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Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs. iPad Pro: Which flagship tablet is best for you?

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs iPad Pro 2021 in a compositional image that makes it look like they're facing off
(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs. iPad Pro debate is one Samsung clearly wanted to start, because the S8 Ultra appears designed to compete toe-to-toe with Apple's best iPads and maybe even serve as a laptop replacement.

The clearest indicator is the Ultra's remarkably large 14.6-inch AMOLED display, which is the biggest we've ever seen on a Samsung tablet — and noticeably larger than the screens on either the 11-inch iPad Pro or the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

But size isn't everything. Apple's 2021 iPad Pros are some of the best tablets you can buy for good reason: they're the most powerful iPads on the market, with features that make them compelling for both consuming and creating content.

So how do Apple's premium tablets stack up against Samsung's latest flagship Android tablet? Read on to find out!

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs. iPad Pro: Specs

Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra11-inch iPad Pro 202112.9-inch iPad Pro 2021
Starting price$1,099$799$1,099
Display14.6 inch (2960 x 1848) Super AMOLED, 120Hz11 inches (2388 x 1668 pixels)12.9 inches (2732 x 2048 pixels) mini-LED
ProcessorSnapdragon 8 Gen 1M1 (16-core)M1 (16-core)
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Memory8GB, 12GB, 16GB8GB (128GB - 512GB storage models), 16GB (1TB-2TB storage models)8GB (128GB - 512GB storage models), 16GB (1TB-2TB storage models)
Rear Cameras13MP, 6MP ultra-wide12MP wide (f/1.8), 10-MP ultra-wide (f/2.4)12MP wide (f/1.8), 10-MP ultra-wide (f/2.4)
Front Cameras12MP12MP TrueDepth12MP TrueDepth
PortUSB-C w/ DisplayPort outUSB-C with Thunderbolt, USB-4USB-C with Thunderbolt, USB-4
AccessoriesS Pen stylus (included), Book Cover KeyboardMagic Keyboard, Apple Pencil (gen 1 & 2)Magic Keyboard, Apple Pencil (gen 1 & 2)
Battery lifeUp to 15 hours (claimed)13:4210:48
ConnectivityWiFi 6E (2.4/5/6GHz), Bluetooth v5.2Wi-Fi 6, optional 5GWi-Fi 6, optional 5G
Dimensions12.85 x 8.21 x 0.22 inches9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25 inches
Weight1.4 pounds1.04 pounds1.51 pounds

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs. iPad Pro: Price

The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is is available for pre-order right now, though it won't officially launch until February 25. With a starting price of $1,099 it's quite pricey for an Android tablet, competing directly with the larger, more expensive iPad Pro 2021.

The entry-level Tab S8 Ultra comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, but Samsung is also selling two upgraded models: one with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage for $1,119, the other with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage for $1,399.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra's slim design

Samsung sells a backlit detachable keyboard for the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, but it costs about $350. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Here again Samsung seems to be setting up the S8 Ultra to compete directly with the iPad Pro. Apple's 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 starts at $799, while the 12.9-inch version has a starting price of $1,099. You can pay extra for more storage or the option to have cellular connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi, up to a maximum price of $2,099 for the 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 and $2,399 for the 12.9-inch model. 

So while the ceiling of what you'll pay for an iPad Pro is much higher than what you can (currently) pay for a Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, you can also get more storage, as the iPad Pro tops out at 2TB of space whereas the Ultra's maximum onboard storage is 512GB. However, Samsung's tablet has a microSD card slot that lets you slot in up to a 1TB microSD memory card for extra storage.

iPad Pro 2021 promo image from Apple showing someone drawing using a Magic Pencil

The 2021 iPad Pros are great for digital art creation, but you'll have to pay extra for one of Apple's Magic Pencil stylii. (Image credit: Apple)

If you're thinking about using one of these tablets to get some writing done, know that the Magic Keyboard adds $299 to the 11.9-inch iPad Pro price and $349 to the 12.9-inch model, while the Book Cover Keyboard for the Tab S8 Ultra costs $349 as well. If you're more interested in doodling, the Apple Pencil costs $129, whereas Samsung includes an S Pen stylus for free with the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs. iPad Pro: Design 

The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is the biggest Android tablet Samsung's ever made, measuring 12.85 x 8.21 x 0.22 inches and weighing 1.4 pounds. At just over 0.2 inches thin it's remarkably trim, though holding the tablet with one hand can be tricky due to the large display. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra's large 14.6 inch display

The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is remarkably large, and may be hard to hold in one hand for some folks. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In addition to a connector for the (optional) detachable keyboard, the S8 Ultra has a USB-C port for charging and hooking up accessories. Sadly there's no headphone jack, so you're stuck using Bluetooth headphones if you want to do some listening in private. Of course, the iPad Pros also lack a headphone jack. 

iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch)

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is both thicker and heavier than Samsung's new flagship tablet. (Image credit: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)

Remarkably, the Tab S8 Ultra is both lighter and thinner than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro despite being a larger tablet. However, Apple's 11-inch Pro is smaller and lighter than Samsung's beefy Android tablet, so if you want the smallest and lightest option you might want to consider the 11-inch iPad Pro.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs. iPad Pro: Display 

Samsung's Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra sports a massive 14.6-inch (2960x1848) AMOLED display with up to a 120Hz refresh rate. This is significantly larger than the 11-inch or 12.9-inch displays available on the 2021 iPad Pros. The Tab S8 Ultra's display also has a higher resolution than that of the 11-inch iPad Pro but it can't match the larger iPad Pro's Liquid Retina XDR (2732 x 2048 pixels) mini-LED panel.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra with Slim Book Cover Keyboard

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The remarkably large screen on the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra should mean it's well-suited for use as a digital canvas, and having a stylus included with every tablet ensures everyone will have the chance to use it as one. Even if you just want to stare at it, the fact that it's AMOLED should ensure that videos, games, and other streaming media should look great on the Ultra's display.

During our hands-on time with it we found the screen to be more reflective than we'd like, but it produces a bright and vivid picture, and scrolling felt smooth. Plus, there's a fingerprint reader built into the Tab S8 Ultra's display for added security.

iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch) review

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro's mini-LED display looks gorgeous in person. (Image credit: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)

How it stacks up against the iPad Pro's display depends on which iPad you compare it against. The Tab S8 Ultra's display is bigger and better than the 11-inch LCD screen on the 11-inch iPad Pro, though the iPad's screen looks great in person.

However, the mini-LED display that's unique (at least among iPads) to the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 still has the edge over the screen on Samsung's new flagship tablet. It's slightly higher-res than the S8 Ultra, but more importantly, the fact that it's mini-LED means the larger Pro can get much brighter than most tablets. You might not notice the difference, especially if you're watching non-HDR content, but until we put the S8 Ultra through our suite of display tests we can't say it's better than what's on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro — just bigger. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs. iPad Pro: Performance

We haven't yet had a chance to benchmark the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra and its Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, so we can't say for sure how performant it is. However, given that you can order a model with up to 16GB of RAM, it seems likely that the Ultra will be more than speedy enough for whatever you choose to throw at it.

iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) review

Apple's M1 chip makes the 2021 iPad Pros feel lightning-fast, even while multitasking. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

However, that doesn't mean it'll speed past Apple's iPad Pros. Remember, these are the first iPads to be powered by Apple's remarkable M1 chip, a bespoke bit of silicon that blew past our expectations in terms of performance and power efficiency. 

In our hands-on testing, we couldn't launch apps fast enough to slow down the iPad Pros. To give you a quantitative sense of how they perform relative to other tablets, the 12.9 inch and 11-inch Pros earned scores of 7,298 and 7,293 (respectively) in the Geekbench 5 performance test.  The Galaxy Tab S7 Plus with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ chip, by comparison, landed a much lower 2,910.

So while we hope to see some blazing-fast performance out of the S8 Ultra, it's not likely to top the outstanding speeds of Apple's iPads.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs. iPad Pro: Cameras 

The Tab S8 Ultra comes with some impressive cameras for an Android tablet. On the front you'll find two 12MP cameras capable of shooting normal and ultrawide shots, while the back has a pair of 13MP and 6MP (ultrawide) cameras.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra front camera

The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra's cameras shoot some impressive wide shots (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Samsung claims the Tab S8 Ultra's auto-framing technology will automatically keep you in focus during calls, while also zooming in or out to include new participants as they join you. Pair that with three mics packing noise cancellation software, and the S8 Ultra seems like a great tablet for conducting video calls. 

iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch) review: Center Stage

Auto-framing tech like Apples's Center Stage (seen here) can make video calls feel much more dynamic. (Image credit: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)

For comparison, the iPad Pro has a 12MP ultrawide camera on the front and 12MP main and 10MP ultrawide cameras on the back. The iPad Pro was also one of the first iPads to support Center Stage, Apple's own auto-framing feature which causes the front-facing camera to automatically recognize, track, and dynamically zoom in/out on speakers as they enter and exit the frame. 

Apple's iPad Pros make you sound pretty good on video calls since they sport five mics in total: three up top near the front-facing camera, and two on the sides for better coverage. 

So while we won't know for sure how good the S8 Ultra's cameras are until we put them to the test, it's pretty clear that they should be at least competitive -- and potentially better -- than the cameras on the iPad Pros. However, the iPads have more microphones and may make you sound better on video than the S8 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs. iPad Pro: Battery

While we won't know for sure how long the S8 Ultra lasts on a single charge until we put one through our battery test, Samsung claims its 11,200 mAh battery can power the tablet for up to 15 hours. It also supports 45W fast charging that the company says can charge the tablet to 100% in 80 minutes -- and more intriguingly, it can charge other devices that you plug into it.

Neither of Apple's iPad Pros offer the same feature. However, they do deliver pretty great battery life: the smaller 11-inch Pro lasted an impressive 13 hours and 42 minutes in our battery test, whereas the larger model lasted 10 hours and 48 minutes.

While we don't yet know how long the S8 Ultra will last, we do know that it has a bigger battery than last year's Galaxy Tab S7. Given that the S7 delivered better battery life (13:16) than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it's quite likely the S8 Ultra will prove a bit more power-efficient than Apple's beefiest iPad.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs. iPad Pro: Outlook

Until we finish testing and reviewing the Tab S8 Ultra, we can't say for sure how well it performs vs. Apple's flagship tablets. But we can say that it offers some compelling arguments for buying one over an iPad. 

Most notably, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra gives you more screen real estate than the largest iPad Pro, and with a stylus included (shame on Apple for never offering the same convenience) the Ultra is a compelling tablet for artists and note-takers right out of the box. If you're willing to splurge for Samsung's $350 Book Cover Keyboard (included free with S8 Ultra pre-orders for a limited time), the Ultra has the chops to be an effective laptop/tablet hybrid. And if you already own some Samsung Galaxy devices, their interoperability will give the S8 Ultra some added value.

However, Apple's iPad Pros are still the best iPads on the market, and unless you're a diehard Android fan you'll get plenty of use out of them. The larger 12.9-inch Pro's eye-catching mini-LED display may not be as big as that on the S8 Ultra, but it's higher-res and capable of achieving much higher brightness levels, making it ideal for folks who prize image quality or work in photo/video editing. 

And while the 11-inch Pro's screen isn't nearly as nice, it does deliver remarkable 13+ hour battery life in a frame that's smaller, lighter, and easier to hold than the Tab S8 Ultra. 

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.