Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is a good tablet that should have cost less
If there is one brand that is as aggressive as Apple in the tablets market, it is Samsung. While Google may have given up on its iPad-rival Pixel tablets, Samsung is relentlessly finding ways to reinvent how an Android tablet should ideally work. Last year, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab gave us a glimpse to that idea with the DeX Mode. This year, it launched two tablets to expand the series with Galaxy Tab S5e and a watered-down version called Galaxy Tab A 10.5 – both taking one step forward with the DeX mode. I have been using the former – Samsung’s premium one this year – for some time. Here’s what I think about spending Rs 35,999 for its Wi-Fi only variant and Rs 39,999 for the Wi-Fi +LTE variant.
Galaxy Tab S5e is quite a looker – it has got a hint of the modern design that Apple is moving ahead with for its iPads. It also sheds the image of bulky, somewhat ugly-looking tablets. Samsung claims it is its slimmest tablet and it undoubtedly is. Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is just 5.5mm thick, which is something worth pointing out. At 400 grams, the tablet is portable and does not require much space for itself. The back of the smartphone has a metal finish that looks decent, although it does not really render the premium feel. It’s essentially a no-frills design where each element is just rightly placed. The power button on the Galaxy Tab S5e mounts the fingerprint sensor, which I found quite handy, especially when face unlock doesn’t work sometimes.
There is no 3.5mm port but Samsung has bundled a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle. Frankly, I never needed to plug in a headphone to my tablet for I was either listening to music via the built-in speakers or via Galaxy Buds, which pairs with the tablet seamlessly. Talking about the speakers, there are four of them – two on each side, tuned by AKG and certified by Dolby. Listening to movie audio or music is a sheer bliss on this tablet. I could hear those subtle audio cues while watching Stranger Things Season 3, thanks to the wide sound stage of Galaxy Tab S5e. Since Dolby powers the audio output, coupled with AKG technology, I have no complaints in the sound department.
A tablet is essentially a tablet because it has a larger screen real estate. Samsung has made a few changes to that real estate. It has trimmed down the bezels to cram a reasonable large, 10.5-inch specifically, display into a not-so-large tablet. The equal proportion of bezels on all four sides gives the idea of harmony, which I personally like. Moving to the display’s performance, Samsung is famous for its super-rich, vibrant SAMOLED displays and the one on Galaxy Tab S5e is no different. The resolution on the 10.5-inch SAMOLED display maxes out at 2560×1600 pixels, which is impressively high. The display corners are rounded, giving the tablet a modern look.
Watching movies on the Galaxy Tab S5e is a pleasant experience. I watched four episodes of Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 3, only to be impressed by the display’s dynamic range. The colours produced by the display are vibrant, showing a striking contrast between cool and hot hues, but quite artificial sometimes. I changed the display settings to natural, because I am not a fan of oversaturated colours. That being said, I missed HDR on the display, which is a turnoff for a tablet in this price range. With the increase in HDR and HDR10 content on streaming platforms, it becomes quintessential for devices to support the technology, at least for an asking price of Rs 35,999 and above.
Browsing the Web on Galaxy Tab S5e is a decent experience, although it could have been better, in my opinion. In the tablet mode, there is a jelly effect visible when scrolling a webpage, which could induce minute strain in eyes. The screen gets bright enough under direct sunlight to allow proper legibility, which is good. Summing up my views on the display – it’s good if not the best but could have been better.
You also get a 13-megapixel main f/2.0 camera and an 8-megapixel front camera with f/2.0 aperture. As much as I would like to talk about the cameras, which I found quite decent in terms of performance, it’s not relevant because they are on a tablet. It would seem oddly bizarre for me to hold a tablet and moonlight as a photographer. But, hey, you can video chat with the cameras, when not opening the cameras and snapping people and things listlessly. One more thing I’d like to point out – the face unlocking on Galaxy Tab is something I have a gripe about. It’s hit or miss – in the portrait mode, it would work fine in one go but start acting up if you change the orientation.
With Galaxy Tab S5e, Samsung is pushing the DeX mode which is, well, still half-baked. However productive Android as a mobile platform may become, it has miles to go in the ‘tablet-land’. Honestly speaking, DeX is essentially Samsung answering to its own questions that it may have reserved for Google for its carelessness. Google never really amped up Android’s tablet version, which has evidently marred the market share its rally against iPad. But, bygones be bygones, Samsung is trying to emulate the experience delivered by iPad with DeX.
DeX would transform your Android tablet into a portable desktop machine, nearly. Most things such as browsers opening the desktop versions of websites, resizable app windows, larger layout of apps, and position of status bar work just fine. I enjoyed the experience till I started installing more apps and tinkered around with them to attain that ‘desktop experience’ that Samsung is so optimistic about.
Good things first, working with multiple windows is seamless; drag and drop works meticulously, implementation of DeX as a desktop substitute is on spot. Now, the bad things. There are not a lot of apps that support multi-window, which minimises productivity on DeX mode. Samsung does let you enable the force-resizing of windows in DeX Labs, but that’s a pointless effort in the wrong direction. I did force-resize the windows, only to find them distorted sometimes. However, a few apps, for example Netflix, work just fine.
There is 4GB of RAM on the Galaxy Tab S5e model in India (there’s another 6GB RAM variant for other markets), which is nightmarish for the desktop-like results you would expect in DeX mode. At any given point in time, I could not juggle between app windows without waiting for them to restart, thanks to overconsumption of memory. I’m not blaming Samsung but Android here. Even though some entry-level laptops come with as less as 4GB of RAM, they are optimised to deliver a performance that comprises handling of concurrent apps.
I used the Galaxy Tab S5e as my laptop replacement for some time (my laptop’s motherboard got fried and had to be serviced). I was expecting a reasonably good performance, if not on par with a laptop. Normally, I would cram as many as 8 tabs on Chrome on my laptop – something I missed doing on the tablet. Chrome browser on Galaxy Tab S5e cannot retain more than two tabs simultaneously. But I was still hopeful, largely because Chrome is a memory-hogging browser. I switched to Samsung Internet Browser, only to find the same, unsatisfactory response. Listening to music on Spotify or YouTube Music at this junction is entirely out of question.
There’s another quibble – the keyboard. As much as I would want Samsung to make its keyboard compatible for all the tablets out there, owing to its excellent actuation feedback and key travel, its implementation for Galaxy Tab S5e is what disappoints me. The keyboard connects to the tablet via magnet POGO pins in the landscape mode but this mechanism seems impetuous. Sometimes when I would hunch while clanking on the keyboard resting on my lap, the tablet would lose connection to the keyboard, blatantly popping up the on-screen keyboard in the middle of my work. Even when I’m not rushing to finish article, Galaxy Tab S5e would randomly drop connection for the physical keyboard.
The keyboard is short of resting angles for the tablet, so I had to settle down for one viewing angle while making bodily adjustments. Another instance where the implementation seems shoddy is when the tablet won’t turn off the screen when closing the keyboard cover. I had to press the power button every time to power off the screen. It was an underwhelming experience, overall.
But, in the native Android mode, Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e works quite well, thanks to Snapdragon 670 processor. It supports all the apps, lets me make calls, text, and work on documents (as I would do on an Android smartphone) without a glitch. Switching between DeX mode and tablet mode is quite easy too – the opened apps stay in memory and resume in either mode. Samsung told me that Galaxy Tab S5e is a perfect device to play games such as PUBG Mobile. Well, I tried, tried again, and finally gave up. Visually, PUBG Mobile looks rad on the tablet but it became unwieldy for me to keep playing a game that needs immediate responses when I’m struggling to reach the controls on screen.
Galaxy Tab S5e comes with a 7040mAh battery, which is impressive for a device with a SAMOLED display. The tablet gave me a battery life of about 20 hours on a single charge. It supports fast charging and takes about 2.5 – 3 hours to entirely fill up the battery.
So, should you buy the Galaxy Tab S5e? I will say yes and no. Yes, for an excellent display, decent performance, impressive sound, and a trendy design. No, for DeX mode, keyboard implementation, and Android (at large). Is it worth the price? Not, really. You can get a good laptop for this money that can do things a lot better than Galaxy Tab S5e. Also, the sixth-generation iPad 9.7-inch is available for Rs 26,999, so you may as well go for it. But, it’s the most complete Android tablet that has the audacity to wrest iPad buyers.