I desperately wanted to like the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra, but with a whopping $1,199 sticker tag, it just seemed obnoxiously overpriced trying to pass itself off as a laptop alternative. Samsung’s clearly targeting pro users, but the newly announced Galaxy Tab S9 FE and Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ seem more practical.
That’s because these Android powered tablets start at $450, which puts them more in line with the iPad Air series — made better by the fact that they come included with the S Pen. They also adopt a few of the premium features from the Galaxy Tab S9 line, like a proper Samsung DeX mode for that desktop-like experience on a tablet.
Additionally, they’re smacked right in the middle of Samsung’s tablet lineup. In fact, I would be more inclined to pick them over the lower priced Galaxy Tab A series, while being priced less than the standard Galaxy Tab S9 series.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE hands-on: Price and availability
Samsung says that the Galaxy Tab S9 FE series start at $450, which is a good target to be at to because it’s a far more agreeable price than the $800 starting cost of the Galaxy Tab S9. It's also substantially easier on the pockets than the $1,199 priced Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra. At the same time, I feel that the $500 range is the perfect spot for a tablet given how consumers may turn to laptops once that $1,000 threshold is reached.
The starting price of the Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ has yet to be disclosed, but considering how it’s a larger tablet with slightly beefier specs and more cameras, I think an additional $200 premium would be a strong possibility.
Both these tablets will go on sale starting on October 10 through Samsung and select retailers. The Galaxy Tab S9 FE and S9 FE+ will be available in both 128GB and 256GB storage options, with four colors to choose from (gray, silver, lavender, and mint).
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE hands-on: Specifications
|Header Cell - Column 0||Galaxy Tab S9 FE||Galaxy Tab S9 FE+|
|CPU||Exynos 1380||Exynos 1380|
|Display||10.9-inch WUXGA+ (2,304 x 1,440) LCD||12.4-inchWXGA (2,560 x 1,600) LCD|
|RAM||6GB, 8GB||8GB, 12GB|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB||128GB, 256GB|
|Ports||USB-C, microSD||USB-C, microSD|
|Accessories||S Pen stylus included||S Pen stylus included|
|Dimensions||10.01 x 6.53 x 0.26-inches||11.24 x 7.3 x 0.26-inches|
|Weight||1.15 pounds||1.38 pounds|
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE hands-on: Design
The same striking thin and light design I previously saw with the Galaxy Tab S9 is once again present here with the Galaxy Tab S9 FE — complete with those antenna lines on the back of the tablet. There’s definitely a premium feel that I like about it, and its design is boosted by its IP68 water resistant construction, AKG tuned speakers with Dolby Atmos support, and most notably, the inclusion of the S Pen.
That’s swell because it’s not an optional purchase that buyers need to mull over, unlike the iPad Air — the Apple Pencil incurs an additional $129 cost. The S Pen magnetically fastens to the back of the Galaxy Tab S9 FE, but I would be mindful about it because a good jolt can easily knock it off its perch. The S Pen certainly adds an additional layer of utility over other tablets, since it can be used to take notes, screen shots, and doodle on PDF files.
The only complaint I have with the design relates to the sharp edges, which become instantly noticeably holding it in the hand. I just wish that they were contoured a bit more, but at least the overall build quality feels nice and durable. Weighing in at 1.15 pounds, it’s a smidge heavier than the 1.02 pounds that the iPad Air (5th Gen) tips the scales in at — but it’s still incredibly lightweight for its size.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE hands-on: Display
The Galaxy Tab S9 FE features a 10.9-inch WUXGA+ (2,304 x 1,440) LCD display , while the Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ has a larger 12.4-inchWXGA (2,560 x 1,600) LCD panel — with both having adaptive refresh rates of up to 90Hz.
These displays don’t have the same vibrancy or wide viewing angles as the AMOLED screens in the rest of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S9 series, but that’s the compromise to reach its more modest price point. At the bare minimum, I found it decent enough to enjoy a quick movie trailer. Of course, the display doesn’t reach that deep black tone I’m accustomed to seeing with AMOLED panels, but everything else was detailed enough to enjoy.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE hands-on: Camera
Dual cameras may be the de facto standard for today’s mid-range devices, but the Galaxy Tab S9 FE turns out to have a single one — an 8MP camera perched along one corner on the back. I didn’t spend a whole time checking it out, and quite frankly, tablets are my last resort for snapping photos. If you insist on using a tablet to capture photos, then I’d recommend the Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ because of its 8MP main and 8MP ultrawide lens pairing.
I typically don’t have high photographic expectations from tablets, but I hope that they can at least capture decent snapshots when the conditions are ideal. Over on the other side, there’s a 12MP ultrawide front-facing camera that I suspect should do nicely for video chatting.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE hands-on: Software
Above all, I think it’s the software that makes the Galaxy Tab S9 FE so appealing — seeing that it does a whole lot more than your average tablet. Running Samsung’s One UI interface on top of Android 13, I like how it's built with power users in mind with its various multitasking features that can run apps simultaneously. Throw in all the added features of the S Pen, it really diversifies the Galaxy Tab S9 FE’s utility.
Everyone knows my affinity for Samsung DeX, mainly because it’s like carrying a desktop computer with me anywhere by connecting it to a monitor via USB-C and connecting a wireless mouse and keyboard to it. Samsung also showed off the optional Book Cover Keyboard, which effectively transforms the table into a laptop with the help of DeX. It’s a setup I wouldn’t mind using as a daily driver, but you’ll have to shell out $200 to pick it up — which still places the tablet at $650.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE hands-on: Performance
In my short time checking out these tablets, the Samsung Exynos 1380 chip powering the Galaxy Tab S9 FE seemed capable — albeit, I really wasn’t pushing it to its limit with the web surfing I was doing on the tablet. I’m not yet convinced it’s going to be a powerhouse like the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra, which benefits from a beefier Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip.
Despite this, I imagine that most basic tasks such as multitasking between your favorite apps should be fine on the Galaxy Tab S9 FE. Other processor intensive stuff, such as video editing or gaming, could potentially cause some hiccups.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE hands-on: Battery
Even with its 0.26-inch thin chassis, Samsung is able to stuff a 8,000 mAh battery inside the Galaxy Tab S9 FE. It’s nowhere close in size to the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra’s massive 11,200 mMAh battery, so I hope it’s power efficient enough to get a decent battery life with Tom’s Guide’s battery benchmark test. It would need to last roughly 10 hours if it stands any chance of matching the iPad Air 2022’s clocked time.
On the flip side, recharge times are supposedly super fast, as Samsung claims that the Galaxy Tab S9 FE can reach a full charge in less than an hour with a 45W charger. If that claim holds up, then it would easily beat the iPad Air (2022) based on our previous testing.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE hands-on: Outlook
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE represents a potentially new opportunity for the company. Even though it’s technically not groundbreaking for a tablet, I think there’s a combination of things going on here that merits applause.
For starters, the $450 starting cost is aggressive — giving it the fair amount of separation between the Galaxy Tab A-series and Galaxy Tab S9 series. The Tab S9 FE is positioned right in the middle, but it undeniably packs a lot of value because of its premium design, S Pen inclusion, and DeX functionality. The Galaxy Tab S9 FE can’t be overlooked, especially if it ends up producing amazing results with our testing.