sound are better and it has SD storage and fingerprint reader. You cannot argue with that!

      • GS5 says:

        Let me clarify, when said hardware I just meant the build quality. I own both iPad Air and the Tab S 10.5, and let me say the Tab S kicks the the iPad's ass in everything but build quality. Like you said it's thinner, lighter, faster has an excellent camera and battery life. However I still find the iPad has a more sturdy premium feel to it. As much asI like love my Tab S and my S4 they both feel like cheap plastic. And the S4 especially has terrible build quality. But even so Sammy and Android kicks Apple's ass in performance and usability.

      • Colin says:

        The IPad is put together very well I agree, I still have an iPad 1 and although its getting a bit ragged it has survived well. However, while I do undertand why some people prefer the look and feel of metal tablets and phones that is personal taste. In real use polycarbonate is generally stronger, less prone to scratches, plus is less difficult and expensive to replace and repair. Those models which are put together well, but with "non-metal" cases (which I would include the Tab S), tend to be less slippery, stronger, scratch less and still feel good in the hand.

  9. goconfigure says:

    I feel I better chime in. I have the Samsung Tab S 10 and I can see the back warping. It was to the point that I bought another one to compare and sure enough the new one does not show any warping ... yet.
    This is very depressing because I wanted to keep this tablet but I am too concerned with the long term effect. I may return it for a new one and buy the warranty with it this time.

  10. NatayaStarlingetu says:

    my buddy's mother-in-law makes $89 hourly on the laptop . She has been without work for five months but last month her paycheck was $13410 just working on the laptop for a few hours . [][]
    look at this web-site..............

  11. Linda George says:

    Start working at home with Google! It's by-far the best job I've had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail



  12. danman1111 says:

    Apple Fanboy here (just saying)

    I didn't see much in this article that supported the "absolutely" better value than iPad. Yes, there is finger print scanner, but if it seldom leaves home why is that a benefit? Is the screen better? It is different on the iPad (less saturated) and iPad has an ambient light sensor, but better? And wait, seldom leaves home?

    The last "over the top" feature is the expandable "memory" (storage actually). For a tablet that seldom leaves home the cloud or home network could provide much more storage than a tiny card and you don't have to swap cards.

    Not saying this is a bad device, and if it retailed at $400, I wouldn't argue. But "absolutely" better?

    • You seem to be hung up on the fact that I mostly use my tablets in my home. Please dont misunderstand that to mean all people do. It seems you've answered your own questions as to how it is better though.

  13. swati chaudhary says:

    Hi, I want to buy this but need to know if it is a good tab for people who read a lot. I don't want to carry a separate e-reader device so would appreciate your observations on the reading experience. I read a lot of documents/ data for work and also own a lot of e-books that are saved on my hard disk, would it be difficult to transfer and read them on this tab?

  14. A'sm R'aiyan says:

    Hi.. please help me. I am having the problem with side sync 3.0 while using between Galaxy S 5 and Galaxy Tab S which are suppose to work together. I can not connect through the WIFI or Wifi direct... actually what can i do.. plese help me.... thank you

© 1998-2020 BetaNews, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy - Cookie Policy.