At a glanceExpert’s Rating
ProsSmooth performanceGreat screen and soundVersatileIP68 ratedConsInferior app selection and performance compared to iPadNo charger includedExpensiveOur Verdict
This is the basic model of three in the Galaxy Tab S9 family and it comes in a comfortable 11in size without compromising on performance. The screen makes it a pleasure to watch shows or play games, and the battery lasts a long time. The price is high for a tablet and the iPad still has a better selection of apps but this is a top-tier Android option.
This summer, the foldable mobiles may have taken all the focus when Samsung presented news, but they also released a new family of tablets. This is the basic model and the last to pass through the test lab.
The tablets are called Galaxy Tab S9, Galaxy Tab S9 Plus (or S9+) and Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra. All three are very lavish and equipped with the very best features, what separates them is mainly the size.
On the Android side, it’s really only Samsung that properly challenges Apple’s iPad Pro range. Here I have tested the Galaxy Tab S9, an 11in device that comes in two memory configurations and with or without a built-in 5G modem.
The cheapest base model comes with 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage and this will cost you a hefty $799/£799 which will sting the wallet of many. If you choose more storage, you also get more memory (12/256GB) and this will cost $919/£899. My test model comes with 5G which starts at £949 but you can’t get 5G in the USA.
You can buy it from the Samsung store as well as retailers such as Amazon and Currys.
In the US, it’s available from Samsung as well as Amazon and BestBuy.
Design & Build
The tablet is 5.9mm thin and made of solid aluminium with right angles and clear buttons. There is a SIM card slot on the models that have it built in (the Wi-Fi model only has room for microSD cards).
There are holes for speakers on the short sides and the whole design feels rigid and sturdy.
It’s not super comfortable to hold, but has a similar straight-edge design to many others.
Ida Blix / Foundry
The right angles don’t make it very comfortable to grip, but it’s not alone in this design. It feels like elegant design may have won out over comfort. However, this doesn’t stop me from using the tablet in everyday life. It’s just the right size to take everywhere.
If I want to play games that have console-like controls (best suited for mobiles), it gets annoying after a while, but here the Tab S9 is slightly more pleasant than its larger siblings because it has a smaller screen. Graphics-heavy games can cause the chassis to get very hot if you play for a long time.
The cooling feels effective, but if you’re going to play a lot, a case with a stand and a wireless controller is recommended. A stand can be good regardless, as it becomes like a laptop together with a good keyboard. It’s easy to switch to Samsung’s Windows-like Dex interface with mouse cursor control and free-floating windows.
Together with the mouse and keyboard, the Tab S9 works much more like a Chromebook.
Ida Blix / Foundry
Dex gives you access to some apps that are well controlled with a mouse and keyboard, such as the Office apps and web browsers.
The screen is covered in Gorilla Glass, and while it does give a slight rainbow shimmer to the surface at close viewing angles, it’s not something I mind. The Tab S9 is also fully waterproof with its IP68 rating, which is welcome. Neither its predecessor nor its competitors offer it.
Samsung has made this tablet and the pen that comes with it waterproof.
Ida Blix / Foundry
Screen & Speakers
Samsung scores points for the screen on this tablet, which is a gorgeous 2560 x 1600 pixel AMOLED. With up to 120Hz dynamic frame rate and fast touch reading (it has S-pen support), everything on the screen flows quickly and directly.
It’s a big upgrade for the regular model in the Tab S9 family as the Galaxy Tab S8 missed out on OLED, instead getting a more basic LCD panel.
The screen of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 is a joy to use with great colours and high contrast.
Ida Blix / Foundry
The screen has a wide colour gamut, high colour accuracy and, thanks to OLED, high contrast. It’s great for editing images, and HDR images in films and games are detailed and immersive. Samsung has thrown in support for HDR10+ and good brightness. You can take the tablet out in the sun (although it’s getting bad now) without having to seek shade to see properly.
The Galaxy Tab S9 can be taken outdoors.
Ida Blix / Foundry
The Tab S9 has four speakers by AKG and they provide really good sound in both horizontal and vertical positions. Films get the right amount of pressure and a surround effect. Music also sounds dynamic with lots of detail. The disc supports Dolby Atmos and has a special mode for games. It sounds great and whether it’s mostly thanks to the software or the hardware probably doesn’t matter.
Specs & Performance
The Tab S9 has a Snapdragon 8 gen 2, with the same special version as in the Galaxy S23 phones.
It’s fast for a mobile phone and by far the fastest in class among Android tablets, but Apple has the upper hand here – there’s no getting away from the fact that the iPad Pro offers laptop performance with its M2 processor.
The Tab S9 has fast memory and storage, which makes it easy to handle everything from apps to media-heavy websites. The good multitasking capabilities also work without compromising the experience.
As mentioned at the top, you can choose from 8GB of memory with 128GB of storage or a model with 12/256GB.
Galaxy Tab S9 benchmarks
Antutu Benchmark 10*: 1,456,416 pointsGeekbench 6: 5,465 pointsGeekbench 6 single core: 1,992 pointsGeekbench 6 compute: 9,474 points3dmark Wild Life Unlimited: 14,766 points3dmark Wild Life Extreme: 3,901 pointsStorage, read: 1,460.01MB/sStorage, write: 1,090.03MB/s
*Only comparable with other Android tablets, not iPad
Software & Apps
On the Android side (version 13), there is an inferior range of apps adapted for larger screens, and there is a particular lack of professional apps for productivity and creation.
This is where the iPad OS leads the pack. The standard version of Android provides a better experience on phones than on tablets. Apps that are actually designed for larger screens are drowned out by non-customised apps that work best on thumb drives in the Google Play Store.
Samsung’s own interface, One UI, is generally very well adapted to the S9’s larger screen, but the problem of finding suitable productivity apps remains. However, consuming media, using it to take notes with the S-pen and browsing the web are all tasks it handles well.
Samsung is offering four major generation updates of Android for this tablet so it should last a while – which is lucky with this price tag. It ships with Android 13, when Android 14 will arrive is not clear, Samsung usually needs some time to adapt its own One UI interface.
Split Screen & S Pen
Samsung continues to refine its multitasking support and you can have up to three apps in split windows and even more free-floating. It gets messy quickly, but having a menu bar at the bottom speeds up navigation.
It’s easy to use multiple apps at the same time. It gets a bit messy quickly, but is useful once you get the hang of it.
Ida Blix / Foundry
The S-Pen is very nice and has a Bluetooth connection to the tablet. It can be attached magnetically to the back where it charges. An improvement from before is that it now charges no matter in which direction you attached it. The pen also has the same IP rating as the tablet, so you can draw in the bathtub without worry if you feel like it.
The tablet surfs with 5G or Wi-Fi 6E and it is fast and stable no matter what you choose. Samsung has not chosen to offer Wi-Fi 7 yet, as some competitors have started to do.
It is possible to log in quickly and conveniently with fingerprint or facial recognition, but the latter does not have ID-approved biometrics so it does not work, for example, with bank login in the tablet. The fingerprint reader is a bit awkwardly positioned for logging in when the tablet is horizontal, but better in landscape mode.
This tablet offers modest mid-range cameras. A 13Mp main camera on the back and a 12Mp wide-angle camera on the front are what’s offered in this basic model. They are primarily intended for documentation, AR and video calls rather than for photography on par with a Galaxy S23 mobile phone.
The battery is slightly smaller in the Tab S9, at 8400mAh. If you choose the S9 Plus model instead, you get 10800 mAh. You can use the tablet all day, at least if you don’t use heavy games or productivity apps to any great extent.
Charging speedily should be possible with up to 45W of USB charging. You’ll have to get your own charger, though, because it’s not included. I was only allowed to borrow a 25W charger so I have not been able to test even faster charging. Using this, an empty battery takes about 1.5 hours to fully charge.
System circuit: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 gen 2 for Galaxy
Processor: 1 x 3.36 GHz, 4 x 2.8 GHz, 3 x 2 GHz
Graphics: Adreno 740
Storage: 128/256GB, microSD slot
Display: 11in glossy AMOLED, 2560×1600 pixels, 120 Hz
Cameras: 13Mp rear, 12Mp wide angle front
Connections: USB-C with video out
Communications: 5G (optional), Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
Operating system: Android 13 with One UI
Other: S-pen stylus included, Dex desktop interface, waterproof (IP68)
Battery: 8,400 mAh, up to 15 hours of video streaming
Battery charging: Up to 45W, charger not included
Size: 25.4 x 16.6 x 0.59cm