Whichever way you look at the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra 5G, it’s a whole lot of screen. Seen diagonally, the screen measures 14.6 inches, bigger than many laptops; at one time, little TVs were that size. When you first see this tablet, it seems outlandishly sized but when you begin to use it, you quickly feel nothing smaller will do.
For the luxury of using the beautiful Tab S8 Ultra, you’ll need to pay at least ₹1,22,999. There are different storage and RAM variants so the price could go up, and it will in any case go up if you buy the book cover and keyboard, without which this device loses its versatility. The Tab S8 Ultra comes with the S-Pen in the box, which is quite surprising because, as is the fashion these days, you don’t even get a charging adaptor. And once again I’d like to pause to say how thoroughly inconsiderate this practice is, especially since tech companies create a whole lot of environmental waste in any case and packaging the charger is barely a drop in the ocean.
This year, Samsung has given its flagship tablet line-up the same treatment it gives to the top smartphone series; so there’s a Tab S8, S8 Plus and S8 Ultra. And as with the phones, the Ultra earns its name by being maximised in every way. This is a long, long tablet. Compared to the iPad Pro 12.9, it is much narrower and several inches longer. It’s quite clear that this device is intended to live in landscape. There will be uses for its portrait orientation, but limited and specialised or personalised. I tried to read a book on it in the regular tablet mode, but quickly got a neck ache from looking up and down.
This tablet’s design and form factor has a lot of interesting points to consider. It’s biscuit-thin, which is nice and elegant (in graphite grey), but that’s what makes it feel vulnerable. If something (or someone) were to press down on it, it could conceivably snap in two. Its long factor could also make it more prone to being bumped against something and falling. Again, it doesn’t seem as if it can survive very many falls. It could be very nice for travel, but it’s too vulnerable for that, unless you’re prepared to take the risk.
The keyboard book cover is imperative because it gives quite some protection. It comes in two parts — one is the back, which snaps on and stays in place. It has a kickstand, which transforms this tablet into a TV and is in any case needed to make the device stand upright when typing, and it has a built-in slot for the S-Pen. The S-Pen can snap into place on the top edge of the tablet, but it doesn’t charge there. It does so on the back, in its slot, where it is secure and safe from being misplaced.
The keyboard itself is the second part and connects by snapping into place with its pogo pins. It’s a reasonable keyboard, backlit and including a touchpad. Connect it and you’re ready to change from tablet or TV to a laptop-style format. Whether it can replace a laptop for you depends entirely on what you do for a living. For us writers, for example, it’s easy enough. But if your work involves using specific Windows software, remember that this is an Android tablet. Samsung’s clever DeX software allows you to connect it to your PC, monitor or TV and use the phone’s apps in a desktop format but for Windows, you’ll need to use mobile versions and that rules out specialised or even complete apps from that system. By the way, the keyboard case is separate and expensive at around ₹22,060.
The expansive screen, in all its AMOLED glory, is what makes this device come into its own. While its size makes it difficult to give it really high resolution and density, it is beautiful with its brightness and dazzling brilliance. Watching Netflix on it is a sheer joy, specially as users like their own personal watching device these days. But one must remember that you can get several large TVs for the price of this tablet.
The display has a notch. The thought could make you wince, but it’s only a small one and the trade off is that it houses the camera you need for great video calls. It sits on the top centre when the tablet is in landscape mode and the setup is tuned to keep you in focus even if you move about during a call. There are two front cameras, both 12MP, and one is regular while the other is a really wide wide-angle. The rear camera (which should come in extremely useful when scanning documents) is a 13MP and even supports 4K recording.
The screen has a 120Hz refresh rate and is very responsive — and it has to be to use the excellent S-Pen. I’m a long time user of the S-Pen and with this giant screen, found the experience of hand-writing on a lined sheet of virtual paper absolutely divine. I found a great deal more precision than before with the handwriting. I envy those who sketch and paint because with the Tab S8 Ultra, they’ll have an irresistibly large canvas.
Performance on this device is top notch. It runs on the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen processor with 8, 12 or 16 GB of RAM and 128, 256 or 512 GB of storage, correspondingly. It works on Android 12 and OneUI 4.1.
The battery on this tablet is a huge 11,200mAh and lasts reasonably, though much less than the iPad Pro which does not use an AMOLED screen and isn’t that large. It, however, takes ages to charge, so a regular user will need to let it top up at night.
This amazing piece of gadgetry is rather expensive, so one has to consider that it isn’t a ‘regular’ tablet because it is outsized and really elongated; it isn’t a full laptop either because one expects Windows software to work fully; and it isn’t a TV replacement because it costs so much more than one. However, the two things that make it stand out are that you get a bit of all three of these functionalities and you get the added use of the S-Pen, making it a versatile product. If you can spare the money, give it a thought.