A few years ago, Samsung revitalized its line of Android tablets, with the Galaxy Tab S9 series being one of the latest additions. I got to review its most premium model, the Tab S9 Ultra. It’s a 14.6-inch tablet that can compete with modern laptops not only in terms of display diagonal but also in terms of price. However, the model has its own advantages and features. In this review, I’ll tell you how much Tab S9 Ultra can help with everyday tasks.
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra specifications
|Dimensions and weight
|326.4 x 208.6 x 5.5 mm
|RAM and storage
|12 GB of RAM and 256, 512 GB of internal or 16 GB of RAM 1 TB of internal storage
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
|Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
|14.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 2960×1848 pixels, 16:10, 60-120 Hz, maximum brightness 930 nits, HDR10+
13-megapixel wide-angle f/2.0, 26 mm, 1/3.4″, 1.0 μm, autofocus
8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle, f/2.2
12-megapixel wide-angle, f/2.2
12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle f/2.4
|Wired up to 45 W
|USB Type-C 3.2
|Android 13, One UI 5.1.1
Design and materials
The body is only 5.5 mm thick, which creates an interesting effect when you first pick up Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra, giving the impression that you are holding only the screen itself. The tablet is indeed very thin, and compared to laptops of this diagonal, it is also light, weighing only 732 grams.
The entire front panel of the model is a 14.6-inch screen covered with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. The display has rather thin bezels for a tablet, but in horizontal orientation, there is a small notch in the upper part of the screen for a dual-camera setup. Purely aesthetically, this solution will not appeal to everyone, but on the other hand, it distinguishes the model from younger versions and allowed engineers to fit two camera modules.
The back of the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is made of aluminum with small strips of antennas for Wi-Fi and mobile operator networks. The tablet has both the ability to install a nanoSIM card and connect an eSIM.
Also on the back panel is a block of two main cameras, and next to it is a magnetic attachment point for the bundled S Pen, which also recharges it.
One of the important design features of the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is its IP68 water and dust protection, which allows you to use the tablet in harsher conditions than at home, such as in the rain or in a production facility. The certification promises impermeability to dust and the ability to immerse the body to a depth of 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes.
Display and S Pen
The tablet has a 14.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen with a resolution of 2960×1848 pixels, 16:10 aspect ratio, 60-120 Hz adaptive refresh rate, maximum brightness of 930 nits, and HDR10+ support. Traditionally for Samsung, this is a high-quality panel with excellent color reproduction and deep blacks, on which you can see text even in the sun due to its high brightness.
The user can choose between two color settings: natural and saturated. The former corresponds to the sRGB color space, and the latter to DCI-P3. In addition, the color temperature can be adjusted to make it warmer or cooler as desired.
Of course, the biggest advantage of such a screen is its size: the 14.6-inch diagonal is comfortable for browsing, watching videos, opening PDFs, and working with Android apps. Fortunately, over the past few years, Google has re-emerged to promote its operating system on tablets, and third-party developers are also expanding support. Today, all Google apps are optimized for larger screens, and you can count on support for popular apps from Microsoft and other developers.
The large screen is also great for multitasking, with the ability to place two large program windows side by side and move data and images between them more easily, for example, if you’re working on a presentation.
Another feature of the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra screen is the support for the S Pen that comes with the tablet. It has an input latency of 2.8 ms, which is great, and supports 4096 pressure levels and tilt recognition.
You can use the Pen to control the interface, take screenshots, make handwritten notes, draw, select items, and extract text from images. In general, all the features that the S Pen provides on other modern Samsung devices, including the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy Fold5.
It’s worth noting that Android has a fairly large selection of drawing apps, among the popular ones: Krita, Artflow, Clip Studio Paint, Sketchbook, Tayasui Sketches and others. However, there is still a gap with graphics applications that can create vector graphics and fonts.
An artist friend who works on a previous-generation Samsung tablet also drew my attention to the fact that the 2.8 ms input delay of the S Pen is not supported by all third-party programs, so you need to take this into account when choosing an application for drawing, or sketch in the native Samsung Notes application.
Also, you will most likely need a good stand to create the optimal angle of the screen when actively drawing. This is another expense item for those who plan to actively use Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra to create drawings.
But in general, of the entire Tab S9 lineup, the older model is the best suited for creative tasks thanks to its large 14.6-inch screen. So this allows us to clearly understand the positioning of this model.
Platform and performance
Like Samsung’s latest smartphones, the new tablet is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, slightly overclocked for Galaxy devices. It is complemented by 12 GB of RAM in the 512 GB storage version and 16 GB in the 1 TB model. The Adreno 740 accelerator is responsible for graphics processing.
It is worth noting that even though the tablet has a fairly large amount of built-in memory, it supports microSDXC cards, which allows you to increase data storage. This will be useful for those users who work with a large number of images and video files.
In general, the model has characteristics that will not surprise users of this year’s flagship smartphones, but Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra has one significant advantage: its developers did not have to pack a top processor into a compact body. Therefore, the tablet demonstrates the maximum that Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is capable of, providing top performance under load for longer.
During my time with Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra, I have never managed to load it so much that the case became at least noticeably warm. This applied to both working with programs and games like Civilization 6. However, more complex tasks, such as editing large projects in Luma Fusion, are likely to create a greater load.
Faster system performance due to better heat dissipation is generally well visible in synthetic graphics tests. Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra scores higher than the S23 Ultra and Fold5.
In addition, the tablet provides superior speed and stability in the 3DMark Wildlife Extreme stress test, which loads the system by running the test 20 times in a row. In it, Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra received a stability score of 89.1%, which is an unattainable result for most smartphones. In contrast, the tablet hardly ever shakes, withstanding the load well.
Other features of the Tab S9 Ultra platform include support for Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth 5.3 wireless networks, as well as GPS, BDS, and Galileo modules for navigation.
The large diagonal of the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra begs for a keyboard, and Samsung offers two proprietary solutions at once – one bezel keyboard with a touchpad and the other without. I received the latter with the tablet. This accessory has a manufacturer’s recommended price of 7399 UAH, which is not a small price, but it allows you to comfortably type large amounts of text. For example, this entire review was written entirely on the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra.
The cover itself has a pleasant soft-touch coating, but the keys are made of plastic and are the standard size for laptops, which makes it easy to get used to and allows you to type faster. The button travel is quite short, which is expected, but it’s more than enough to feel a gentle pressure.
The keyboard is attached to the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra via a magnetic connector on the bottom of the tablet, but it does not have a backlight, so in this regard it is inferior to laptop keyboards.
Besides, I would like to note a small imperfection in the Ukrainian layout: to insert an apostrophe, you have to hold down the Alt Gr key, and I hope this will be fixed in future updates.
The top row of function keys on the keyboard has a dual use, as it also contains shortcuts and settings, such as adjusting the screen brightness and sound. They are triggered by the Fn key, and unfortunately, this cannot be changed. In addition, you can assign the F1-F3 buttons to launch applications quickly, by pressing this key for 3 seconds while in the window of an open program, again via Fn.
In general, the branded cover-keyboard performs exactly what it says it will, providing additional protection for the tablet and typing. However, for its price, you can buy a separate case plus a pretty good wireless keyboard, which is also backlit.
One of the features of Samsung’s top Android devices is support for DeX mode, which turns the interface into a desktop operating system with the ability to open programs in separate windows.
In smartphones, it works only when an external screen is connected, but in DeX tablets, you can run it on your own display, as well as on a monitor or TV.
Compared to the first versions, DeX now works much better, the process of switching to it takes a few seconds, and the number of programs that can be run in separate windows is no longer limited. The interface itself is quite reminiscent of older versions of Chrome OS, and it’s a shame that Google never tried to integrate it into smartphones and tablets in this way.
In general, DeX mode allows you to work more comfortably with the interface with the mouse, resize windows, or expand them to full screen. However, third-party programs are often not well optimized for this mode, so their interface either doesn’t adapt to the desired window size or does it incorrectly. Like with Telegram, which shows two columns of the interface only when expanded to full screen.
In addition, mobile apps are still often inferior to their desktop counterparts. For example, Chrome does not support plugins on Android. Therefore, on the one hand, with DeX, the user gets a familiar desktop interface, but on the other hand, its capabilities are quite limited.
Audio and cameras
The tablet is equipped with 4 speakers at once, which have been tuned by AKG and support DolbyAtmos spatial audio, and it is worth noting that not all laptops can boast such loud sound. So, if necessary, Tab S9 Ultra can not only comfortably watch Netflix series, but also use the tablet as a portable music speaker.
The tablet has two front cameras and two main cameras. I’ll start with the front cameras, because this is a rather interesting system that consists of a 12-megapixel wide-angle (f/2.2) and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle module (f/2.4). They both have electronic stabilization, but they provide good quality selfies and, most importantly, excellent quality for video calls with the ability to switch to the ultra-wide camera, for example, if you are giving a presentation.
The two main cameras offer 13-megapixel wide-angle (f/2.0, autofocus) and 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle. In this regard, Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra does not try to compete with smartphones, so the quality is suitable.
During the day, you can get good pictures, which, however, will look much better on the screen of the tablet itself.
And at night and in poor lighting conditions, their quality will inevitably drop, because the night mode is not able to compensate for the lack of optical stabilization.
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra battery life
The tablet has a built-in 11200 mAh battery, which is enough for more than 9-10 hours of battery life with automatic brightness, depending on the load.
In the PCMark 10 test, it lasted 10 hours and 5 minutes, which is generally a good result. The tablet will last more than a typical 8-hour workday.
The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is charged via USB Type-C 3.2, supports charging up to 45 watts, and can charge from 0 to 50% in 60 minutes. A full charge takes just over 2 hours.