Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review Oversized and overpriced

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review Oversized and overpriced

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra: A Massive Tablet with Impressive Utility


For Samsung, bigger is often better. The company has been at the forefront of popularizing gigantic smartphones, and it’s no surprise that they’ve also introduced some shockingly large tablets. In their latest Galaxy Tab S9 series, they offer 11- and 12.4-inch models that compete with Apple’s iPad Pros. And then there’s the impressive $1,200 Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra, a 14.6-inch behemoth that manages to be thin and light for its size.

The Hardware: Thin, Solid, and Well-Made

When unboxing the S9 Ultra, one immediately notices its sleek footprint. At only 0.21 inches thick and weighing 1.6 pounds, it exhibits Samsung’s commitment to solid, well-made devices. While the tablet form factor has reached a certain level of standardization, Samsung has managed to make the S9 Ultra thin without compromising durability.

Additionally, the S9 Ultra boasts IP68 water- and dust-resistance certification, a first for Samsung’s Galaxy S tablet series. While water resistance feels less necessary for a tablet compared to a phone, it does offer peace of mind for users who want to watch movies while relaxing in the bathtub.

The device’s standout feature is its massive 14.6-inch AMOLED touchscreen. With a resolution of 2960 x 1848 and a 16:10 aspect ratio, it’s perfect for watching movies, although a bit tall for comfortable use in portrait mode. However, the screen looks outstanding, with vibrant colors, a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, and HDR10+ support for a stunning visual experience.

The S9 Ultra also surprises with its excellent speakers, making it a great choice for watching movies and shows. It’s impressive how companies can fit such solid speakers into super-thin devices, and Samsung continues to deliver in this aspect.

Tablet Mode: Great for Intense Tasks and Artists

While using the S9 Ultra as a pure tablet without a keyboard case may not have been the most enjoyable experience, there are some notable positives. The outstanding screen and speakers make it a portable movie theater, and its powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor (paired with 12GB of RAM) can handle any task, including running demanding applications like Adobe Lightroom.

One exciting use case for the S9 Ultra is as an artist’s canvas. The included S Pen stylus, known for its responsiveness, combined with the massive screen, makes it a powerful tool for professional visual artists.

However, the tablet’s size and aspect ratio make it less suitable for other content consumption. It is visibly awkward to use in portrait mode, and, unfortunately, there are still not many Android apps optimized for large screens. The lack of app adaptability impacts browsing, messaging, email handling, and gaming. Those looking for a device primarily used for these functions may find the 11-inch Galaxy Tab S9 more comfortable and cost-effective.

Dex Mode: A Different Interface for Increased Productivity

Dex mode, enabled by pairing the S9 Ultra with Samsung’s “Book Cover Keyboard Slim” and a Bluetooth mouse, transforms the tablet’s interface from touch-focused Android to a more PC-like experience resembling Windows or Chrome OS.

Dex mode feels reminiscent of using a Chromebook, with a navigation bar at the bottom for managing open apps. While Android apps still face issues with screen optimization on larger displays, the ability to resize apps compensates for this limitation. For example, even apps lacking certain features on Android, like Slack’s left-hand sidebar, can be adjusted to fit properly in windows.

One slight drawback is that Chrome for Android is not as capable as its desktop version, with limitations in running certain extensions and less reliable rendering of desktop versions of websites. However, some unexpected surprises arise, such as the ability to run the full web version of Slack, offering a better experience than the Android app.

Is the S9 Ultra Worth It?

Despite the various intriguing use cases of the S9 Ultra, it remains a niche device with a relatively high price tag. The tablet alone costs $1,200, and additional accessories like the keyboard case or integrated trackpad can add an extra $200 to $350. While niche devices serve specific purposes, most people will find better value in other devices.

With all its merits, including impressive features and Dex mode, the S9 Ultra competes with laptops while offering a big, beautiful screen and a responsive stylus. However, a laptop that can run a wider range of software can be obtained for a similar or lower price.

For those more inclined towards a tablet experience, the iPad remains a popular choice. However, if Android is your preferred operating system, Samsung’s own Galaxy Tab S9 and S9+ offer similar specifications, high-quality design, and excellent screens at a more affordable price.

Ultimately, the decision to invest in the S9 Ultra boils down to specific use cases and personal preferences. If you require an enormous tablet with a great stylus for professional visual work and productivity, the S9 Ultra might be worth considering.