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Year-end Samsung Galaxy tablet buyer’s guide

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Last updated: December 8th, 2022 at 14:29 UTC+01:00

The end of the year is near, and you might be in a position where you may want to buy your first-ever tablet or upgrade from an old model. Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the tablet market or feel intimidated by the many options. After all, buying a tablet can be a bit of an investment. Your search for answers may have led you to this Galaxy tablet buyer’s guide, and if so, we’ll try our best to help you on this journey.

You may or may not already know that Samsung is the most viable tablet brand across the Android space — at least until Google releases its first-ever Pixel Tablet next year. Even so, Samsung offers several Galaxy tablet models, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, and choosing the right one for you might be a challenge. There’s the low-cost Galaxy A series, mid-range tablets like the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite and Tab S7 FE, and two generations of flagship tablets from which to choose.

Picking the best Galaxy tablet while lacking information can be daunting, especially if you’ve never purchased a tablet before. So we’ll try to make things easier and explain what you can expect, at large, from Samsung’s tablets. We hope to help narrow your search and aid in your purchase decision. Please keep in mind that this is not a sponsored article but merely an attempt to condense our collective knowledge of Galaxy tablets in a year-end buyer’s guide that can hopefully assist prospective buyers in almost every market. So, let’s begin!

General tidbits of information about Samsung Galaxy tablets

  • When choosing a storage variant, it’s worth knowing that expandable storage, i.e., microSD storage on Galaxy tablets, can’t be used for everything. More specifically, you cannot install mobile games on external storage. So if you plan on buying a low-storage Galaxy tablet for mobile games, you may have to put up with some constraints.
  • If you use a smartphone with a 120Hz display, the 60Hz refresh rate of some Galaxy tablets will be that much more noticeable due to their larger screens.
  • Only high-end Galaxy tablets offer a 120Hz display refresh rate. But not every high-end tablet has an AMOLED display. For the absolute best S Pen experience, we recommend a tablet with both 120Hz and AMOLED.
  • Every Galaxy tablet that supports the S Pen ships with this accessory included in the box. But no Galaxy tablet ships with a keyboard accessory or book cover unless you buy a product bundle for a higher price.
  • No Galaxy A tablet supports the S Pen. In theory, Galaxy A tablets can be used with a capacitive stylus, but this is also true for virtually any mobile device with a touchscreen. However, using a capacitive stylus with a Galaxy A tablet will not offer the same experience or high level of accuracy as an S Pen mated with a Galaxy tablet that supports this accessory.
  • No Galaxy S tablet on sale as of this writing ships with an Exynos chipset, no matter where you are in the world — unless you’re trying to buy an earlier (2019) model. All Galaxy S tablets use SoCs from Qualcomm. Most Galaxy A tablets on sale use different chipset brands, like Unisoc or MediaTek.
  • Not every Galaxy tablet supports the desktop environment called “Samsung DeX.” As a rule, Galaxy Tab A tablets do not offer this feature. If you’re wondering, Samsung DeX is a special user interface that’s similar to what you’d find on a laptop. It’s great for office work, as it allows mobile apps to run in windows (as opposed to full-screen) and makes multitasking much easier. DeX also fully supports keyboards and mice.
  • This is not a rule set in stone, but it is a reoccurring theme, so it is worth noting: historically, Galaxy A tablets haven’t gotten nearly as much firmware support as tablets from the Galaxy S lineups.

Things to know about the Galaxy Tab A8 10.5 and Tab A7 Lite (2021 models)

The Galaxy Tab A8 10.5 and the Galaxy Tab A7 Lite are some of the most affordable Samsung tablets you can find. However, they lack features like Samsung DeX and S Pen support. They have LCD panels and are limited to a 60Hz refresh rate.

Beyond that, in practical terms, these tablets are generally considered “multimedia consumption devices” because of their constraints. They work fine for apps like Netflix and YouTube, as well as light browsing and some light gaming.

However, if you’re looking for a tablet that can play demanding or “next-gen” mobile games, you’ll need to lower both your expectations and the graphical settings in your games. Even so, you might not get a satisfactory experience in some of the more demanding games.

  • Consider buying these Galaxy A tablets if you’re looking for a cheap solution for music or video playback, 2D games or lighter 3D titles, and lightweight web browsing. Avoid them if you want an S Pen, perform demanding office or editing tasks, or play the latest, graphically-intensive 3D mobile games.

Things to know about the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite (2022)

The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite (2022) is the entry-level tablet for the S Pen experience. Although it is again limited to 60Hz and a TFT LCD, it does ship with an S Pen and offers the full S Pen app suite that you can find on other, more expensive tablets.

The Tab S6 Lite is also the cheapest S-line tablet featuring a Qualcomm (rather than Unisoc or MediaTek) chipset, but it is a middle-of-the-road Snapdragon 720G SoC. The tablet will perform better than the Galaxy A models mentioned above, but it won’t offer the smoothest framerate or enable the best graphics options in most modern 3D games.

Despite the fact that it supports the S Pen, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite lacks Samsung DeX, so you won’t be able to tap into the desktop environment for heavier office tasks. However, it is a more powerful solution than the Galaxy Tab A lineup, and the S Pen can make a difference. You can sign documents, perform more precise photo editing with the S Pen, and so on. But you shouldn’t expect the best tools for digital artistry from this tablet.

  • Consider buying the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite (2022) if you want a cheap ticket to the S Pen experience and better general performance than what you’d get from the Galaxy A line. Avoid this tablet if you need access to Samsung DeX or are looking for a professional-grade stylus experience for digital painting or photo editing. Even though this tablet carries the “S” badge, it is not a high-end device.

Things to know about the Galaxy Tab S7 FE

The Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a weird mention because it can be either a good or a bad choice, depending on whether or not you find it at a discount.

A good way to gauge that is to compare it to the base Galaxy Tab S7 (non-FE) or Tab S8 models. Roughly speaking, if you feel that you can pay a little extra without breaking the bank, you may want to lean towards the Tab S7 or Tab S8. However, if you can find the Galaxy Tab S7 FE at a great discount and your budget is limited, it could be a fantastic choice.

The Galaxy Tab S7 FE has a 60Hz LCD and ships with an S Pen. It has a generous 12.4-inch display, and it is the most affordable Samsung tablet to offer Samsung DeX. Therefore, it’s the first Galaxy tablet on this list for which we’d be able to recommend a keyboard cover if you’re looking for a light notebook experience.

As far as raw hardware performance goes, the Galaxy Tab S7 FE is marginally better than the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite (2022), but not by much. However, it is worth noting that the Galaxy Tab S7 FE Wi-Fi-only model has a more powerful Snapdragon 778G chipset compared to its 5G counterpart, the latter of which features the Snapdragon 750G SoC. The Tab S7 FE is the only tablet in this buyer’s guide that has this chipset distinction between Wi-Fi and LTE/5G variants.

Using the Galaxy Tab S7 FE for 3D games, you will get low-to-mid-range performance, depending on the title’s requirements. The Samsung DeX experience is acceptable at the very least, but do keep in mind that you will probably get better performance for office tasks from a Windows laptop within the price range of a Galaxy Tab S7 FE + keyboard cover. Therefore, it’s not as much of a notebook replacement as it is a tablet that can potentially double as a notebook if you manage your expectations somewhat.

  • Consider buying the Galaxy Tab S7 FE if you find it at a good discount, if you want the cheapest entry into Samsung DeX, or if you want a tablet that can work as a lightweight notebook for office work. You may want to avoid buying it at full price or if you’re looking specifically for a notebook replacement. Likewise, avoid it if you’re looking for high-end mobile gaming on a large screen

Things to know about the Galaxy Tab S7 / Tab S8

Now we’re entering the high-end tablet territory. Although the Galaxy Tab S7 (2020) and Galaxy Tab S8 (2022) use LCD panels instead of AMOLED, they are essentially high-end tablets. The Tab S7 and Tab S8 are powered by some of the best chipsets of their respective generations, and they offer a high level of performance for all applications, from office work to gaming.

Of course, they come with Samsung DeX and S Pen support, and they’re the first devices in this Samsung tablet buyer’s guide to feature a 120Hz display refresh rate rather than 60Hz — even if it’s LCD rather than AMOLED.

Generally speaking, a 120Hz refresh rate makes UI animations look smoother (arguably twice as much). A high refresh rate can also help make the writing experience with the S Pen feel more natural.

These tablets offer the best mobile gaming experience and Samsung Dex performance. They also boast dual rear-facing cameras, four speakers, side-mounted fingerprint sensors, and higher memory options than the Tab S7 FE.

  • Consider buying the Galaxy Tab S7 or Galaxy Tab S8 if you want high-end performance, 120Hz 11-inch displays, great multimedia, good performance in mobile games across the board and Samsung DeX, and a fingerprint scanner. Avoid these tablets if you want an AMOLED screen rather than TFT LCD or if you need a display that’s larger than 11 inches.

Things to know about the Galaxy Tab S7+ / Tab S8+

The Galaxy Tab S7+ (2020) and the Galaxy Tab S8+ (2022) are essentially the same as their non-Plus counterparts, except for a few key differences.

Firstly, the Plus models have AMOLED displays instead of LCD. The AMOLED panels offer more vivid colors and arguably a slightly better S Pen experience.

Secondly, these tablets have larger 12.4-inch screens, up from 11-inch, as well as bigger batteries to make up for the larger displays. And finally, the Plus variants have under-display fingerprint scanners rather than side-mounted scanners embedded in the physical side button.

Other than these key points, these Plus-labeled tablets offer the same performance, memory specifications, and standard features as the base Tab S7 and Tab S8 variants.

  • Consider buying the Galaxy Tab S7+ or the Galaxy Tab S8+ if you want high-end performance with an AMOLED display and bigger screens than what the base variants offer. Avoid them if you primarily want high-end performance without extra features, and feel like the AMOLED panels, larger screens, and under-display fingerprint scanners don’t justify the higher price.

Things to know about the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Last but not least, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is the first “Ultra” Samsung tablet and the largest of them all. On paper, it’s a fantastic piece of hardware, but due to its cost and sheer size, it is not for everyone.

This tablet is meant as a notebook replacement, first and foremost. It has a large 14.6-inch display, and although it is gorgeous, its large size can become a hindrance if you plan on using the Tab S8 Ultra only as a tablet. Nevertheless, due to its 14.6-inch screen, the Tab S8 Ultra is, by far, the best solution for Samsung DeX users who want to buy a notebook replacement in tablet format. But again, keep in mind that keyboard accessories are sold separately.

Likewise, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra can be a great choice for S Pen enthusiasts wanting a larger canvas for their digital paintings or photo editing tools. The Ultra has the lowest S Pen latency among all other Samsung tablets to date, clocking in at only 2.8ms.

  • Consider buying the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra if you want the best S Pen experience and a tablet with notebook replacement capabilities, i.e., if your primary target is using it in Samsung DeX with a keyboard cover attachment. You may want to avoid buying the Tab S8 Ultra if you have a low interest in Samsung DeX and/or the S Pen. Performance-wise, you can get a similar experience from the more affordable non-Ultra models.

Year-end Samsung Galaxy tablet buyer’s guide: Conclusion

This time of year might be the best for buying a new tablet, considering all the deals and discounts you can find online and in-store for Black Friday and during the holiday shopping season. But given the many choices available, we realize that things can get confusing, especially for prospective buyers who haven’t used a tablet before.

There’s no easy or objective “right” or “wrong” answer unless you know what your specific use cases for a tablet might be. As such, we hope this buyer’s guide helped you narrow your search and made it easier for you to decide which Galaxy tablet is right. Or whether or not you should invest in a Samsung tablet in the first place. If our guide helped, feel free to comment below and let us know which Galaxy tablet you picked and why.

Tablet Galaxy Tab A7 LiteGalaxy Tab A8Galaxy Tab S6 LiteGalaxy Tab S7Galaxy Tab S7 FEGalaxy Tab S7 PlusGalaxy Tab S8Galaxy Tab S8 PlusGalaxy Tab S8 Ultra
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