Samsung enjoyed a monopoly in the smartphone market from 2011 to about 2013. This period saw the Korean giants absolutely own the market space and only Nokia could pose any serious competition. However, despite the success in the smartphone space, Samsung has in all honesty struggled when it comes to challenging the big daddy called the iPad in tablets category. Despite numerous releases, and plenty of them being underwhelming, you could argue that other than the Nexus 10, which was more of a Google tablet than a pure Samsung initiative, none of the wide gamut of Samsung Galaxy tablets have made any significant mark.
We had recently reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.1 and while the device was impressive in terms of raw performances and had fine qualities, it was a tablet aimed at a very niche market without much appeal to the mass market. So, if you cannot afford the Samsung Note Pro or the newer Samsung Galaxy Tab S series and have a thing against the Nexus 7 and iPads, you might want to check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 series of devices. The series contains three tablets, available in 7 inch, 8 inch and a 10.1 inch variant with pretty much identical internals. As a result, through this review we will use the Tab 10.1 and Tab 8.0 as one device, and make the differentiation as and when required.
We received the Tab 4 8.0 and 10.1 for a review thanks to the folks at Samsung, and used the device for well over 3 weeks period. In this period, we used the tablet as our primary tablet keeping our iPad Air aside. Is the Tab 4 worth your money and is it a realistic option when you could pick the likes of a Nexus 7 in a similar price range? Lets find out.
Box Content, Pricing and Availability
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 is widely available across retail channels, both online and offline. We had no trouble finding the device on most popular online channels like Flipkart and Samsung set up cafes offline. The pricing was not much of a difference when compared, though if you know how to drive a hard bargain, you could knock a few hundred bucks here and there. The 7 inch variant of the tablet will set you back by about Rs 18,350 while the 8 inch and 10.1 inch variant cost Rs 22,450 and Rs 28,900 respectively. All the tablets are available on EMI on Flipkart.
The box and packaging of the tablet is very much like what we have seen from the oat recent Samsung devices such as the likes of Galaxy S5, Note III Neo, Note Pro etc. You have a pseudo wooden looking cardboard box which Samsung claims is 100% recyclable. The box slides open to reveal the device itself on the front and contains the wall charger, few documentations and a micro USB to USB cable. You do not have any headphones or case here, though bundling either is hardly a norm, so not much of a loss.
Hardware and Build Quality
The new Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 series follows the design philosophy that Samsung has been pursuing with its latest Note series of devices. You have a soft faux leather like back panel and the front of the device is largely the display with plain blue plastic or white in our case. The device reminds us a lot of the Galaxy Mega series of devices and unless you care to remember every single Samsung product with the name, you would be totally forgiven for thinking this was just another product in the same line. Just so you know, the blue device here is the Tab 4 8.0 while the while one is the Tab 4 10.1.
Hold the device in your hand, and you can unapologetically recognise that the device is a Samsung manufactured product. You have a metal trim ring that runs around the tablet which is slightly raised from the surface of the tablet. The rim, while giving the tablet a shiny silvery border is in fact all plastic and holding on to it, makes the device slippery. The edges are well rounded, so despite featuring an 8 inch display we had no problems with holding the device in one hand, given our large palms.
From the front end, you have the earpiece just above the Samsung branding on the 8 inch tablet confirming that the device can be used like a regular smartphone as well as a front facing 1.3 MP camera.
Other than the gyro sensor for orientation control, there is no ambient or proximity sensor here and thus no auto brightness either. At the bottom of the display, you have the home button flanked by the capacitive buttons, which for some strange reason on our unit just did not light up even in dark conditions, we are only assuming this is an issue with the review unit and not with all the devices. Back of the device features the 3 MP camera with no flash, and you have the speaker grille at the bottom.
You have a 3.5 mm headset jack on the top. Right flank of the device has the power button, volume keys, SIM tray and the micro SD slot. These controls are on the right side of the device when the tablet is held in a portrait mode, and given the branding is in portrait mode too, its clear Samsung wants you to use the tablet in that position. Bottom of the device has the Micro USB port and main microphone, there is no secondary microphone here on either devices.
On the 10.1 inch variant of the tablet, the orientation changes, and the tablet is meant to be used in landscape mode. The Samsung branding too is in landscape mode and you have the button placements accordingly. The right and left flank of the tablet have the stereo speakers, and you have the 3.5 mm headset jack in addition to the speaker grille on the left flank. The front of the tablet sees a 1.3 MP front facing camera on the left of Samsung branding and has the home button flanked by two capacitive buttons.
The top of the tablet has the power button, followed by the volume rockers, Micro SD slot and SIM slot. The lower chin of the device has the main microphone and micro USB slot. There is no earpiece here, so you know that the device is not meant for you to hold next to your ear and talk.
The device has the same metal trim with rounded edges that we saw on the Tab 4 8.0 and similar faux leather back panel which is not removable. The 3 MP fixed focus camera lives on the back with the Samsung branding.
Both the tablets have pretty massive bezels but since you are most likely to be holding them with two hands, these bezels make sure that you do not accidentally hit the touchscreen while holding the tablet and provide enough resting space for your static hand. It may not look all that smart, but is a design decision that you will appreciate.
The Display is really not all that
For all the criticism that Samsung have received for staying loyal to plastic when it comes to chassis material, the display on most of the Samsung high end devices have been very well appreciated. They may be slightly over saturated, but they usually look fantastic.
The screen on the tab 4 8.0 and 10.0 while being adequate is nothing great. The 1280×800 resolution on both the tablets mean that the experience on the 8 inch unit is better thanks to a higher PPI. Also, since both the tablets feature LCD display, you do not have the true deep blacks that we have seen on Samsung phones with AMOLED display. The outdoor visibility and brightness are fantastic, though the lack of true HD panels mean you can see the pixels from pretty close by, and that certainly takes away from the whole experience of the device.
Given that the Nexus 7 is available in a similar price bracket and gives you a full HD display, you might want to consider that over both these tablets if display is something that is really important to you. Text looks fine if you keep the screen at a distance, but the multimedia experience certainly goes for a toss especially if you are used to a Full HD panel.
General Performance and Software on Board
Both the Tab 4 devices that we sued are powered by a Snapdragon QuadCore SoC clocked at 1.2 GHz each. The exact variant of the chipsets is not disclosed by Samsung but according to the CPU-Z app, it is speculated that the tablets are running Snapdragon 400, though again we would not be able to confirm that.
The two tablets have 1.5 GB of RAM on board and feature the Samsung skin called Touchwiz on top of Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The skin is very much like what we have seen on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Note Pro 12.1. You have the split screen mode too which allows you to run two apps simultaneously here, though we found a fair few stutters while running and resizing apps.
While Touchwiz has been better optimised now than ever, it still feels heavy especially given the lower RAM of the device and you feel choppiness even in most regular things like scrolling home screen sections and swiping along on web pages. Although we did not notice any checkerboard patters, we had to regularly close apps in order to make sure the load time of apps were not beyond intolerable. You get about half the RAM at 780 MB when you close all the apps to play around with and that is obviously not a great deal. As a result, the usual light games like Temple Run and Wordament were not an issue, though anything intensive such as FIFA 2014 or Asphalt 8 dropped crazy levels of frame.
The bundled Samsung apps such as the Calculator, Gallery app as well as Music and Video Player are adequate and get the job done. We were glad that the calculator can be used in landscape mode to bring out the scientific operations. The keyboard is the usual Samsung keyboard and you can enable flow typing on it. The prediction was fine and the height of the keyboard was great too, we had no problem with the typing performances.
The dialler app was fine though, even if it looked just a tad massive as we are not used to dialling on an 8 or a 10.1 inch screen. The diallers are in landscape and portrait mode by default in the Galaxy 4 Tab 4 10.1 and 8.0 respectively.
You get the usual set of customisations by Samsung where you can change the wallpapers, fonts as well as the quick settings in the notifications bar. You can also turn the smart stay feature on so that the screen will stay powered as long as you stare at it.
We did run several benchmark tests to evaluate the performance too and the results were very much in line with our general opinion that the device performs rather average on all fronts without ever really standing out. We did manage a score of 7,700+ on Quadrant which is pretty much a mid tier score on both the 8 and 10.1 inch unit.
The Galaxy Tab 4 devices have an internal space of about 16 GB, out of which you can use 11 GB for apps and user data. We did not have any problems on that front as the 32 GB SD card that we used worked fantastically well without any slowing down problems. Call reception and Wifi speeds were consistent and we shamelessly did try the earpiece to make 2 phone calls, and while it performed well, we felt it would be best to use a pair of headphones with a microphone, just to make sure you do not look silly making calls with a giant 8 inch tablet. The app selection remains an issue we have had with the Android eco-system when it comes to tablets, and it is something that is fairly well documented and applies for the Tab 4 too.
Camera and Battery Life
The battery life on the two tablets is reasonably good. Just for the test, we left the 10.1 inch unit on the standby and we lost about 50% battery in 17 days which was fantastic as the sync settings for one account was on. On an average usage, we got two days out of the tablet with few games, web browsing and lots of social networking.
You will have no issues with the battery and can easily get up to 6 hours of continuous usage.
The camera on both the units are best left unspoken. Both the 8.0 and 10.1 units come with Fixed Focus camera so there is no need to fire them up unless you are using them to make a video call, anyway, who takes serious pictures with the camera on a tablet?
The picture quality is pretty much below average and other than a few basic modes like Panorama mode, Beauty Mode as well as the ability to change the resolution and location of the shot, there is nothing much to see in the camera. In low light shots taken indoors, you get loads and loads of grains and images with blown out exposures under direct light. Videos can be recorded in 720 P maximum and while that is great for a Skype or a Hangouts call, you cannot be using your tablet to record a film or an important video.
The Samsung Tab 4 8.0 and 10.1 are slightly underwhelming for the price they come at. You see the likes of the Nexus 7 and even the LG G Pad at similar prices in the international market, and we can certainly vouch for the difference between the Tab 4 and Nexus 7 in terms of performance, looks as well as Value for Money.
It is a decent option if you are a Samsung brand loyalist and simply do not want an iPad Mini or a Nexus 7, other than that, we really do not see where the tablet fits in. We would surely find it very difficult to recommend it over the Nexus 7 and would perhaps anyway pass it on for the newer Samsung Tab S series which looks so much more promising, albeit a lot more expensive.