The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 came well packed in a sturdy box with a form-fitting insert for placing the tablet so that it wouldn’t move around during shipping.
Included with the tablet were the S Pen stylus, a quick start guide, a pin to remove the micro SD card holder, 5 extra stylus tips along with a special tweezers to help you remove the current stylus when you need to change to a new one, a “fast-charger” wall plug with a USB port, and a Type-C USB power cord.
Dimensions: 9.81 x 6.47 x 0.28 inches
Weight: 1.06 pounds
Display: 10.5-inch Super AMOLED, 2560 x 1600 pixels, 287 ppi, 16M colors
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Memory: 4GB RAM
Storage: 64/256GB, expandable via micro SD card slot up to 400gb
Speakers: Surround sound with Dolby Atmos
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Operating System: Android 8.1 Oreo
Main Camera Single: 13mp f/1.9 with autofocus and flash
Main Camera Video: 4K resolution HDR video (2160 p) at 30fps.
Features: LED flash, HDR, and panorama
Front Camera: 8mp f/1.9. Video: 1080p@30fps
Battery: 7,300 mAh lasting up to 16 hours of video playback
Ports and buttons: In landscape position, docking contacts for the keyboard are on the bottom bevel, on the right bevel there are a USB-C port and a 3.5 mm audio port. On top, there are the power button, the volume + and – toggle button, and the micro SD card slot.
An S Pen is included with the tablet. When you bring the pen close to the tablet, you will be able to use the S Pen software that comes pre-loaded on the tablet such as Air Command, Screen-off Memos, Translate, and Live Message. The pen doesn’t require charging and has a slim design which is comfortable to hold and use. I love the size of the pen point and the feature that lets you write on your tablet (even when it is off.) If you purchase the book cover keyboard case, there is a place on the case to store the pen when not in use.
The Tab S4 has 4 speakers by AKG which support Dolby Atmos Sound giving a surprisingly good sound experience for a tablet. The volume + and – toggle switch is on the top bevel if you are holding your device in landscape orientation.
The battery is a powerhouse at 7,300 mAh and will last up to 16 hours of video playback. The battery can be quickly charged using the USB-C port thanks to Samsung’s Fast Charging capability.
Samsung did not scrimp on the camera. The 13mp rear camera produces good quality photos. The front camera has 8mp which is plenty for arms-length selfies! My testing of the video had good results. I watched as the camera worked to quickly refocus as I scanned the room with the tablet’s camera moving from close-up objects to far-away objects.
After installing my apps quickly using Smart Switch to copy my apps from my old device, I tried out the Samsung DeX interface using the book cover keyboard case that I purchased separately from Best Buy and a Bluetooth mouse. I like DeX so much that I keep it in that mode most of the time. The keyboard is smaller but I quickly adjusted to the size and I am able to type on it with both hands. The keyboard case doubles as a protective case for the tablet and has a holder for the S Pen.
Usually when I travel, I have to take my laptop because I have some regular computer duties that I must attend to that cannot be done on my phone or old tablet due to the fact that some features that I use on the desktop version are simply not included on the mobile app version. Taking the laptop is never convenient because of the weight and size. Now that is solved with the DeX interface. Now instead of lugging a heavy laptop on trips, I can tuck the tablet into my carry-on or personal item.
When you are in the DeX interface the Android Navigation bar becomes a real taskbar at the bottom of the screen. You can add or remove shortcuts from your desktop screen just like you would on a PC. There is an Apps button in the lower left corner of the screen where you would normally find the Start button on a PC. Tap or click it to reveal the apps screen. To add an app to the Home Screen, long click (or press) the app icon and drag to the top of the screen. On the home screen, you can have up to 20 windows open at once and you can resize them like you would PC windows (See my note about Samsung Labs below.) The windows you have opened are lined up in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen like you’d see on a PC. Also, with a Bluetooth mouse, you will have right-click option boxes. In fact, you will be able to use your keyboard and mouse to make your tablet function almost exactly like a PC. There are some limitations, for example, using “My Files” I was unable to drag and drop files from one folder to another, but I could right-click and choose move from one folder and then choose paste in another folder (without having to right-click on the second folder.) Since the Samsung documentation says you can drag and drop files, I may need to try this with a different app, but my work-around was so easy, it will suffice for me.
The DeX Interface can be activated by connecting the Samsung Tab S4 into the book cover keyboard case, but I turned this feature off in “Settings” so that I could also use the keyboard and mouse in the Android interface too. Disconnecting the tablet from the keyboard does not put it back into Android mode; you have to manually switch back to Android mode by clicking the Quick Settings button in the Task Bar at the bottom of the screen and clicking on the Samsung DeX icon. I became adept at this in no time and could quickly switch back and forth. I had to do this a few times because Smart Switch feature only works in Android mode and not in DeX mode, but I preferred working on the tablet in DeX mode. I was able to use Smart Switch to copy my contact list and specific files that I chose from my old tablet to the Tab S4. DeX mode also works without the keyboard if you don’t wish to purchase it. You can use a digital pop-up keyboard instead. If you are in Android mode, the Quick Settings button is on the top left part of the screen, or you can just use the Settings icon on the home screen to get there.
Samsung Labs: Several of my apps were not compatible with DeX, but I got a pop-up that asked me if I wanted to turn on the Samsung Labs function. It explained that “Samsung DeX Labs is experimental and isn’t officially supported” and that it “may cause errors.” I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did. I turned on the “Force apps to resize” option but left the “Auto open last app” option turned off. I have not had any errors and can easily resize any windows that I have open in DeX mode. If you don’t get the pop-up, you can find Samsung Labs in Settings under the Samsung DeX section.
I had a negative experience when trying to set up this device. I had gotten past setting up a 4 digit PIN for security, and setting up my Google account when I had to leave the set up task for a couple of minutes to take a phone call. When I got back the screen was black. I couldn’t sign back in without using my PIN, but since I didn’t complete the set up, it wouldn’t take my PIN. I called Samsung and they couldn’t help me but said since I had gotten past the Google account screen, I should call Google. Luckily Google was able to help me reset the tablet to factory defaults. So just remember to not let your screen time out and go black during the set up process. The default time out is set to only 30 seconds, so be careful. Or you could choose to not set up security during the set up process, then finish the set up and go back later to set up your security sign-in.
Bottom line: Despite the set-up glitch, I am extremely pleased with the tablet. That being said, however, I don’t think it is worth the price unless you get the keyboard and Bluetooth mouse. If you want a tablet that can function like a PC when you need it to and then go back to being a tablet whenever you wish, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 would be perfect for you.