Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra – Apple has some serious, superior competition (review)

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is its ultimate weapon to unseat the iPad Pro – or at least offer Android users an alternative that is, in many ways, superior.

No. this is not meant to Apple bash but to point out that versus the Apple iPad Pro:

  • Screen: 14.6” 2860 x 1848, 16:10, 120Hz, Super AMOLED (12.9” 2732 x 2048, 4:3, 120Hz Mini-LED) Apple is closer to the Galaxy Tab 12.4” S8+
  • Qualcomm SD8 Gen 1 Flagship SoC (Apple M1)
  • 8/128GB base config with 1TB microSD (no MicroSD)
  • 13/6MP rear and 13/13 front camera (12/10 rear and 12 front cameras)
  • 11200mAh battery, 45W charge capable (10758mAh, 20W)
  • USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps (Thunderbolt 4 40Gbps)
  • From $1799 including S-Pen, but 12.4” S8+ is from $1499 (from $1649 Pencil extra $199)
  • Optional Keyboard $349.30 (Magic Keyboard $549)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

WebsiteRange and Wi-Fi version Product Page
PriceWi-Fi 8/128GB $1799.
Upgrade to 5G $200
Upgrade to 256GB $200
45W charger inc USB-C cable
$69 Ultra Standing Book Cover
$109 Ultra Book Cover
$149 Ultra Book Cover Keyboard $499
ColoursGraphite
FromSamsung online and approved retailers Harvey Norman, Domayne, Bing Lee etc
Warranty24-months ACL
MoreCyberShack Samsung News and Reviews

Review format

We cover the essentials in a 5-minute read and then we attach our test results for those that need to know more. We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed.

The Galaxy Tab S8 family

We covered the release of the Galaxy Tab S8 family Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 series comes in standard, plus, and ultra and the main differences are screen size (11” LCD, 12.4” sAMOLED and 14.6” sAMOLED).

As they all use the same processor, performance is pretty similar. My pick is the S8+ – it has a more manageable screen size.

First impression – big – Exceed

This is a huge tablet – a two-hand hold – and you need to remember that it is all glass on one side, very narrow bezels (that you can have edge detection issues with), and a vast Armor alloy back – and it is $2K. To our dismay, we nearly dropped it several times – it is not something that fits well on your lap. Take care of it by getting a keyboard/trackpad cover or a slipcover.

There is no denying that the fantastic Super AMOLED screen is the prime reason to buy. But remember that the 12.4” S8+ also has this screen,  so you have a choice.

Screen: 2960 x 1848, 16:10, 120Hz Super AMOLED – Exceed

It earns Exceed because an AMOLED screen is rare on a tablet. But in a practical sense, it is a 60 or 120Hz (not adaptive) refresh rate, and while it claims HDR10,+ we suspect it downmixes that to the screen 16.7m colours. Great for video content, and the speakers add presence to movies.

It is colour accurate, and you could do further calibration with its colour temperature and RGB adjustments.

The screen is very good in sunlight but a little reflective in direct light. Off-angle viewing (with all OLED) is excellent.

Processor – Qualcomm SD8 Gen 1 – Exceed

I don’t want to get into arguments over Apple’s M1 and the SD8 Gen 1 because they run different operating systems that manage memory and other things very differently.

Suffice to say that the SoC (System-on-a-chip) has the most processing and graphics power in the Android world, and you can play any game, run any app and flog it under load – it can cope.

But we need to mention Samsung flagships are throttled – user discovery prompts action where Samsung may detect test software and manipulate results. As such, we cannot be sure our tests are accurate. For example, it Throttles 13% and delivers GIPS figures (precisely the same as the S22 Ultra) that we suspect are about manipulated by about 8-10% in Samsung’s favour. Samsung has offered to correct this detection in a future patch.

Still, all that aside, it’s a spectacular performer.

RAM and Storage – Too little – Pass

This is a serious device, and frankly, 8GB RAM and 128GB storage are not enough. Yes, you can use up to 1TB MicroSD, but its speeds are 88/36 versus 1080/202MBps. And while you can attach a portable SSD, It cannot be mounted as storage, so you can’t use it for live video recording etc.

Samsung has 12 and 16GB models overseas, and we hope they will make it here.

Gaming – Pass+ but be careful with the screen edge

It has a low 1.5ms G-t-G response at 120Hz, and the processor can play most games at full rate. PUBG Mobile runs a constant 40fps high quality and 60fps at the next lower detail level.

 But the narrow bezels lead to lots of false ‘presses’ – edge detection needs improvement for this and typical use. We are also concerned that its size makes it easier to drop, and gamers should look for external handles (we cannot find any).

Comms – No NFC – Pass

Wi-Fi 6E AX, but we could only test on a Wi-Fi 6 router. It reaches 2161Mbps (2400 maximum) and would be faster again with 6E. Dual-band GPS is fast and accurate (it is in the Wi-Fi version too). BT 5.2 allows for multipoint, and you can use a pair of compatible Samsung buds to music share. While the SoC supports NFC, the tablet does not – no deal-breaker.

Where the Apple iPad Pro has it over this is its Thunderbolt 4 support (40Gbps) versus the USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps). Most expansion dongles will give you HDMI Out (generally 1080p@60Hz, but some are 4K@30Hz), USB-A, power passthrough and more, so you can use cabled keyboards and mice.

DeX mode and Windows with and without an external monitor – Exceed

Samsung Desktop eXperience (DeX) can load directly to the screen (as well as casting to a monitor over Wi-Fi or via USB-C to HDMI Cable). If you have the Book Cover Keyboard, you can use this ‘Windows-like’ Android desktop, albeit you need a mouse for any productivity. So, we recommend a Logitech K400 Plus keyboard touchpad for $99.95.

Using it as a Wi-Fi Direct screen on a Windows PC makes it very useful as an extra screen for remote workers.

5G version – not tested

Our review unit was Wi-Fi only, but we suspect that the 4/5G version would have good reception as there are four massive antennae – one on each corner. It has all Australian bands. You cannot use it as a phone without a SIP app like Google Duo.

Battery – Pass

It has to drive a big screen, and no matter how power efficient the AMOLED and SoC are, it maxes out at 11 hours of screen-on use (1080p video loop at 50% brightness/volume and aeroplane mode). The same test at 120Hz was just on 8 hours.

PC Mark and Accubattery confirm that the actual 60Hz screen-on use with Wi-Fi is about 8 hours. If you run it at 120Hz, that reduces to about 5 hours. Heavier loads will reduce that further.

No charger is supplied – it is 10V/4.5A/45W capable. If you buy a third-party USB-C PD charger, make sure it specifically supports 10V/4.5A/45W, or it will only charge at between 15-25W. Charge time is around 1 hour and about 2.5 hours with a 15W charger.

Speakers – quad (2 x 2.0 stereo) Exceed

It has one of the best sound signatures of any tablet tested because a) it can use larger speakers, and b) it has two on each side. It uses the same 2-channel amplifier as the S22 smartphones. To be clear, it is not 4.0 sound.

The speakers are on the landscape (short) sides and have a wider sound stage. It downmixes Dolby Atmos to 2.0, increasing the sound stage a little.

The maximum volume is around 80dB (a little above average), and it is fine for personal use.

The speakers have some mid-bass – impressive. The mid-high-treble is well controlled and removes the harshness, and gives a feeling of directionality. While it is a fairly neutral sound signature (good), it allows Dolby Atmos and the device EQ to tailor the sound to your tastes.

BT 5.2 supports SBC, AAC, aptX, LDAC and a Samsung scalable codec for its devices. It is loud, clear, and superb over BT headsets.

S-Pen – improved, but you ‘need to need’ it – Pass

This new single-button S-Pen has Wacom support (very accurate), BT connection and Wireless charging – making it more useful. It has the usual 4096 levels of pressure and docks/charges on the back near the camera hump. That is a little dicey as the magnets are not that strong and it was often knocked off the perch. Fortunately, a replacement is only $59.99. The tips are replaceable as well.

Pre-installed software includes Samsung Notes (notetaking and sketching app with text recognition and more), ClipStudio Paint (trial) – a sketching tool with layer support and loads of brush options, and there’s a handwriting keyboard too. LamaFusion (trial) provides video editing.

Third-party S Pen apps are also available – Autodesk Sketchbook, Concepts, and Wacom Bamboo Paper to name a few.

Android – Exceed

Samsung’s smartphone policy is up to four years of upgrades and five years of security patches – Exceed.

This makes owning one better and more secure for longer. That means Android 12 may reach Android 15!

One UI 4.1 is a light touch over Android and allows for its Samsung customisations. But we are growing more concerned at the need to sign up for a Samsung Account to access anything in its Theme or Galaxy App store – it is bad enough that Google knows all about us.

Our advice is not to use Samsung apps that substitute for Google ones, especially if you brand swap and want seamless changeovers.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra Camera – remarkably good in day and office light = Pass+

The camera has more limited functionality than its smaller smartphone siblings, but it uses the same camera App and the Qualcomm S8 Gen 1 AI. It produces great day and office light shots, albeit with fewer functions. In all, it is way better than social media class shots. We won’t rate its performance.

The selfie uses two 13MP – one set up for single selfies and the other for groups. Again, perfect in day or office light.

Video is 4K@30fps with EIS (electronic image stabilisation). Here the extra mic on the rear camera jump really works well.

CyberShack’s view – Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra – there is no better!

It is huge, and you will either love or hate that. But it also has a smaller 12.4” brother, the S8+, that is $300 cheaper and may be more for your needs.

It took me a while to get used to it over my usual 12.4” Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE, but now I have experienced AMOLED and the Qualcomm SD8 Gen 1 SoC, it will be hard to go back.

And you definitely need the Keyboard cover/trackpad/stand (not reviewed) if you want to make the most of this device. Make sure you buy the version with the trackpad.

I am not going to recommend you rush out and buy it because, like its competitor, the iPad Pro, you need a ‘use case’. Otherwise, you are wasting money when all you need is a Galaxy Tab A8 starting from $369. It is just as good for movies, music, web surfing and all the general tablet stuff.

You buy this because you have a real use for the S Pen, DeX, or need to run some pretty powerful art Apps like Clip Studio Paint, LamaFusion, Adobe PaintCan, Adobe Illustrator Draw etc.

Still, it is nice to aspire to the best.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

BrandSamsung
ModelSamsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra
Model NumberSM-X900 Wi-Fi
SM-X906 Wi-Fi and 5G
Price Base$1799 Wi-Fi
$1999 Wi-Fi and 5G
   Price base8/128
   Price 28/246GB +$200
   Price 3
Warranty months24-months
 TierUpper-premium
WebsiteWi-Fi version and 5G 5G version
ManualPDF
FromSamsung online and major retailers. Don’t buy grey market. The certified version has Wi-Fi 6E that only works with Australian bands, and 5G only works with Australian carriers.
Country of OriginKorea
CompanySamsung
Test date1-14/6/22
Ambient temp15°
ReleaseApr-22
Other models not for Australia (Don’t buy)Do not buy overseas models B, U or N (after the X900/906)

Screen

Size14.6″
TypeSuper AMOLED
Flat, Curve, 2D, 3DTop ‘Apple-like’ notch
Resolution2960 x 1848
PPI240
Ratio16:10
Screen to Body %90+%
Colours bits16m 8-bit
Refresh Hz, adaptive60 or 120Hz – not adaptive
Response 120HzNot disclosed
Nits testNot disclosed, but around 600 nits (tested 590/350 with ambient light sensor on/off)
Nits max, testPeak brightness is not disclosed. HDR10+ requires more than 800 nits, but the screen would not go past 750.
ContrastInfinite
sRGB97% Natural
DCI-P398% Vivid
Rec.2020 or otherRGB and temperature adjustment (default 6400 is slightly cold)
Delta E (<4 is excellent)3
HDR LevelPlays up to HDR10+ locking refresh rate to 120Hz
SDR UpscaleNo
Blue light controlYes
PWM if knownAll AMOLED use PWM 250Hz approx.
Daylight readableYes
Always on DisplayYes
Edge displayYes
AccessibilityFull suite of enhancements
DRMWidevine L1 1080p HDR (but we suspect it downmixes to SDR)
GamingGame mode
Screen protectionGorilla Glass 5
CommentAmbient light sensor
DeX mode
Second Screen means use as an additional display on a Windows PC or as a drawing tablet (like a Wacom tablet – only not quite as precise). Connection is via Wi-Fi Direct (Miracast)
S-Pen included

Processor

Brand, ModelQualcomm SD8 Gen 1
nm4
CoresOcta-core (1×2.8GHz + 3×2.50GHz + 4×1.8 GHz)
ModemX65
AI TOPS27
Geekbench 5 Single-core1220
Geekbench 5 multi-core3237
LikeSamsung results are still unreliable because its Game Optimisation Software detects test software.
GPUAdreno 730
GPU Test
Open CL5899
Vulcan6683
RAM, type8GB LDDDR5
Storage, free, type128 UFS 3.1 (approx 100GB free)
micro-SDTo 1TB – dedicated slot
CPDT internal seq. Read MBps1080
CPDT internal seq. write MBps202
CPDT microSD read, write MBps88/36
CPDT external (mountable?) MBpsWon’t test – seen as external storage but can’t mount as internal storage.
CommentWithout mountable external storage, seen as internal storage, videographers and vloggers will soon run out of space.
Throttle test
Max GIPS289616
Average GIPS260654
Minimum GIPS234588
% Throttle13%
CPU Temp50°
CommentInterestingly Max GIPS is lower than the S22, S22+ at 308,173, showing that the processor has been slowed by 6.5% hence Throttling is at 13% instead of 21%.

Comms

Wi-Fi Type, model6E AX BCM4389C1 VHT160 (note certified version for Australia – international versions will not connect at 6E speeds)
Test 2m -dBm, Mbps-11/2161
Test 5m-40/1921-2161
Test 10m-50/1441 to 2161
BT Type5.2
GPS single, dualDual <4M accuracy
USB type3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) with alt DP
Alt DP, DeX, Ready ForCable and Wireless Dex, Alt DP screen mirror
NFCNo
Ultra-widebandNo
Sensors
   AccelerometerYes – combo with Gyro
   GyroYes – combo with Gyro
   e-CompassYes
   BarometerYes
   GravityCombo
   PedometerCombo
   Ambient lightYes
   Hall sensorYes
   ProximityNo
   Other
CommentCollaboration view allows you to use a Tab S8 as a screen.

LTE and 5G

SIMThe test unit was Wi-Fi only, but 5G has a single sim and microSD dedicated slot
 ActiveOne
Ring toneSingle
VoLTERequired SIP app like Google Duo – not a phone
Wi-Fi callingNot tested
4G Bands1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 25, 26, 28, 32, 38, 40, 41, 66
CommentAll Australian and most world bands
5G sub-6GhzN1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40, 41, 77, 66, 78
CommentAll sub-6Ghz and 5G low bands
mmWaveNo

Battery

mAh11200
Charger, type, suppliedNo – suggest Samsung 45W or GaN PD and must buy a 5W rating cable. Note third-party chargers must support 10V/4.5A t charge at 45W.
 PD, QC level3, 2.0
Qi, wattageN/A
Reverse Qi or cableN/A
Test (60Hz or adaptive screen)
   Charge % 30mins40%
   Charge 0-100%1 hour with Samsung 45W charger
   Charge Qi, WN/A
   Charge 5V, 2A5V/3A/15W 2.5-3 hours
   Video loop 50%, aeroplane11 hours
   PC Mark 3 battery8 hours and 2 minutes
Accubattery 8 hours 10 minutes
   GFX Bench Manhattan batteryOut-of-memory error (shoulds not occur with a Qualcomm SoC)
   GFX Bench T-Rex227.9 minutes (3.8 hours) 6607 frames
   Drain 100-0% full load screen on5 hours and 25 minutes
   Watt full load.3W
   Watt idle Screen on.85 to 1W
   Estimate loss at max refresh30% for 120Hz screen
   Estimate typical useIt has to run a big screen at 60 or 120Hz. PC Mark is the best estimate of typical use at between 5-8 hours.
CommentCarry a charger (shame Samsung does not provide one). The Out of memory error should not occur on a Qualcomm SoC.

Sound

SpeakersQuad 2 x 2.0 stereo – two per landscape side
TuningAKG
AMP2 x Cirrus Logic CS35L41 each 5.3W, 1% THD, 8 ohm
Dolby Atmos decodeYes, downmix to two speakers (two per side)
Hi-Res32-bit, 384kHz
3.5mmNo
BT CodecsSBC, AAC, aptX , LDAC
MultipointCan connect to two devices
Dolby Atmos (DA)Yes – auto, movie, music, voice and games mode
EQNormal, Pop, Classic, Jazz, Rock and Custom – makes more of a difference in headphones as inbuilt speakers limit what it can do.
Mics3 (top, left side and on rear camera hump) for some background noise suppression
Test dB – all on EQ flat DA off
   Volume max80
   Media (music)75
   Ring80
   Alarm?
   Notifications75
   EarpieceN/A
   Hands-freeNot really designed as a phone but Hands-free duo call was fine to about 1 metre
   BT headphonesExcellent left-right separation and DA makes quite a difference with DA content.

Sound quality

Deep Bass 20-40HzNo
Middle Bass 40-100HzBuilding from 70Hz – excellent
High Bass 100-200HzBuilding to 200Hz
Low Mid 200-400HzFlat
Mid 4000-1000HzFlat
High-Mid 1-2kHzFlat
Low Treble 2-4kHzFlat
Mid Treble 4-6kHzFlat
High Treble 6-10kHzslight decline
Dog Whistle 10-20kHzDecline to 17kHz
Sound Signature typeIt has enough mid-bass to give a surprisingly good low end. It has strong mids and low-mid treble for a neutral sound signature – perfect for movies and music.
   SoundstageHaving four speakers (driven by two amps) means it can give you a wider sound stage. With Dolby Atmos content, it was even wider and had hints of height.
CommentHaving some mid-bass is impressive. The mid-high-treble is well controlled and removes the harshness, and gives a feeling of directionality.
Personal Audio Test works with wired or Bluetooth headphones to boost frequencies you have trouble hearing. Ambient Sound Amplification mode captures sound through the phone’s mic and to your headphones.

Build

Size (H X W x D)208.6 x 326.4 x 5.5
Weight grams726
Front glassGorilla Glass 5
Rear materialAlloy
FrameAlloy
IP ratingN/A
ColoursGraphite
Pen, Stylus supportYes –  3.4g, 4-96 pressure levels, 2.8ms latency Inbox and 88 language translation support
In the box
   ChargerNo
   USB cableUSB-A to USB-C rated 3W – you need a 5W cable to charge at 45W
   BudsUSB-A to USB-C rated 3W – you need a 5W cable to charge at 45W
   Bumper coverNo
CommentStylus included. A solid Armor Aluminium frame make it a keeper.

OS

Android12
Security patch date1-May-22
UIOne U1 4.1
OS upgrade policyUp to 4 OS upgrades
Security patch policyRegular security patches four years
BloatwareSamsung alternative to Google suite. Microsoft suite and OneDrive (requires subscription)
OtherSelection  of Galaxy Apps
CommentGreat upgrade policy and One UI is easy to use
Security
Fingerprint sensor location, typeUltrasonic Under glass
Face ID2D
OtherKnox and Secure folder
CommentOne of the more secure Android devices

Camera Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Rear PrimaryWide
  MP13MP
   SensorHynix HI1337 (part of its Black Pearl series – slightly older tech and not as well known as Samsung or Sony sensors)
   FocusAF
   f-stop2
   um1
  FOV° (stated, actual)67-79°
   StabilisationEIS only
   Zoom8x digital
Rear 2Ultra-Wide
   MP6.3MP
   SensorHynix HI847 8MP cropped
   FocusFF
   f-stop2.2
   um1
  FOV (stated, actual)104-116°
   StabilisationNo
   ZoomNo
Special
   Video max4K@30fps EIS
   Flash1
   Auto-HDRYes
   QR code readerYes
   Night modeYes
Front
  MP13MP
   SensorHynix HI1337 (same as the rear sensor)
   FocusAF
   f-stop2.2
   um1
  FOV (stated, actual)68.8-81.1°
   StabilisationNo
   FlashScreen fill
   Zoom8X digital
   Video max4K@30fps
CommentHas an additional 13MP front sensor., f2.4, 1um, 99.4-111.7° for wide-angle selfies

Ratings

Features9
You won’t find a faster, more fully-featured 2022 Android tablet
Value8
Only because it does not come with a 45W charger. Good hardware costs this much.
Performance8
It has the most powerful Android processor but that and the big screen reduce battery life.
Ease of Use9
Samsungs 2-year warranty, OS and security policy are excellent. Try before you buy as 14..6″ in big – two-handed use only.
Design9
Elegant, well made and a looker with that lovely saturated, immersive AMOLED screen
Rating out of 108.6
Final commentThe Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is the ultimate in a 2022 table. Everything is good – very little room for improvement (I think I said that about the 2021 Tab S7 too

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

From $1799 to 2399
8.6

Features

9.0/10

Value

8.0/10

Performance

8.0/10

Ease of use

9.0/10

Design

9.0/10

Pros

  • Most powerful 2022 Android processor
  • Giant screen is colourful and immersive
  • Beautifully built and 2-year warranty
  • Great Android OS and security patch policy
  • Included S Pen is accurate and fast

Cons

  • Small bezels result in poor edge detection
  • Not all Android Apps handle tablet form
  • No adaptive screen refresh rate
  • No adaptive screen refresh rate
  • Very expensive – the S8+ may be better for you


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