The antithesis of the convertible laptop, a portable PC that wants to be a tablet is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, a tablet that wants to become a PC.
It’s as big as a laptop, only as portable as a laptop, and comes with accessories that turn it into a laptop.
To see if it is just a fanciful dream or an achievable goal, I tried to use the Tab S8 Ultra for work for a whole week.
Here are the three things I’ve learned:
Samsung DeX Is Essential
Including the ability to switch the Tab S8 Ultra’s interface from the smartphone-centric OneUI interface to the similar but PC centric interface seems silly in theory, but makes total practical sense.
When using a laptop-like device, I expect, at the very least, the ability to conveniently and efficiently switch between apps. DeX provides that and even includes the ability to launch apps within its own window.
It makes more Android apps, especially those that are not designed for tablets to be more usable on a large screen.
Tab S8 Ultra users can switch between OneUI and DeX using the shortcut on the keyboard or the pull-down menu. It’s not instantaneous, but it is fast, and rarely do I ever need to switch between both.
You Probably Don’t Need An App For That
On Android, there is an app to do everything but in a laptop-like interface, using an app is not always desirable because most Android apps are not designed for tablets – at least for now.
A lot of them want to take over the full screen or are stuck in portrait mode, which is not helpful.
In my experience, when trying to do work on the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, I find that the browser – which is more at home on a tablet – is my best friend. Most web and cloud services that have an app also have a web interface and opening it in a browser just makes it more usable and manageable on a tablet.
Even when using Google Drive as my productivity suite, the browser version is more akin to a laptop experience.
One caveat though, make sure the browser defaults to opening web pages in desktop mode. It’s not a perfect solution, since some sites insist on opening in phone mode, but it works.
Grab A USB-C Hub And A Mouse
What both a convertible laptop and the Tab S8 Ultra have in common is a lack of ports. It’s even more so on the Tab S8 Ultra because it only has one.
Even if you are fine with the one USB-C port on the tablet, a USB-C hub is always handy to have. The sometimes pricy device breaks out the one port into multiple useful ports like full-sized USB-A ports, HDMI ports, ethernet, and card reader.
The best thing is, you can plug in a mouse.
Yup, despite the generous touchpad on the Tab S8 Ultra keyboard it gets in the way because of bad palm detection while typing. Just touching the screen would be faster, but none of the two interfaces works as fluently as I like it.
DeX, my preferred interface while working on the Tab S8 Ultra, is built to work with a pointer and I found that using it with a mouse was more efficient.
A Lot Of Potential
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra has a lot of potential to become a productivity powerhouse. Samsung is literally leading the way in the Android tablet scene.
I expect that as Google picks up the slack, mandating better tablet support with the launch of their own soon, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra would already be ahead of the game. But the software is just not there just yet.