When it comes to elegant premium Android tablets, few companies outdo Samsung. (And only one outdoes it consistently, among tablet makers in general. We’ll leave you to guess who.) However—and this is true of most tablet makers—the South Korean electronics giant’s entry-level and midrange slates have historically been less impressive than its top-of-the-line ones. But that’s not to say that some aren’t fine tablets in their own right.
The compromises necessary to hit those lower price points can also mar the final product, making it appear cheaply constructed or lacking in high-end features. In our experience, a high screen resolution and a good sound system are usually the first victims.
Take, for example, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 we reviewed about this time last year (July 2013). Beyond its buggy software, we found its relatively low-resolution screen and slow processor disconcerting, as well as its humdrum overall appearance and build quality. At the time, granted, it was $100 to $200 cheaper than the premium ($499.99-list) Toshiba Excite Pro and Samsung’s own $499.99-list Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), but even so, compared to the premium slates of the day, it seemed inferior.
More recently, Samsung released its $499.99-list Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1, which we reviewed a couple of months ago, in May 2014. Much like the company’s other premium slates, the Tab Pro delivered a good-looking, super-high-resolution (2,560×1,600-pixel) screen, great sound, and long battery life. And, like most other high-end Samsung Android tablets, not only did it perform well, but it also came with the useful TouchWiz interface customization, or “skinning,” that we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s higher-end Galaxy tablets. That model set the bar until the advent of the Tab S slates.
Therefore, something’s got to give to get a lower price. The real question is, of course, are these $100-to-$200-cheaper Galaxy Tabs, such as the subject of this review (the $349.99-MSRP Galaxy Tab 4 10.1), decent values compared to their higher-end siblings? Or should you just bite the bullet and lay out the full $500 for the premium model?
More often than not, the build and display quality, as well as the performance of, the premium model are better enough that recommending the budget-friendly version over it doesn’t feel right. In other words, what you give up for the savings just doesn’t balance out.
Still, not everybody needs an expensive-but-gorgeous powerhouse of a slate. (Indeed, many folks, we think, would prefer holding on to the savings.) The good news is that, unlike a few of Samsung’s past attempts at making step-down slates, the Galaxy Tab 4 10.1, while in no way perfect, is a pretty decent middle-of-the-road tablet.
Granted, like most budget-friendly models, this one comes with a relatively low-resolution screen for its size (just 1,280×800 pixels) and a middle-of-the-road processor—here, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400. The 400 is definitely not the fastest quad-core tablet CPU around, but during our experience with it, it performed reasonably well, if not a little sluggishly, compared to higher-end Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Samsung offerings we’ve tried in various tablets.
The Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 is certainly no Galaxy Tab Pro, nor a Galaxy Tab Note, for that matter. However, compared to some of the midlevel Galaxy Tab models we’ve seen over the past few years, this Galaxy Tab is a clear improvement. It’s almost as attractive as the company’s latest premium model, the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1. And, while the CPU showed a little rust in our benchmark tests, turning in less-than-impressive scores across the board, the difference was not nearly as pronounced in our hands-on trials. In browsing Web pages, answering e-mails, watching movies, and other common tasks, we saw overall acceptable performance and little to no lag.
In addition, this midlevel model comes with most of the multitasking and other Android interface enhancements we’ve seen on the recent Galaxy Tab Pro and Galaxy Note slates, which greatly enhances this budget-friendly Galaxy Tab’s overall value.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.