Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra 5G: Its biggest weakness is also its greatest strength

After a long hiatus, our very self-proclaimed Uncle Influencer tries out Samsung's top-of-the-line tablet-slash-laptop. Will it blow his mind? Or his wallet? Or both?

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The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra 5G is flawed.

But it’s also in its flaws, that the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra 5G presents its best qualities. I hate to say it, but I have grown very attached to this device and am loath to return this tablet to Samsung. In fact, I am contemplating telling Samsung that I have been robbed by an elephant in a tutu and that the review unit is now lost forever.

While I mull over my heist plans, for your context, Uncle Influencer is an avid tablet user. I daily drive a 3-year-old iPad Air as well as the latest iPad Mini. Why no iPad Pro? Because Uncle Influencer cannot afford it. So I was really keen to get started with this tablet review.

Thoughts on the hardware

Let’s not delve into the specs of the device because as far as I am concerned, the specs between devices are just one homogenous mess. The thing you need to know is that the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra 5G is the BEST tablet that Samsung makes. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m also betting that very likely, this also means that it’s the BEST android tablet. (Editor: forgive the shouting, it’s an uncle thing)

Some qualities below on why I think this is the best;

  1. Biggest screen
  2. Best screen quality – Samsung AMOLED is sick
  3. Best “laptop experience”
  4. Best keyboard folio for an android tablet. Nice keyboard, large touchpad. A positive experience
  5. Both the Pen and the keyboard were included. This is great (note that the offer for the free book cover keyboard ends 15 May 2022)
  6. Android tablet OS in general is a mixed bag, but Samsung’s variation is the best. And the DEX experience is actually very enjoyable. It gave me a pseudo laptop experience that I quite liked. In fact, I used it mostly in DEX mode with the foldable keyboard

Just based on these points above, I do think this is the best android tablet.

But the best always has its costs. As reviewed, this device goes for $2,188. Expensive, but at least it includes the keyboard and pen.

A quick note on the pen. The keyboard cover has an integrated pen holder. So instead of just magnetically attaching the pen to the tablet, you now have a super secure way of stowing the pen. This is an ingenious way of storing the pen and the best execution in a tablet yet. I’m no artist, but the pen worked well for quick notes and signing the odd document. Perfectly good for my meagre demands.

Now, remember how I mentioned that the Tab S8’s flaw is also its best quality? I am specifically referring to the size of this device and its screen. It has a 14.6’’ screen and the tablet itself weighs more than 720 grams. Add the keyboard and by my reckoning, this whole set-up is around the 1kg mark.

Because of its size, you won’t be holding this tablet up in bed. If you fall asleep for a moment and it falls on you, you will probably require some surgery to improve your face.

One thing to note is that the adjustability of the screen angle is limited by the kickstand. I mostly like my screens really upright but I found the most upright angle still slightly lacking for my use. YMMV.

And because of this kickstand design, it is really difficult to use this device on your lap. I hate to compare, but the magic keyboard on the iPads does a better job. The entire device also only has one USB-C port. That being said, this never bothered me as I did not attach any accessories to the device.

Daily tasks, yes, laptop replacement, no

Throughout the review, I found that I mostly used it as a laptop. So what did Uncle do with this?

I wrote articles. Checked emails. I watched plenty of Netflix and at times, I left Spotify playing as I attended to other life tasks.

The device performed very well. The screen is glorious and as good as it gets. The speakers are really loud for a tablet and the typing experience with the foldable keyboard is very good. The keyboard is also backlit for that extra street cred. The touchpad which supports gesture control is also very large. Good.

I did experience a small bug that cropped up from time to time. Sometimes it would think that the keyboard is a UK keyboard, while sometimes it would think that it’s a US keyboard. Which caused some confusion as the layouts are different. So when I wanted a “@”, I got inverted commas instead. And when I wanted inverted commas, I got a “@”. Took me a bit of googling to fix, but no big deal I guess.

A few caveats before you rush out and buy this thinking you can use this as a laptop replacement. You can’t use this tablet in the exact same way you use a laptop. DEX is trying to mimic a laptop OS, but ultimately with its mobileOS underpinnings, you would still need to work around certain limitations. But if you are a power user, I doubt this would present itself as a huge problem. You are, after all, just getting to grips with the machine.

I did not find any issues with the battery life. The screen sucks juice, but the battery is very large. But battery life is really dependent on your usage, so again, YMMV. But I reckon you could get one and a half days of work before the battery requires a charge.

An unlikely emotional attachment

As a tech reviewer and also due to my grumpy disposition and age, I’m seldom excited when new devices hit my desk. And if I were to be perfectly honest, I do find modern gadgets just aping one another. While tech lovers genuinely love their devices, to me, tech devices are just basically “tools”. So in that sense, I seldom get excited, attached or lust over the latest and greatest.

But this is the first time in a long time that I actually felt attached to a device. Kudos to Samsung for actually having the gumption to introduce something like this. A HUGE tablet with no compromise in hardware. I do not think this is a device for the mainstream, the smaller variants would probably be more popular with consumers. But I really respect them for building and selling this just because they can.

And after two weeks of using this, I really loathe to return it. I love the media consumption aspect of this device. Together with the keyboard folio, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra 5G is great for productivity tasks such as emails and writing articles, given its display size. It has a camera in the right place if you want to use this device for your online meetings and the battery life is awesome. Need to sign any documents? The pen is right there hiding in the back. No more losing expensive Apple pencils.

For a tablet, it’s big, unwieldy and heavy, but it’s still more portable than a regular laptop and it wakes immediately from sleep. No more waiting for a laptop to boot up.

The device is not just well built; it feels special. The feeling I get when I am using this is similar to the time when I first tried out a 17’’ MacBook Pro, an iPhone 4, the OG iPad; when I used true wireless earphones for the first time and more recently when I first handled the first generation Galaxy Fold.

In short, this device has that fizz that is hard to find in modern tech gadgets and I don’t want to give it back. NO.

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