Samsung has no compromises in its biggest and best tablet yet.
At 14.6 inches, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is a beast. There's no other way to describe the Korean tech giant's latest tablet. It's not particularly portable, but what it loses in mobility it makes up for in performance and function. By far, in fact. Of course, Samsung is not alone in having large tablets with good performance. Apple, with its iPad Pro 12.9. Or Microsoft Surface Pro 8 with a 13-inch screen, and Lenovo with its Duet 5 at 13.3 inches are all examples of it, but 14.6 inches is something very special and since it also comes with an S-pen as standard and is both water and dust resistant and has the new technology Vision Booster for improved outdoor viewing, completely new possibilities open up.
The dream of watching Netflix in the bath can finally be realised in earnest. Or playing Call of Duty on the beach. I can sit outside and work on the balcony whether it's deadly hot or freezing. I can get on with it without compromising anything. All those limitations that used to exist are now gone and I love everything about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra.
So instead, let's start with the negatives, to get it out of the way because after that it's all positive with standing ovations and praise. Android as an operating system is not always completely stable and it is noticeable, not least when it comes to third-party apps. From time-to-time it crashes and it is of course not fun when it happens. In the two weeks I've been using the device, it's happened a handful of times and it's obviously not optimal, especially for a product that costs around £1,200 with Wi-Fi and up to £1,350 with 5G support. Now it's not necessarily Samsung's fault all the time, the problem lies elsewhere, but it still affects the experience.
They are also behind when it comes to professional apps for productivity if I compare with Apple. In music production and video editing, Apple is lightyears ahead, which is also the case when it comes to optimising its mobile apps to better match tablets. Nothing new really, it's been that way for years, but it's still worth repeating. I also think that some kind of stand should be included in the purchase because the weight and size of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra does not lend itself for handheld activity in the first place.
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Choosing an Android tablet as your primary productivity tool is therefore somewhat difficult. Especially considering the price, which is equivalent to a Macbook Air and even higher than a Chromebook or Windows laptop, and if you intend to use your Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra as a pure replacement for your work computer, it may not be a waste of money, but not far off either.
Here it is important to take advantage of all the magnificent features that are contained in the solid chassis of what Samsung calls Armour aluminium, which protects the tablet from bumps and falls because this is so much more than just a tablet. That said, it's definitely a solid alternative to a workstation. No other tablet delivers so much right out of the box. The pen is included, as well as Samsung DeX, a productivity system that allows the user to wirelessly connect to an external monitor or computer, and multitasking is a dream. I can surf the web, chat, write emails, connect to video calls without any problems whatsoever. Especially using the S-Pen, I can quickly and easily switch between different windows and write short notes from an online meeting, for example. I can even use it to draw and colour freely or from ready-made templates, just like with a Wacom product or the XP-PEN Artist22 Pro for Apple, but both of those options are of course standalone products that cost a pretty penny. In other words, there are plenty of opportunities for productivity right out of the box with this device.
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But then there's all the other stuff. What makes the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra one of the best tablets on the market? Much of it is in the screen. I have previously reviewed both the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and what both phones have in common is that they have impressive screens and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is certainly no exception. Rather, it's one of the best screens I've had the pleasure of exploring and we're not just talking about screen size, although that bears repeating. 14.6 inches is mighty but it's not just any screen either. It's a dynamic AMOLED 2X display, with 120 Hz refresh rate. It also supports HDR10+ and together with AKG speakers with Dolby Atmos surround sound, it's a pleasure to watch films and play games on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra.
I've tried everything from bombastic trailers, with Oppenheimer's deep rumbles and the explosion of colour in Barbie, to animated films and it all looks fantastic. I've played games, I've painted, and I've listened to music and enjoyed every second. As a multimedia machine, this is an absolute winner.
Camera-wise, it doesn't disappoint either. It's a solid set of optics consisting of a 13 megapixel main camera and an 8 megapixel wide angle lens on the back, and two 12 megapixel cameras on the front, one of which is wide angle. Now, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is not an optimal device for photography, but for my part it has mostly been about the camera function in video calls and that is brilliant. Both in good and bad light.
Of course, all this would not have been possible to achieve without plenty of processing power and to my surprise I find that it is exactly the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset as in the mobile phones, so it's impressive that it delivers so much power. Among Androids, you won't find anything faster. Apple still leads the race in pure power with its M2 chip, but its iPad operating system isn't really designed for multitasking in the same way. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is built to suit a variety of uses. The battery easily lasts a whole day with varied use. I played a movie for an hour, watched YouTube cat videos, worked through a playlist, edited some photos, sat through a couple of video calls, wrote some emails, Googled recipes, and coloured a Viking ship, and I still had almost 20% battery left. On another test day, I ran only film, in 4K, and it meant that it was time to charge after just under 11 hours. All in all, really impressive.
So, the big question is whether to choose a Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra or an Apple iPad Pro 12.9. I have no easy answer to that unfortunately. It is very much about personal preferences. I love Apple's design, simplicity and apps but I also love Samsung's versatility, durability and at the risk of sounding boring, huge screen. Comparing has never been easy and it's even harder now. In the end, it's all about which operating system you prefer and not least what you're going to use it for. If you know that you are going to use the tablet for 3D modelling or music production, there is not much to think about, as here it is the iPad that applies. The software is superior and the M2 chip, which for the ordinary consumer can almost feel like overkill, is indispensable here. It can also store up to 2TB, which is not unimportant in such contexts. The Samsung "only" reaches half of that.
Both options feel extremely solid in construction, but the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra can handle both water and dust. It can last up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1.5 metres, so if you want to be able to take the tablet out into the forest, on a mountain hike, or to the pool, or if you're just generally clumsy around electronic gadgets, Samsung is a safer choice. These are simply two incredibly competent tablets and no matter which one you choose, I find it hard to see how you would be disappointed. The hard part is figuring out which one you actually prefer because if you want to buy both, you'll probably have to sell an arm and a leg.