The herd has thinned out when it comes to finding solid Android tablets, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e may be the top option for consuming content.

This isn’t a tablet that’s going to surprise you. It’s not built to come out of nowhere with something new or dramatic. Samsung focused on keeping things fairly simple rather than trying to introduce a newer concept. Retaining the familiarity tends to be a good thing, if only because the company improved in two key areas.


Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e Specs

Display: 10.5-inch 2560 x 1600 WQXGA Super AMOLED display with 288 pixels per inch
OS: Android 9.0 Pie
Processor: 2GHz + 1.7GHz Snapdragon 670 octa-core processor
Memory: 4GB RAM, 64GB or 128GB internal storage (microSD card slot expandable up to another 512GB)
Camera: 13-megapixel rear camera, 8-megapixel front-facing
Video: 4K video recording
Battery: 7040mAh
Connections: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, USB-C
Dimensions: 9.64 x 6.29 x 0.21 inches
Weight: 400 grams
Comes in black, silver and gold


Design

Everything about this tablet is to improve upon the previous model, the Tab S4. It’s the same 10.5-inch Super AMOLED with great resolution and responsiveness. The screen also supports HDR10 and is flanked by really thin bezels that lower the device’s overall footprint. At 5.5mm thick, it’s also really thin for its size.

The same four AKG-tuned speakers are situated along the edges, with support for Dolby Atmos. You do get a USB-C port and a fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button. Samsung removed the previous model’s iris scanner, yet maintained the facial recognition introduced in the previous model.

Samsung also did away with the glass on the back, replacing it with a slate metal instead, nicely matching the edges. The rear and front-facing cameras are carryovers from the Tab S4, so no surprises there. I’ve never bothered taking photos with a tablet, though a good front-facing camera is important for video calling.

Also notably missing is the S Pen. Samsung included it with the Tab S4, but makes no mention of it here. The Tab S4 never had a way to hold the pen anyway, requiring you to get a case that had a slot for it. From a usability standpoint, you can make do without it, as this is more about consumption than creation. Even the magnet connectors for a keyboard at the bottom are entirely elective. You could use a keyboard with the Tab S5e to run DeX mode, Samsung’s desktop-like interface, but whether you really need to is another story.

Performance

It’s hard not to like a tablet that is this thin and lightweight. I was more concerned about accidentally dropping or bending it than anything else. It’s really well-built, though best placed in a case to protect from any nicks or scratches that could happen along the way.

The screen is bright, vibrant and responsive. It’s nice and fast when navigating the interface, partly because of the improved interface. Samsung’s One UI has already taken strides with Galaxy phones, and it’s translated fairly well here. It isn’t just getting around, it’s also how much easier it is to find features. One of the best things Samsung (finally) did was streamline the settings app under One UI.

I watched a lot of video on the Tab S5e. From streaming movies or shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Crave and other apps, to watching live NHL, NBA and UEFA Champions League games, it became natural to carry the tablet just about everywhere. I don’t commute to work every day, but I can see how this would be nice to have for that.

Web browsing, music streaming, photo editing—they all worked smoothly. Social media was fine, though I always find messaging less efficient with tablet onscreen keyboards. At least for me.

There’s no headphone jack, so I made use of Bluetooth headphones. It is also possible to use a 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter to plug in headphones, and Samsung includes one in the box. The AKG speakers are pretty clear, and reasonably loud, but I found I sometimes covered one of the speakers on either side with my hands when holding the tablet. Metal on the back makes the Tab S5e less slippery compared to the Tab S4—and far less of a fingerprint magnet.

I should also note that the 64GB of internal storage is actually more like 49GB. Android, One UI, and all the preloaded apps take almost a quarter of the space. That’s not going to be a big problem if you’re mostly streaming, but it cuts down if you download multiple apps, save content for offline streaming and start editing photos. Expanding that with a microSD card is always a fallback option. There’s also a 128GB version should you want to avoid using a card altogether.

Phone compatibility

One of the cool features here is Call and Message Continuity. In short, you can make or take calls from your Galaxy smartphone through the Tab S5e. It only works when the tablet has a Wi-Fi connection, but is pretty seamless. The same goes for messaging, except for one caveat, which is that it only works with Samsung’s own text messaging app. I wasn’t able to replicate the experience with Google’s Messages SMS app. It also only works with unlocked Galaxy S10e, S10 and S10+.

Battery life

The Tab S5e actually has a smaller battery compared to the Tab S4, but it appears to be more efficient anyway. Samsung rates this tablet at hitting 14 hours of video playback on one charge. They probably got that number by streaming in 1080p and at 50 percent brightness, but either way, you can get through a lot of content before reaching for the charger.

To test this out, I streamed a full 10-episode series on Netflix called The Road to Cavalry over two days and still had life left. It wasn’t much, since it was only 12 percent, but that’s not bad at all. Had I downloaded all the episodes and watched them in Airplane Mode, I might have been able to squeeze a little extra juice from the device. Like its predecessor, the Tab S5e charges pretty quickly. If you have the Galaxy S10/S10+ charger, you can use that for the same results.

Final thoughts

Samsung downplayed the DeX side of the tablet’s functionality, and is better for it. I wouldn’t recommend this tablet for that kind of productivity. Even editing photos might be better suited for the Tab S4 because of the S Pen integration. You can just be more precise that way.

The Tab S5e is about taking content with you to watch where and when you want. It’s a quality device offering a good premium Android experience, with a beautiful display and speedy performance. Hard to argue with a device that delivers what it’s supposed to.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is available now.

 

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.