The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra ($1,199 to start) is the ultimate Samsung tablet for those who absolutely need a ginormous slate.
Like its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, this year’s model features a gorgeous 14.6-inch OLED display, an ultra-slim svelte design and plenty of power thanks to its speedy Snapdragon 8 processor. If you’re ingrained in the Samsung ecosystem and need a tablet with laptop-like functionality, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra should serve you well.
Of course, Samsung’s monstrous tablet isn’t flawless. While you can use it as a laptop when it’s paired with the Samsung Book Cover Keyboard, the accessory adds an extra $349 cost to an already pricey $1,200 machine. And while the Tab S9 Ultra is a light 1.6 pounds, its large size can make it cumbersome to use when compared to a smaller tablet.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra might not be a perfect device, but it’s still one of the best Android tablets and overall best tablets we’ve reviewed thanks to its beautiful OLED display and fantastic performance. In my review, I’ll go over everything the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra has to offer. Is this the right tablet for you? Read on to find out.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Specs
|Header Cell - Column 0||Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra (starting)|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2|
|Display||14.6-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X (60-120Hz)|
|Connectivity||5G, LTE , Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3|
|Accessories||S Pen stylus included|
|Dimensions||12.85 x 8.21 x 0.22 inches|
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Price and release date
- Starts at $1,199
- $650 discount w trade-in
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is now available to pre-order starting at $1,199, with availability starting August 11. The entry-level model we reviewed packs 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM, but you can pay more to configure the tablet with up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. All configurations come in your choice of beige or graphite.
At time of publication, Samsung is offering up to $650 off any Galaxy Tab S9 tablet with an eligible trade-in. You'll also get 50% off the purchase of a Book Cover Keyboard Slim when pre-ordering any of the Tab S9 tablets. In addition, you'll receive $40 off a pair of Galaxy Buds2 Pro when pre-ordering any of the Galaxy Tab S9 slates on Samsung's website or through the Shop Samsung App.
Price-wise, the new tablet costs $100 more than last year's Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, a meaningful but not egregious price bump. (For more ways to save at Samsung, check out our guide to the best Samsung promo codes).
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Design
- Sturdy chassis
- Slim and lightweight
Like the Tab S8 Ultra, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is a gargantuan tablet that literally overshadows its competitors. Even though it’s big at 12.85 x 8.21 x 0.22 inches, the slate only weighs 1.6 pounds. That’s relatively light, but due to the tablet’s unwieldy size, you’ll need to use two hands to hold it. Its size is both a strength and a weakness in that regard.
Power and volume buttons rest along the slate’s right side (when held vertically). You’ll also find a microSD card slot near the bottom right side. On the back, there are two rear-facing cameras and a magnetic strip to hold and charge the included S pen. The quad speakers inside fire out through grilles along the tablet’s sides, where you’ll also find the single USB-C port. Unfortunately, there’s no headphone jack.
All Galaxy Tab S9 tablets have an IP68 waterproof rating and are more dust resistant than last year’s Galaxy Tab S8 slates. If you’re into using tablets by the pool or at a beach, this is a nice upgrade over last year’s model that gives you less cause to worry about damaging the device.
The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is just as big and imposing as its predecessor. Even if its design is virtually identical to what came before, this is still an impressive-looking tablet that’ll draw attention — whether you want it or not. Size-wise, Samsung’s enormous tablet earns its “Ultra” moniker.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Display
- Huge 14.6-inch OLED display
- Bright and colorful
The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra’s expansive display is its main selling point and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in that area. As before, its vivid 14.6-inch (2,960 x 1,848 pixels) AMOLED display delivers stunning picture quality that makes videos and games look spectacular. The 120Hz refresh rate helps videos run smoothly. If you want to conserve battery, you can lock the refresh rate to 60Hz.
I found the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra’s display sufficiently bright and colorful when watching a 4K nature video on YouTube about birds. Black levels were excellent, which served to heighten the colors on the birds’ feathers. When playing Genshin Impact, I was impressed by the vibrant colors and sharp textures of the game’s environments.
There are two color modes: Natural and Vivid. As their respective names imply, the former delivers more naturalistic colors while the latter pushes out bold, oversaturated hues. I preferred Natural for videos and books, while video games and comics appeared more striking with Vivid. Of course, those are just my preferences.
When we got the Tab S9 Ultra into our testing lab and pointed our Klein 10-A colorimeter at it, we found its display does a good job of reproducing colors. In Natural mode, the display achieved 117.7% of the sRGB color gamut and 83.4% of the more demanding DCI-P3 color space (100% is most accurate, higher normally means more saturated colors) with a Delta-E score of 0.17 (closer to 0 is better). In Vivid mode, the display achieved 181.7% / 128.7 % / 0.18, respectively.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra||Lenovo Tab Extreme||iPad Pro (2022)|
|Nits (brightness)||592 (adaptive)||453 (HDR)||591 (adaptive)|
The Tab S9 Ultra’s display gets decently bright, especially when displaying HDR content. With adaptive brightness off, the display averaged 328 nits of brightness. Flipping adaptive brightness on bumps that to 592 nits of brightness. The tablet’s screen got as high as 834 nits of brightness when displaying HDR content on 10% of the display and 878 nits of brightness for 40% of the screen (765 nits for 100%).
How do these values compare to the competition? As the table above shows, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra and iPad Pro 2022 are the most similar across the board, though Apple’s premium tablet can get significantly brighter with HDR content — reaching as high as 1,577 nits of brightness across 40% of the screen. In its Natural mode, the Lenovo Tab Extreme isn’t as bright as Samsung or Apple’s slates, but it delivers more saturated colors. Lenovo’s tablet is also less color-accurate, as seen by its higher Delta-E score.
Overall, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra delivers solid picture quality all around. It’s arguably the best tablet for viewing videos thanks to its display quality and size.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Performance
- Fast Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor
- Great for gaming
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and runs on Android 13. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra feature the same chip and operating system. Our Tab S9 Ultra review unit, which is the same as the entry-level model, came with 12GB of RAM. Thanks to that and the speedy Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, the giant tablet performs beautifully for an Android device.
The tablet’s performance never noticeably slowed down, even when I had upward of twenty open tabs and apps. Genshin Impact, which is one of the most graphically demanding games for mobile devices, ran buttery smooth for the most part — though its resolution would sometimes dip to maintain consistent performance. Minor issues aside, I found the Tab S9 Ultra performed well during my qualitative testing. It’s noticeably faster than the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra||Lenovo Tab Extreme||iPad Pro (2022)|
|Processor||Snapdragon 8 Gen 2||Apple M2||MediaTek Dimensity 9000|
|Geekbench 5 single-core CPU||1,560||1,862||1,202|
|Geekbench 5 multi-core CPU||4,970||8,500||3,791|
|3DMark Wild Life Unlimited||14,722||25,219||8,845|
|Adobe Premiere Rush||0:41||0:23||N/A|
On the Geekbench 5 CPU benchmark, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra scored 1,560 on single-core and 4,970 on multi-core — both of which are commendable scores. As you can see above, Samsung’s tablet outstripped the MediaTek Dimensity 9000-powered Lenovo Tab Extreme (1,202 / 3,791). However, the Apple M2-driven iPad Pro (1,862 / 8,500) crushed both Android tablets in CPU performance.
The Tab S9 Ultra scored 14,722 and hit 88 frames per second on the 3D Mark Wildlife Unlimited test, which measures graphics performance. In comparison, the Lenovo Tab Extreme scored 8,845 and hit 55 frames per second. The iPad Pro once again crushed the Android slates by scoring 25,219 and hitting 151 fps. Though Apple’s tablet outdid the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra on this test, Samsung’s slate is very much capable of running demanding mobile games.
Lastly, in our Adobe Premiere Rush video transcoding test, the Galaxy Tab S9 took 41 seconds to complete the task. That’s pretty good, but the iPad Pro handled the task in a zippier 23 seconds.
Even if the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra can’t match the M2-driven iPad Pro in performance, Samsung’s tablet is still one of the most powerful Android tablets we’ve tested.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Audio
- Louder speakers than Tab S8 Ultra
- Great for podcasts but not music
The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra boasts speakers that are 20% larger than its predecessor. The tablet can get much louder and delivers more bass, but to my ears, the overall sound quality is on par with last year’s tablet — for good and ill.
The four speakers are perfect for dialogue-focused programs like Hot Ones or Waveform. However, my ears weren’t happy when listening to Trivium’s “Like Light to Flies” or Dream Theater’s “As I Am” due to how garbled and tinny the songs sounded at max volume. To be fair, music sounds decent at half-volume, but I still wish the speakers were better for listening to my favorite tunes.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Software
- Snappy Android 13 interface
- Dex mode still needs work
The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra comes pre-installed with Android 13. While this latest version of Android doesn’t introduce as many new features as Android 12, I found it snappier and more responsive than the previous version. I shared the same sentiment in my OnePlus Pad review. That’s not to say Android is now on par with iPadOS 16, but it’s a marked improvement in terms of performance.
As expected, you’ll find a smorgasbord of Samsung apps on this Samsung tablet. If you’re entrenched in the company’s ecosystem, you might find these apps useful. However, if you’re like me and use Google’s apps for most things, Samsung’s software only serves to take up space on the apps section.
On the subject of software, the most notable feature here is DeX mode. DeX mode readjusts and repositions apps and windows to make a tablet or phone display look more like a desktop or proper laptop.
Superficially, DeX mode appears to work as intended since it makes using the tablet feel more like a laptop — especially when paired with the Book Cover Keyboard. While DeX mode is more responsive on this tablet than it was on the Tab S8 Ultra, it’s still a poor imitation of Windows 11 in terms of overall functionality. I was very aware I was using mobile versions of apps like Google Docs and YouTube instead of their respective laptop/desktop counterparts.
If you’re patient, I’m sure you can make peace with DeX mode to use the Tab S9 Ultra as a laptop. As someone who reviews laptops for a living, I’ll say you’re better off with a real laptop instead.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Accessories
- S Pen more tactile than before
- Book Cover Keyboard still too flimsy
The included S Pen is a handy tool if you like taking notes or drawing on tablets. Like the entire Tab S9 line, this updated version of the pen is dust and water-resistant, which should give you some piece of mind when using the stylus outdoors. I noticed more pencil-to-paper-like tactile feedback when using the pen on this tablet compared to the previous version, which is nice.
While the S Pen received some improvements, the same isn’t true about the Book Cover Keyboard you can purchase separately. This pricey $349 accessory is all but required if you want to use the Tab S9 Ultra like a laptop. I wish Samsung would have updated the peripheral to make it more akin to the equally priced Apple Magic Keyboard. Unfortunately, my wish wasn’t granted as this is virtually the same Book Cover Keyboard we got before, complete with all its flaws.
As before, this keyboard accessory is extremely flimsy when compared to the Apple Magic Keyboard. Thanks to the thin kickstand and the tablet’s large size, it’s not easy propping the tablet up — not unless you set the stand at a steep angle. I’d forgive this kickstand’s finicky nature if the keyboard accessory was cheaper, but I can’t let this slide given the lofty $349 price tag.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Cameras
- Sharp rear and front cameras
The Tab S9 Ultra has a pair of 12MP UW (ultra-wide) front-facing cameras along with a 13MP and 6MP UW camera on the back. All of these cameras can record video up to 4K resolution and at 60 frames per second.
As you can see from the image above, the rear cameras deliver sharp and vibrant images. All the images in the background are clearly discernable, and you have to zoom in pretty close before you start seeing noticeable grain. I took the photo below with the front-facing cameras, which did a good job of capturing all the wrinkles in my un-ironed shirt.
I’m not one to use tablets for taking photos, but if you’re inclined to do so, you won’t be disappointed by the results. And if you want to join a video call, the front-facing cameras won’t make you look terrible.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Battery life and charging
- Decent battery life
- Charges slow
The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra has decent battery life. In our battery test, which tasks the tablet with endlessly surfing the Internet over Wi-Fi with its screen set to 150 nits of brightness, the Tab S9 Ultra lasted for 9 hours and 27 minutes at a 60Hz refresh rate. That’s 20 minutes shorter than its predecessor if you’re curious.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Time (min:secs)|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra||9:27|
|Lenovo Tab Extreme||9:28|
|iPad Pro (2022)||10:37|
The Lenovo Tab Extreme lasted for a minute longer at 60Hz (as seen above), but the iPad Pro lasted for over an hour longer — though it has a smaller display and runs on the energy-efficient Apple M2 chip.
Per our charging speed test using the tablet’s included 45W charger, the Tab S9 Ultra charged up to 14% in 15 minutes and 28% in 30 minutes. That’s lower than the Tab S8, which charged up to 15% in 20 minutes and 41% in 30 minutes.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Verdict
One of the big things (pun intended) that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra had going for it was that it was the first “Ultra” tablet in the Galaxy Tab S lineup. Because of that, the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra isn’t as exciting. Perhaps that’s unfair to say given how it’s objectively a great tablet with a vivid display, speedy performance and laptop-esque usability. But if you already own the Tab S8 Ultra, it’s difficult for me to recommend this tablet to you.
So who is the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra for? Like I said above, if you’re into Samsung devices and need a tablet that can double as a laptop, the Tab S9 Ultra is a more affordable alternative to the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra. Just be aware that DeX mode isn’t as intuitive as Windows 11. But if you’re an artist who needs a larger canvas for drawing or just want a big tablet for watching videos, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is worth considering.
If the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra isn’t to your liking, I’d recommend the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Not only is it $100 cheaper, but it offers better performance and is compatible with Apple devices. The $999 Microsoft Surface Pro 9 is another solid alternative if you prefer Windows. If you want an actual laptop, the $1,099 13-inch MacBook Air M2 is hard to top in terms of both performance and price. The $1,069 Acer Swift X can’t match the MacBook Air, but it’s a reliable Windows laptop that won’t hurt your wallet.