Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S5e tablet is a unique proposition in tablets. It’s affordable, slim, light, has a big 10.5-inch screen despite its small size, and even comes with 4G options for those who want to tablet on the go.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing with one around the house, and I have to say that the news of Android tablets’ demise may have been premature. They just haven’t been done right.
The Tab S5e weighs just 400 grams and is 5.5mm thick – impossibly thin for such a capable device. In fact, it’s about the same width as two $2 coins. Unfortunately, this does make it a little thin and harder to pick up off a flat surface, but I guess everything’s a compromise.
My kids have used this tablet while keeping themselves amused at mum’s weekend football, in the car on long trips, and I’ve used it around the house to read the news and for the kids to watch music videos on while eating dinner as a special treat.
Despite its mid-range specifications, this is a tablet that leaves nothing behind. It’s fast, snappy, responsive and enjoyable to use, whether it’s for some media consumption, banging out a quick email, or reading the news.
Despite being a tablet, Samsung integrates a fingerprint reader into the power button, making securing your tablet as easy as can be. There’s also the options for passwords, PIN codes or facial recognition, but for me the fingerprint sensor is perfect. My only gripe – minor though it may be – is that the tablet is so thin that the sensor necessarily is too.
Unlike many modern devices, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e doesn’t come with a case of any description in the box – something the Chinese OEMs have definitely got right – and this is a tablet that screams out for a case. Samsung will sell you a book cover case for $99, or a keyboard cover for $189, but you can find cheaper TPU cases online for a fraction of the cost.
This tablet occupies an interesting price point; at $649 for a WiFi only model and $849 for a 4G variant (reviewed here) it’s not exactly bargain bin cheap – where you can find sub $200 tablets at Officeworks – but it’s not as eye-wateringly expensive as Apple’s iPad line.
With 64GB of built-in storage (and the option to extend significantly by MicroSD card), the Galaxy Tab S5e is made for media consumption. Load it up with movies and it’ll play back for up to 15 hours or so, meaning you can use it for the longest road trips and all but the longest of international flights with ease. For those ultra marathon flights, just pack a USB cable, and keep the tablet topped off in your chair, and you’ll have no worries at all.
On the topic of battery life, Samsung includes a reasonably quick charger in the box, but even with that, the Tab S5e isn’t what I’d call a fast charger; rather than expecting miraculous increases in use time from 15 minute charges, this is a device that really wants to be charged for a couple of hours, or realistically, overnight.
While Android tablet apps may lack a little of the pizaz of their Appley cousins, the reality is you can get virtually any app that actually matters for your Android with relative ease. Besides, let’s face facts – the apps you’re most likely to use on an Android tablet are a web browser, streaming video apps like Netflix or Stan, Google’s apps like YouTube or YouTube Music, popular games – most of which are readily cross platform – or content accessible on the web.
In fact, you lose nothing by eschewing Apple’s more popular (and more expensive) iPad lineup for this Android tablet, and that’s a relatively new thing – Android tablets have been so ordinary for years that I’ve recommended Apple tablets ahead of Android ones, and the Tab S5e turns that around.
This is affordable without being cheap and nasty, powerful without being overly so, and capable of handling everything thrown at it.
Really the only aspect that is a bit disappointing is the camera. Truly, it’s awful. It’s just fine for video conferencing on apps like Google Duo, but for taking photos, your smartphone lens smeared in fingerprint grease will still do a better job. This is spud cam, and there’s no doubts about it, but if you’re serious about taking photos that are worth taking, you won’t be using a tablet anyway.
Samsung’s Tab S5e is available from $649 (for WiFi 64GB) and $849 (for 4G 64GB) from retailers like JB HiFi, Harvey Norman, and Bing Lee, as well as online at Samsung.com.