The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 has been my primary personal device for the past couple of years. However, I decided to upgrade my Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 as Costco had a really good deal on. I was able to pick up the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 tablet, keyboard and stylus for USD $650 which is a steal in comparison to pricing in Canada. After a couple of weeks of use, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 isn’t a major upgrade from the S3. This entry is written as a comparison between the S3 and the S4.
|Samsung Tab S3||Samsung Tab S4|
|CPU||Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820||Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835|
|Memory||4 GB||4 GB|
|Storage||32 GB||64 GB, 256 GB|
|Weight||429 g||480 g|
|Dimensions||237.3 x 169.0 x 6.0 mm||249.3 x 164.3 x 7.1 mm|
|Battery Size||6,000mAh||7,300 mAh|
|Front Camera||5 MP, f/2.2, 23mm||8 MP, f/1.9|
|Back Camera||13 MP, f/1.9, 27mm||13 MP, f/1.9|
|Security||Fingerprint Scanner||Facial / Iris Scanner|
At a glance, the specs are small improvements on the Samsung Tab S3. The resulting experience is that you do feel the use of the device being a bit snappier. Even though the screen is only a few milimetres bigger, the removal of buttons results in smaller bezels and a larger screen. There are a few interesting differences that should be noted.
The default stylus looks and feels like a real pen. This is a massive upgrade and improvement given that this is my primary input. Like the previous pen, it glides very nicely on the screen and I love that you can press the button to erase previous lines. There are a few things that would have made this stylus perfect. I wished that the pen was a bit heavier which would have made it a lot more fulfilling.
This is the largest change to the Samsung Tab S4. Samsung made the decision to get rid of the fingerprint scanner for a combination of an iris and facial scanner. On paper, it seems like a good idea. It works really well on the Microsoft Surface devices. However, the implementation for the Samsung Tab S4 falls very short in terms of practicality. The iris and facial scanner is finicky at best and doesn’t feel natural or seamless to use. When paired with a keyboard, the camera isn’t always in a natural position and requires you to lift and move it around to unlock the device. It gets even worse if you are trying to unlock the device in a dim lit place even though it feels like Samsung did put some thought into the design. The screen will brighten up when you’re trying to unlock the phone. I imagine they made this decision as a way to create more light so that the camera will work better. However if you’re waking up from sleep, the light is blinding causing you to squint and confusing the scanner. Another down side is that most applications (like LastPass) do not integrate with the iris and facial sensors from a security perspective.
The keyboard case on the Samsung Tab S4 has very similar mechanics as the Samsung Tab S3. The back of the case folds and you can place the tablet into a slot in the keyboard. There are two main differences between the Samsung Tab S3 and S4 keyboard cases. The first is that the tablet isn’t magnetic so it has a plastic holder that covers it. While this allows the case not to pop out more easily, it does add a bit of thickness to the case. The second is the stylus holder. The current stylus holder requires you to jam the stylus into the holder for it to stay in. The reality is that it still pops out every once in a while and I can foresee the holder generally losing grip over time.
Other then that, the keyboard case has very similar pros and cons with it. It’s still a very typable keyboard and I enjoy using it. The annoyances of the keyboard is that the numeric keys aren’t place where they are on a standard QWERTY keyboard and that it’s missing an Escape key which is annoying. I like that you can use Alt-Tab to get your recently used apps as you do in Windows and that you can use the search key to invoke Google Assistant.
Samsung Dex allows you to transform the Samsung Tab S4 into a desktop experience. I found it to be most useful when plugging to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse. The 10.5 inch tablet screen doesn’t make it practical as it’s too cramped to be productive to have multiple windows open on it. On the flip side, the maximum resolution for Samsung Dex on an external screen is 1080p and Samsung Dex does not allow you to specify which side of the tablet the external screen is located on and it oddly puts the screen on the left side of the tablet when the USB-C port on the right side of the tablet when it is docked on the keyboard.
The Samsung S4 is an incremental upgrade to the Tab S3 with a number of trade offs. While it has better specifications, it has also made some decisions that does make it a bit more clumsy to use in practicality. In particular, I’m referring to the choice to only use the facial and iris scanner for its security mechanism as well as the stylus pen holder design.