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Samsung takes aim at iPad Air, iPad Mini with new Tab S series

Sceen viewable in direct sunllight | Some of the goodies not available for NZers | Updated with local pricing

Sat, 14 Jun 2014

Samsung has made big strides in tablets, but has yet to replicate its success in the smartphone.

The ballpark figure is the Korean company sold around 40 million tablets last year versus Apple's 70 million.

There are a whole bunch of people who're packing a Galaxy S as their phone, but sticking with an iPad as their tablet.

Samsung's new Tab S series of tablets, due in NZ late July, could move more across.

The Tab S comes in two models: one with a 10.5-inch screen (aimed at Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Air with Retina Display) and one with an 8.4-inch (which will draw natural comparison's with the 7.9-inchiPad Mini with Retina display; the Apple tablets use the boxier 4:3 ratio to the more rectangular 6:9 employed by the Tab S — in keeping with all tablets that run Google's Android software — so it's actually pretty even-stevens in terms of onscreen realestate).

Screen viewable in direct sunlight
The hero feature of both Tab S models is the Super AMOLED display (vs the LCD displays used by rival tablets, and others in Samsung's bulging line-up). All critics agree that AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) displays are gorgeous; previously they've been kept out of the market by cost. 

In a quick hands-on session yesterday, the Tab S screen did look stunning and, more impressively, the screen was still readable when I took it outside into bright sunlight.

OLED screens also use less power.

Samsung says you could watch video for 11 hours on the Tab S (Apple claims 10 hours video for its various models).

The Tab S has auto-brightness and contrast modes, some customised to individual apps. As with all displays, the brighter the screen the faster the battery will run down.

Thin and light
Because OLED displays require no back llighting they allow for a thinner and lighter form factor. Both Tab S models are 6.6mm deep, the same as the iPad Air; the iPad Mini is 7.5mm.

Both models of the Tab S sneak in a few grams lighter than their Apple counterparts for a featherweight feel that e-book readers and tablet gamers will appreciate.

Galaxy Tab S 10.5 32 GB: $849 (iPad Air with 32GB  is $899; the Air also comes in $1049 64GB and $1199 128GB models)
Galaxy Tab S 10.5 16GB: $749 (same as the entry-level iPad Air)
Galaxy Tab S 8.5 16GB: $599 (same as the iPad Mini with Retina display)

Those prices are for wi-fi only. Apple's Air and Mini also comes in models that will take a 4G sim card, too. Samsung says 4G models will be added later for the Tab S.

ABOVE: Hands on with the Tab S at a preview event in Auckland. 

Samsung has piled on gifts and goodies, but a lot of them like a 6-month free subscription to the e-version of The Economist, free airline wi-fi, Samsung's new ad-free streaming radio service Milk, and Netflix in HD are not available for NZ buyers.

As with other Samsung devices, NZ buyers get free acces to a 50GB Dropbox account for two years.

The new tablets also sees the debut of several new features, including SideSync that lets you mirror the content of your Galaxy S phone on your Tab S, drag and drop files between the two devices, or forward a call via wi-fi to from phone to tablet (Apple has similar sharing features in iOS 8, its software upgrade for iPhone and iPad due in our Spring).

Fingerprint scanner
The Tab S also gets fingerprint recognition by dint of a scanner built into its Home button (Apple added fingerprint ID with its iPhone 5s, but has yet to add it to a tablet).

The idea is that one tablet often gets passed around multiple family members, with people wrecking each other's settings.

Up to eight different fingerprints can be registered, allowing for easy  screen unlock and sign-on, and they can be linked to eight different user profiles. 

If the fingerprint scanner is reliable, this will prove a really useful feature.

Both models of the Tab S have gold trim, which helps with a premium feel, and a plastic back with the same dotted finish as the Galaxy S5, which doesn't.

ABOVE: Video replay of Samsung's launch event in New York

Galaxy Tab S 8.4-inch tech specs (click to zoom)

Galaxy Tab S 10.5-inch tech specs (click to zoom)

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Samsung takes aim at iPad Air, iPad Mini with new Tab S series