Samsung has unveiled its Galaxy Tab S 8.4, a compact Android 4.4 KitKat tablet with an 8.4in screen. Here we compare the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and key rival the Apple iPad mini 2 (aka Apple iPad mini with Retina display) to and out whether Apple or Samsung makes the best compact tablet.
Design and build
Apple’s iPad mini 2 is available in Space Grey and Silver, while the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.4 will come in Titanium Bronze and Dazzling White. Despite featuring a larger 8.4in screen, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is the more compact tablet, both thinner and lighter than the 7.9in-screen iPad mini 2. It’s just 6.6mm thick and 294g (298g with 4G) to the iPad’s 7.5mm and 331g. The iPad mini 2 is also wider, at 134.7mm versus the Tab’s 125.6mm, but the Galaxy tablet is taller, at 212.8mm versus the iPad’s 200mm.
Apple might win on the storage front in terms of how much usable storage is available out of the box, but Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S 8.4 features a microSDXC slot that lets you add cards up to 128GB in capacity. And we’re pretty sure it won’t cost you £240 to buy a 128GB memory card, which is the price difference between Apple’s 16- and 128GB iPad minis.
Apple is well known for the quality of its amazing Retina displays, the idea behind which is that they are sufficiently high-res that the human eye is unable to distinguish between individual pixels and there is no need to go any higher. Actually, LG proved at its recent LG G3 launch that we can tell the difference, and its Quad HD screen is more true to life than anything we’ve seen from Apple. But back to Apple and Samsung. Apple has ﬁtted its iPad mini 2 with a 7.9in IPS multitouch panel with 2048×1536 pixels, which equates to a pixel density of 326ppi. Samsung instead plumps for a Super AMOLED panel in its Galaxy Tab, but it’s both larger and higher in resolution: 8.4in, 2560×1600, 359ppi.
Both iPad mini 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 feature Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi with MIMO and GPS, and are available in versions with 4G LTE connectivity. The Samsung also supports IR and Wi-Fi Direct but, more importantly, uses the industry-standard Micro-USB port for charging or connecting to a PC; Apple uses its proprietary Lightning port. Plus, the Galaxy Tab S has a ﬁngerprint scanner.
Processor and memory
It’s difficult to compare the performance of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and Apple iPad mini with Retina display without getting them into our lab and running some benchmarks, particularly given the fact the two are running different operating systems. Whereas the iPad mini 2 is ﬁtted with the 1.3GHz Apple A7 chip, the same 64-bit chip with motion co-processor featured in the iPhone 5s and Apple iPad Air, Samsung has ﬁtted its own Eynos Octa-core chip, which pairs four 1.9GHz cores with four 1.3GHz cores. Samsung also supplies 3GB of memory to the iPad mini’s 1GB. Note that this does not necessarily mean the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 will be faster – software plays a huge part in performance.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab’s cameras offer more megapixels both front and back, although we’re unlikely to make use of either tablet’s 5- (Apple) and 8Mp (Samsung) rear cameras. Even if they do both support full-HD video recording at 30fps, and the Galaxy Tab beneﬁts from an LED ﬂash. Let’s face it, we’d look pretty stupid. More likely is we might want to use the front- facing camera for video chat – probably Skype on the Tab, and both that and FaceTime on the iPad. Here the Samsung’s camera is slightly better on paper, at 2.1Mp versus the iPad’s 1.2Mp iSight camera. Of course, neither will take mind-blowing photos, and both will do the job.
We can’t properly measure battery life until we have the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 in our lab. All we know is that it’s ﬁtted with a 4,900mAh battery. Meanwhile, Apple claims that its iPad mini 2 will last 10 hours of web browsing.