Android’s best iPad: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 reviewed

Another thing is missing, too, and it’s one that made Samsung’s tablets pretty special: infrared.

For quite a while now, Samsung’s tablets have been able to act as a giant universal remote for your television, with an infrared controller built into the body and an app that made it possible to control you telly, regardless of whether or not Samsung made it.

It was there in last year’s Tab S, and yet in this one, it’s gone AWOL.

It's sure thin, but there's no infrared on it at all. Sad face.
It sure is thin, but there’s no infrared on it at all. Sad face.

Why? Again, we couldn’t tell you, though you will find it in the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, but not in the S6 Edge+ and the Note 5.

Our guess is this is a question of cost and a suggestion that people download the app for their respective TV, but again, we’re missing out on a feature that didn’t really need to go away and made Samsung’s tablets unique.

And it is points like these that made Samsung tablets unique, as well as things like the textured back on the previous models so they were easy to grip and looked different.

iPad Air 2 on the left, Galaxy Tab S2 on the right.
iPad Air 2 on the left, Galaxy Tab S2 on the right.

Now, the only way to tell the Tab S2 apart from its major competition just looking at it from the front is the “Samsung” logo blaring at you along the top.

The designs aren’t exactly the same, mind you, as Samsung’s look is more blocky and sort of like an elongated Galaxy Note 4 than the softened elongated iPhone that is the Air 2, but put them next to each other and there is definitely a resemblance.

Again, these aren’t bad things, nor are they quibbles that point out anything dramatically wrong with the Samsung Tab S2, but it’s a pretty obvious sign that Samsung is beginning to pull back from its own identity in the tablet design world, and that’s a real shame.

We also take aim at the on-screen keyboard which is just a little too complicated for it’s own good.


Granted, this isn’t far off what Samsung provided on last year’s Tab s and the previous Note Pro, with keys not normally seen on tablets that tend to dent the experience and slow down your typing or marr it with mistakes, so we have to wonder: why didn’t Samsung decide to fix this for the newer, better tablet?

You have, for instance, a control key (ctrl) here, which you might expect on a full keyboard where you have a mouse nearby for selecting, followed by subsequent copying, pasting, and so on and so on, but it just feels like a waste here when a selection on Android will invariably give you these options anyway.

There is also a delete key (del) which sits in an uncomfortable location of just above the backspace key. Now that might be roughly where it sits on a proper keyboard, but proper keyboards are also physical and tactile, and so you tend to remember not to press that when you want to delete things ahead of your cursor instesd of backspacing it up. Unfortunately, this combination of poor spacing means you will at one point start deleting text ahead (if you have written ahead or are taking notes in the middle of the page), when you meant to hit backspace, as happened to us several times.

The reason we point out these two keys is simple, however: they’re in every Samsung keyboard orientation, you can’t remove them no matter what you do, and they severely dent an otherwise excellent typing experience on a tablet.


When it comes to keyboards on tablets, design of the keyboard is only one part of the equation, as you need to hacve an equally capable screen with which to grab finger presses in a timely fashion. It has to be so timely, in fact, that it doesn’t discriminate against the quite fast typists out there which would only be so happy to complain that the tablet isn’t working to the speed they’re used to. One argument is that these people could buy a Bluetooth keyboard if they wanted to, but better tablet engineering ensures they don’t need to.

Apple pegged onto this with the last generation of the iPad, the Air 2, where it reworked the display to respond to faster typing, and it is one off the reasons why the Air 2 is such a top notch working machine, because you can get by without an external keyboard if need be even if you’re used to typing with speed.

In the Galaxy Tab S2, Samsung has delivered an equally speedy screen, allowing one to type without the need for an external keyboard at a speed not so dissimilar from something with physical keys. Unfortunately, Samsung’s unnecessary on-screen keys hamper the otherwise top notch typing experience.

Fortunately, Android is highly modular, so if you don’t like the keyboard, you can just replace it with one that you do like, and there are certainly quite a few of these out there. But we argue that while Samsung got close to quite a good keyboard, this less friendly keyboard just doesn’t work as well as it’s standard layout for phones, and perhaps if it had provided an element of customisation — you know, to remove the keys you’re never going to use, possibly even increasing the key spacing simultaneously — it would have perfected this element.



With Samsung’s latest tablet, there is no mistaking that this is one of the best non-Apple tablets out there, with a combination of parts that Android fans are sure to love, though it’s not the independent design you’ve seen from Samsung in the past.

Rather, for this one, Samsung appears to have resigned itself to making something close to an iPad.

That’s not a bad thing, either, because we all know the iPad is a great device, and using this tablet, you’ll quickly find that equally this is one of Samsung’s best tables years, with a solid build, speedy system, one of the least bloated and weighed down operating environments, and one of those lovely screens the company has been known for, increasing the size of the same technology found on the phones the company is producing.

Ultimately, if you’re a Samsung phone owner, you’ll probably love it, even with some of the little quibbles we have with it, because it’s a fantastic little tablet, it just needs more of Samsung’s personality injected back into the mix.




Value for money
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Reader Rating0 Votes
Very well built; Slim, comfortable and easy to hold; One of the brightest screens on any tablet available found today; Surprisingly fast screen response when typing; Just like in the 2015 phones, Android is fairly stripped back, making it more efficient; Performs quite well; LTE model works as a phone... an awkward phone, sure, but a big phone; Supports SideSync, though it's only useful if you already have a Samsung phone; Includes a microSD slot for expanding the storage;
Samsung has ditched the camera flash... for some reason or another; No infrared port; On-screen keyboard needs a bit of work; Has virtually no individuality or unique identity: it looks like Samsung's interpretation of an iPad;