Quick Look: iPad Air 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5


When it rains, it pours. And I had the opportunity to enjoy a few days with the iPad Air 2 alongside the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5. Both are fantabulous ultrathin 10ish inch tablets… that go about things in different ways. The Samsung does more, way more. But what Apple does, it mostly does better.

On the hardware front, the mobile market leaders have taken divergent approaches. As with most Apple industrial design, the iPad Air 2 takes a minimalist approach with an exceedingly uniform metallic exterior marred by very few sensors and buttons. And while the Apple is unquestionably beautiful, Samsung’s textured plastic back provides a more secure caseless grip and, at least psychologically, feels more rugged… despite the more pronounced seam. Also I have a feeling most won’t be bothered by the  SD card door, given its vast and economical utility. Related, no one will fault Samsung for disrupting the back with a camera flash or the bezel with IR emitter. But I imagine the two button anchors on the rear will largely go unused as folks seek out other case/cover solutions than the official Samsung wrap-around, clip-in offering. At the end of the day, both are a pleasure to hold and look sharp.

However, the stunning thinness of these tablets (0.61 – 0.66″) does result is some compromise. First, what sort of battery life improvements could we see from something slightly bulkier… and would it be worth the trade? More concerning, the Galaxy Tab S does away with one of Samsung’s most compelling features in forgoing the screen digitizer, S Pen, and related interaction — something that unequivocally sets many of their tablets and phones apart from the iPad … and most other Androids. Lastly, and possibly also related to tablet thickness and materials, the caseless iPad Air 2 rear very noticeably and annoyingly vibrates when emitting audio while watching video or streaming music.

When it comes to software, most have already chosen sides. Those deep into Apple’s ecosystem will prefer iOS and the iPad Air 2, while those who prefer the greater flexibility of Android, and can tolerate the increased micromanagement that comes with it, should prefer the Galaxy Tab S. Having said that, it’s far, far easier to embrace Google services on Apple devices than vice versa. Beyond general allegiances, Android and the Tab 2 offer support for multiple users and split screen multitasking — valuable features not currently available within iOS. But the split screen can be unpredictable in rendering and support, so it’s not quite the slam dunk it could be. In terms of performance, both feel sprightly and the iPad finally has sufficient memory (2GB) to keep a number of browser tabs running simultaneously … without pausing for a reload.

18 thoughts on “Quick Look: iPad Air 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5”

  1. Other thoughts – The iPad Air 2 has ever-so-slightly less glare, but also reduced comfortable viewing angles. In terms of video streaming, in the few apps I tested, the iPad Air 2 picture quality was noticeably better despite Samsung’s higher res screen (that we’d never stream at anyhow). Not sure if this is a Android thing, an app software development thing, or what. Hm. Both have finger print readers – I find Samsung’s swipe method more natural than the less effortful resting of a fingertip on the Apple Home button, but it’s also less accurate in getting a read given the smaller target and who knows what else.

    As for me, I don’t anthropomorphologize companies or operating systems and choose the best tool for the task. It’s also my job to try everything. For further reference, my personal phone is an iPhone 5S and my work phone is a Galaxy S4. My work laptop is an 11″ Macbook Air and my personal laptop is an 11″ ASUS Windows 8.1 touchscreen netbook. And I’m a Kindle owner. Generally speaking, I’m not quite comfortable with the 7-10″ tablet space — old habits are hard to break.

  2. “As for me, I don’t anthropomorphologize companies”

    But everyone knows Apple is like Richard Widmark and Samsung is like Joe Mantegna.

  3. I’m also finding that I may not need a 7″-10″ tablet either. I use my Nexus 5 phone for most things now, or a full laptop or Surface Pro 3 for other things. That middle category isn’t as compelling to me as I once thought.

    That said, I kind of want an 8″ Galaxy Tab S as a book and news reader. But not enough to spend $350.

  4. I’m with Joel now. I don’t ever really use tablets anymore. I have an original Mini and an iPad 2 and my kids almost exclusively use them. I use my iPhone 6+ for portable computing and my desktop or work laptop for “real computing” or when I want a keyboard and mouse. So I guess I’m back to where we started pre-tablet.

    I just don’t see any need for a tablet. It’s just easier to browse the internet and play games on a phone. When I really need the size or when things aren’t working right on mobile sites and I can’t use the desktop site I just go to a real computer. They’re easier and better than tablets.

  5. I use my 7″ Tab 3 as a book and news reader, plus some limited web (it was free with a 2-year contract, 2GB/month for $15+tax).

    However, should my next cellphone has a 5″ or larger screen I would dispense with carrying the above.

  6. Well, nice information.
    I started out using a dell PC then another Dell all in one PC. Next I graduated to a ipad 3 generation ( still kept my PC ) Phone wise first a Nexel then Razor, some others inbetween and then finally a iPhone 4( not s ) Then I thought maybe I try a Galaxy4. So I did. Ok so I’m hooked I get a new device every 2 years. I use my PC every now & then, I use my iPad Air 2 ( just got :) & my old one a lot. Next year I’m going to upgrade my Galaxy 4 to a 5! Ok even through I just got the iPad Air 2 I’m still thinking about trading it in for the Galaxy Note Pro or tabS. Sooo any suggestions. I’ve though about the surface pro 3 but the price stops me. Help!

    Thank u

  7. Would the Galaxy tab be a nice replacement for a NExus 7? I had planned to get a Nexus 9 until I found out it had an old 4:3 aspect ratio and didn’t have wireless charging. I know Apple uses that archaic aspect ratio for some reason and many people like it. But it doesn’t match the videos or pictures I’ve taken for many, many years in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

  8. Eh, I’d probably stay put now unless you really need higher resolution or more speed. But again, we may have concluded that I’m not a tablet guy. ;) Having said that, I curiously just did order a refurb 2013 Amazon Kindle Fire HDX for $119 as a 7″ mobile TV.

  9. “Having said that, I curiously just did order a refurb 2013 Amazon Kindle Fire HDX for $119 as a 7″ mobile TV.”

    Isn’t that what tablets have actually always been for?

  10. Well, it’d be a better “mobile” TV with LTE. Since it doesn’t, I’m going to email my HOA about getting us better WiFi in the community fitness center. Then again, the benefit of going native is Amazon Instant *downloads*

  11. I didn’t see a comment on the iPad sim card flexibility. Isn’t it multiple carrier friendly, or was that just an idea that did not pan out?

  12. “I’m going to email my HOA about getting us better WiFi in the community fitness center.”

    Threaten to paint your house purple and pink polka-dot if they don’t comply…

  13. “When it comes to software, most have already chosen sides. Those deep into Apple’s ecosystem…” That’s really true, Dave. Most of the crucial decisionmaking between an Android or an iOS device really boils down to preference — or loyalty. Great review! :)

  14. “Having said that, it’s far, far easier to embrace Google services on Apple devices than vice versa.” Can one embrace Apple services on any non-Apple device?

  15. To some extent, yes. Many iCloud services are available via webpage, Apple email can be set up in third party clients, and iTunes music is portable, having been DRM free for years. Beyond Android, Safari and iTunes are available on Windows. But obviously it’s all to a lesser extent than Google’s portability and multiplatform support. Perhaps ironically, some of the best iOS app are produced by Google (and best Apple’s own services – like Maps).

  16. Each has their own style and specs. It’s up with the one who uses it. According to his own budget, his uses and how he lives with it. It doesn’t matter how costly it is, what matters – how useful it is for you.

  17. Last year after trying out the IPad air 2 for a week I returned it & decided to wait until later. I still had my iPad 3rd Gen.so why not use that. Well after I upgraded to the iOS 8.1.2 it started freezing up & crashing Wow! I went to the apple site & read a lot of comments & a lot said the same thing. Even a few complained about the iPad air 2 & iPhone 6 having that same problem as well! So now I’m thinking about just switching to Samsung & leave Apple alone aleast until all the bugs or what ever is wrong is fixed!

    Any thoughts!

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