Size really does matter! Samsung’s Tab S8 Ultra reviewed

July 17, 2022
4 mins read
Start
8/10

Summary

Samsung Tab S8 Ultra REVIEW

From $1949

Gadget guru PAT PILCHER has been playing around with Samsung’s big and hugely accomplished new tablet. Here’s what he found.

 

Ever since the iPad first launched, tablets have been a thing. They’re super handy for casual surfing, powerful enough for gaming, and with the addition of accessories such as a pen and keyboard, they can be as versatile as a PC. It isn’t hard to see why the tech industry seems more than a tad confused about just where tablets sit. Some say tablets are an adjunct to PCs, while others say tablets are a PC replacement. Either way, they’re nifty.

 

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Samsung’s Tab S8 Ultra, with its mahoosive 14-inch display, typifies this confusion. It’s big enough, and with the right accessories, it’ll easily work as a power-user’s productivity tool. Its gorgeous screen sports an aspect ratio that makes it an excellent Netflix or gaming companion. Either way, it doesn’t matter in which camp it sits, as it’s a big win for consumers.

When I say that Tab S8 Ultra is big, I’m not kidding. In the hand, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the Tab S8 Ultra for an aircraft landing strip as its display is bigger than most comparable laptop screens. At just 5.5mm deep, it is also super thin. It might have spent some quality time at Jenny Craig’s, but it still weighs in at 726g. If you sprung for the type-cover to get some QWERTY action, you’re adding 644g into the mix. This makes using it one-handed a bit of a mission as you juggle its 1.37kg with the bundled S-Pen Stylus.

Regarding its look and feel, the Tab S8 Ultra is finished in a discrete Graphite grey. An aluminium rear and sides also make it feel incredibly solid, lending it a decidedly premium feel, which makes considerable sense given its sticker price.

Aside from a discrete Samsung logo and a horizontal black strip that houses the two rear cameras, it’s an understated yet sophisticated-looking doodah. It also comes with the S Pen stylus, which attaches to the side magnetically.

As much as I love its slinky design, one design element sticks out: its front camera notch. The Tab S8 Ultra commands a steep price premium. This makes Samsung’s decision to give it a camera notch (even though their flagship phones all use a hole punch camera) bizarre. While the notch tries to be subtle, It’s still an odd omission at this price point.

Camera notches aside, the Tab S8 Ultra is built to last. This is helped by its body which is hewn out of Samsung’s Armour Aluminium. Adding to this is its display, which is done out in Gorilla Glass 5. Everything feels reassuringly solid. Being a Samsung product, it isn’t a huge surprise that its 120Hz AMOLED panel delivers vivid and crisp content at a peeper pleasing 1848 x 2960-pixel resolution.

In use, I also found Samsung’s S Pen stylus a useful accessory. From signing documents to relaxing by doodling in apps such as the pre-installed colouring app, PenUp, the S-Pen is incredibly useful. That said, the lack of a proper and secure method of stowing it with the Tab S8 Ultra means you’ll be forking out cash for a replacement sooner rather than later. This would be a real shame as it’s super responsive. Once you get used to using it, features such as air gestures make tasks like taking photos a doddle.

As Samsung’s flagship tablet, the Tab S8 Ultra sports impressive specs. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 powers it. It can come with up to 16GB of RAM. Depending on your budget, you can also get it with a roomy 512GB of storage, Wi-Fi 6E and/or 5G. It also supports microSD cards with up to 1TB capacity, making it easily expandable.

The spec held its own without breaking a sweat for multi-tasking and juggling multiple apps in split-screen view. It also ran cool and smoothly. Gaming was a visual treat, even though Samsung’s Game Optimization Service can throttle down frame rates to protect hardware from overheating.

Given its XXL-sized form factor, there was enough room for Samsung to add in a 11200mAh cell battery, which is at least 2-3 times the capacity of what you normally get with a smartphone. It might be a huge battery, but it’s needed to power the sizeable display. I got full days out of it running productivity apps, email, and the odd bit of gaming. On the charging front, the Tab S8 Ultra supports up to 45W charging, taking it from flat to fully charged in a mere hour and 20 minutes. For topping its battery up before bolting out the door, I also found I could go from zero to 30% in just half an hour.

There’s a gotcha, though. Samsung is still pinching pennies when it comes to chargers. They don’t include a charger with the Tab S8 Ultra. Unless you already have a Samsung fast charger, your charging mileage will vary considerably. There’s also no support for wireless charging. This makes considerable sense though, as placing the Tab S8 Ultra in a charging pad would be cumbersome. Unfortunately, it also means you can’t use reverse charging with your phone.

The Tab S8 Ultra comes with four cameras. Around the back, there’s a 13Mp main camera and a 6Mp ultrawide shooter. In use, the rear snappers were not too shabby at all. Shots in daylight produced well-exposed and detailed photos from the main shooter. The ultrawide, however, was not as accomplished, with some details looking blotchy. The two front-facing cameras use 12Mp sensors, which were great for video calls.

Given its beefy spec, the Tab S8 commands a price premium. Its base spec starts at a whopping $1949 for the 8GB/128GB Wi-Fi only model, going up to $2149 for the 16GB/512GB 5G version. If you’re eyeing it up as a productivity tool, you’ll also need to add the keyboard case cost. That sounds like a lot, but then you do get a lot of tablet for your money. Its sticker price isn’t all that different to a comparably spec’d iPad Pro (with a smaller 12.4″ screen). At this price, though, you’d be forgiven for wondering if a laptop will offer more bang per buck value. I also can fathom why at that price point, Samsung are too cheap to include a charger?

The Tab S8 Ultra is easily one of the best Android tablets available. Stunning design meets solid performance and a whopper of a display. It might be a pure, undiluted dose of awesomeness for watching TV shows and movies, but its stratospheric price also hints at its productivity chops. To justify its price, you’d need to be considering it as both a media and productivity peripheral.

https://www.samsung.com/nz/tablets/galaxy-tab-s8/buy/

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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