Wed. Nov 29th, 2023

Should you’re concerned with shopping for a high-end Android pill this 12 months, Samsung is making your resolution simpler than ever.

This 12 months’s Galaxy Tab S9 tablets, which embrace the 11-inch Tab S9, the 12.4-inch Tab S9 Plus, and the huge 14.6-inch Tab S9 Extremely, are remarkably related — you possibly can base your complete resolution on how a lot cash you need to spend and what dimension display screen you need. They’ve obtained the identical display screen know-how, similar processors, similar colour choices, similar designs, similar accent choices, and largely all the identical options throughout the board.

In comparison with final 12 months’s Tab S8 lineup, there are two tangible upgrades within the S9s: a brand new Qualcomm processor that guarantees to be a bit sooner (although velocity and efficiency have been by no means actually points in final 12 months’s tablets), and IP68 water and mud resistance, similar to most fashionable smartphones. Which means you need to use these tablets round a pool or bathtub, or extra possible, you simply gained’t have to fret about life’s little mishaps on the espresso store or when a toddler surprises you with their vary when throwing a sippy bottle. I don’t know of every other non-rugged tablets which have this sort of water resistance — Android, iPad, or in any other case — so it’s a reliable differentiator for Samsung’s fashions and a pleasant factor to have.

Water resistance isn’t one thing you’ll discover on any iPad, however all three Tab S9 fashions have it

I assume that, if you’re studying this, you already know why you need to purchase a Samsung pill, however to recap: they’re good alternate options to Apple’s iPad lineup if you’re already invested within the Samsung ecosystem by the use of a cellphone, earbuds, or another product. They share the identical software program because the telephones so you possibly can simply move recordsdata between gadgets, reply to textual content messages out of your pill, or use the identical apps throughout each. When you’ve got a set of Galaxy Buds, they will seamlessly transition their connection between the cellphone and pill relying on which one you’re utilizing. It’s all similar to how an iPad integrates with an iPhone, AirPods, and the remainder of Apple’s ecosystem, and I’m going into extra depth on it in my assessment of the Tab S8 and S8 Plus from final 12 months.

Samsung’s high-end tablets are additionally glorious media consumption machines, with attractive OLED shows and nice audio system. Motion pictures, TV reveals, and video games all look and sound nice on them. If all you intend to do with a pill is watch films on it, you possibly can’t do significantly better than these, although you may get practically pretty much as good of an expertise for considerably much less cash from Apple, Lenovo, or OnePlus if that’s all you need to do.

Talking of which: these tablets are costly. Samsung truly raised the value of every mannequin by $100 this 12 months, so the most affordable Tab S9 begins at $799.99, the center street Tab S9 Plus is $999.99 and up, and the massive boy Tab S9 Extremely leaps as much as a $1,199.99 beginning value. All of them nonetheless include the (now additionally waterproof) S Pen stylus within the field, however keyboards and different equipment can simply push the associated fee a whole bunch of {dollars} increased. And frustratingly, Samsung doesn’t embrace a charging brick, even if these assist as much as 45W quick charging and can take without end to cost on a typical phone-size charger.

I’ve been testing all three fashions for a couple of weeks and have suggestions for who every mannequin is for. I’ve additionally included some aggressive alternate options for every dimension under.

Galaxy Tab S9: the one for pill stuff

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9


The GoodOLED display screen, finallySmall and lightweight sufficient to carry comfortablyGreat performanceGreat speakersWater resistanceThe Bad16:10 side ratio feels cramped for net browsingExpensiveHow we fee and assessment merchandise

Of the three sizes obtainable, the 11-inch Galaxy Tab S9 is the one finest fitted to typical pill duties. I’m speaking about watching video, studying books, taking notes, enjoying video games, and lightweight productiveness resembling sending emails. It’s the one one of many three that’s actually snug to carry in your arms for an prolonged time frame, and it’s the one one which isn’t painfully awkward to make use of in portrait orientation on account of its smaller dimension.

I additionally actually like this dimension for taking handwritten notes utilizing the S Pen, which is my favourite stylus to do that with. Samsung Notes is a full-featured note-taking app that comes included with the pill and may sync with Microsoft’s OneNote. Moreover, the Android ecosystem is slowly getting extra choices we’re used to seeing on the iPad. Goodnotes, a longtime iPad note-taking favourite, is obtainable at no cost for one 12 months on the Tab S9 collection, and I’ve been utilizing Nebo so much these days for its glorious handwriting-to-text conversion and cross-platform syncing.

The Tab S9 nonetheless comes with the S Pen, which has the identical stage of water resistance because the pill. It magnetically attaches to the again of the Tab S9 to cost.

In earlier years, you had to purchase the larger Samsung tablets to get the perfect screens, however that’s not the case this time — the Tab S9 now comes with the identical 120Hz OLED display screen as its siblings, solely in a smaller dimension. Mixed with the Tab S9’s 4 Dolby Atmos-compatible audio system, it gives an ideal film watching expertise.

My most important grievance with the Tab S9 is Samsung’s insistence on sticking to a 16:10 side ratio, which makes the Tab S9 much more rectangular than one thing like an 11-inch iPad Professional or the OnePlus Pad. The width of the Tab S9 is almost similar to the width of these tablets, however you lose half an inch or extra of display screen top, inflicting net searching to really feel extra cramped in panorama and all the pieces to really feel a bit too slim in portrait.

You possibly can multitask with Samsung’s in depth split-screen choices on the Tab S9, and you’ll even run its desktop-like DeX mode in order for you, however the smaller dimension display screen makes this a bit awkward except you persist with fundamental side-by-side apps. It’s not the pill I’d select to interchange a laptop computer or get a variety of productiveness work executed on.


Apple iPad Professional 11 or iPad Air: related dimension and might be inexpensive. It has higher app choice however not as good of a display screen and doesn’t embrace a stylus.OnePlus Pad: a lot inexpensive, higher side ratio on the display screen, however not as good of a show and never as refined.Google Pixel Pill: so much inexpensive and comes with a helpful speaker / charging dock, however it’s not as good of a display screen or audio system and never as quick because the Tab S9.

Galaxy Tab S9 Extremely: the one to get work executed on

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Extremely


The GoodBig-ass display screen for getting shit doneVery succesful desktop modeFast performanceWater resistanceThe BadToo awkward to make use of for non-productivity tasksVery expensiveMid battery life in desktop modeNo mobile connectivity optionHow we fee and assessment merchandise

There’s actually just one cause to contemplate the big Tab S9 Extremely: you intend to make use of it as a substitute of a laptop computer to get work executed. That requires pairing it with a keyboard case — Samsung affords choices with ($350) and with out ($200) trackpads — which can make the value of this already costly pill much more. At $1,400 to $1,500, you’re wanting on the value of a properly geared up MacBook Air.

However if you happen to do make that dedication, you may be stunned at simply how a lot you may get executed with this pill. It’s all due to Samsung’s DeX characteristic, which replicates a desktop surroundings with free-form home windows such as you get on Home windows or macOS however working Android.

In prior years, DeX got here with a variety of irritating limitations that stopped me from actually having the ability to depend on it. However now, Samsung has addressed lots of the points, resembling app compatibility, windowing, and enter, and I can use DeX to do the vast majority of my work with none issues.

In comparison with Apple’s Stage Supervisor characteristic on the iPad, DeX feels unchained. I can have as many home windows as I would like open and place them wherever I would like and in no matter dimension I would like. I can have a number of browser home windows, a number of Google Docs home windows, and duties like music or video within the background whereas I work. I’ve obtained keyboard shortcuts (although not fairly sufficient and never in sufficient apps) and trackpad gestures and mouse assist. I can plug it into a bigger show and prolong all the pieces to that greater display screen whereas nonetheless utilizing the pill’s show.

They don’t even know what number of home windows I’ve open on the similar time right here.

The Tab S9 Extremely’s 14.6-inch show is greater than most laptop computer screens — and appears nicer besides. Its expansive dimension offers me the room I must unfold my work out and never need to continually jostle between apps and home windows. Samsung’s built-in apps, most of Google’s apps, and Microsoft’s Workplace suite all take good benefit of the bigger display screen dimension with optimized layouts and options. Different apps, like Slack, Threads, and admittedly, most Android apps — which look foolish on tablets as a result of they aren’t optimized for the bigger display screen — run properly in contained home windows in DeX that allow them simply use their phone-size layouts. 

There are nonetheless some quirks right here, just like the occasional lack of ability to pick textual content with the trackpad within the Google Docs app, and the Extremely doesn’t at all times bear in mind my window positions once I come again after not utilizing the pill for a couple of minutes. Nevertheless it actually shines with a small moveable mouse and permits me to do numerous issues I discover irritating on different tablets.

On the flip facet, the Tab S9 Extremely stinks for many different pill duties. It’s too large and heavy to carry in my arms for an prolonged time frame, and its dimension makes it awkward to suit on an airplane tray desk and even some smaller baggage. It’s goofy to carry in portrait orientation and simply Too A lot once I need to learn a guide or article. It additionally takes up an excessive amount of room on my desk once I use it to take handwritten notes throughout a gathering.

The Extremely frustratingly doesn’t supply a mobile connectivity choice

Samsung additionally solely goes midway with making it the last word moveable laptop as a result of it doesn’t present any form of mobile connectivity choice. (That choice is unusually and frustratingly restricted to the Tab S9 Plus.) I used the Tab S9 Extremely on a practice with my cellphone as a hotspot, and the connection was a lot slower and fewer dependable than on an iPad I can join on to a 5G or LTE community. Battery life can also be lower than I get from a laptop computer when utilizing the Tab S9 Extremely in full-tilt DeX mode: it lasted about 5 – 6 hours on common earlier than I wanted to cost it up once more.

Basically, the Tab S9 Extremely feels a bit prefer it has an id disaster — does it need to be a superb pill for media and leisure? Or does it need to be a killer productiveness machine? I believe it ought to lean into the latter, however Samsung nonetheless has a bit of labor to do to actually fulfill that function.


Apple iPad Professional 12.9: higher app choice, cheaper price, brighter display screen, sooner processor, and mobile connectivity choices, however not practically as versatile of a desktop mode.Lenovo Tab Excessive: related dimension and high quality display screen and audio system, and it consists of each a keyboard and pen for a similar value as simply the Tab S9 Extremely pill. However its desktop mode pales compared to DeX, and its processor isn’t as highly effective. 

Galaxy Tab S9 Plus: the one to skip

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Plus


The GoodBeautiful show and nice soundFast performanceCellular choice (albeit restricted)Water resistanceThe BadToo large for pill tasksNot large enough for snug productiveness workCellular choices don’t embrace T-Cell or unlockedHow we fee and assessment merchandise

The center-sized and mid-priced Galaxy Tab S9 Plus is a mixture of the worst points of the bigger Tab S9 Extremely and smaller Tab S9 with out actually offering a considerably higher expertise than both of them. It’s simply mid.

The 12.4-inch OLED display screen seems to be nice, however it’s not as roomy because the 14.5-inch display screen on the Extremely and too awkward to carry in your arms or use in portrait orientation. As a result of the usual Tab S9 comes with an OLED display screen this 12 months, you don’t need to spring for the Plus mannequin simply to get that characteristic.

Sorry, T-Cell clients, no mobile for you

The one factor the Tab S9 Plus holds over the opposite fashions is an choice for mobile connectivity, which is one thing I believe each pill ought to supply (and is an choice on each single iPad). However even right here, Samsung flubs it: it solely sells provider variations for AT&T, Verizon, and UScellular. Should you’re a T-Cell buyer, sorry, I suppose, and you’ll’t even get an unlocked model right here within the US.

Mobile connectivity is definitely a distinct segment, and on condition that the Tab S9 works higher as a pill and the Tab S9 Extremely works higher as a productiveness machine, I’m having bother discovering a cause for most individuals to go for the Tab S9 Plus.


Apple iPad Professional 12.9: higher app choice, brighter display screen, sooner processor, and has mobile choices. It’s barely costlier, nevertheless.OnePlus Pad: lower than half the value, barely smaller and lower-quality display screen, slower processor, and never as succesful software program.

Maybe probably the most shocking factor in regards to the Android pill story this 12 months is that you just don’t have to purchase a Samsung in any respect. Because of renewed efforts from Google and new entrants like OnePlus, there are extra Android tablets to select from than ever, and lots of of them are fairly succesful — and considerably inexpensive than Samsung’s Tab S9 lineup.

However if you happen to do decide to splurge on one of many Tab S9s, you’ll get a really performant pill with a superb display screen, nice audio system, and a variety of functionality. Simply go for the small one or the massive one and skip the center row this 12 months.

Pictures by Dan Seifert / The Verge

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