Despite all the Android slates on the market, the iPad Air is still largely considered the best tablet around, thanks to a combination of a stunning build, a great screen, smooth performance and long battery life.
But Apple’s biggest rival Samsung is back with a new slate that might just have what it takes to unseat the iPad Air as the tablet king. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has an incredible screen, it’s very powerful and more besides. So how do they compare? Read on to find out.
The Apple iPad Air is beautiful to look at, with an aluminium shell that’s both attractive and durable, curved edges that are comfortable to hold and a super-thin, super-light design, coming in at 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm and 469g (or 478g if you get a 4G version). When it comes to design this tablet really is in a class of its own.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 just can’t compete in this area, but it’s not totally hopeless. It has a plastic shell, but the metallic effect along the edges looks nice and the pock-marked back is comfortable to hold and easy to grip. It’s also a little slimmer and ever so slightly lighter than the iPad Air, coming in at 247.3 x 177.3 x 6.6mm and 465g (or 467g for the 4G version).
It has none of the design flair or premium materials of Apple’s slate but with a slim, light build it still comes across as reasonably high end.
The iPad Air has a 9.7 inch 1536 x 2048 IPS LCD display with a pixel density of 264 pixels per inch. It’s not the sharpest screen around, but given that you normally hold a tablet further away from your face than a phone it’s still plenty crisp. It also has good contrast and isn’t overly reflective, which all in all makes it one of the better tablet screens around.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has it beat though with its 10.5 inch 2560 x 1600 Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 288 pixels per inch. So right off the bat it’s bigger, higher resolution and has a greater pixel density, but it’s also richer and more vibrant than the iPad Air’s screen with bright colours that really bring media to life. If you’d rather have a more toned down experience though that’s fine too as the Galaxy Tab S has customisable display settings.
Talking about power with Apple devices is always an odd one because on paper they shouldn’t be all that great but Apple achieves such unity between its hardware and software that performance is far better than you might expect. Take the iPad Air, it has a 1.3GHz dual-core Apple A7 processor and 1GB of RAM, yet it’s one of the fastest, slickest tablets around with rarely a hint of slowdown.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 should decimate it on paper, with its 3GB of RAM and octa-core Exynos 5 processor, where four cores are clocked at 1.9GHz and the other four at 1.3GHz. Yet while it more than matches the iPad Air for power it doesn’t feel any more responsive or capable than its Apple rival, although it's worth remembering it runs at a slightly higher resolution.
The iPad Air has a 5 megapixel main camera, a 1.2 megapixel front facing camera and can shoot 1080p video at 30fps. The quality is reasonable but there are very few settings or modes to play with.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has an 8 megapixel main snapper along with a 2.1 megapixel front-facing one and the main camera has an LED flash, which Apple’s doesn’t. Plus it can shoot 1080p video at 30fps. So on paper Samsung’s slate has the photographic edge and in practice it does too, though there’s not a whole lot in it and neither are really suited to being your main camera.
The iPad Air has an 8,820 mAh battery quoted for up to 10 hours of media use and that sounds about right in our experience. It will get you through a day of non-stop use and with lighter use could easily last several days.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has a 7,900 mAh juice pack which Samsung reckons can keep on going for up to 11 hours of media which also sounds about right. In practice there’s little difference between the lifespan of this and the iPad Air but both perform admirably.
The iPad Air has up to 128GB of storage, while the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has a choice of 16 or 32GB. So the Air has it beat there, though the Galaxy Tab S also has a microSD card slot, which the iPad Air doesn’t.
For connectivity options both slates have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and optionally 3G and 4G. However the Tab S 10.5 also has an infrared blaster.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 and Apple iPad Air are incredibly well matched devices and it really comes down to what you want from your slate. The iPad Air gives you iOS, a luxurious build is available with more built in storage, while the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 gives you Android, a superior screen and a slightly better camera. It also has a fingerprint scanner, which may sway it for some people.
The iPad Air and Galaxy Tab S 10.5 both start at £399, which gets you the 16GB WiFi-only versions of either tablet. While, the 4G LTE versions of both tablets cost around £100 extra. So there is very little between the two when it comes to price.
Both tablets are tremendously powerful and really are the best slates around with very few weaknesses. The iPad Air is the latest in Apple’s yearly march of top flight slates, while the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is finally an Android tablet which can challenge it.
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