Samsung is banking on the auto-adjusting, high-resolution Super AMOLED screens on its Galaxy Tab S tablets, which also weigh less than Apple's latest iPads, to help it maintain momentum in a tough market.
Not content with the plethora of tablets with different screen sizes and network configurations it already offers, Samsung yesterday added the Galaxy Tab S to its lineup. The Tab S will ship in early July, but can be pre-ordered today.
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"This new tablet [has] raised the tablet viewing experience," said DJ Lee, head of sales and marketing for the communications division at Samsung Electronics, at an event in New York City's Madison Square Garden.
There are two models to choose between, one with an 8.4-inch screen and one with a 10.5-inch screen. Both are based on Super AMOLED technology and have a 2560-by-1600-pixel resolution. The company promises better contrast and color reproduction, it said. In comparison, Apple's iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina display have a 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution.
LCDs require backlighting and filters to display images and colors, and Super AMOLED reproduces colors more accurately, said Michael Abary, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics North America, at the event. The reds, greens, and blues are brighter and more accurate than on traditional LCDs, he said. However, in Samsung's Galaxy S smartphones that use Super AMOLED LCDs, the colors can be unnaturally garish.
The tablets also have a feature called Adaptive Display, which changes screen settings based on the content being viewed and the ambient lighting conditions. It has three settings it automatically switches among as needed, and users can also manually select a display setting.
The tablets are set to adjust the screen when using Samsung's own apps for movies, photos, e-books, video calls, camera, and browsing. The Adaptive Display technology adjusts gamma, contrast and saturation. Using sensors that detect ambient lighting, Adaptive Display can also adjust brightness and color based on the user's surroundings. Samsung claims the screens let people read e-books comfortably even in outdoor light.
Samsung is hoping that the screen, along with overall size and weight, will separate its new tablets from the competition. The Wi-Fi version of the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 weighs 294 grams, which is 37 grams lighter than the iPad Mini with Retina display. At 465 grams, the Wi-Fi version of the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is, on the other hand, only 4 grams lighter than the iPad Air's 469 grams.
Both devices are 6.6mm thick, which is thinner than the iPad Air's and the iPad Mini's 7.5mm thickness.
Samsung is sticking with a plastic back, but the bronze version of the new tablets looks better than the much maligned Galaxy S5's case.
Both tablets run Android 4.4 KitKat and are powered by either Samsung's own Exynos 5 processor -- running four cores at 1.9GHz and another four cores at 1.3GHz -- or a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor from Qualcomm with a 2.3GHz clock speed.
They both have an 8-megapixel camera on the back and a 2.1-megapixel camera on the front. They also have 3GB of RAM and a choice of 16GB or 32GB of internal flash storage. The flash storage can be expanded with up to 128GB using the MicroSD card slot.
Just like on the Galaxy S5, there is an integrated fingerprint scanner. But the fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy Tab S lets users switch from muti-user mode to personal mode. For example, a parent could use the fingerprint sensor to switch to single-user mode with access to her apps and data, such as email, then use it again to switch back to multi-user mode where other family members would not have access to her personal apps and data.
In addition to the Wi-Fi version, there is also an LTE version of both models for cellular connectivity. The Wi-Fi version of the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 costs $399 with 16GB of storage; the equivalent Galaxy Tab S 10.5 costs $499. That's pricier than pervious Samsung tablets, matching the cost of Apple's iPad tablets, which highlights how confident Samsung is.
Samsung's portfolio expansion -- which earlier in the year saw it introduce the Galaxy Note Pro and the Tab Pro, for example -- comes as the overall tablet market has lost some of its luster. Two weeks ago, market researcher IDC lowered its sales projections for the year.
There are two main reasons for the slowdown: Users are keeping their tablets, especially higher-cost models from major vendors, far longer than originally anticipated; and the rise of smartphones with 5.5-inch and larger screens is causing many people to second-guess tablet purchases, IDC said.
IDC now expects that 245.4 million units will ship in 2014, down from the previous forecast of 260.9 million units. The new forecast represents a 12.1 percent annual growth rate, which is notably lower than the 51.8 percent the market grew in 2013.
This year, tablet shipments grew by only 3.9 percent during the first quarter. Apple was still the market leader with 16.4 million units versus Samsung's 11.2 million. However, while Apple's unit sales dropped by 16.1 percent, Samsung's grew by 32 percent year-on-year, according to IDC's data.
Samsung said that it is happy with sales so far this year and that it has high hopes for the Galaxy Tab S products. However, catching up and surpassing Apple will be a big mountain for the company to climb.
Mikael Ricknås and Agam Shah are reporters for the IDG News Service. InfoWorld Executive Editor Galen Gruman contributed to this report.