We’re really impressed with the latest tablet from Samsung, bringing the brilliant screen from the Tab S4 into an even better design.
The excellent speakers remain and the speakers are great, too. You’ll only be potentially put off by the lack of a headphone jack and the mid-range processor.
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tablets are rare these days with rivals like Sony ducking out the market years ago. So we’re excited to see something new in the Galaxy Tab range, and something with decent specs that promises to be affordable. Here’s our full Galaxy Tab S5e review.
Folding phones might be the end of tablet market, but not just yet and the Tab S5e is one of the best you can buy in 2019. It was announced before Unpackedto leave more room for the Galaxy S10range,Galaxy Foldand other products.
Following on from the pricey
Tab S4, the
Galaxy Tab S5e is much more affordable. It’s not a budget tablet but starting at £379/$399/419€ is decent, especially when we look at what you get for your money.
There are four models to choose from depending on what storage capacity you want and, like iPads, whether you want cellular 4G connectivity. Check out the table below for all the options and prices – we can only see 4G models available in the UK.
Despite being cheaper than its predecessor, the Tab S5e takes that design and improves on it in various ways.
The tablet has smaller bezels resulting in an impressive 82% screen-to-body ratio (vs 79% of the Tab S4). It’s also astonishingly thin and light at just 5.5mm and 400g making it the most svelte tablet Samsung has ever made. You will barely notice it in your rucksack.
It feels extremely premium, if a little delicate but doesn’t have a glass back like the Tab S4. We prefer the metal uni-body, partly as it doesn’t attract fingerprints like a magnet and because there’s no fear of it smashing.
Being so thin means there’s no headphone jack which might be a pain (you need the provided dongle, USB-C or wireless headphones), but it does have a POGO connector so you can use the tablet with various accessories with ease – namely the Book Cover Keyboard.
The lack of a headphone jack is our only real complaint here. The camera sticks out a little but not enough to be an issue and there’s no waterproofing but even the Tab S4 doesn’t have that so it’s not something we were expecting anyway.
There’s little else to say about the design since it’s a fairly typical modern tablet. The Tab S5e comes in three colours – Black, Silver and Gold – and has a fingerprint scanner hidden in the power button.
It’s slight inset to help you find it without having to look and works really well but you it’s too awkward to unlock the device with this method when it’s on a flat surface like a desk.
Specs & Features
As mentioned earlier, the Tab S5e is sort of like a more affordable version of the Tab S4 – especially since there is no Tab S5 yet. However, not everything has been downgraded to achieve the lower price. Overall we’re impressed with what Samsung offers here, starting with the display.
We’re impressive with the display here because it’s the same one as found on the Tab S4 – with a better screen-to-body ratio to boot so it looks a little more modern. There’s still enough bezel to hold the tablet without getting in the way of the screen.
So you’re getting a 10.5in using Super AMOLED tech and has a decent 287ppi pixel density thanks to the 2560×1600. As you would expect from a high-end display from Samsung, it’s wonderfully crisp and colourful. It’s also got decent brightness when you need it, ramping up to 398cd/m2 at maximum.
The 16:10 aspect ratio provides a nice balance between work and play. However,one thing to bear in mind is that not all apps allow you to crop in on a video so YouTube, for example, will require watching with black bars. Others like Netflix do allow this though.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Tab S5e isn’t compatible with the S Pen, should you be interested in using the stylus with the tablet. You can buy alternatives that will work, though.
Core specs and performance
When it comes to core specs, the Tab S5e starts at 4GB of RAM paired with 64GB of storage. You can double the storage to 128GB and you’ll also benefit from 6GB of RAM. Either way, there’s a microSD card slot so you can add up to 512GB.
Considering the higher-spec is only an extra £50/$80, we’d strongly suggest considering it. Especially if you want to more intensive things and multi-tasking.
Even at 4/64GB we haven’t really found a downgrade compared to the Tab S4. Well it finally comes in the form of the processor.
You get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 instead of the 835 in the S4. However, it’s still an octa-core with similar clock speeds and in general you won’t notice too much difference. The Tab S5e is smooth for things like web browsing, emails and the like.
If you want to do gaming and use the DeX mode (see below) then getting the model with 6GB of RAM will be a wise investment. This will help with performance. The GPU is still the same though, and the Tab S5e has it’s limits so you might notice the odd bit of lag here and there if you really push it.
This is pitched as an entertainment device, rather than a laptop replacement and for that, we think it does the job well. You can see our benchmark results below vs the Tab S4 and rivals.
Connectivity and audio
With no headphone jack, there’s only one physical port here. You’ll need to use USB-C for charging and also with the supplied dongle to attach any 3.5mm headphones. You can’t do both at once, of course so this is a little annoying.
The Tab S5e does have excellent speakers though for when you don’t need to keep audio private. Like the Tab S4, there are four speakers – two at either side when holding the tablet in landscape – which are by AKG and support Dolby Atmos.
Tablets uses to have poor speakers but that’s not the case here. The performance is excellent so you can enjoy games and videos properly. The only really issue is that you might cover the speaker grilles a bit if you’re gaming in landscape mode.
There’s a bigger issue when holding the tablet though and it’s related to the Wi-Fi. Known as the ‘deathgrip’, the wireless signal has been reported to drop or completely cut out when holding the bottom-left corner of the tablet in landscape. We’ve tested this out and the Wi-Fi does drop a couple of bars but didn’t lose connection completely.
Sometimes issues like this can be solved with a software update but this is hardware related (the antenna) so you’ll be stuck with it. We had to be quite deliberate in how we held the tablet in order for the Wi-Fi to drop signal so you should be fine really.
As mentioned earlier, there’s a fingerprint scanner in the power button that works well if you’re holding the tablet. It can be used without needing to turn the screen on. There’s also basic face recognition if you like but with no iris support, it’s not as secure. It also doesn’t work so well in landscape orientation since the camera is off to the side.
Cameras and battery life
The Tab S5e has the same cameras as the Tab S4 – 13Mp rear, 8Mp front – whether you need them for photography or video calling. You really shouldn’t be buying a tablet based on its photography skills, but things are decent enough here. You’re most likely to use the front one for a video chat and it’s good, just sits awkwardly on the side when you have the device in landscape.
Samsung says there enough juice in the Tab S5e’s 7040mAh battery for 14.5 hours of video playback which isn’t bad at all, especially when you consider how thin and light this thing is.
It didn’t quite manage this in our Geekbench 4 battery run down but a result of 10 hours and 37 minutes is very solid indeed. It’s better than the iPad Air (2019) which got nine hours and 24 minutes.
Charging the tablet up uses 18W fast charging and you’ll get from 0 to 22% in our usual 30 minute test. In the tablet market, that’s a reasonable effort. You can use the POGO connector for charging but it’s not fast.
The neat thing here is that the Tab S5e can be used as a sort of power bank to charge other devices. That’ll come in handy if you’re phone is running low.
The last things to talk about is software and the Tab S5e comes with Android 9 Pie with Samsung’s One UI. This user interface is still pretty new and can also be found on the Galaxy S10 range of phones.
It’s a huge departure from the previous skins that Samsung has used over the years. Not only does it look cleaner, but things work better and are more useful. Apart from the overall look, we particularly like the Night Mode and you can switch into the kids mode easily via the quick settings.
There are a lot of Samsung and Google apps, as you might expect. Then there’s also Office Mobile and OneDrive from Microsoft and Spotify is also pre-loaded.
One UI means Bixby 2.0 is baked into the software. This is Samsung’s answer to Alexa and we still think it doesn’t match up to Amazon or Google but you can try it out nevertheless. There’s also Bixby Home a swipe away from the main home screen which will give you a feed containing all kinds of information. Again, it’s not bad but we prefer Google’s version.
Samsung is pitching the Tab S5e as more of an entertainment device rather than a laptop replacement, but the optional keyboard cover means you can still be productive if you need to. This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the DeX mode we mentioned earlier.
It stands for ‘desktop experience’ as it effectively an Android version of Windows. You can switch into this mode via the quick settings in the drop down bar. As well as using it on the tablet screen, it’s possible to connect the Tab S5e to an external monitor via USB-C.
We’ve never been blown away by DeX and it doesn’t make as much sense on the Tab S5e compared to the Tab S4. The lower grade processor means that things can start to bog down once you get a few windows open.
More importantly though, we just don’t really feel the need to use it when Chrome will open the mobile versions of websites and app support isn’t getting much better over time. The productivity apps you’re likely to use from Microsoft and Google work perfectly well, if not better when you’re out in the regular Android world.
When you consider that the keyboard cover is an extra
£119/$129, you might as well get a decent laptop if productivity is an important tick box.
As we suspected, the Galaxy Tab S5e is an excellent Android slate and one of the best tablets around. Apple’s iPads are the only real competition.
Samsung has brought the excellent screen from the Tab S4 into a thinner and lighter frame, which also has a preferable metal build. There’s also excellent speakers and a fingerprint scanner embedded in the power button.
We’d say getting the 6/128GB model is going to be worth it since it’s not much more expensive than the base model.
There are only really two let downs here and that’s the lack of a headphone jack and the processor isn’t a powerhouse. However, for the enterainment devices it’s pitched as, the Tab S5e is perfectly smooth. Only intensive gaming or mutli-tasking will slow it down.
The headphone jack situation is partially solved by the included dongle, or you can use USB-C or wireless headphones.
Tech Advisor's Reviews Editor, Chris has been reviewing all kinds of tech for over 10 years and specialises in audio. He also covers a range of topics including home entertainment, phones, laptops, tablets and more.