Google maybe done fighting the iPad for good, but Samsung believes there’s still hope for Android tablets - that it’s still possible to build a high-quality Android tablet and somehow convince buyers into investing in one. The Galaxy Tab S4 was one such Android tablet – a flagship Android tablet. Its soon-to-launch successor – Galaxy Tab S6/Galaxy Tab S5 or whatever Samsung decides to call it - will hopefully be an even better flagship Android tablet.
Not everybody is looking for a flagship Android tablet though. The fact that Samsung has a toned-down, more affordable option in the Galaxy Tab S5e can’t stress enough how serious it is about fighting the good fight to keep the Android tablet alive.
The Galaxy Tab S5e maybe a toned-down, more affordable Android tablet – as opposed to its flagship product(s) - but that’s not to say that it’s only geared towards price conscious buyers – that it cuts many visible corners. The Galaxy Tab S5e is designed for anybody and everybody and that is what makes it special. That it costs as low as it does – as opposed to Samsung’s flagship product(s) - is an icing on the cake.
Samsung has launched the Wi-Fi-only Galaxy Tab S5e in India at a price of Rs 35,999 while its Wi-Fi +LTE variant will cost Rs 39,999. That’s right up there in iPad Mini and iPad Air territory. Is the Galaxy Tab S5e better than the iPad Mini and iPad Air? Well, in some areas, yes. But that’s not what makes it special. What really sets the ball rolling here is that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is your best shot at owning a high-quality, value for money Android tablet at its price. No other Android tablet comes close.
While it doesn’t boast of a glass and metal sandwich like the Galaxy Tab S4, the Galaxy Tab S5e’s all metal chassis (still) screams premium from every nook and corner – in fact, I prefer it over the Galaxy Tab S4. Not only does it look good, you can’t easily smudge it with fingerprints – it feels very smooth to the touch too. Sort of like the iPad in many ways.
But where the Galaxy Tab S5e really shines – over the entry-level iPad and the flagship Galaxy Tab S4 – is on the front. And on the sides too. The Galaxy Tab S5e is Samsung’s thinnest (and lightest) tablet ever and it has a near all-screen display. While I do have my reservations about how slim this thing is, I have to say, Samsung has done a commendable job with the bezels. They are just about the right size – neither too much, neither too less – so even though they are barely there, there’s something there to rest your palms while you’re binging on Netflix or playing PUBG or browsing the internet – you know the drill.
As for its 5.55mm super-slick frame, well, I can confirm the Galaxy Tab S5e is built rock solid, but it may be prone to some bending if you’re stress testing it – don't do that!
Building a tablet as thin and light as the Galaxy Tab S5e will always come with a few compromises. The Galaxy Tab S5e has two. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack (which is outrageous since you can’t really imagine a tablet without one, but at least Samsung is bundling a dongle in the box) and the side-mounted power button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner sits high up and rather flush – not only is getting to it a hassle, it isn’t as fast as the one on-board Samsung’s Galaxy S10e either.
The Galaxy Tab S5e has a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display with a 2560x1600 pixel resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio. The display quality here is as good as it gets – it’s the best – at this price point and all that bezel shaving allows Samsung to offer a screen-to-body ratio of a whopping 81.8 per cent. That 16:10 aspect ratio meanwhile lets you squeeze in effortless productivity too.
Long story short, if you’re looking for a tablet solely for multimedia consumption, you can’t go wrong with the Galaxy Tab S5e. That it also lets you seamlessly edit Word files on it, makes it the best tablet screens around all-round.
There’s a small nitpick that I would like to point out though. There are many users who like to put their tablets inside protective book-covers or even keyboard-cover accessories. You’d normally expect these tablets to go to sleep every time you flip on the cover – or even wake up every time you flip it off. The Galaxy Tab S5e doesn’t do that for some reason, which means that it stays awake even after you’ve potentially laid it to rest inside the cover – you’ll have to manually put it to sleep. I am not sure if that’s a hardware thing or software.
The Galaxy Tab S5e maybe an Android tablet at heart but it tries to offer two distinct styles of user experience – which is kind of amazing for a not-so-flagship tablet. There’s the traditional tablet Android and a near desktop Android – ironically, Android (still) feels weird on both the form factors, as if it’s trying too hard to fit in, but more on that later.
- Tablet Android: The Galaxy Tab S5e runs Android 9 Pie-based One UI. No scratch that. The Galaxy Tab S5e runs a super-sized Android 9 Pie-based One UI. At a time when Apple is making iPad OS, One UI on the Galaxy Tab S5e looks and feels like, well, meh. With features like a system-wide dark mode and an emphasis on faster and seamless use on large-screen smartphones, One UI may be the best piece of software that Samsung has ever built, but you know what? The Galaxy Tab S5e is a tablet. And One UI is a smartphone OS.
One UI on the Galaxy Tab S5e looks and feels like One UI on the Galaxy S10 – only stretched out on all sides to look bigger.
Samsung has worked extensively on the software side so users will be able to seamlessly transition between smartphone and tablet mode on its troubled (but soon-to-relaunch) Galaxy Fold – Samsung is particularly touting app continuity and the ability to run as many as three individual apps simultaneously. It’s high time that Samsung thinks about re-designing software for its tablets as well.
FYI: The software inside the Galaxy Tab S5e is well optimized for the most part and there have been no bugs or random app crashes during my review period. Those coming from a new-age Samsung phone will be right at home here. I just wish Samsung would have utilized all that extra screen real estate better.
- Near desktop Android: That’s not to say that Samsung isn’t trying to make Android tablets better. It’s just doing it differently – through DeX or DeX mode. DeX has clearly come of age – after having made its debut with the Galaxy S8 – in that it doesn’t require additional horse power – read, accessories - anymore. DeX now comes baked into high-end Samsung devices. The Galaxy Tab S4 had it. The Galaxy Tab S5e gets it too.
DeX has been designed to provide a secure desktop-like experience – like Windows or Mac – on Android-based Samsung devices – like the Galaxy Tab S5e. Getting to DeX on the Galaxy Tab S5e is as simple as hitting a toggle in the pull-down notification pane. Once enabled, DeX will give you a PC-like desktop screen with a Windows-like system tray containing all your controls, including signal bars and a battery indicator, and background apps. You can access the entire Google Play store in desktop mode and also add shortcuts to your desktop for quick access.
Although every app on the Play Store is available for download and install in DeX mode, their mileage may vary – depending on whether the app is touch-based or otherwise. Smartphone-only apps will open in smartphone-sized windows, while those that support both smartphone and tablet modes open in full-scale windows that you can also resize.
But here’s the thing – as useful as DeX seems on paper, app support remains limited to this day. This is especially true about third-party apps - Chrome, YouTube and Netflix all run in mobile format, which is a bummer.
The real incentive of using DeX comes in the form of multi-tasking – but is that enough to call it a winner, especially when productivity apps like Word now work well enough in Android on tablets? Not really.
It’s the core hardware that makes you finally realize you’re dealing with a mid-tier product here. Unlike its more premium offerings that pack Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-series processors, the Galaxy Tab S5e is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor. It’s easy to write the Galaxy Tab S5e off when you compare it with the iPad Mini or iPad Air – and it is, these are just more powerful tablets, no two ways about that. But, it should get the job done for most users.
If anything, it’s the bundled RAM (and ROM) that should worry potential buyers. Samsung is only bringing the 4GB RAM and 64GB storage variant of the Galaxy Tab S5e to India for now. Let me rephrase what I just said though – this should (only) worry potential buyers who’re looking for a heavy-duty tablet for some heavy-duty multi-tasking.
Even though the Galaxy Tab S5e can run like a desktop or something close to it – through DeX – it's not meant to replace your desktop/laptop. You’ll be better off buying the Galaxy Tab S4 for that, or an iPad Pro – which will cost you more money. For the kind of price that the Galaxy Tab S5e commands, you’ll be better off treating it like a content consumption device (I have read a lot of comics on it, watched a lot of Netflix and YouTube, played PUBG even) primarily, and a tablet (that’s not really a laptop/desktop) that can also let you do some productivity tasks occasionally. Sort of like a secondary device you can carry around easily.
Not only is the display on this one cut-out for media playback, the Galaxy Tab S5e also packs four speakers that are without a doubt the highest-quality that I’ve heard in a tablet, let alone a tablet at its low price. There’s also support for Dolby Atmos that really amps up the sound over wired/wireless audio.
The 7,040mAh battery inside the Galaxy Tab S5e will easily last over a day (and then some more) for even the most demanding users. The tablet also supports USB Type-C fast charging.
At a time when Samsung has itself started making foldable smartphones, it’s hard to justify a tablet, let alone the Galaxy Tab S5e. But the iPad has shown, all tablets need not share the same fate. Not everybody is looking to get an iPad though. That’s the kind of market Samsung is looking to capture with its Galaxy Tabs. Not everybody is looking to get a high-end tablet too. That’s the kind of market Samsung is looking to capture with the Galaxy Tab S5e. It’s a good thing then that the Galaxy Tab S5e gets all the basics right. If you’re looking to get a tablet for your on-the-go multimedia (and some productivity) needs and if you’re looking to get it without breaking your bank, you can’t go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e.
Photos by Saurabh Singh