Slick screen: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S 10.5 reviewed

This type of fenced-off implementation of an interface is what stops Samsung’s Magazine UX from being anything more than a half-finished gimmick, because while you can do things with it, the total value of what you can do isn’t much, and pretty much extends to reading the news categories Samsung and Flipboard suggest, flipping through the social networks you use (but only reading them, no posting), and letting you see the small amount of apps the Magazine UX works with, which at the moment includes a photo gallery, Samsung’s own music player (does anyone use this?), the videos on your device, Samsung’s WatchOn TV app, and an office program you probably aren’t using, Hancom Office.

But if you want to do anything else, Magazine UX is a waste of time, and one that is a huge shame since it’s a good idea.

You can change your widgets around, sure, but the layout is more of a random throw. Press the "change layout" button and they change.

It’s such a good idea that we’ve seen another similar tablet interface try it, with the Chameleon launcher now mostly discontinued, even though it promised to do much the same: divide the tablet up into quadrants to let you do more on the one screen than just see your shortcuts and tiny supply of widgets, a move which essentially makes a tablet more than just a content consumption device, giving it a real sense of productivity.

And that’s the idea Samsung is trying to pull off with Magazine UX, and one that it fails to get across since it’s unfinished and kind of pointless.

It would be great if you could remove it, but unfortunately, that isn’t to be, and the only way you can disguise it is by installing another launcher and changing the look of the tablet altogether.

But that’s something we also wish we could do physically, because while some might like the gold rim, it just wasn’t our cup of tea, with a brown-ish bronze back. We’re told this is the dark option, and there’s even a white version with that gold trim, too.

While colours aren’t ever a huge part of the technology, they’re still a part of the look, and if you don’t like gold edges, or bronze or shiny white, steer clear, because these are your only choices.

On the Apple iPads, you’ll find black or white on the front, with silver on the back. On the Sony tablets, it’s black or white all the way, with the same treatment applied to LG’s tablets as well as a red option for the latter. And over to Microsoft’s more computer-like tablets, you’re talking a slate grey or a deep charcoal look.

But on the Galaxy Tab S, the gold trim doesn’t do much for us, and makes the tablet look cheap, making us want to throw a case over it as quickly as possible to disguise the look.

The other problem with this gold and bronze aesthetic is that it’s only an aesthetic, with the bronze and gold merely paint over plastic. There’s no metal here, with Samsung continuing with its textured plastic program that it started on the Galaxy Note 3 and continued on the Galaxy S5 mobile handset.

In fact, the dimpled and dotted back texture from the S5 is used on the Tab S, and while it feels soft in the hands and helps to make the tablet easy to hold, it’s still just plastic, and scratches just as easily.

One other software issue really holds us back, and that’s the issue of SideSync.

This isn’t necessarily a problem of the Galaxy Tab S, mind you, but we’ve included it here all the same since SideSync is one of the main features of the Tab S.

For the uninitiated, SideSync is Samsung’s great idea of letting you control your phone using your tablet. More specifically, it lets you access and control the a Samsung phone using a Samsung tablet, with the screen appearing on the tablet in a small window and letting you access it when the phone isn’t being used by you. The moment you pick up the phone, the tablet loses access, but when you put it down again, access returns, letting you truly connect phone and tablet.

But there’s a catch: it has to be a Samsung phone. Furthermore, a Galaxy S5 or a Galaxy Note 3.

“Of course it does,” you say, thus completing the circle of product ownership that companies naturally think people do, like the iPad owner which automatically must own an iPhone, and the Surface owner which automatically owns a Windows Phone. Because you’ll always buy the same brand regardless.

The catch of needing a Samsung phone to use with a Samsung tablet is a bit of a jarring one, especially when the hardware in flagship phones has been more or less identical this year, with the changes being the exterior designs, extra features, and the changes to software. Maybe we’re not as understanding of programming requirements, but we’re not sure there’s a good reason for SideSync not to support devices that aren’t made by Samsung.


If you’re itching to get a tablet and you’re after top notch hardware in a sleek package, look no further than Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S, because it certainly has the guts to match.

While the colours aren’t our cup of tea (despite looking like some cups of tea), the marriage of high-end tech with a beautiful screen really works, producing a tablet that can tussle with the big boys.


Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Beautiful screen; Display changes colour profile based on conditions thanks to adaptive display technology; Very thin and very light; Feels great in the hands; Provides a day of solid use from the battery, and two days for everyone else; MicroUSB charge port (yay!); Loud speakers, even if they are located on the sides;
Plastic back might feel nice, but it scratches easily; Colours might not appeal to all; Samsung's Magazine UX feels unfinished, and offers very little in the way of control; SideSync's phone controller is Samsung only, and for a very small amount of devices;