Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra review: a sleek, supersized slate designed for professionals

It's big, it's powerful and it's loaded to the gills with features

It’s big. Actually, it’s massive. Nay, gargantuan even. You get the drift. Samsung’s biggest, most powerful tablet comes in the form of the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, and it’s really at the epitome of the slate segment right now, even everything it brings to the table. I could have written “your hands” instead of “table” for any other tablet, but not this one. The Tab S8 Ultra is as much about size as it is about power, though when it comes to work or play, I’d say it leans towards the former. Before I get ahead of myself though, let me delve into the finer points. 

Design and display

With Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC under the hood and a 14.6-inch sAMOLED display dominating proceedings on the outside, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is as powerful as it is big. It’s the first Ultra model in Samsung’s premium Tab S series of slates, and it conforms to its moniker by rocking top-notch specs. Clad in an aluminium frame, the tablet is quite slim at 5.5mm, and solidly built too. While its screen size might be one of its strongest suits, it does impact usability negatively if you’re considering it solely for using it as a conventional tablet, i.e. for consuming content. You see, while that screen definitely works well for entertainment, the tablet’s large size and 726g weight mean that it’s difficult to hold in your hands for prolonged periods. That is further compounded by the fact that there’s no built-in kickstand, and you need to prop it up against something or use a tablet stand for basic things like streaming videos or using it for video calls. Add the S Pen (which is included), and the keyboard cover (which is an optional purchase that will set you back by Rs 22,999) however, and things change for the better. Both these accessories turn the device into a more productivity-focussed machine that should appeal to creators. 


The Tab S8 Ultra can be had in any colour, as long as it’s Graphite. The back of the tablet is a vast expanse of grey, with Samsung branding on the top left (when held in landscape orientation), the camera module on the top right, and a black strip where the S Pen attaches magnetically. The top is home to the power key and volume rocker, while the bottom sports the connector for the keyboard. Holes for the quad speakers can be seen on both left and right edges, while the Type-C port is present on the left. 


On the front, slim bezels can be seen surrounding the display, with a notch on top that holds the dual front cameras. The said notch does make its presence felt, but hardly had any impact on the viewing experience. Speaking of, the 14.6-inch Super AMOLED display offers a resolution of 2,960 x 1,828 pixels and supports HDR10+ along with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. Unsurprisingly, it’s extremely sharp and vibrant, and needless to add, works great for whatever you do on the tablet. Watching HDR content on Netflix, YouTube etc is a lot of fun, and the quad speakers do their bit too… making the experience quite immersive. Ditto for gaming. And that large screen real estate comes in handy for creative work as well as any other productivity tasks – with a laptop-sized display at your disposal, you can easily keep multiple apps and windows together and jump between them seamlessly. 


S Pen

The bundled S Pen is a super useful accessory of course, and you’d find it especially handy if you’re into creative work that involves graphics, drawing, or designing of any sort. Other than that, it can be used for taking notes, doodling, capturing ideas, translating text, writing screen-off memos, converting handwriting to editable text, live messages, AR Doodles etc. The S Pen attaches magnetically to the strip at the back and doing this juices up the stylus as well. In an attempt to connect its ecosystem of devices and let the users get the most out of their purchases, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra can be paired with a Galaxy S22 series phone in a manner that lets you choose brushes and tools on the phone while drawing or painting using Clip Studio Paint on the tablet. This ensures your drawing canvas stays clear of the brushes etc and lets you make use of the full screen size for unleashing your creativity. The S Pen’s utility is aided with the Air Actions feature that lets you use the button on the stylus as a remote shutter for the camera, and wave it in the air to perform certain actions in different apps. These can be viewed and customised via S Pen settings available under Advanced features within device settings. 


Keyboard

Talking about the optional keyboard cover, the package includes two parts, the keyboard that attaches to the base of the slate, and the back cover. The latter has a built-in kickstand, a hole for the rear camera module and a bump that accommodates the S Pen. I think Samsung should have included the back cover along with the tablet – as it not only provides protection, it adds the much-needed kickstand to the setup and ensures the S Pen doesn’t fall off when you’re out and about.


The keyboard is full-sized, and has a generously proportioned trackpad as well, covering the slate into a proper work machine. The keys are large and well-spaced out and while I’d have preferred more travel, typing on it doesn’t involve a big learning curve. What’s more, it even has a three-stage backlight, which can be a lifesaver when you’re working in the dark. A row of function keys on the top offers shortcuts for common tasks which can be activated using the function key.


Attaching the keyboard can activate Samsung’s DeX mode automatically if the corresponding setting is enabled, or you can use the toggle provided in quick settings to do so at any time. Doing this gives you a desktop-like experience that allows you to open multiple apps together as floating windows, just like on a conventional laptop. Also among the Tab S8 Ultra’s vast repertoire of features is one that lets you use the tablet as a second display for a Windows laptop, wirelessly. The two devices need to be on the same Wi-Fi network for this, and it does work pretty well.

Software, performance and battery

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The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra runs One UI 4.1 atop Android 12, so you get access to Samsung’s ecosystem of apps and services, including Knox security, cloud backup and sync, Bixby, and more. The usual set of apps from Samsung, Google, and Microsoft come pre-installed, apart from some others like Netflix. 

As far as performance is concerned, it’s not surprising that the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is loaded enough to handle everything thrown at it with ease, thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC mated to 12 gigs of RAM. 256GB of storage is also in along for the ride. These are top-notch specs and given that the SD 8 Gen 1 SoC is Qualcomm’s latest and greatest, it doesn’t really get better than this at the moment when it comes to pure number crunching. Despite its slim size and metal body, the tablet doesn’t get too hot either when stressed. Here are a few benchmark numbers that give you an idea, and they look quite similar to the SD 8 Gen 1-powered Galaxy S22 Ultra (review)… even better in a few instances.

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Suffice it to say that the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra packs enough grunt to handle all your creative work, multitasking, tons of Chrome tabs, etc, extremely smoothly. Battery life, however, is one aspect that could have been better. The PCMark battery test shows a low score of 6 hours 41 minutes, but the device does fare slightly better in real-world usage. With intermittent usage, its 11,200mAh battery can last you a day or possibly even more, but heavier usage could see you hunting for the charger before the day is over. Samsung doesn’t include a charger in the box, so you’d need to use or buy one of your own. The slate supports 45W fast charging and based on results I got using the Stuffcool Napoleon 65W charger, juices up fully in a little less than 3 hours. 

The quad speakers can provide good, loud audio, and while I don’t think many users would be utilising the rear 12+6MP cameras for photography, the snappers can be useful for capturing something interesting, annotating it with the S Pen and sharing it ahead. The dual 12MP front cameras work well for video calls and even feature auto framing, keeping you in focus when you move around in front. The in-display fingerprint scanner and face unlock work well too, so no complaints there.

Verdict


If you’d like to use the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra as a tablet and for drawing etc, you’ll need to shell out Rs 1,08,999 for the Wi-Fi only variant and Rs 1,22,999 if you want 5G. The keyboard cover helps squeeze out its full potential though, and that’ll cost you another Rs 22,999. All in all, we’re talking big money here. Given its big size and big sticker price, it’s clear that the device might not appeal to everyone. The keyboard cover does app more productivity-focused use cases, but the fact is that the Tab S8 Ultra can’t really replace a laptop, given Android’s limitations as a desktop OS. The lack of a built-in kickstand and average battery life are small concerns too. That said, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is a supersized slate that offers a gorgeous display, a useful S Pen and tons of handy features, making it a powerful tool in your arsenal, especially if you’re a creative professional.

Editor’s rating: 4 / 5

Pros:

  • Large, gorgeous display
  • Slim, yet sturdy
  • Smooth performance
  • Bundled S Pen can be useful

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Average battery life
  • Needs a built-in kickstand
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack