While Android devices have been making great headway and stealing increasingly significant numbers of new users away from Apple in the smartphone market, manufacturers tied to Google's mobile operating system (OS) are yet to enjoy similar success in the tablet market.
Traditionally there's been good reason for this as 10in Apple tablets have had significantly faster performance, better designs, sharper screens and simpler software than their Android competitors. This year, though, Korean firm Samsung has worked hard to rectify the situation, releasing its most advanced tablet to date, the Galaxy Tab S, which comes in 10.5in and 8.4in models. We got our hands on the 10.5in option.
Featuring a thinner and lighter design, powerful octa-core processor and Samsung's own Super Amoled display tech, the Galaxy Tab S has the on-paper specs to take on the iPad Air, and has led many buyers to question whether it's finally time to fully embrace Google Android and use it as both their tablet and mobile OS of choice.
Design and build
Apple's always prided itself on its design and has worked to make its iPads as thin and light as possible. When it was released in 2013 the iPad Air carried on this legacy and measuring in at 240x170x7.5mm and weighing 469g, the iOS tablet was the thinnest and lightest tablet available.
In a clear show of one-upmanship Samsung intentionally worked to take this crown from Apple and designed the Galaxy Tab to be thinner and lighter than the iPad Air. As a consequence the Galaxy Tab S measures in at a downright tiny 247x177x6.6mm and weighs 467g.
While this is an engineering achievement, we found the difference in weight and size is fairly negligible when actually using both tablets. Both the Galaxy Tab S and iPad Air are comfortable to use and thanks to their low weights are travel friendly.
However, we did notice a difference when comparing the Galaxy Tab S's and iPad Air's build qualities. Initially we expected the iPad Air to be better built than the Galaxy Tab S as the Apple tablet's chassis is made of metal. By comparison the Galaxy Tab S features a perforated polycarbonate backplate similar to the one seen on the Galaxy S5.
However, using the two tablets, we found that not only is the Galaxy Tab S's backplate significantly more scratch resistant than the iPad Air's metal frame, it's more drop resistant. During our tests the Galaxy Tab S survived an accidental encounter with a hardwood kitchen floor that would have turned the iPad Air into a crack-ridden mess.
We also have to give credit to Samsung for loading the Galaxy Tab S with a generic micro USB charge port. The use of a generic micro USB port makes it far more convenient for users not fully embedded in Apple's ecosystem to charge their tablet than it would be if they used an iPad Air, which charges using a less common Lightning cable.
Winner: The Galaxy Tab S
Next: Display and operating system