There are a number of great tablets on the market today, where some great devices come in at the premium level and others are just overall great bang for the buck budget devices. Two slightly older, but still relevant tablets worth taking a look at are Apple’s iPad Air 2 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2.
One offers the familiarity of iOS and the other the power of Android, let’s do a quick shakedown of the iPad Air 2 vs Galaxy Tab S2.
On the surface of it all, we have two 9.7-inch tablets with high resolution displays, fingerprint scanners and some of the best features that Android and iOS have to offer. For each ecosystem, there are newer and better tablets available, but these offerings are still solid for the average user.
Behind the display is powerful processors, if not the latest gen versions in the lines, healthy amounts of RAM and internal storage and battery enough to keep the lights on for a while. Also, there are WiFi and LTE equipped versions available, to keep you connected on the go.
Before we go any further, we should point out that Samsung offers the Galaxy Tab S2 in this 9.7-inch size as well as a 8-inch size, effectively competing with both of Apple’s smaller tablets.
Starting things off, both the iPad Air 2 and the Galaxy Tab S2 rock that 9.7-inch panel at 4:3 aspect ration and 264 ppi. That is, both panels have a resolution of 2048 x 1536. The similarities follow on the spec sheet with both devices housing a 8MP rear camera as well as Bluetooth, WiFi and optional LTE radios
The iPad Air 2 comes in with the Apple A8X processor, the M8 graphics coprocessor and that display is an IPS panel. You’ll find the usual power and volume buttons, save for the ‘hold’ switch, in the normal upper right corner, with the Home button, situated front and bottom center, housing the fingerprint scanner.
The Galaxy Tab S2, on the other hand, houses an Exynos processor, at least for our testing, the Exynos 5433 with 3GB of RAM an a SAMOLED panel. Look for your power and volume buttons on the right hand edge, near the top, just below that is a pop-out tray for a microSD card and the headphone jack is at the bottom of the device, as opposed to the top edge on the Apple tablet.
Both are of metal construction, thin and light-weight.
Performance & Software
With older tablets like these, the true measure of worthiness is in their overall capabilities. Let’s be straight up with you on this, we would not be looking at these tablets if we thought they were not worth your time.
Special note, as we write this, a brand new iPad with 9.7-inch display is rumored to be releasing in just a few weeks. Whether it is named the iPad Air 3 or the iPad Pro 9.7 stay tuned, we’ll have plenty to say when we get our hands on the device.
The iPad Air 2 was the first tablet in the iOS line to receive all of the best new functions of iOS 9. As the only device to offer Slide-Over split screen functionality and picture-in-picture pop up video player window, at least until the iPad mini 4 and iPad Pro hit the market shortly after, we are still as happy with device performance today as were were on day one.
We have yet to stump the OS or see any major hiccups or delays when navigating the system or opening our favorite apps on the iPad Air 2. Mostly we have iOS 9 to thank for this, where Apple really has taken the time to make sure that everything works, and works pretty well, without having to manually change anything.
When you really put the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 to work, you will find that it performs admirably, but is not a flagship device by any means. The OS is smooth and apps load without issue, but dive into your favorite heavy game to experience a few small delays and a bit of lag. Nothing to discard the tablet over, just noticeable.
Android is such a vast and flexible operating system at this point, and Samsung is no stranger to putting their own spin on the OS. The Galaxy Tab S2 shipped originally with Android 5.0.2 Lollipop, and of course has Samsung’s TouchWiz skin over top.
The change to a 4:3 aspect ratio is fairly uncommon in the Android space. Unfortunately, we felt that this was more of a blatant attempt to directly compete with the iPad, instead of an active attempt to carve into a new segment. While the extra screen space is great for using the on-screen keyboard, we felt it offered few other advantages.
Instead of wowing you with marvelous photos, captured on these respective devices, allow me to just quickly say that the better camera lives inside the iPad Air 2.
With one of the best image sensors and processing software that Apple has, save for the new 12MP sensor, the iPad Air 2 may not be a handy device for photography, but its 8MP sensor really can take stunning photos. It is just too bad that the iPad line has not taken video conferencing seriously, sure you can FaceTime, but the 1.2MP, 720p, front sensor leaves much to be desired.
Now, before you go shrugging off the camera on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, please keep in mind that it is one of the better camera experiences in Samsung’s entire tablet line. Once again, Samsung’s flagship phones contain far better optics and software, but if tablet photography really is your thing, the Galaxy Tab S2 shouldn’t let you down.
Pricing and final thoughts
I feel like I do not have to verbalize this, the simple answer if you are deciding between these two tablets is the one that fits the ecosystem that you spend most of your time. There is little point mixing iOS and Android devices if you do not have to, although that has become much easier to do these days, thankfully.
Aside from ecosystem, if you have no loyalties there and are simply looking for the best tablet for the money, I will gladly point you toward the iPad Air 2.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is a little less of an impressive device, not to say that it does not perform well or hold its own for single-purpose and multi-tasking purposes, but as we said when we first put hands on this device, with a benchmark score below that of the Nexus 9 and an initial price tag that competed with the iPad Air 2, even if the specs did not.
Bottom line, we truly felt as though Samsung slapped the Galaxy Tab S2 together just so they had a directly competing device to the iPad Air 2 (which we thought they already did in the Galaxy Tab A.) With this logic alone, the iPad Air 2, as the tablet that others are attempting to concur, still survives as an excellent tablet in the market, and obviously comes out as our pick out of these two tablets.
iPad Air 2
Galaxy Tab S2
$499 at Apple
$419 on Amazon
$399.99 at Samsung or Amazon
$599 at Apple
$518 at Amazon
$699 at Apple
$611 at Amazon
With pricing on Amazon running about $419 for the entry level iPad Air 2 and $399 for the Galaxy Tab S2, we are happy to say that no matter which tablet you pick up, you are getting a fairly decent device for the money. As a final thought, it is hard to recommend either of these tablets right now, with a newer 10-inch range iPad hitting the market soon and better equipped Samsung Galaxy tablets available for the money.
What do you think, is Samsung’s seemingly half-hearted attempt at competing with the iPad Air 2 worth purchasing?