How Samsung's Super AMOLED Galaxy Tab S Stands Against The iPad Air

Samsung launched on Thursday perhaps the most direct competitor to the iPad we've seen yet. In fact, the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S comes in a larger and smaller size too, just like its Apple counterpart.

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On Thursday, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Tab S, calling it its new flagship tablet, at an event in New York City. It comes in two sizes: 8.4 and 10.5 inches.

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Samsung has announced a new tablet family that presents a marked departure from the parade of mostly forgettable slates that the company has been pumping out the past few years. The company unveiled the Galaxy Tab S line of devices at a special event in NYC. Available in July, the Tab S comes in both 8.4 ($399) and 10.5-inch ($499) flavors in white and titanium bronze finishes with LTE-equipped models in the pipeline.

The Galaxy Tab S boasts a high-res SuperAMOLED display with 2,560 x 1,600 resolution — rivaling even the iPad's "retina" display

Samsung says its screen technology gives better color and deeper contrast while consuming less power than the LCD displays in most tablets. Until now, Samsung has kept SuperAMOLED displays only in phones.

It has adaptive settings that change based on what kind of activity you’re doing on the tablet, much like many modern TVs, and will offer richer color rendering, better contrast and viewing angles, deeper blacks and more pure whites overall. Screen resolution is a whopping 2560×1600, which means that it can output better-than-HD-quality content, and it’ll do things like soften the intensity of the screen for reading while pumping it back up for blockbuster movies.

To optimize the viewing experience, Samsung equipped the Tab S with an adaptive display, which will change the white balance of the tablet based on the ambient light. The screen also has less reflectivity in bright sunlight.

Along with the stunning new screen, both Tab S tablets are just 6.6mm thin — thinner than the iPad Air

The device is only 6.6mm thick (the iPad mini is 7.5mm for comparison) and the 8.4-inch version weighs only 10 ounces, while the 10.5-inch version doesn’t tip the scales too much more at 11 ounces total.

Other new hardware features include a built-in fingerprint scanner that can support up to three fingerprints per user and PayPal-facilitated mobile payments, as well as an 8 megapixel camera on the back and a 2.1 megapixel front-facing shooter for video chats.

The processor is a 1.9GHz quad + 1.3GHz quad octa-core Samsung Exynos 5 processor, and there are 3GB of RAM on board. The tablets have 16GB of built-in storage, and boast up to 128GB of additional capacity via micro SD cards. Special accessories include the new Simple and Book Covers, which click into new button-style clicker fasteners on the tabs themselves.

Here we compare 10.5in Tab S with iPad Air to see if Samsung has produced a tablet worth your money

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Galaxy Tab S vs iPad Air: Design

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The Galaxy Tab S is a slim, sleek, lightweight tablet and at just 6.6mm it is thinner than the iPad Air (7.5mm) and at 465g is 4g lighter than Apple's big tablet. The iPad Air certainly feels more premium with its all-metal chassis, but the Galaxy Tab S is not too far behind, eschewing the plastic feel of other Samsung tablets. The dimpled rear on the Galaxy Tab S won't be to everyone's taste, but it offers something different to Apple's polished metal finish.

Galaxy Tab S vs iPad Air: Screen

The Galaxy Tab S screen has a resolution of 2560 x 1600, giving it a pixel density of 287 pixels per inch (ppi) which is slightly higher than the 264ppi on the iPad. Of course that's not the only difference in the screens. First up is size - the Galaxy Tab S has a 10.4in screen while the iPad Air has a 9.7in screen. Next is aspect ratio. The iPad Air's screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio while the Galaxy Tab S has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which Samsung says is more conducive to watching videos.

Finally, Samsung says its screen, which it claims is the "world's greatest tablet screen", can reproduce 97% of the Adobe RGB colour coverage, whereas the Retina display on the iPad can only manage around 70%. Side by side, the iPad screen does look somewhat washed-out though the Samsung screen does look almost too vibrant.

Galaxy Tab S vs iPad Air: Hardware

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In terms of hardware, the Galaxy Tab S comes with Samsung's powerful Octa-core Exynos 5 processor which is backed with 3GB of RAM. There are 16GB and 32GB versions and a microSD card slot lets you add up to 128GB more. The Galaxy Tab also has a fingerprint scanner, support for the faster Wi-Fi AC standard and there is a 4G version available.

The iPad Air features Apple's latest A7 chip along with the M7 co-processor to help power efficiency, and the tablet is available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB versions but there is of course no microSD card slot. Apple has yet to bring the iPhone's fingerprint scanner to the iPad and there is no Wi-Fi AC support. There is however 4G versions available. Battery life on the iPad is around 10 hours and Samsung is claiming something similar for the Galaxy Tab S.

Galaxy Tab S vs iPad Air: Software

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The Galaxy Tab S runs Android 4.4 (KitKat) which has been heavily skinned with Samsung's own TouchWiz interface which many don't like, but which has been improved on in the last 12 months. As well as the huge amount of interface tweaks made by Samsung, the company has also added tablet specific content including football-focused app Kick, the Flipboard-like Papergarden service as well as content from Marvel comics and a specially built version of the Kindle app. There is also a children's mode and a multi-user feature. Apple's iPad Air of course runs iOS 7 and will be updated to iOS 8 sometime this autumn. As well as meaning great performance, iOS also has a huge amount of tablet specific apps unlike Android.

Galaxy Tab S vs iPad Air: Price

The Galaxy Tab S will cost USD761 when it launches on 4 July for the 16GB version. The 16GB iPad Air costs costs USD676. The iPad Air with 4G costs USD847 and Samsung said Galaxy Tab S customers can expect a similar price increase for the 4G version meaning a price of around USD932.

Galaxy Tab S vs iPad Air: Which to buy?

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This will come down to personal choice at the end of the day, but Samsung has finally given consumers something to think about. The iPad Air is slightly cheaper, has a much better array of tablet-focused apps available and uses more premium materials. On the other hand, the Galaxy Tab S is slimmer, lighter and has a sharper screen than Apple's tablet and if you like your screens bright and vibrant, then this is the tablet for you - though it will cost you a little bit more.

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