By | June 17, 2023
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 family review: easier choices

If you’re interested in buying a high-end Android tablet this year, Samsung is making your decision easier than ever.

This year’s Galaxy Tab S9 tablets, which include the 11-inch Tab S9, the 12.4-inch Tab S9 Plus, and the massive 14.6-inch Tab S9 Ultra, are remarkably similar — you can base your entire decision on how much money you want to spend and what size screen you want. They’ve got the same screen technology, same processors, same color options, same designs, same accessory options, and largely all the same features across the board.

Compared to last year’s Tab S8 lineup, there are two tangible upgrades in the S9s: a new Qualcomm processor that promises to be a little faster (though speed and performance were never really issues in last year’s tablets), and IP68 water and dust resistance, just like most modern smartphones. That means you can use these tablets around a pool or bathtub, or more likely, you just won’t have to worry about life’s little mishaps at the coffee shop or when a toddler surprises you with their range when throwing a sippy bottle. I don’t know of any other non-rugged tablets that have this kind of water resistance — Android, iPad, or otherwise — so it’s a legitimate differentiator for Samsung’s models and a nice thing to have.

Water resistance isn’t something you’ll find on any iPad, but all three Tab S9 models have it

I assume that, if you are reading this, you already know why you want to buy a Samsung tablet, but to recap: they are good alternatives to Apple’s iPad lineup if you are already invested in the Samsung ecosystem by way of a phone, earbuds, or some other product. They share the same software as the phones so you can easily pass files between devices, respond to text messages from your tablet, or use the same apps across both. If you have a set of Galaxy Buds, they can seamlessly transition their connection between the phone and tablet depending on which one you’re using. It’s all very similar to how an iPad integrates with an iPhone, AirPods, and the rest of Apple’s ecosystem, and I go into more depth on it in my review of the Tab S8 and S8 Plus from last year.

Samsung’s high-end tablets are also excellent media consumption machines, with gorgeous OLED displays and great speakers. Movies, TV shows, and games all look and sound great on them. If all you plan to do with a tablet is watch movies on it, you can’t do much better than these, though you can get nearly as good of an experience for significantly less money from Apple, Lenovo, or OnePlus if that’s all you want to do.

Speaking of which: these tablets are expensive. Samsung actually raised the price of each model by $100 this year, so the cheapest Tab S9 starts at $799.99, the middle road Tab S9 Plus is $999.99 and up, and the big boy Tab S9 Ultra leaps up to a $1,199.99 starting price. They all still come with the (now also water-resistant) S Pen stylus in the box, but keyboards and other accessories can easily push the cost hundreds of dollars higher. And frustratingly, Samsung doesn’t include a charging brick, despite the fact that these support up to 45W fast charging and will take forever to charge on a typical phone-size charger.

I’ve been testing all three models for a few weeks and have recommendations for who each model is for. I’ve also included some competitive alternatives for each size below.

  • OLED screen, finally
  • Small and light enough to hold comfortably
  • Great performance
  • Great speakers
  • Water resistance
The Bad
  • 16:10 aspect ratio feels cramped for web browsing
  • Expensive