It's a nice idea in theory: Once those suckers are in, you can hold the tablet by the case if you want to. That thing is staying put. The problem is, it's a huge pain to use. First, you have to carefully line up the two nubs against their respective holes, and then you need to push them in one by one. Even now, after I've had time to practice, I usually don't get it right on my first try. And in order to be successful, I typically have to use two hands to press the tablet and case into each other. Ripping the case off requires a bit of force -- and makes an unpleasant noise, to boot. Thankfully, at least, Samsung says there will be third-party cases as well. Hopefully some of those will be the kind you can just slip on and off.
You'll notice I gave the display its very own section, even though it is technically "hardware." That's partly because I had a lot to say, and partly because the screen is clearly, indisputably the star of the show. What can I say? Samsung killed it. The screen here is a spec lover's dream, with 2,560 x 1,600 resolution on both the 10-and 8-inch models. On the 10-incher, that resolution translates to a pixel density of 287 ppi; the 8-incher is noticeably crisper, at 360 ppi. Either way, that's even sharper than both of the current-gen iPads, whose screens come to 264 ppi for the iPad Air and 326 ppi for the Retina display mini.
Alright, now that we've got that out of our system, let's pull up our pants and put the measuring tape away. Even setting aside the raw specs, this is a stunning display. In particular, it's a Super AMOLED panel, and while that won't sound revolutionary to anyone who's used one of Samsung's recent phones, it's fairly uncommon for a tablet. In fact, the last time Sammy tried a Super AMOLED panel on one of its slates was with the Galaxy Tab 7.7, which was prohibitively expensive -- precisely because of the impressive screen technology. Since then, the price seems to have come down, which means the benefits of Super AMOLED are much easier to sell. In particular, the blacks here are black; the whites are white; and the colors are vibrant, if a little oversaturated. If you've handled a phone like the GS5, you know what I'm talking about.
What's more, there's an RGB sensor inside that adjusts the color balance depending on your surroundings. So, if you find yourself in a swank lounge with purple mood lighting (in which case you should really get off your tablet and socialize), the display will adjust itself accordingly. I should add, too, that the screen is super bright -- bright enough that I could use it in direct sunlight and frame shots like the one below. I'll talk more about the camera in a bit, but suffice to say, having a tablet this thin, with this bright a screen, makes photography more enjoyable than it would be otherwise.
The Galaxy Tab S arrives on the heels of the Galaxy S5, which ushered in some big changes to Samsung's TouchWiz skin -- namely a flatter, more modern UI. Indeed, Sammy's new tablet has a similar look and feel throughout. Underneath it all, the Galaxy Tab S is running Android 4.4 KitKat on top of Samsung's My Magazine -- the same paneled, Windows 8-like layout that had Google a bit upset after Samsung's last round of tablets were revealed. The companies have since agreed to work together on future products, to bring Samsung's user experience more in line with stock Android. Well, this definitely doesn't look like stock Android, and it's frustrating that you can't remove Magazine UX from the homescreen. If it's any consolation, Magazine UX now lives on the left-most screen, where it's more out of the way. Still, I wish I had the option of removing it altogether.
Given that this is a Samsung product, running Samsung's software, you'll of course get various other features you wouldn't find on a stock Android device. These include the usuals, like S Voice; Multi Window Mode, for viewing two apps side by side; and Samsung's Milk Music service, which until recently has been available for phones only. As on the GS5, you'll find older Samsung features like Smart stay, Smart rotation and Smart pause, but they're now tucked out of sight. Don't worry, though: A new search bar in the settings menu means those features are still easy to find.
There are other similarities to the GS5. Chief among them: that fingerprint reader I mentioned earlier. As on the Galaxy S5, the fingerprint sensor here is built into the home button, and can be used to log into the device, make transactions using your Samsung account and buy stuff on eBay. You'll find the fingerprint option in the settings menu, at which point you'll have to go through a setup process that involves swiping your finger across the home button eight times. In all, you can register up to three fingers per user. Mastering the perfect swipe -- not too fast, centered on the home button, finger covering the whole button -- is difficult. In fact, even now that I've been playing with the device for nearly a week, it still routinely takes me two if not three tries to get it right. There have also been multiple occasions when I've failed five times in a row, and had to wait 30 seconds to try again. (Note: Samsung will also have you set up an alphanumeric password, which you can enter anytime you get fed up with the fingerprint scanner.)
Also like the GS5, the Galaxy Tab S comes with 50GB of Dropbox storage, free for two years. In fact, it comes with an entire suite of free stuff, a package known as "Galaxy Gifts." This, too, first debuted on the GS5, and includes things like six free months of Wall Street Journal access and a yearlong subscription to Bloomberg Businessweek. There are other items, including a bunch of magazine "samplers," but these just include a handful of stories, not the whole issue. That said, if you were curious about, say, that Monica Lewinsky essay in Vanity Fair, but didn't want to buy the whole issue (ahem), this might nonetheless be your lucky day. And hey, if all this strikes you as fancy bloatware, you can simply choose not to download it.