The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is a fantastic large-screen tablet, but it falls just short of being a great laptop. The new premium Galaxy Tab, the first Samsung tablet to bear the “Ultra” designation, features an enormous 14.6-inch display ideal for marathon movie watching or sketching with the bundled S Pen. With the addition of a keyboard and the activation of the Windows-like DeX mode, the device can serve as a makeshift notebook, complete with an excellent webcam, long battery life, and swift performance.
Here’s the catch: the Tab S8 Ultra costs a lot of money for someone who wants a nice tablet, and the desktop performance still has a long way to go before it can fully replace a standard laptop. Which begs the question, who is this big tablet intended for? In this review, we’ll share our findings after utilizing the Tab S8 Ultra for over a week as our primary device for work and entertainment.
If you’re ready to spend a lot of money on a tablet and use it mostly for watching movies and making video calls, or if you’re an artist who needs an extensive, reliable slate with a stylus, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is your best bet. Despite its impressive speed, DeX mode that mimics a desktop, and optional keyboard, we wouldn’t suggest it as your only work machine.
The Tab S8 Ultra is the most prominent member of the Galaxy Tab family. It has a gorgeous 14.6-inch Super AMOLED display, powerful performance, a long battery life, and an amazing webcam. With the help of the Windows-like DeX mode and the $349 Samsung Book Cover Keyboard, you can convert this massive slate into an Android laptop. However, your apps will have different responsiveness than a regular laptop.
The Tab S8 Ultra’s screen size is massive compared to its primary competitors. And unlike the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 8, Samsung’s slate has a stylus already attached. You’ll get speedier overall performance out of the iPad Pro (which is also more appropriate for individuals in the Apple ecosystem) or a more comprehensive PC feel on a Surface. The Tab S8, S8+, and S8 Ultra share the same fast processor (Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1), significant features, and bundled S Pen — you’re paying extra for the larger screen and a superior webcam on the highest-end version.
The Tab S8 Ultra may lack the software compatibility of a desktop PC. Still, it has enough processing power to handle even intensive multitasking and light gaming on stock Android. My typical workday involves switching between Google Docs, Slack, Discord, and several Chrome tabs; Samsung’s tablet has never slowed down or stuttered under this load.
Even with sixteen programs (including a 4K video and a game) running in the background, the Tab S8 Ultra maintained a consistent level of performance, except for a slight latency in typing on Docs. Nevertheless, the most graphically intensive Android games ran without a hitch, such as Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 8.
Our benchmark testing showed that the Tab S8 Ultra’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU held up reasonably well, confirming the tablet’s good day-to-day performance. Keep in mind that this cutting-edge processor powers the entire Galaxy S22 range. Samsung’s colossal tablet achieved a multi-core score of 3,336 on the Geekbench 5 test (which measures overall performance) and a single-core score of 1,176.
That’s a slight gain over the Galaxy Tab S7 series and destroys inexpensive Windows tablets like the Surface Go 3. On the other hand, the Tab S8 Ultra’s raw processing power is light years behind that of the most recent iPad Pro, and it didn’t quite match that of comparable Windows 2-in-1s like the Surface Pro 8. While the distinction between these computers is likely to go unnoticed during regular web browsing and message sending, it is essential to remember if you plan on using your machine for resource-intensive creative activities like video production or 3D modeling.
A stunningly large and high-quality display
The fact that the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is both the thinnest and lightest tablet available today is all the more remarkable, given the device’s size. The Tab S8 Ultra’s lightweight 1.6-pound chassis and thin 0.22-inch edges made it unexpectedly comfy to carry when I was flipping through websites or scribbling sloppy handwritten notes, despite its ridiculously massive 14.6-inch screen that eclipses even the largest iPad Pro. This tablet is perfect if you require a giant mobile display that won’t appear massive in your backpack.
The Tab S8 Ultra has a matte rear panel easily marked by fingerprints, despite its sleek and understated dark graphite finish. While I’m disappointed that you can have only the Tab S8 and Tab S8+ in silver and pink gold (why should little tablets have all the fun? ), the Ultra’s dual-purpose design should help it fit nicely at places like home studios and coffee shops. The accompanying S Pen’s magnetic attachment to the tablet’s back is a nice touch; it seems more secure than the Apple Pencil’s placement on the side of an iPad. If you’re worried about the stylus falling out while you’re on the go, invest in a protective case (like Samsung’s $349 Book Cover Keyboard).
The display on the Tab S8 Ultra is one of the biggest appeals of the tablet, as it has been on previous Samsung devices. The large 14.6-inch Super AMOLED display on this slate is a delight to use. It has a lightning-fast 120Hz refresh rate, making it feel natural to swipe through apps and scroll across web pages.
The Tab S8 Ultra had the best screen for watching the climactic fight of “The Book of Boba Fett,” with its vivid colors and crisp resolution. In this setting, we could pick out clear reflections on The Mandalorian’s silver armor and the orange flamethrower barrages thrown by opposing droids. Text in Google Docs and Slack appeared rich and legible, and the enormous screen size and strong black-and-white contrast allowed me to stay updated on a recipe while making supper.
The tablet’s quad speakers (spread adequately along the sides) are surprisingly powerful and entirely adequate for regular entertainment, flooding my room with the delightful sensation of Star Wars lightsabers while handling my music streaming nicely. The ethereal vocals of James Hetfield and the buzzy guitars of Kirk Hammet were preserved well on Samsung’s tablet. While I heard some fuzziness and a lack of bass at maximum volume, the overall quality was sufficient to keep my head bopping whenever I wanted some background noise.
Incredible battery life and a solid webcam
Even with extensive use throughout the day, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra will have plenty of juice left over to check your email several times before recharging. During our battery life test, Samsung’s tablet lasted an astounding 10 hours and 21 minutes of uninterrupted 4K movie viewing and over 24 hours of mixed-use.
That’s shorter than the 15+ hours we got out of the smaller Tab S7. Still, it’s an improvement over the previous-generation Tab S7+ (10:05). While Samsung’s plus-size Tab S8 Ultra didn’t quite match the 12-ish hours we saw with the newest iPad Pro, it still has plenty of energy for extended days of work or gaming. With the S8 Ultra’s compatibility for up to 45W charging, we can fully charge it in just over an hour, albeit you will need to purchase your brick. You may buy one from Samsung for $49. There are also cheaper options available from companies like Anker.
The Tab S8 Ultra has an excellent webcam and a battery life that can go through a whole day of video chats. The tablet’s dual 12-megapixel front-facing cameras took incredibly detailed and accurate photos, on par with my desktop computer’s Logitech C920. With the ultrawide setting, my coworker and I had plenty of room to see everything happening. Auto Framing is a fantastic feature on Samsung’s tablet that works similarly to Center Stage on the iPad Pro; it kept my head in the frame while I wandered around during a Zoom call.
The Ultra’s 13-megapixel back camera took perfectly decent images of my cat and the beautiful skyline vista from my balcony, should you feel the need to take photos of any of these subjects in public while using a 14-inch tablet.
The S Pen is fantastic, and it’s included
Compared to competitors like the iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface, the Tab S8 Ultra’s most notable feature is the inclusion of sketching and doodling stylus—the S Pen—straight out of the box. The newest version of Samsung’s digital pen is just as dependable and flexible as previous versions, which is great news regardless of your interest in pursuing a career in the arts.
To-do lists in Samsung Notes and sloppy watercolor paintings in the PenUp app both seemed natural and responsive on the Tab S8 (due partly to the tablet’s excellent 120Hz refresh rate and reduced latency).
The newest S Pen is excellent for brief notes and sketches. Still, I missed the enhanced haptics of Microsoft’s Surface Slim Pen 2 because it more accurately simulates the sensation of different pens and markers.
However, the S Pen truly sets this tablet apart, thanks to its abundance of valuable functions. With just a few touches, you can begin a fresh note, annotate whatever is on the screen, or translate text by floating the pen over it. When we didn’t feel like using the virtual keyboard, the S Pen’s sketch-to-text feature helped us wow our buddies on Discord and Slack with meaningful words crafted from our sloppy handwriting.
In addition to its excellent functionality, the Tab S8 Ultra’s inclusion of the S Pen (which retails separately for about $60) is a significant plus. Getting an Apple Pencil for your iPad Pro will set you back $129, while a Surface Pen will set you back $99.
DeX mode – is it suitable?
I tried out Samsung’s $349 Book Cover Keyboard for the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, and it does a great job (at least in terms of hardware) of turning the massive tablet into a full-fledged laptop. There is no need to manually connect anything because the keyboard clicks on through a magnetic connector similar to a Microsoft Surface.
Working on it for several hours was a breeze, and the trackpad has shown to be responsive and accurate. The tablet’s back shell serves as a kickstand, protecting the screen when not used and keeping the S Pen in place. Nonetheless, when it came to replacing my laptop with the Tab S8 Ultra, my experiences were highly mixed.
DeX mode is a standout feature of the Tab S8 Ultra, converting the tablet’s Android experience into a desktop-like interface suitable for mouse and keyboard operation. Apps in DeX launch in resizable windows, and the UI has a familiar dock at the bottom for quick navigation between open windows and other controls.
The ability to neatly and rapidly split the screen between numerous apps is one of my top Windows features, and it’s been incorporated into this interface. Although the Tab S8 Ultra effectively mimics a laptop, most Android apps aren’t designed for such a large display. This flaw is even more apparent when viewed on a display that is 14.6 inches in size.
Jumping between discussions in messaging apps like Slack and Discord was much more tedious than usual because they behaved like their smartphone versions instead of the traditional desktop versions I’m used to on Windows or Mac. Twitter’s Android app was cumbersomely large and challenging to use on the Tab S8, so I used the website instead.
I couldn’t tell at a glance if I had any new Slack messages because there weren’t any notification icons for specific applications in the taskbar. For some reason, unlike on my Mac or PC, my video would always stop working if I dismissed WebEx or Google Meet during a call.
But the most annoying part of my day was attempting to get work done in Google Docs, which I regularly use for my job. While I had no trouble writing on the Android iteration of Docs (in fact, I wrote most of this article on it), I had a lot of difficulties highlighting content, which made operations like mass deleting, cutting, and pasting very difficult at first. While I did learn to work with this app version, there were many occasions when I nearly gave up in frustration and resorted to using my Windows PC for all of my editing needs.
What Samsung has achieved with DeX mode on the Tab S8 Ultra is remarkable. However, if Samsung’s tablet is going to compete with traditional laptops, Android apps will need to catch up.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is a premium Android tablet, and it’s also possible that you won’t enjoy it. The massive 14.6-inch display on this tablet could be worth the exorbitant asking price for some people, as it provides a good canvas for utilizing the S Pen and helps movies and games feel fantastic. It’s a shame that, despite its promising hardware, Android apps aren’t quite ready for prime time because it has the sort of performance, battery life, and webcam quality you’d expect from a daily work laptop.
While the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 8 have comparable starting pricing, the Tab S8 Ultra includes a stylus at no extra cost. The iPad Pro is still the most powerful tablet (and has the most optimized apps), but the Surface Pro is the best option for those who want the adaptability of Windows on a tablet.
To use Samsung’s tablet as a computer, you’ll need to spend close to $2,000, not including the keyboard accessory. Those in need of a laptop but put off by the janky desktop experience should save money for a high-end Dell XPS 13 or MacBook Air.
Tab S8 and S8+ are cheaper and more portable alternatives to the Ultra if you don’t need a stylus and want a fast tablet with a beautiful display (and various color choices). The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra’s powerful features are admirable, but you shouldn’t expect it to soon replace your laptop. This is a colossal tablet best used for art and leisure.
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