Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra review
Samsung’s Tab S8 Ultra is the biggest tablet we’ve ever seen. The largest iPad Pro screen is 12.9 inches; Samsung’s Tab S8 Ultra is 14.6 inches. Samsung’s clearly pushing the bar when it comes to tablet size, but bigger isn’t always better.
No tablet has truly been able to beat the iPad Pro for creatives. That isn’t down to the iPad being larger, having a better screen or a more premium design – it’s down to apps. Apple’s AppStore features more high-quality creative apps than Android’s Google Play Store – it’s that simple.
Samsung isn’t taking defeat lying down though. For starters, by making the Tab S8 Ultra so big, Samsung’s putting Apple on the back foot – the iPad line simply can’t compete when it comes to size. Next, the developers behind Lumafusion have announced (but not yet delivered) a version of its app for the Tab S8 series.
With Samsung’s AMOLED screen technology, which is incredibly deep, vibrant, and rich, as well as an S Pen in the box and loads of software smarts, can Samsung’s latest slate finally topple the iPad Pro’s creative reign?
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra: design
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra may be a massive tablet with a huge footprint, but it is also ridiculously slim. At just 5.5mm thin, it feels like a sliver of tech. Despite its waif-like profile, thanks to its Armor Aluminum body, it’s robust, and weighing 728g, feels solid in the hand.
The front of the tab really is all-screen, with two selfie cameras nuzzled in a notch that cuts into the screen ever so slightly. Unlike the iPad line, the front cameras are on the long side of the Tab S8 Ultra, which makes the tab much better for video calls in landscape orientation. The fingerprint scanner lives under the display on the right side of the tab.
Around the sides of the Tab S8 Ultra are a USB-C port for data and charging, speaker holes micro-drilled into the metal frame, and a volume and power button. As for the back, it’s all matte metal, a camera bump, and a glass strip where the S Pen magnetically clings onto the slate, wirelessly charging in the process.
With only one colour option available – Graphite – style flourishes can be added with a third-party case. An official Tab S8 Ultra keyboard folio case is available at $349.99, and you can also pick up a folio case, however, these are all available in black.
We neither love nor hate the Tab S8 Ultra’s utilitarian aesthetic. Its matte metal looks premium out of the box, but clings onto fingerprints, albeit more subtly than glossy glass. The Tab doesn’t look quite as good as an iPad from the back, but it does feel incredibly special given how slim and solid it is. From the front, it’s also a sight to behold thanks to that brilliant AMOLED screen.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra: screen
When we fired up a 4K video of Tokyo city on the Tab S8 Ultra and showed it to some friends in a dimly-lit room, they were convinced it was a 3D screen. That’s how striking the Ultra’s display is.
Unlike iPads, which use LCD screens, the Tab S8 Ultra features the largest AMOLED screen to grace any tablet to date. That means its blacks are deeper and inkier, its colours richer and more eye-grabbing, and its contrast-levels superior. If you want a tablet for movies and watching content on, this is it.
Another boon for movie watchers is the Tab S8 Ultra’s aspect ratio. While iPads are a bit more square, with a 4:3 aspect ratio (the same as a traditional photograph), the Tab S8 Ultra’s screen is 16:10 – just a little wider than Full HD. That means whether you’re watching a Netflix series in Full HD, or a feature film in 21:9, the iPad will always display massive black bars on either side of the picture. The Tab S8 series, on the other hand, will not.
Just like the iPad Pro (not the iPad Air), the Tab S8 Ultra’s screen is a silky smooth 120Hz refresh rate. This means menus and feeds scroll smoothly, adding a real sense of speed to the whole user interface.
There’s one area Samsung’s flagship tab falls behind the iPad, and that’s brightness. While the iPad Pro climbs to 1000 nits and higher, the Tab S8 Ultra caps out at around 420 nits. This is more than bright enough for easy watching, notetaking and working indoors and in overcast outdoor spaces, but if you tend to use your tablet outdoors in bright environments, viewability might be an issue.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra: S Pen and creative apps
Unlike iPads, the whole Tab S8 series ships with a pen in the box – specifically, an S Pen. This Samsung stylus is a touch shorter than the Apple Pencil, and it feels more natural on first use given the softer, more pen-like tip. It also uses Wacom tech and supports up to 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity with tilt recognition – and it works great.
Every S Pen has a button near the tip-side. This either activates an eraser in the notes app, a shutter release in the camera app, or Air Commands across various apps – so you can control apps with a hand wave, pen in toe. This makes the S Pen more versatile and intuitive than Apple’s pencil, but with moving parts and a more fragile nib, it’s also less premium.
Pre-installed software that helps you get the most out of the S Pen includes Samsung Notes – a capable notetaking and sketching app that can turn your handwritten notes into text, ClipStudio – a sketching tool with layer support and loads of brush options, and there’s a handwriting keyboard too.
Third-party S Pen apps are also available – Autodesk Sketchbook, Concepts, and Wacom Bamboo Paper to name a few. However, these aren’t a patch on some of the finest iPad apps like Good Notes and ProCreate, which ultimately offer a higher quality experience. While you can get core Adobe apps like Lightroom for the Tab S8 Ultra, unfortunately, the full suite of iPad apps – including Adobe Fresco, isn’t available for Android just yet.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra: performance and camera
Top-tier power and ridiculously smart software mean the Tab S8 Ultra is a beast when it comes to productivity and performance.
DeX is Samsung’s desktop interface for Android phones and tablets. It fires up on the Tab S8 Ultra’s mammoth display, or when you connect the S8 Ultra to an external display. Connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and you can work across multiple windows with ease, making the oversized tablet feel like a traditional Windows or MacOS-style device.
You can also use the Tab S8 series as an extended monitor for your Windows 11 computer too, and with its ample display, it’s a perfect companion for a 15-inch laptop, giving you a portable, dual-display setup when out and about.
The Tab S8 Ultra’s camera mix beats out most tablets, even if it falls behind today’s flagship smartphones. Both the front and the back feature two cameras, wide and ultra-wide modules. The rear cameras are the superior shooters given the fact they pack autofocus, making them more versatile. That said, Samsung adds a cool feature to the selfie cameras – auto-framing. Like Apple’s Centre Stage, this automatically frames the video with you in the center, even if you move around a bit.
The tablet’s large, 11,200mAh battery keeps the tablet alive for around nine hours of video playback, and a comfortable couple of days with moderate use. It charges at 45W with a compatible charger, but you’ll have to pick one up separately given the fact Samsung’s latest phones and tablets don’t ship with power bricks.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra: verdict
Thanks to its stunning screen quality and 16:10 aspect ratio, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is the best tablet for watching content on. Its design is also mind-bogglingly slim given the power inside, and the fact it ships with a pen is great.
The Tab S8 Ultra costs $1,099/£1,149, making it a much better buy in the US than in the UK. That said, it’s roughly the same price as an iPad Pro 12.9, so it’s a direct competitor.
For anyone after a creative tablet first and foremost, the iPad Pro is the better option thanks to its far superior app support. This is especially true if you’re a Mac user who can take advantage of Apple’s cross-device integration.
However, if you have a Windows 11 laptop and an Android phone, and want the biggest, best companion device money can buy, the oversized Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is a marvel of modern technology. It pushes boundaries, and gives you more screen (and in turn, canvas) than anything else on the market – so if you can fit it into your workflow, you won’t find anything else that can offer what it can.