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Samsung Announces North American Galaxy Tab S2 Tablet Availability, Pre-Order

While the global tablet market continues to shrink, Samsung is still the second biggest manufacturer of tablets after Apple. Back in July, it announced global availability of its latest premium tablets, the 8-inch and 9.7-inch Galaxy Tab S2, and today it released information about U.S. and Canadian availability.

Starting with the Galaxy Tab A that was released earlier this year, Samsung changed its tablets to have iPad-like 4:3 aspect ratio screens. This means that the Tab S2 looks noticeably different that last year's flagship tablets, the 10.5-inch and 8.4-inch Tab S, which had 16:10 aspect ratio screens.

Moving to this screen ratio means that these new tablets work better for reading and browsing when held in portrait mode, but don't work as well for viewing videos in landscape, as there will be black bars above and below the content. The screen resolution has also dropped a little this year, being a lower 2048×1536 versus the 2560×1600 of the Tab S, matching the resolution of the iPad's Retina display. The S2's do still retain the Super AMOLED displays.

Moving to the same screen ratio as Apple's tablets isn't the only thing that Samsung is borrowing from the market leader. The Tab S2 will also be available in three colors -- black, white and gold -- similar to how the iPad comes in gray, silver and gold. To be fair though, Samsung has been offering three color choices in most of its products, and its choices, like Apple's, are more dictated by consumer demand than anything else.

Because these new tablets are Samsung's premium offerings, they are both premium devices inside and out. Just as Samsung has moved to manufacturing its phones from higher-end materials like metal and glass, both Tab S2's have metal frames. Samsung says that they are its thinnest and lightest tablets to date, 16 percent thinner than their predecessors. Both the 9.7-inch and 8-inch models are just 5.6mm thick, and weigh in at 389g and 265g, respectively.

Just as Tab S mimicked design elements of the then-flagship phone, the Galaxy S5, the Tab S2's use the same language as the Galaxy S6 and Note5. Unfortunately, these tablets still have plastic backs, but we guess using glass on the back of such large devices would add too much weight and make them very fragile.

As for the Galaxy Tab S2's internal specifications, both the 9.7-inch and 8-inch models have basically the same specs. Only their screen sizes and battery sizes differ. These new tablets are powered by Samsung's Exynos 7 Octa 5433 SoC (also used in the international market Note 4), which offers quite a big bump in performance over the Exynos 5 Octa 5420 used in last year's model.

Although both SoC's are big.LITTLE octa-core chips running at the same 1.9/1.3 GHz, the 5433 uses four Cortex-A57 CPUs and four Cortex-A53's. The 5420 used the less-powerful Cortex-A15 and A7. The GPU on the 5433 is also more powerful; it's the Mali-T760 MP6, which as almost as powerful as the T760 MP8 found in the Exynos 7420 used by the Galaxy S6. In fact, the 5433 and 7420 are very similar SoCs, with the only other differences being that the 5433 is a 20 nm chip running at slightly slower clock speeds, and only supports up to LPDDR3 RAM. This means that it should have no problem pushing around the pixels on the high-resolution displays of both Tab S2 models.

ProductsSamsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7-inchSamsung Galaxy Tab S2 8-inch
Display9.7-inch Super AMOLED @2048 x 1536 (264 PPI)8-inch Super AMOLED @2048 x 1536 (320 PPI)
SoCSamsung Exynos 5433Samsung Exynos 5433
CPU CoreARM Cortex-A57 (4x @ 1.9 GHz) +ARM Cortex-A53 (4x @ 1.3 GHz)[big.LITTLE]ARM Cortex-A57 (4x @ 1.9 GHz) +ARM Cortex-A53 (4x @ 1.3 GHz)[big.LITTLE]
GPU CoreARM Mali-T760 MP6 @ 700 MHzARM Mali-T760 MP6 @ 700 MHz
Memory3 GB LPDDR33 GB LPDDR3
Storage32 GB, 64 GBwith microSD up to 128 GB32 GBwith microSD up to 128 GB
Battery5,870 mAh, non-removable4,000 mAh, non-removable
Front Camera2.1 MP2.1 MP
Rear Camera8 MP8 MP
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (MIMO),Bluetooth 4.1 LE, 4G LTE (optional), microUSB 2.0Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (MIMO),Bluetooth 4.1 LE, microUSB 2.0
Special FeaturesMulti Window, fingerprint scanner(touch)Multi Window, fingerprint scanner (touch)
OSAndroid 5.0 (TouchWiz)Android 5.0 (TouchWiz)
MaterialsAluminum, PlasticAluminum, Plastic
Size169 x 237.3 x 5.6 mm, 389g(Wi-Fi)/392g (LTE)134.8 x 198.6 x 5.6 mm, 265g(Wi-Fi)/ 272g (LTE)

For the other specs, the new Tab S2's don't differ too much from last year's models. They both have 3 GB of RAM, come with 32 GB of storage and a microSD slot. The 9.7-inch S2 will be available in either Wi-Fi only or LTE models. The 8-inch only comes as a Wi-Fi model in the US and Canada. In the U.S., the 9.7-inch model will also be available with 64 GB of storage, but unlike the iPad, there is no 128 GB offering -- but that's what the microSD slot is for. The 64 GB model will not be sold in Canada.

The Tab S2's both have fingerprint scanners and use the same touch-based technology as the Galaxy S6 and Note5. This is a big step up from the frustrating-to-use swipe style scanner found on the Tab S.

Like the Tab S, these new models still have an 8MP rear camera and 2.1MP front camera. Because Samsung didn't spend any time in its press release on them, we assume that they are probably going to be using the same sensors and optics, too. Thus, although you'll be able to capture acceptable images in decent light with them, don't set your expectations too high. To be honest, we wish tablet manufacturers would simply drop the rear-facing camera, but there does seem to be a group of people who persist in taking pictures with their tablets (and blocking our view at events), so we don't expect this feature to go anywhere any time soon.

One area that has received a substantial downgrade from 2014 is battery capacity. This seems to be a running theme with all of Samsung's 2015 devices, and while technologies like fast charging can partially make up from the size downgrade, we do wish that the quest of ever-thinner and -lighter devices didn't impact such a crucial component of any mobile device.

The 8-inch model's battery is only a little smaller at 4,000 mAh versus the 4,900 mAh of the Tab S. Unfortunately, the 9.7-inch model's battery is substantially smaller at 5,870 mAh vs. the 7,900 mAh of last year's model, though it is a smaller device, too. Until we've been able to test them, it is hard to say how much the smaller batteries will impact battery life, as the new SoC's are likely to be more power-efficient.

Both models run Android Lollipop 5.0, and it appears as though they're also running the same version of Samsung's TouchWiz UI as found on the Tab A and Galaxy S6, not the newer version with the new icons that the Note5 and S6 edge+ use. Like all of Samsung 2015 devices, the Tab S2's come with a suite of Microsoft applications pre-installed, such as Word, Excel and OneDrive.

One point of interest is that unlike the Galaxy Tab A, the Galaxy Tab S2 does not offer the S Pen stylus as an option. In previous years, Samsung marketed stylus-enabled tablets as Note products, so when the Tab A came with a pen, we were a little confused as to why it wasn't called a Note. Because the Tab S2's are S Pen-less, we assume then, despite the Tab A anomaly, that there will also be new Note premium tablets launched soon.

The new Galaxy Tab S2 will be available in the U.S. next week, starting September 3. You'll be able to pre-order the Wi-Fi-only models at Samsung.com, Amazon and Best Buy starting today, and the 9.7-inch LTE model will be sold by AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular, T-Mobile and Verizon. The Wi-Fi models come in all three colors, whereas the LTE model comes in black at most carriers (you can get it in white from Verizon).

In Canada, the Tab S2 is delayed a little, with the Wi-Fi models in all three colors coming to retailers on September 16, and the 9.7-inch LTE model from Bell, Rogers and Telus in black. In the Great White North, you can also pre-order them starting today.

As for pricing, in the U.S., the 32 GB 9.7-inch Wi-Fi model is $500, and the 8-inch model is $400. In Canada, due to the exchange rate, the pricing jumps up to $600 and $500 CDN, respectively. Pricing for the 64 GB Wi-Fi model has not been announced, and pricing for the LTE models will be announced by the carriers.

Update, 8/26/15, 6:00pm PT: For pricing of the 9.7-inch LTE model, T-Mobile has announced that it will be selling the Galaxy Tab S2 on September 3 for $650 outright, or $27 for two years. AT&T will sell its Tab S2 starting on September 4 for $600 outright, for twenty payments of $30, or for $500 on a 2-year term. Also, it looks like the 64GB version of the 9.7-inch Tab S2 (priced at $600) is a Best Buy exclusive in the US, and only comes in black.

Alex Davies is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware and Tom's IT Pro, covering Smartphones, Tablets, and Virtual Reality. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

  • targetdrone
    Samsung is really trying hard to become an iPotato at the expense of alienating once loyal Samsung consumers.

    I got news for you Samsung. iTards will not abandon the Apple Ecosystem for your Android running iToy clone.
    Reply
  • johnnycanadian
    Wow ... that's an incredibly underwhelming iPad-wanna-be. 2013 was the year Apple went over the cliff and 2015 will be remembered as the beginning of the end for Samsung in the portable electronics space. I'll stick with a Nexus, thanks.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    OK if you're considering a Galaxy Tab S, why would you go for the newer version of the tablet - which has a lower resolution than the previous gen model? And the previous gen model can accommodate 128GB micro SXHD cards and had that nice looking matching keyboard attachment to complete the laptop feel of it. To quote the late, great Marcia Wallace - "Pretty lame, Milhouse." :ange:
    Reply
  • rramsey718
    Somewhat disappointed to see this tablet changed as it has now become. I have a Galaxy Tab S 10.1. While I am not overly thrilled with the 16GB of storage, it is a wonderful tablet and I thoroughly enjoy it. The 128GB microSD makes up for the lack of internal storage.

    I'm not sure why they would make the change. I look at my wife's I-pad Air2 and my Tab S and I prefer my Tab S for video watching. As for using my Tab S as a reader, I fine it overly large (as I do my wife's I-pad Air 2) so I read mostly with my Note 4 or Nook Color. I do like my Tab S for reading magazines on.

    This new Tablet, along with the new crop of phones (Note 5 and Edge6+) seem to be a capitulation by Samsung to Apple. Sammy is making their devices resemble Apple products instead of developing an attractive, differentiating product offering.

    I have enjoyed my Samsung devices over the years (Tab S, Note 2, Note 3(work), Note 4). I will enjoy my Tab S 10.1 and Note 4 till I wear the electron paths out or my desire of having a 'new' faster toy gets too pressing. Hopefully by then, Sammy will once again put a bit of innovation into their product line or another vendor (HTC or LG maybe??) step up to the plate.

    It will be interesting to the sales responses to the new products as compared to some of the other items. Would love to see a break down of sales figures at certain benchmarks, maybe 3 month, six month, One year and see how the different devices compare.
    Reply
  • darkokills
    I have the tab s 8.4. Nothing about these new models is appealing. Horrible screen ratio, think black bars everywhere. Not really a substantial increase in power. And then you're left with less battery life. I'm good. I'll wait until next year for the "revised' version.
    Reply
  • cwolf78
    Who in their right mind would buy the 8" model when the XenPad S 8.0 gives you so much more for less?
    Reply
  • msteger
    4:3 screen ratio? This is the reason I have never even wanted an iPad. Tablets are great for watching movies when one travels, on a plane or in the hotel. Why do you want half of your screen covered with black bars? Samsung, you had it right before, 16:9 is the correct way a tablet should be, don't copy bad ideas just because they are bad Apple ideas!
    Reply
  • Valantar
    Disclaimer: I work in a store with a very close partnership with Samsung. Still, I've never owned a Samsung tablet or phone, and personally prefer other brands.

    Our local Samsung representative came by the store today and showed off both a Tab S2 9.7" and an S6 Edge +. I have to say, when compared to the original Tab S, the S2 is leaps and bounds better in terms of in-hand feel, size, weight, and general design. The plastic back is actually really nice - a soft-touch coating similar to my once beloved HTC Hero made it grippy and very comfortable to hold. It does feel slightly hollow, but not in a cheap or off-putting way. Beveled edges on the long edges of the back are a distinctive design touch that does a good job at both alluding to recent Samsung designs and making the device more comfortable to grip. Sure, the front face is very iPad-like, but honestly, who here prefers widescreen for web browsing? And if video is your main usage for your tablet, then you're in the minority. Tablets are, for the vast majority of consumers, web browsing devices.

    I say Samsung made the right decision going to 4:3. Still, a shame about the shrunken batteries and last-gen SOC, though.
    Reply
  • Valantar
    OK if you're considering a Galaxy Tab S, why would you go for the newer version of the tablet - which has a lower resolution than the previous gen model? And the previous gen model can accommodate 128GB micro SXHD cards and had that nice looking matching keyboard attachment to complete the laptop feel of it. To quote the late, great Marcia Wallace - "Pretty lame, Milhouse." :ange:

    If you're considering the Tab S, but might like better performance, an aspect ratio better suited for reading and web browsing, and a far lighter, nicer and more high end design, that's when you'd go for the newer version. The screen resolution is a non-issue at tablet viewing distances, and I very much doubt the new one can't handle your 128GB card (maximum memory card capacity is a very frequently erroneous spec sheet listing). Also, there will be a better keyboard solution for this - a slide-in, magnetically attached keyboard for the regular stand covers. More versatile, cheaper, thinner, lighter. Sounds good to me.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    16537215 said:
    4:3 screen ratio? This is the reason I have never even wanted an iPad. Tablets are great for watching movies when one travels, on a plane or in the hotel. Why do you want half of your screen covered with black bars? Samsung, you had it right before, 16:9 is the correct way a tablet should be, don't copy bad ideas just because they are bad Apple ideas!

    Yeah I wonder why 4:3 is still a thing in 2015? 16:9 should be standard on all tablets by now including Apple. I just got an Asus Zenpad and this is a very nice tablet except for the 4:3 ratio.

    If you're considering the Tab S, but might like better performance, an aspect ratio better suited for reading and web browsing, and a far lighter, nicer and more high end design, that's when you'd go for the newer version. The screen resolution is a non-issue at tablet viewing distances, and I very much doubt the new one can't handle your 128GB card (maximum memory card capacity is a very frequently erroneous spec sheet listing).

    Don't get me wrong, I like the design of this tablet. I have a Galaxy S6 and it's amazing phone. And I like to see the design of this thing carry over to the tablets. But if tablets are being used for movies and TV viewing, why does the 4:3 aspect stay? Why can't tablet manufacturers embrace the widescreen format? Just about every phone on the market uses 16:9, and HTC manages to make 16:9 work on the Nexus 9, and Microsoft does it well on Surface devices.

    I do agree with you about micro SD card specs, but the Zenpad that I mentioned reads my 128GB card fine. So I would assume that the Galaxy Tab does as well. But I think it is funny that LG lists the G4's SD card slot at being capable of reading cards of 2TB, when 1TB cards don't exist yet. :lol:

    Also, there will be a better keyboard solution for this - a slide-in, magnetically attached keyboard for the regular stand covers. More versatile, cheaper, thinner, lighter. Sounds good to me.

    One of the most appealing things about the Tab S to me was the custom designed keyboard attachment for it that integrated with it perfectly. I'm thinking about buying one of the previous gen models off eBay just for that when the prices drop. It actually made that tablet way more appealing and way more of an actual laptop replacement than the iPad ever was or will be. I'll wait and see what the new one brings to the table in terms of that kind of functionality though.
    Reply