Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra with Fold 5
Image: supplied (Ken Leanfore)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra tablet review: down to work

A hefty and powerful productivity tool, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra means business.

When modern tablets first arrived on the scene, like Samsung’s original Galaxy Tab and Apple’s first iPad, they were basically overgrown smartphones. Aimed squarely at consumers, more for content consumption than creation, they carved out a new sweet spot between handsets and laptops.

Over time, tablets grew larger, more powerful and more capable, to the point where they began to rival laptops in terms of content creation and general productivity. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra – the flagship of the latest Tab S9 range – continues this tradition as an Android-based powerhouse designed to replace your laptop when you need to get things done on the go.

The hefty price tag certainly puts it in laptop territory, starting at $1,999, but Samsung offers the option of paying it off over 36 months. Some telcos let you pay one off on a plan.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra tablet first impressions

With a 14.6-inch display, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is a giant of a tablet, feeling more like the screen ripped off a mid-sized notebook. This is great if you need acres of screen real estate, but it’s not such a great first impression if you’re more concerned about portability than productivity.

The size of the display is exacerbated by its very tall/wide 16:10 aspect ratio, which makes it a little cumbersome to hold in portrait mode. It’s a great aspect ratio for watching movies in landscape mode, but some tablets like Apple’s iPads favour the more work-friendly 3:4 aspect ratio, similar to an A4 sheet of paper.

Thankfully, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra’s generous screen fits into a very slender body, but it still tips the scales at 732 grams. That’s a very hefty tablet and certainly not the kind of device you’d want to carry around in your arms for hours at a time. Depending on where and when you want to use a tablet, you might consider that such bulk defeats the purpose.

Considering its bulk and configuration, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra might be considered more of a rival to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9 tablet than Apple’s flagship iPad Pro. If you can get past its sheer size and weight, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra has a lot going for it.

What’s included?

It features a vivid 1848×2960 pixel Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, offering a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling and HDR10+ for rich images with plenty of detail in the highlights and shadows. The lack of Dolby Vision is frustrating, but you can blame that on Samsung’s determination to shun what has become the industry standard for screens and televisions.

While it’s really designed for work, the inclusion of four speakers – two on each of the short sides – ensures great sound when it comes to watching movies. There’s no old-school headphone jack.

Holding the tablet in landscape mode, you’ve got power and volume buttons at the top left. The power button doesn’t double as a fingerprint reader, instead, this is built into the screen. There’s also support for Face Unlock.

You’ll find a USB-C port on the right and a magnetic connector at the bottom for attaching accessories like a keyboard cover. Like Microsoft, Samsung doesn’t include a keyboard cover in the box, its “book cover keyboard” is a $549 optional extra – which changes the value proposition if you consider it an essential accessory. The fact that’s included in most of Samsung’s Tab S9 Ultra product shots is very telling.

It’s worth noting that, unlike the Surface Pro, the Tab S9 Ultra lacks a built-in kickstand. That’s built into the book cover keyboard, along with a place to stow the S Pen, making that expensive optional extra look even more like an essential.

Turn the tablet over in your hands and you’ll see a slight indentation on the back designed to magnetically hold the supplied S-Pen stylus. This ensures it’s always close at hand, in either portrait or landscape mode. I’d be worried about it coming loose in your bag, but then you’d be reluctant to put such a gorgeous screen in your bag unprotected – once again making that optional book cover keyboard seem like an essential accessory.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra tablet specifications

Display size14.6 inches
Display resolution1848 x 2960 pixel, 16:10 ratio
Display technologyDynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+
SpeakersQuad stereo speakers with Sound by AKG, Dolby Atmos
Bandsoptional 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G sub-6
ChipsetQualcomm SM8550-AB Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (4 nm)
CPUOcta-core (1×3.36 GHz Cortex-X3 & 2×2.8 GHz Cortex-A715 & 2×2.8 GHz Cortex-A710 & 3×2.0 GHz Cortex-A510)
GPUAdreno 740
RAM12 GB or 16 GB
Rear cameras13 MP, f/2.0, 26mm (wide), 1/3.4″, 1.0µm, AF
8 MP, f/2.2, (ultrawide)
Front cameras12 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide)
12 MP, f/2.4, 120˚ (ultrawide)
Onboard storage256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB
SIMNano-SIM slot
microSD slotmicroSDXC
ChargingUSB-C 3.2, 45W 
BatteryLi-Po 11200 mAh
Wi-FiWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6e, tri-band, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth5.3, A2DP, LE
Operating systemAndroid 13, One UI 5.1
SecurityFingerprint (under display, optical), Face Unlock
RuggednessIP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 min)
Dimensions326.4 x 208.6 x 5.5 mm
Weight732 gm
ColoursBeige, Graphite
Pricefrom $1,999 RRP
Warranty1 year
Official websiteSamsung Australia

Features

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is a real powerhouse. Under the bonnet is Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, sporting an octa-core processor and Adreno 740 GPU. It’s accompanied by a very generous 12 or 16 GB of RAM, depending on your model of choice, along with 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB of storage. If that’s not enough to meet your needs, you can boost the storage via the microSDXC slot.

The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is also blessed when it comes to cameras, with dual 12 MP wide and ultrawide lenses on the front as well as 13 MP wide and 8 MP ultrawide at the rear.

While there’s built-in Wi-Fi 6E, if you’re prepared to spend another $250 you can upgrade to a cellular model with support for 5G sub-6, but not the faster millimetre wave 5G.

Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra multitasking
Image: supplied (Ken Leanfore)

A cellular model ensures you can stay connected when you’re on the move, and it’s the first water and dust-resistant Galaxy S tablet to help it survive the rough and tumble of life on the road. It’s an IP68 rating, including the S Pen. The screen is also bright enough to see in direct sunlight, which helps when you’re working outside.

An 11,200 mAh battery ensures you’ve got enough juice to work all day and it’s also possible to use the tablet to charge a Galaxy smartphone, but the lack of fast-charging support is frustrating considering it’s such a hefty battery to fill. Samsung doesn’t include an AC charger, just a USB-C cable.

Productivity

There’s no question that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is an impressive bit of hardware, the bigger question is whether Android can meet all your productivity needs, rather than opting for a Windows, macOS or iOS device.

Android has come a long way in this department, such as a split-screen mode for working with apps side-by-side, but even in this day and age not all Android apps are optimised for larger screens – one of iOS’ strengths.

Samsung has also invested a lot of effort into productivity features, as well as building a tight Apple-esque ecosystem. Part of this is access to the Galaxy app store, as well as the Android app store, for optimised apps. Samsung also throws in a few third-party productivity tools, such as a one-year subscription to GoodNotes.

Then there’s the tight integration with Samsung apps and devices, such as copying text between devices and the live collaboration features in Samsung Notes. There’s also Samsung DeX, which grants you a desktop-style experience when connected to a dock and a monitor, including the ability to use an external monitor as a secondary display. Alternatively, the tablet can act as a secondary display for a Windows machine.

Plus you’ve got the slick S Pen, which is far more than a basic stylus with support for pressure sensitivity and even pen tilt detection.

When it comes to performance, as you’d expect, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra packs a shedload of grunt – with Geekbench 6 CPU results of 2083 single core and 5647 multicore. Add to that GPU OpenCL benchmarks of 9503.

That grunt ensures that multitasking and running apps side-by-side is silky smooth, as you’d expect from such an expensive device pitching itself as a high-end notebook replacement.

Who is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra tablet for?

Put bluntly, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is for people who secretly wish the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 ran Android. It’s a high-end specialist tool, and certainly not for everyone, so you need to ask yourself a lot of tough questions before you’re sure that it’s worth the investment.

If you’re just put off by the bulk or the hefty price tag, keep in mind there are cheaper and smaller members of the Galaxy Tab S9 family that are worth investigating.

But the bigger question is whether you’re absolutely confident that Android can meet all your productivity needs, considering that you can get very portable yet powerful Windows and Mac laptops in this price range – especially once you’ve allowed another $549 for Samsung’s book cover keyboard. If you’re already carrying a high-end Samsung smartphone, the tight integration makes a high-end Samsung tablet more tempting.

Realistically, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra’s size, price and performance make it total overkill for day-to-day tasks. You need to be undertaking high-end tasks more like graphic design or multimedia editing, preferably taking advantage of the S Pen, to really get the value from it and make it worth lugging around such a hefty device.

If you’re not put off by the price tag and the bulk, and you’re confident that Android is your OS of choice for a portable productivity powerhouse, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra might be the killer tablet you’ve been waiting for.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
If you can afford the device, plus the book cover keyboard, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra might be the killer tablet you've been waiting for.
Features
9
Value for money
9
Performance
10
Ease of use
8.5
Design
9
Positives
Large display
Lots of grunt
S Pen and Samsung productivity tweaks
Negatives
Hefty and unwieldy
Expensive
Book cover keyboard is optional extra
9.1