It's not long until we expect to see the debut of the Samsung Galaxy S22. The Galaxy Unpacked event that's been confirmed for February will be one of the biggest launches of the year, but as much as I'll be paying attention for S22 news, I'll be much more interested in hearing about the Galaxy Tab S8 lineup.
I like the look of the Galaxy S22's upgrades, but I predict I'll be distracted by Tab S8 more if it does appear at the same event as rumored, and in particular the new top model, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. This is a tablet the likes of which we've not really seen before, and it could mark the opening of a new category if it catches on.
First off, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is larger than any tablet we've seen before. At 14.6 inches, it has over an inch and a half on the already large 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It's even larger than the displays of some laptops, yet it's supposed to be both lighter and thinner than the iPad Pro.
Plus, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra's display is thought to be a bright and efficient AMOLED panel. That should give the Tab S8 Ultra a big advantage over other similar tablets, if not the mini-LED iPad Pro, although the Tab S8 Ultra's resolution will apparently not match up to Apple's premium tablet.
Samsung's also said to be equipping the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra with dual 12MP front cameras in a notch, again something we've not seen on tablets before. The main/ultrawide combination could probably use some special features though, perhaps something like to the iPad line's Center Stage, to make its invasion of the display area worthwhile.
The Tab S8 Ultra shouldn't be wanting for computing power either. With either the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, or possibly Samsung's Exynos 2200 depending on which rumors you read, you won't find a better chip in any Android device. Now these are not going to deliver similar performance to the laptop/desktop computer-grade Apple M1 chip Apple uses in the iPad Pro, but the Tab S8 Ultra should easily be the fastest Android tablet yet.
While it'll apparently be sharing the same chipset as the other Tab S8 models, you can expect an extra large amount of memory in the Tab S8 Ultra. The rumors say up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB storage. Plus you will probably still get a Samsung S Pen stylus in the box like with previous Tab S-series tablets, giving you one of the top accessories for any premium tablet without extra payment. Apple charges $129 for the Apple Pencil 2.
The final noteworthy rumored spec is an 11,200 mAh battery. That would be suitably large given the size of the tablet and would be about 5% larger than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's battery. Hopefully this huge capacity will mean you still get a long battery life, even with that enormous display.
All together, these rumored specs could add up to a monstrously capable tablet, even compared to the already well-specced tablets already on sale. And it's this difference that's caught my attention. The Galaxy S22, S22 Plus and S22 Ultra, while poised to be better than last year's equivalents, would still inhabit familiar classes and price bands to the past few years of smartphones. There's nothing like the rumored Tab S8 Ultra that you can currently buy.
And this is where we come to the ultimate question for the Tab S8 Ultra: will anyone want a tablet like this? The success of the Galaxy Tab S7, and even more so the iPad Pro, shows there's an appetite for big and powerful tablets, but we don't know if there's a limit for what consumers want from their slates. Are a new wave of super high-end tablets poised to take over from laptops? Or will the increased practicality of laptops mean they'll always be a better purchase than a tablet for most people, no matter how good the specs are?
In some ways the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, as rumored, is a pretty obvious thing for Samsung to develop since it introduced the Ultra suffix with the Galaxy S20 Ultra in 2020. However, unlike its Ultra phones, there seems to be more space for Samsung to make serious noise with an Ultra tablet.
Faced with the current 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and with a rumored 15-inch iPad Pro in development, Samsung has a high bar to clear. But Samsung already makes the best iPad rivals around. So if anyone is capable of challenging the iPad Pro with a tablet — and maybe laptops, too — it'll be Samsung.