Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air: Which tablet should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air 4 comp image showing the two facing off
(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs. iPad Air buying decision can be tricky, because these two tablets are so remarkably similar in size, design and price. Both offer premium tablet experiences for under $1,000, but there are some sizable differences that you should know about beyond the usual Android vs. Apple divide.

First and foremost, the Galaxy Tab S8 is much newer because it was released in February 2022, whereas the iPad Air hasn't been significantly updated since 2020. Even so, it's remarkable how compelling the Air remains; as you'll see in the following breakdown, the 2020 iPad Air is one of the best tablets you can buy because it still competes with the latest tablets more than a year after it was released.

So if you're not sure which tablet is right for you, read on for our round-by-round rundown comparing the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 to Apple's latest iPad Air.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air: Specs

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Row 0 - Cell 0 iPad Air 4Galaxy Tab S8
Starting price$599$699
Display(resolution)10.9 inches (2360 x 1640) 60Hz11 inches (2560 x 1600) 120Hz refresh rate
CPUA14 Bionic with Neural EngineQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM4GB8GB
Storage64GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB
Rear camera(s)12MP13MP + 6MP Ultrawide
Front camera7MP12MP Ultrawide
Battery life10:29 (tested)Up to 15 hours (advertised)
Size9.7 x 7 x 0.2 inches10 x 6.5 x 0.2 inches
Weight1 pound (Wi-Fi); 1.01 pounds (Cellular)1.1 pounds
ColorsSilver, space gray, rose gold, green, sky blueGraphite, silver and pink gold

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air: Price

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 is the more expensive of these two tablets with a starting price of $699, though it does come with a stylus, and you can pay more for models with more storage and cellular connectivity. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8

The Galaxy Tab S8 ships with an included S Pen stylus that magnetically attaches to the rear of the tablet. (Image credit: Future)

The iPad Air (2020) can be had for a hundred bucks cheaper, as Apple charges $599 for the entry-level model. However, that model comes with just 64GB of storage, which is very little for a tablet that's meant to store your apps, games, photos, videos, music and more. You can upgrade to a model with 256GB of storage, but that'll cost you $749.

The Tab S8 comes with 128GB of storage minimum, which is a far more reasonable amount for a tablet. You can also add up to a terabyte of additional storage via memory card, thanks to the Tab S8's microSD card slot.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air: Design

Samsung's Galaxy Tab S8 is a streamlined aluminum slate that measures 10 x 6.5 x .02 inches and weighs just over a pound. There are thin bezels surrounding an 11-inch WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600 pixels) 120Hz LED display, just like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, though you should check out our Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs Galaxy Tab S7 breakdown to see all the important ways the new model is different. It sports a single USB-C port near the bottom which also offers DisplayPort out functionality, meaning you can hook it up to an external display via DisplayPort.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8

(Image credit: Future)

The iPad Air 4 looks roughly similar at a glance, though its USB-C port can't be used to hook up an external display via DisplayPort. That's not to say you can't connect an external display to an iPad Air, but you do have to have some specific adapters to pull it off. 

The Air's 10.9-inch (2,360 x 1,640 pixels) display is roughly the same size as that of the S8, but it can't deliver quite as many pixels as Samsung's new tablet. The Air also has just a 60Hz refresh rate, which is completely usable (and indeed, still the norm for many devices) but may feel less smooth while scrolling than the Tab S8's 120Hz display.

iPad Air 4

The iPad Air 4 is roughly the same size and shape as the Tab S8, and they both have a fingerprint reader in the power button. (Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

Both the iPad Air 4 and Tab S8 have remarkably thin (~0.2 inches) frames that are roughly identical to each other, size-wise. They both have fingerprint readers in the same spot (the power/lock button), and they both come in an array of eye-catching colors. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8

Both the Air and Tab S8 (pictured) are remarkably trim at about 0.2 inches thin. (Image credit: Future)

The S8 cleaves to Samsung's traditional dark (Graphite), light (Silver) and elegant (Pink Gold) color options, but Apple goes a bit wilder, offering the usual black and white (or Space Gray and Silver) iPad Airs alongside more eye-catching Green, Rose Gold and Sky Blue models.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air: Display

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 and Apple's iPad Air (2020) have remarkably similar displays, which is part of the reason why it can be so hard to choose between them. 

As outlined above, the Tab S8 offers an 11-inch WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600 pixels) 120Hz LED display. If it's anything like its predecessor, it should be a bright, vibrant screen. However, it is a little disappointing that the S8 only has an LED display while its two larger siblings, the Tab S8+ and S8 Ultra, ship with Samsung's Super AMOLED screens.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8. (Image credit: Future)

The iPad Air is an older tablet by comparison, and while its display is roughly the same size as that of the S8 it offers slightly fewer pixels per inch (264 ppi vs 274 ppi). However you probably wouldn't notice the difference, even if you held the two tablets side-by-side. 

iPad Air 4 review

You can buy a stylus (from Apple or elsewhere) and use it on the iPad Air, but it probably won't feel as smooth as sketching on the Tab S8's 120Hz display. (Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

What you might notice is that scrolling and using a stylus feels a bit worse on the iPad compared to the S8, since the Air's display refreshes at half the rate of the S8 — 60Hz vs 120 Hz. We're still waiting on Apple to revamp the Air with the same 120Hz ProMotion display it put on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021).

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air: Performance

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip in Samsung's Galaxy Tab S8 (at least, in the U.S.) is built on a 4-nanometer process, which means it should be more performant than the Snapdragon 865 Plus that powered the Galaxy Tab S7. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8

(Image credit: Future)

That tablet earned a score of 3,074 in the Geekbench 5 performance benchmark, which was fine — but a bit less impressive than the 4,262 earned by Apple's iPad Air. We haven't had a chance to run the new Galaxy Tab S8 through the same performance tests yet, but when we do it seems quite likely to outperform the 2020 iPad Air thanks to its upgraded internals.

Speaking of, with 8GB of RAM the Tab S8 should feel a bit more snappy and capable than the 2020 iPad Air, which ships with a comparatively paltry 4GB.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air: Cameras

If cameras on a tablet are important to you, the Galaxy Tab S8 has the advantage over the iPad Air. 

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung's new S8 features a pair of rear-mounted cameras (13MP and 6MP Ultrawide) and a 12MP Ultrawide front-facing selfie cam, while the iPad Air 4 has a single rear camera (12MP) and a 7MP front-facing FaceTime HD camera.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air: Battery life

Samsung's Galaxy Tab S8 ships with an 8,000 mAh battery, just like the S7. And just like its predecessor, we expect the Tab S8 to deliver better battery life than the iPad Air.

iPad Air 4 review

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

Apple's tablet lasted a solid 10 hours and 29 minutes in our battery test, whereas Samsung's Tab S7 survived for an impressive 13 hours and 16 minutes. We look forward to seeing how the S8 performs in the same test.

We also look forward to testing Samsung's claim that with a 45W charger you can fully charge a Galaxy Tab S8 in 80 minutes, thanks to its Fast Charging feature.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air: Software

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 ships running Android 12 with some Samsung extras on top, including user interface tweaks and custom software like Samsung Notes. 

One of the cooler software tricks it offers is DeX mode, which gives you a bunch of extra tools for managing multiple windows on your tablet and using it more like a PC. DeX mode also gives you some useful tools for multi-tasking while the tablet is hooked up to an external display like a monitor or TV, making it especially valuable for those who splurge on an external keyboard or type cover to use the Tab S8 like a laptop. 

iPad Air 4 review

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

The iPad Air runs the latest version of Apple's iPadOS, which as of this writing is iPadOS 15. It's a solid operating system that rarely buckles under pressure, and as of iPadOS 15 Apple added a lot of upgrades (including Notes improvements and a much-needed multi-tasking button) that make the Air a more appealing device for getting things done. You can use it as a laptop replacement if you buy an Apple Magic Keyboard, but iPadOS has never excelled as a productivity suite.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 vs iPad Air: Verdict

We're still testing and reviewing the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, and until we complete that process we won't know for sure how well it stacks up against the competition. 

Yet even at this early juncture it's pretty clear that the Tab S8 is likely the better tablet to buy if what you care about is performance or versatility. 

It costs a bit more than the entry-level iPad Air, but you get newer, more powerful guts, more storage space, and better cameras in an Android 12 tablet that plays well with a variety of devices, especially those made by Samsung. You also get a stylus packed in for free, which is something Apple never does.

However, with the iPad Air you get a device that's nearly as good as Samsung's new tablet despite being over a year older, and if you can live with 64GB of storage you can get it cheaper than the S8. 

You also get access to Apple's App Store and the benefit of whatever investment you have in Apple's ecosystem. But if that's not valuable to you, you're likely better off buying a Galaxy Tab S8.

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. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.