Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra hands-on: A premium tablet with water protection

This year’s Galaxy Unpacked foldable demonstration is primarily an assault on Samsung’s ecosystem. Two foldables, two wearables, and no less than three tablets are available to entice you to stay with the Galaxy family (or abandon competitors such as Apple and Google). While foldables of the fourth generation are arguably the most significant announcements, Samsung’s latest flagship tablet, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra, makes a strong case for a premium Android tablet.

The flagship Galaxy Tab S9 is only the company’s second “Ultra” tablet, and it has many similarities to last year’s Tab S8 Ultra, including a 16:10 display, dual-camera array on the back, and a magnetic attachment for the stylus. This time, the stylus can be attached to the holster in either direction, and it will still charge. This was an odd oversight in the previous incarnation.

The design of Samsung’s tablet remains largely unchanged: aluminum frames with thinner bezels. Especially the Ultra with a wide-screen, they continue to be exceedingly sleek and luxurious. I’m not accustomed to the Tab S9 Ultra’s taller screen aspect ratio, so it feels a little awkward in my palms. Additionally, it is nearly 13 inches wide.

At least it’s beautiful. Samsung’s ninth-generation tablets all feature Dynamic AMOLED 2X displays, just like its most potent (and pricey) Galaxy S smartphones and Galaxy Book Ultra laptops. The 14.6-inch AMOLED display on the Tab S9 Ultra is capable of 120Hz and supports HDR 10+. While I’ll concentrate on the Ultra model, the Galaxy Tab S9+ with its 12.4-inch display and the Tab S9 with its 11-inch display also feature the same enhanced AMOLED technology.

Unsurprisingly, the displays are all vibrant and high-contrast; this is Samsung’s forte. I had to significantly diminish the screen’s brightness in order to capture images on the Tab S9 Ultra. Again, the Galaxy Tab Ultra model features a notch, which – shock – appears to house dual 12-megapixel cameras. (We are verifying a few specifications with Samsung.) There are also four AKG-tuned speakers and Dolby Atmos support if you plan to watch a lot of movies, television programs, or video games.

In addition to the display, Samsung has made two other significant improvements to the Tab S9 series. All new tablets feature IP68 dust and water protection as their first feature. Samsung claims this means it can withstand water depths of up to 1.5 meters, and it’s also launching a ruggedized cover (price TBD) to make the most of the tablet’s new rugged credentials.

Samsung has also enhanced the processor for 2023, and all of its tablets utilize Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. Compared to last year’s Tab S8, the company claims significant performance enhancements, including up to 32 percent better CPU performance and 41 percent better GPU performance. Both the Tab S9+ and Tab S9 Ultra will support rapid charging at up to 45W, but only the Tab S9 Ultra will include a compatible charging brick. People, that’s why it’s called the Ultra. Both of the larger tablets feature a rear dual-camera configuration with 13- and 8-megapixel sensors, whereas the Tab S9 will only have a 13-megapixel camera.

All three models will offer up to 12 gigabytes of memory, although the base Tab S9 will also be available with 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage. The Tab S9 Ultra has a maximum storage capacity of 1 terabyte for power consumers. However, you must consider the cost of your keyboard adapter. We are awaiting confirmation from Samsung regarding pricing for the Tab S9 Ultra version, but last year’s premium keyboard folio with trackpad cost $350.

CAD design program ArcSite and video-editor LumaFusion (think Android-flavored iMovie) will utilize the add-on on Samsung’s flagship tablet, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4.

In addition to bidirectional charging, the S-Pen has IP68 water resistance, making it more likely to survive a plunge into water than an almost 15-inch tablet. Samsung also announced that it will release a creator edition of its S-Pen, which will feature a new textured finish, a wider tilt angle, and numerous stylus tips. However, I was unable to test it during my meeting with Samsung, and there is currently no word on pricing or a release date.

The default S-Pen feels like a Samsung stylus. It is more substantial than the one included with the S23 Ultra and Note series, has a flattened side for improved grasp, and appears fluid and responsive on the Tab S9’s display.

Samsung’s Multi Control aims to bind your disparate Galaxy devices together. After logging into both devices with the same Samsung account, I was able to perform simple duties on a Galaxy Flip 4 and a Tab S9 Ultra during my briefing. Similarly to setting up a second screen on a PC, you will have the option to position your phone in proximity to the Tab S9 while configuring Multi Control. Then, if using a trackpad or mouse, you can move the cursor to your Samsung phone, type into search bars and emails from your keyboard (although it’s unclear why you would do this) and drag and drop files and images.

The Tab S9 Ultra, Samsung’s premium tablet, begins at $1,200, while the Tab S9+ begins at $1,000 and the Tab S9 at $800. Pre-orders are currently available on Samsung and Amazon (though you won’t find the Ultra on Amazon), and the tablets will be released on August 11.

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