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Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: A new standard for Android tablets

This is what a premium Android tablet should be

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 open in book cover on desk, facing left
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 is a speedy, long-lasting Android 12 slate that's beautiful to look at and comfortable to hold. It can't compete with the best iPads, but it's still a new standard for premium Android tablets.

Pros

  • +

    Bright, beautiful display

  • +

    Excellent battery life

  • +

    Great sound quality

  • +

    Surprisingly good cameras

  • +

    Decent laptop replacement

Cons

  • -

    Underwhelming performance vs. iPads

  • -

    Camera quality degrades at extremes

  • -

    Book Cover keyboard feels small, cramped

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 specs

Price: from $699
CPU:
Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
Display: 11-inch (2560 x 1600) 120Hz LCD display
RAM:
8 GB
Storage:
128GB/256GB
Ports:
USB-C, microSD
Battery life:
12:52 (tested)
Accessories: S Pen stylus included
Dimensions:
9.99 x 6.51 x 0.25 inches
Weight:
1.1 pounds

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 sets a new standard for premium Android tablets. This is the successor to 2020's Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, which we called the best iPad Pro rival — and one of the best tablets, period — on the market.

But that was two years ago, and in the interim, Apple redefined what we expect from pro-grade tablets with the phenomenal 2021 iPad Pros. Samsung has also stepped up its tablet game, launching the Tab S8 alongside two larger, OLED-equipped models: A slightly improved Tab S8 Plus and the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, a massive 14.6-inch Android tablet with a screen large enough to overshadow the iPad Pro.

So where does that leave the Galaxy Tab S8? Its 11-inch LCD screen is bright and responsive, but it can't match the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021's dazzling mini-LED display. But while it's not fair to call the Tab S8 a real iPad Pro rival any longer, it is an elegant, performant and power-efficient slate that doesn't mar the strengths of Android 12 with too much Samsung tech.

The Galaxy Tab S8 sets a new standard for what a premium Android tablet should be, and it's one of the best Android tablets you can buy right now, especially if you're already invested in Samsung's device ecosystem.

 Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: Price and availability 

  • Price starts at $699 (less with trade-in)
  • Wi-Fi only in the U.S. right now; cellular models coming in 2022

The Galaxy Tab S8 is available for purchase via Samsung's website (opens in new tab) at a starting price of $699 (less with qualifying trade-in). and for that you get a model with 128GB of storage in your choice of Silver, Graphite or Pink Gold. If you want more storage, you can pay $779 to get a model with 256GB of space instead.

At the time of review Samsung only sells Wi-Fi models of this tablet, but it plans to offer Tab S8s with cellular connectivity via AT&T and T-Mobile later this year.

Make sure you check our Samsung promo codes page to find the latest offers and price cuts.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 in keyboard cover set up on desk, facing away from camera

Samsung's $139 keyboard cover for the Galaxy Tab S8 has a little cutout in the back where you magnetically attach the S Pen. (Image credit: Future)

Samsung also sells a slew of accessories, including the $139 Galaxy Tab S8 Book Cover Keyboard Slim, which transforms the tablet into a halfway decent laptop replacement.

Samsung sent us a 128GB Galaxy Tab S8 in Pink Gold to review, along with a Book Cover Keyboard Slim. If you were to try and purchase the same gear direct, you'd pay upwards of $840.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: Design

  • Slim, light tablet feels comfy to hold
  • Pink Gold color scheme looks slick
  • Gets bulky with the Cover Keyboard attached

The Galaxy Tab S8 is the entry-level model of its generation, but it doesn’t feel like it. The Pink Gold color scheme on our review unit adds an elegant sheen to the tablet’s slim, light chassis.

At roughly 10 x 6.5 x 0.2 inches and 1.1 pounds, the Tab S8 feels comfortable to hold, even during long stints gaming or reading on the couch. The Book Cover Keyboard Slim adds a bit of bulk when attached, but not so much that you'll notice the extra weight in a backpack.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 lying flat on desk

The camera bump on the back of the Galaxy Tab S8 doesn't protrude too far from the chassis, and you barely notice it when setting the tablet down. (Image credit: Future)

On the back of the device you'll find a slight bump that houses the rear camera, as well as a magnetized strip where you can attach the included S Pen stylus to charge it. Along the bottom edge of the tablet is a USB-C port for charging or connecting accessories (including a variety of displays, since it supports DisplayPort out), and on the left edge you'll find a port for attaching the Book Cover Keyboard Slim.

Along the right edge you'll find the power button (which also houses the fingerprint reader), the volume rocker and the microSD card slot, which is housed in a secure compartment you can open with something small and pointy (Samsung includes a tool for opening the microSD compartment in the box). If you were hoping for a headphone jack, forget about it — you're limited to USB-C or Bluetooth.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: Display

  • Bright, beautiful display
  • Colors look great, easy to switch between Vivid and Natural
  • Hard not to envy pricier siblings' AMOLED screens

Much like its predecessor, the Galaxy Tab S8 sports an 11-inch WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600 pixels) LED display with a 120Hz refresh rate. And like its predecessor, the screen looks bright and colorful, with nice smooth scrolling thanks to its adaptive refresh rate (which dynamically adjusts the refresh rate up to its 120Hz max, instead of staying locked at 60Hz), though you can lock the refresh rate at 60Hz in the tablet's Display settings to make it drain less battery power.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 on couch showing Star Wars TV show playing

(Image credit: Future)

While watching TV and playing games on the Tab S8 I found the display to be colorful and quite striking at maximum brightness, which was backed up when we got the tablet into our testing lab. We started measuring things and found the Tab S8's display is capable of achieving a peak brightness of 480 nits in the center, with an average brightness of 463 nits across the whole screen.

That's bright for an Android tablet, outshining the likes of the Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 (390 nits average brightness), but it still can't match the brightness of the iPad 2021  
(472 nits) or either the 11-inch (571 nits) or 12.9-inch (562.6 nits) iPad Pros. In my own hands-on testing I've found the Tab S8 is bright enough to use in just about any situation, including outdoors under direct noonday sun. However, in such situations even at max brightness you're going to see a lot of your own reflection in the screen, which is disappointingly good at picking up fingerprints.

The Galaxy Tab S8 display can be set to Vivid or Natural, and in practice I found the Vivid setting to be more fun because it makes colors look brighter and more vibrant. However, if you care about color accuracy you might prefer to leave it on Natural. When we pointed our colorimeter at it, the Tab S8's display achieved 101.1% of the sRGB color gamut in Natural mode and 157.8% in Vivid mode.

However, it is a little disappointing that this beautiful screen isn't OLED and doesn't support HDR. OLED displays and HDR content are still hard to find on tablets, but that's changing quickly, led in part by the Tab S8's bigger siblings the Tab S8 Plus and Tab S8 Ultra, with their Super AMOLED 120Hz displays.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: Performance

  • Snappy performance thanks to Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip
  • Still can't outperform Apple's tablets

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip gives the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 plenty of power for most tasks, and the 8GB of RAM helps make running and navigating between apps feel snappy and responsive.

Anecdotally, I never ran into any significant slowdown, crashing, or other performance issues while putting the Tab S8 through its paces. It had no trouble keeping 20+ Chrome tabs open while I simultaneously streamed music and watched YouTube videos at 1080p.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 open on desk in keyboard cover facing right, showing Genshin Impact game playing

(Image credit: Future)

When we put it to the test using Geekbench 5's multicore benchmark, the Tab S8 earned a score of 3,228. That's very good for an Android tablet, beating the larger Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 (3,128) with its older Snapdragon 870 chip. However, the Tab S8 couldn't outpace Apple's tablets in this test, falling behind even non-M1 slates like the 2021 iPad (3,387) and the 2020 iPad Air 4 (4,262). 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: Audio

  • Quad speaker array sounds good, gets loud
  • Bass sounds thin

The four speakers inside the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 get surprisingly loud, and they support Dolby Atmos to boot, though you'll need to make sure that feature is enabled in the Settings menu to enjoy the full effect.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 laying flat on table showing USB-C port on bottom edge

Tuned by AKG, the quad speaker array inside the Galaxy Tab S8 kicks out some impressive sound for a tablet. (Image credit: Future)

The speakers themselves kick out sound that's clear and resonant, though the bass lacks punch. Bass-heavy tracks like Massive Attack's "Angel" sound thin on the S8, but an album like Howlin Wolf's Moanin' in the Moonlight sounds pretty good coming out of this tablet.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: Software

  • Great canvas for Android 12, which runs well
  • Samsung bloatware generally good to harmless
  • Plays well with other Galaxy devices

The Galaxy Tab S8 arrives running Android 12 with some extra Samsung software on top, including a tweaked user interface, expanded inter-operability with other Samsung devices and custom software like Samsung Notes. 

The nice thing about Samsung's software is that if you don't like it, you can generally delete, disable or ignore it. Since I don't have any Samsung devices on hand at the moment I had a tricky time testing the many ways in which the Tab S8 can connect to other Galaxy tablets and smartphones, but much like with Apple hardware, it seems those who invest deeply in the Galaxy ecosystem can access depths of interoperability most of us can only imagine.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 sitting open on desk in keyboard cover with DeX mode running

(Image credit: Future)

However, I was able to spend lots of time testing the limits of the most exciting piece of software that comes pre-installed on the Tab S8: DeX Mode. Samsung's spin on a laptop mode for tablets looks good and feels snappy to use, 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: S Pen 

  • Sketching and note-taking feels smooth and responsive
  • Skeuomorphic pencil-on-paper sound can grate

I love that Samsung includes an S Pen with every Tab S8, and I like how thick and easy to hold the stylus feels in my hand. Using it to draw and take notes on the Tab S8's display feels smooth and accurate, with no noticeable lag. That might have something to do with the display's adaptive refresh rate (up to 120Hz), as the more often the screen refreshes itself, the more often it can respond to your input.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 open on desk in keyboard cover with sketchbook program open

(Image credit: Future)

I do wish there was a slot in the tablet for the S Pen to slide into when not in use, just to give the tablet a sleeker look and make it easier not to lose the stylus. However, it magnetizes to the back quite strongly, and it's easy to attach/detach without looking once you get the hang of it. 

Note that if you, like me, quickly grow tired of the fake pencil-on-paper noise the Tab S8 pumps out while you're writing with the stylus, you can turn it down (or off entirely) in the Sounds and vibration section of the Settings menu: Just look for the System volume control.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: Book Cover Keyboard

  • Keyboard feels small and cramped
  • Satisfying and sturdy typing experience

To really make the most of the Tab S8's productivity tools it's a good idea to hook up a keyboard, and it just so happens Samsung sells its own detachable Book Cover Keyboard Slim for $139.

The cover magnetizes to the tablet, and once you get the hang of snapping it on it's pretty easy to attach. The cover itself feels sturdy and does a good job of making the tablet feel protected from the ever-present threat of scuffs and scratches. There's a strip cut out of the back to leave room for the rear camera and the S Pen, and there's also a cubby in the fold of the cover where you can store the S Pen when not using it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 laying in keyboard cover flat on table, showing stylus cubby in the center fold

(Image credit: Future)

One of these covers was included with our review unit, and after using it in my day-to-day work (including writing this review) I have to say the keyboard is handy, functional, and too small for me to enjoy using in any way. My hands are on the larger side, so there's a good chance you'll have a more enjoyable time typing on the cramped, thin Book Cover Keyboard Slim than I did. Personally, I was surprised at how satisfying and sturdy the keys feel to type on, but the layout is so cramped that my hands curl into T-rex claws at the mere thought of trying to work on it for long periods.

You may well have a better experience, and if you don't there's always the option to connect your own keyboard via Bluetooth or the USB-C port. Of course, it probably won't come with a kickstand that holds the tablet up as nicely as the Book Cover Keyboard Slim does. Watch out when using it on a table, though: the cover props the Tab S8 up at just the right angle to point the camera right up your nose.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: Cameras

  • Cameras are good for an Android tablet
  • 12MP selfie cam, 13MP/6MP rear cameras; all can do 4K/60fps video
  • Sharp, accurate image quality

The Galaxy Tab S8 has a great set of cameras for an Android tablet. Up front there's a 12MP ultra-wide selfie cam, and on the back are a 13 MP auto-focus lens and a 6MP ultra-wide lens. All can record video at up to 4k resolution and 60 frames per second, and the front-facing camera has a new auto-framing feature that automatically adjusts the shot to try and keep you in frame if you move around. It's a clear response to the Center Stage auto-framing technology Apple introduced with the 2021 iPad Pro, and in my experience it works subtly and well.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 selfie photo

The Galaxy Tab S8 takes a great selfie, for a tablet — and the built-in photo editing tools give you lots of opportunities to make bad decisions. (Image credit: Future)

If you need to photograph something with your tablet, you could do a lot worse than the Galaxy Tab S8. The rear cameras do a great job of capturing detail and color accurately (though you lose a lot of detail in ultrawide and zoomed-in shots), and the selfie cam made me look better in meetings than the 1080p webcam on the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio did.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: Battery life

  • Nearly 13 hours of battery life
  • Lasts longer than most tablets, including iPads

The Galaxy Tab S8 doesn't burn through battery power too quickly, and I was able to pick it up in the morning at roughly 80% charged, use it for a day's work, and put it down with at least 20% power left.

In our battery test, which tasks the tablet with ceaselessly surfing the Internet over Wi-Fi with its screen set to 150 nits of brightness, the Tab S8 managed to last 12 hours and 52 minutes. Enabling the option to lock the screen's refresh rate at a lower 60Hz (and thus conserve power) helped the tablet last a little longer (12:59) in the same test, but not enough to make a significant difference. 

That's not quite as power-efficient as the Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 (14:03), but it's better than the Yoga Tab 11 (11:55), the iPad 2021 (11:59) and the iPad Air 4 (10:29).

In our charging speed test using the Tab S8's included 45W charger, the tablet was able to charge up to 23% in 15 minutes and 45% in 30 minutes.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 review: Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 is an excellent Android tablet. It's fast, long-lasting, beautiful to look at and comfortable to hold. The cameras are good enough to make taking photos and video calls with your tablet seem fun, and the packed-in S Pen is a nice touch that works well.

That said, the Galaxy Tab S8 can't match the performance or display quality of most modern iPads. With Samsung's DeX mode enabled the Galaxy Tab S8 is a more feasible laptop replacement than nearly any iPad, but even for its reasonable starting price of $838 with keyboard you can get a more capable Windows laptop like the Asus Zenbook 13 OLED

The Galaxy Tab S8 is good at a lot of things, but it's best at being a premium Android tablet. You can use it to get work done in a pinch, but in my experience it's best enjoyed as a speedy all-purpose device for making work and play a bit more enjoyable. On the couch its great for gaming or reading comics, and at work it's nice to have as a note-keeping device or secondary display, especially if you go to the trouble of investing in the Galaxy ecosystem and making your workspace DeX-friendly.

If you absolutely must have the biggest, baddest Android slate possible you probably want the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, but if you just need a great premium Android tablet the Galaxy Tab S8 delivers — and in the process, sets a new standard for what we should expect from the category.

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.