I admire Samsung for its willingness to try something new, put a unique idea into the market, and learn from it. And I think that is what the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is, one of their experiments.
It is full of potential, very capable, and an exciting look into the future of Android tablets. But a few things held it back.
After a few weeks of using it, I think I’ve figured out who the Tab S8 Ultra is made for and what it does best.
The Tab S8 Ultra seems like an Android tablet that is trying hard to be a laptop. It is just too big to be used as a tablet.
The set that I got for the review comes with three accessories: an S Pen, a back cover stand, and a keyboard.
The keyboard is almost perfect. It just needs to be more rigid, the keys need more travel, and the touchpad palm detection needs to be fixed.
I can’t use the keyboard without turning the touchpad off. The cursor will teleport all over the place if I don’t.
Also, because the keyboard does not have a solid hinge, the Tab S8 Ultra requires the back cover with a kickstand.
This means it takes up extra space when fully opened. At the same time, I think the kickstand could have been designed to be more substantial.
As is, it cannot prop up the tablet at low angles, like how an artist would use it. Any pressure, like from using the S Pen, will cause it to flatten.
I like how the S Pen is stored behind the tablet, right next to the camera. It could also be attached to the top of the tablet, but it won’t charge there.
It is smart how Samsung designed the back cover stand to have a flap that keeps the S Pen securely attached. It also means that it’s a must-have accessory.
A Tough Fit
Trying to use the Tab S8 Ultra as a productivity or a creative device was a challenge, but it is not the fault of the device itself.
The Android library of apps favours phones and does not take advantage of the tablet’s large display. In other words, most apps just turn the tablet into a large phone.
As a part of my workflow on a PC, I use Whatsapp on the web. I can’t do that on the Tab S8 Ultra because the browsers default back to mobile mode which locks me out of the service. It demands that I use the app instead.
DeX, Samsung’s desktop-like interface, alleviates this issue, especially for productivity applications, but not all apps are compatible with it.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra also has the same problem as most Samsung mobile devices, too many preinstalled apps. Every Google app has a Samsung counterpart and there are also Microsoft apps.
However, there are no preinstalled social apps, which is a big plus, just YouTube Music, Spotify, Netflix, and two more apps under Galaxy Picks: Clip Studio – which is not free – and Noteshelf – which looks eerily like the note app in the old Galaxy Note devices.
I’m sure if Samsung develops its tablet platform further and creates its own apps like what it is doing with its folding phones and smartwatch, these issues can be solved.
I find it weird that Samsung fitted the Tab S8 Ultra with two rear cameras (a 13MP and a 6MP) and two 12MP front cameras.
The Tab S8 Ultra doesn’t have a focus on AR, so having good rear cameras is just a bonus I guess.
The front camera is great for biometric login and video conferencing. It even does videos well, but why two?
Can’t Deny That Gorgeous Display
In the first week, I didn’t find myself reaching for the Tab S8 Ultra to do anything. I tried, but it just didn’t click with me. That is until I started watching videos, shows, and movies on it.
That 14.6in Super AMOLED display is just the best. Sure, it’s only WQXGA+(2960 x 1848) and not UHD (4K), but it is a beautiful sight to behold. Unwieldy, but beautiful.
The high contrast and the deep colours just make it a pleasure to look at.
On top of that, it has a 120Hz refresh rate and four speakers tuned by AKG. That is the icing and the cherry on top right there.
I like watching videos on it so much that I wish it had a folding cover without the keyboard. For me, this is my primary use for the Tab S8 Ultra.
But then I got another idea.
Meet The Ultimate Gaming Machine
Pair the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra’s amazing display, brilliant sound, generous display, and exceptional performance with a gaming controller and you got yourself the ultimate gaming machine.
It helps that Google Play is full of indie games, console ports, and emulators.
If you know your way around apps like RetroArch and have a spare controller, you could even play classic couch co-op games on the Tab S8 Ultra. The big display is more than enough for two.
I found Netflix to be the killer app here since a subscription gets me shows, movies, and games that take full advantage of the device.
To Buy Or Not To Buy
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is a perfect example of a cutting edge device made for early adopters. It is a device that is full of potential and is so far ahead of the application that is currently available. It is a window of what’s possible and what’s to come in the realm of Android Tablets.
Creatives would be the first ones who should try it. Once the apps are more refined, it should attract productive users too. But right now, gamers and binge-watchers are going to be the ones that take the most advantage of it.
Also, like any pioneering device, the price tag is the biggest hurdle for most people. Including the keyboard, cover, S-Pen, and a pouch bag in the RM5,899 package sweeten the deal.
But still, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, at least for now, is ideal for a few, while for the rest of us, it is still a tough pill to swallow.
If you’d like to read my initial thought of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra including it’s basic specification, click here.