com­pact cams Galaxy Tab S LG lifeband

Get the ver­dict on the hottest new kit

Australian T3 - - FRONT PAGE -

With quite a few months still to go be­fore the lat­est iPad re­buff is ex­pected, the time is now for Sam­sung’s An­droid tablets to stamp their au­thor­ity. Good thing the new flag­ship Galaxy Tab S does just that, by adding a fin­ger­print sen­sor and soft­ware ex­tras that beat iOS 8 to the punch. But is it enough?

The Tab S de­sign is cer­tainly a step in the right di­rec­tion, slim and stylish, with the grey plas­tic of old re­placed with shiny metal­lic-style edg­ing and a per­fo­rated soft-touch back that you will have de­cided you like or not if you’ve held a Galaxy S5. It feels pre­mium, even if plas­tic still dom­i­nates rather than alu­minium. These are ar­guably the best-look­ing tablets any­one’s made out­side of Cu­per­tino.

We say “these” as the Tab S is avail­able in two screen sizes, an iPad Mini-trou­bling 8.4 inches and an iPad Air-chal­leng­ing 10.5 inches. We’re delv­ing into the big­ger of the two, which man­ages to be 1mm thin­ner and a smidgeon lighter than the Air; well, plas­tic is lighter than alu­minium. But un­like the Sony Xpe­ria Z2 Tablet, which is thin­ner and lighter again, the Tab S doesn’t have a huge dis­play bezel.

Speak­ing of that dis­play, it’s just like the Galaxy S5 but on a much larger scale, bright and sharp. Its 2560x1600 res­o­lu­tion trumps Ap­ple’s Retina dis­plays and the Su­per AMOLED tech makes it stunningly vivid and colour­ful. It’s al­most too daz­zling at times, but at its best, this is a screen that you can’t take your eyes off.

There’s no short­age of power help­ing that pin-sharp screen run smoothly, ei­ther. You get a 1.9GHz oc­ta­core pro­ces­sor matched with 3GB of RAM that runs An­droid 4.4 with­out any stut­ter or slow down and keeps ev­ery­thing swift and re­spon­sive.

The cam­era suite is a pretty stan­dard af­fair, with an eight-megapixel sen­sor at the rear and a 2.1-meg one up front, both shoot­ing in 1080p at up to 30fps. The re­sults are de­cent, but then a tablet is hardly the ideal de­vice for tak­ing pho­tos. With­out the flashy ad­di­tion of 4K video of­fered by Sony’s Xpe­ria Z2 Tablet, it doesn’t de­liver much wow fac­tor, although shots do shine on

that pixel-packed screen. You also have plenty of space to store your snaps, as the mi­croSD card slot lets you add up to 128GB stor­age on top of your cho­sen 16GB or 32GB in the hand­set. In­vest in a rea­son­ably priced card and it will be a while be­fore most will fill that kind of space.

This be­ing a Sam­sung de­vice, there’s plenty of in­trigu­ing/faddy in­no­va­tions. Much like the S5, the Tab S has had ev­ery­thing thrown at it. The heart-rate mon­i­tor is miss­ing, but we’d ar­gue that a fairly sen­si­ble ex­clu­sion.

You do get the fin­ger­print sen­sor, though, of­fer­ing a sim­ple way to un­lock the screen and au­tho­rise PayPal trans­ac­tions, which means you can buy apps from Google Play and shop from a cur­rently lim­ited num­ber of on­line stores. It’s a neat trick and the part­ner­ship has the po­ten­tial to be re­ally use­ful. Yet it’s not as easy to use as Ap­ple’s TouchID, with you hav­ing to swipe your fin­ger ex­actly down from the home but­ton rather than just rest­ing your thumb in place, and we found ac­cu­racy to be spo­radic.

What other tricks has Sam­sung ported over from the S5? Well, there’s the front-fac­ing cam­era that watches your eyes con­tin­u­ously to tell if you’re read­ing the screen, turn­ing it­self off if your in­ter­est wanes. An in­fra-red blaster in the slate’s top edge also means you can use it as a so­phis­ti­cated, if over-en­gi­neered TV con­troller; try los­ing this re­mote down the back of the sofa. Else­where, the TouchWiz menu swipes in from the side to of­fer quick short­cuts to con­tacts, email, and more, plus there’s the Flipboard per­sonal magazine home screen pop­u­larised on ear­lier Galaxy mod­els (but still bet­tered by HTC’s Blinkfeed).

In fact, An­droid 4.4 al­ready of­fers a raft of fea­tures that will not hit Ap­ple tablets till iOS 8 lands this spring. Most ob­vi­ous is SideSync 3.0, which lets you view your phone’s screen on the tab, with texts and call func­tion­al­ity; alas call for­ward­ing only works if you have a side-act S5 at present. You can also sync work from your home desk­top thanks to Re­mote PC, which works a lot like we imag­ine Ap­ple Hand­off will.

As with the S5, the Tab S also comes with a care pack­age of free soft­ware. Thank­fully this isn’t the bloat­ware we’ve crit­i­cised Sam­sung for in the past, but gen­uinely de­sir­able stuff, such as a free three-month sub­scrip­tion to Marvel Comics and a six-month trial for mu­sic-stream­ing ser­vice Deezer. These can be found in a wid­get called Galaxy Gifts along­side a smat­ter­ing of free games and apps, which sits next door to Sam­sung’s own-brand ef­forts in­clud­ing a video edi­tor, scrap­book and its foot­ball app. Not keen? Well, they’re not pre­loaded, so only down­load what suits.

Of course, the ele­phant in the room is

that An­droid still isn’t as ad­vanced in the tablet app de­part­ment as Ap­ple. Sure, it has the over­all num­bers to boast, but Google Play tablet fare is re­ally hit and miss, hav­ing to stretch to fit var­i­ous screen sizes and rarely op­ti­mised.

There’s no ques­tion about it, though, this

the slick­est an­droid tablet around, with ex­tras you won’t yet find on the ipad

is the best tablet Sam­sung has made yet and it’s ar­guably the slick­est, most ef­fec­tive full-size An­droid slate cur­rently avail­able. There are plenty of toys to place with, from the fin­ger­print sen­sor to NFC in­ter-de­vice con­nec­tiv­ity, a swathe of fresh soft­ware ad­di­tions (see Killer Fea­tures, right) and the slim, light styling is a big step on from the plas­tic mon­strosi­ties of the past.

These specs should win it plenty of fans in the dead zone be­fore the next iPad an­nounce­ment, and An­droid die-hards will de­clare it king, but we do find it still falls be­hind Ap­ple in terms of ease of use and apps. You makes your choices… 10.5-inch From $599, 8.4-inch from $479 SAM­SUNG.CO m/au , out now Love Slick, stylish de­sign. Stunningly bright screen. Pow­er­ful per­former. Plenty of in­no­va­tory gim­micks Hate Main fin­ger­print-sen­sor gim­mick needs work. Build’s still plas­tic. An­droid tablets apps a bit patchy T3 Says Sam­sung’s best tablet to date is slicker, slim­mer and sex­ier, but not quite an iPad beater

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