Finally, a tablet to replace your laptop

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 Ultra 5G is an ultra-capable all-rounder tablet that could just be the one portable device you need

By Anirban Bagchi

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Published: Tue 7 Nov 2023, 5:10 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Nov 2023, 8:28 PM

There’s finally a tablet that can replace your laptop or PC, and maybe even your phone if you’re not finicky about portability – Samsung’s top-of-the-range Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra 5G.

If you think that is a bit far-fetched, just look at the specs: 1TB of storage, 16GB RAM, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, a 14.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with 2960x1848 resolution and 120Hz refresh rate – none of these are tab-like features. They are, instead, specs that would do most laptops proud.

Throw in the camera system – twin 12MP front lenses with wide and ultra-wide capability and at the rear an 8MP main ultra-wide with a 13MP main wide – the 5G SIM card slot and the included SPen stylus, and you have more than most laptops or PCs can give you. And best of all, this entire package is just 732 grams in weight and 5.5mm thick, with an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance that gives it a take-it-anywhere ruggedness.

Leave alone a PC, there isn’t even a laptop I can think of that combines such high-end features with such easy portability. Yes, it runs Android, which some might say has its limitations compared to both Windows and Mac OS. But for most real-world applications – and I mean browsing, word processing, image processing, entertainment and playing games – that almost 90 per cent of us who are not geeks or professional coders will use it for, we will hardly notice any difference.

Helping the cause of the Android 13 that the S9 Ultra runs is the Samsung One UI, Samsung’s own OS user interface, that runs on top of it and makes operating the tab a breeze with easy multitasking. You can run three apps together on the S9, rather than the two that Android normally allows. And Samsung has put in further tweaks that also allow you to resize them in various ways, including giving one 50 percent of the screen space and dividing the rest between the other two.

Looking closer at the features, one of the first things that will steal your heart is the stunning 14.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display. With the crisp 2960x1848 resolution and the dazzling 120Hz refresh rate, this tablet offers a visual feast for your eyes. Whether you’re watching movies, playing games or simply browsing the web, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra’s display provides vibrant colours, deep blacks and incredible sharpness and contrast. Being a portable device, it is sure to be used outdoors a lot – and even when under the glare of the midday sun, the screen is bright and clear enough to still be vibrant.

The generous 14.6-inch screen real estate is perfect for multitasking. It’s a joy to use split-screen mode or the enhanced App Pair feature, which allows you to create custom pairs of apps for more efficient productivity. From streaming your favourite series to editing documents or sketching your artistic masterpieces using the supplied SPen, this tablet’s display is an absolute delight.

That display – and the programmes that run on it – are of course driven by what’s under the hood, to use an automotive metaphor. And under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra 5G boasts some serious horsepower. The Snapdragon 8 chipset and 16GB of RAM that our test drive model was equipped with handled every task we threw at it with ease. Whether gaming, video editing, or running resource-intensive applications, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra never breaks a sweat.

The tablet’s 5G connectivity ensures blazing-fast internet speeds, making it perfect for online gaming, video conferencing and streaming high-definition content without a hitch. No matter how demanding your needs may be, this tablet is more than capable of meeting them. It did ours.

And it did so in great style — quite literally. Samsung has always been known for its sleek and stylish designs, and the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is no exception. The tablet exudes a premium feel with its slim and lightweight aluminium body. It’s remarkably portable for a device of its size, with its feather weight and slim dimensions making it easy to carry around and use in various settings.

The inclusion of the SPen is a bonus, especially for creative individuals. Whether you’re sketching, note-taking or annotating documents, the SPen’s responsiveness and accuracy are impressive. The stylus magnetically attaches to the back of the device, ensuring you’ll never lose it, and also charges inductively while it’s attached, so you’ll always have it ready for use whenever you need it. It’s a great tool to unlock your creativity or enhance your productivity.

You can also get creative with the S9 Ultra’s cameras, the setup of which is surprisingly versatile for a tablet. The dual-camera system on the back captures reasonably detailed and vibrant photos, with the ultra-wide lens adding a creative edge to your photography. Images captured in low light conditions, however, are a bit fuzzier than those shot in bright light.

The dual front-facing cameras are the showpiece, photographically speaking. The twin shooters, 12MP each, impress with their high-quality video calls and selfies. Whether you’re attending virtual meetings or recording vlogs, they deliver exceptional results. This is just as well, because it’s hardly standard practice to use a tablet for normal photography; not only will you be stared at quite a bit as you pan your massive tablet around, there are much better tools for this trade. You’re way more likely to use a tablet for video calls and selfies than taking art landscape photos, and this is where Samsung has beefed up the S9 Ultra’s image capabilities.

All of these features require substantial power to keep them running and the S9 Ultra’s battery does not disappoint here, providing over 12 hours of running time, that too with movies and games running non-stop, before needing a charge. So if you’re using this device in your 9-to-6 workday, it’ll give you your full nine hours at the office and still have juice to spare for some Netflix on the Metro ride home.

Recharging it is also lengthy, however, which brings us to the negatives. Samsung claims 90 minutes for a full charge, but we consistently needed around two hours.

Another small negative is that the SPen that comes with the device has no dedicated storage space – just a magnetic pad at the back to attach to. This is good for when the tab is stationary, but a slot inside the tab – a la the stylus holder in the Galaxy S23 Ultra – would have made the stylus a lot more secure.

The biggest negative of the S9 Ultra is probably its price. The S9 tablet range starts from Dh4,599 in the UAE and the range-topper S9 Ultra that we tested is listed for Dh5,099 on Samsung’s website. While this is no doubt a heavyweight among tablets, that is still a steep asking price.

If you’re after the best in Android tablets, though, don’t let that price point stop you. The Samsung Galaxy S9 Ultra is simply the best one out there, capable of replacing your laptop.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra 5G

Hits:

- Fast performance with big storage

- Great screen image quality

- Capable camera systems

- Stylish design, with included stylus

Misses:

- Long battery recharge time

- Pricey

Price:

Dh5,099

Rating: 4.5 stars


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