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Samsung Galaxy Tab S9, S9 Plus and S9 Ultra hands-on review: Everything you need to know

Samsung’s latest tablets get an upgrade but are they still the premium Android tablets to beat?

Samsung’s foldable phones might be grabbing all the headlines right now but, if you don’t have a couple of grand to spare, you might be tempted by one of the company’s new tablets instead. That’s right, alongside its foldable mobiles, Samsung has just launched a trio of premium tablets: the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9, Galaxy Tab S9 Plus and the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra.

These don’t look all that different from the previous generation, despite the Galaxy Tab S8 being two years old. They have the same flat edges and rear panel as before, the same screen sizes and resolutions, and they’re similarly slim and lightweight. But there are some key differences this time around.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 specifications

  • 11in, 120Hz, Dynamic OLED 2X, 2,560 x 1,600 resolution display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy SoC
  • RAM/storage: 8GB/128GB or 12GB/256GB
  • Cameras: 13MP rear, 12MP front
  • Dimensions and weight: 254 x 166 x 5.9mm; 498g (Wi-Fi), 500g (5G)
  • IP68 dust and water resistance
  • 8,400mAh battery
  • Price: From £799 (128GB, Wi-Fi)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Plus specifications

  • 12.4in, 120Hz, Dynamic OLED 2X, 2,800 x 1,752 resolution display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy SoC
  • RAM/storage: 12GB/256GB or 12GB/512GB
  • Cameras: 13MP & 8MP ultrawide rear, 12MP front
  • Dimensions and weight: 285 x 185 x 5.7mm; 581g (Wi-Fi), 586g (5G)
  • IP68 dust and water resistance
  • 10,090mAh battery
  • Price: From £999 (256GB, Wi-Fi)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra specifications

  • 14.6in, 120Hz, Dynamic OLED 2X, 2,960 x 1,848 resolution display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy SoC
  • RAM/storage: 8GB/12GB; 12GB/256GB; 16GB/1TB
  • Cameras: 13MP & 8MP ultrawide rear, 12MP & 12MP ultrawide front
  • Dimensions and weight: 326 x 209 x 5.5mm; 732g (Wi-Fi), 737g (5G)
  • IP68 dust and water resistance
  • 11,200mAh battery
  • Price: From £1,199 (256GB, Wi-Fi)

12 months of Disney+ included across all models, keyboard cover included with pre-orders

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 hands-on: First impressions and key features

The main difference for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 products is that every option in the range is now equipped with a 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED 2X display: only the Ultra and Plus models of the Tab S8 came with that particular specification.

That would seem to be great news for tablet fans on a budget; however, if you scrutinise the specifications above, you’ll see that even the cheapest of the Tab S9 models is still pretty pricey. In fact, the 11in Galaxy Tab S9 is more expensive than the equivalent iPad Air, costing £799 for the 128GB storage model and £1,099 for the 256GB model (Wi-Fi only). The Tab S9 Ultra costs as much as £1,699 for the top-spec model with 16GB of RAM, 1TB of storage and 5G connectivity.

Elsewhere, the processor has been upgraded, getting a boost from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 to the 8 Gen 2 “for Galaxy”, with Samsung promising a 34% increase in CPU performance, 41% in GPU speed and a 49% boost to neural processing as well. As we’ve seen across our various smartphone reviews, the 8 Gen 2 is speedy and efficient, so you can expect good performance across the board with these new tablets as well as decent battery life.

Surprisingly, each of the new tablets is also now water resistant, with an IP68 rating meaning they can be submerged in water to a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. There’s also new vapor-chamber cooling and, as before, all the new models come with an S Pen in the box, which attaches to the rear of the tablet magnetically and charges while it’s mounted. This year, Samsung has added bi-directional charging, which means it will charge in whichever way you attach it.

The keyboard case isn’t bundled, unfortunately, but if you pre-order you get the standard keyboard cover included in the price. This is the keyboard without the touchpad, though; if you want that, you’ll need to cough up for the premium model at £199 for the Tab S9, £229 for the Tab S9 Plus or £339 for the Tab S9 Ultra. Given how mediocre the touchpad was on that model last time around, however, you may be best off just sticking with the standard keyboard case and adding a Bluetooth mouse of your own.

The final new feature of note is more of a software improvement and one that Samsung says it will be bringing to previous models eventually. This is “multi control”, and it allows you to use the mouse attached to your tablet to take control of your Samsung smartphone when the two are sitting side by side. I tried this out at the pre-briefing and it works well, allowing you to move your mouse cursor into the screen of your phone and drag items back and forth between the two devices.

Otherwise, these tablets are very much as they were before, with a few small design tweaks around the camera housings the only visible sign that they’re any different from the tablets they replace.

Those cameras, by the way, have seen a few changes, depending on the model you choose. On the rear, the Tab S9 actually loses a camera; it now has only one main 13MP unit whereas last year it had an ultrawide camera as well. Across the Tab S9 Plus and Ultra, you’re still getting two cameras, however, with the ultrawide on both getting a resolution bump, from 6MP last time out to 8MP this time around. The front cameras are as they were in the Tab S8 series, with single 12MP cameras on the Tab S9 and S9 Plus, and a pair of 12MP cameras on the S9 Ultra – one standard and one ultrawide.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 hands-on: Early verdict

It’s taken Samsung a while to update its premium tablet range, but with most of the changes fairly minor in nature, this generation doesn’t look like one to get particularly excited about. Dust and water resistance are nice but less essential for a tablet than a phone.

And while it’s great that the entry-level model now has an OLED screen, that’s probably something it ought to have had in the previous generation anyway. Plus, those prices do look rather high, with the Tab S9 starting at £799, the S9 Plus at £999 and the Tab S9 Ultra at £1,199.

Still, it’s too early to deliver a definitive verdict, so we’ll be holding back from doing so until we get our hands on review samples. If you can’t wait for that, however, all three tablets will be up on the Samsung website for pre-order from Wednesday, 26 July, and on sale officially from Friday, 11 August.

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