Which one's best for you?: Samsung Galaxy Tab S vs. Note vs. Pro

Samsung releases more tablets than any other device in its Galaxy. We highlight the differences between its three premium lineups.

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Samsung's fat roster of tablets just got a little bigger -- but not by much. The super-slim and lightweight Galaxy Tab S lineup will go on sale in July, but with the panoply of Samsung tablets already available, what's the big deal?

In addition to the premium pair of Tab S slates, Samsung offers the high-end Note and Pro lines, as well as the simpler Galaxy Tabs -- now in their fourth iteration. Each series of tablets comes in a variety of sizes, usually a 7- and a 10-inch, with recent dabbling in the mid-size 8-inch range.

Though the Galaxy tablets share a few things in common, like Samsung's TouchWiz overlay, IR blasters, and button-filled bottom bezels, each line is subtly different in its approach. Here's a breakdown of each of Samsung's premium tablet lineups.


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The 8-inch Note also comes in an LTE version. CNET

Galaxy Note

The tablet-sized Samsung Galaxy Notes mirror the successful features of their smartphone counterpart, with productivity-geared software anchored by stylus capabilities. Every new Note model improves on the one before, and better S Pen integration matched with sleeker designs helps you stomach their expensive prices.

The 10-inch model received a welcomed upgrade for 2014, but the 8-incher hasn't seen a recent refresh, so when compared to the newer Galaxy Pro and Tab S slates, the mid-size Note has meeker, outdated specs. Despite this, you'll be hard pressed to find a tablet with similarly useful stylus integration.

Creative types will love the S Pen -- there's even a super-sized 12-inch Note Pro model, if you need a larger canvas -- but multi-window capabilities and handwriting recognition technology make the Notes a better companion for a student or writer. Prospective buyers might want to hold off for the eventual re-boot of the 8-inch model, either to get an upgrade in specs, or a better deal on the older model.

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The Galaxy Pro line comes in 8.4, 10.1, and 12-inch models. Sarah Tew/CNET

Galaxy Pro

The Galaxy Pro tablets are Samsung's best response to Apple's iPad; they're some of the most high-end Android-based slates around. There's no fancy gimmick to them, but the name may just be a nod to how good Samsung is getting at making tablets.

With slim, solid construction, and pixel-packed screens, the zippy Galaxy Pro line lends itself more to play than work, but is highly capable of both. The 8.4-incher is a more attractive buy, taking residence as one of the few premium mid-size slates available, while the 10.1-inch model is eclipsed by better performing -- and more affordable -- large tablets.

If you want a feature-filled slate with smooth performance, multitasking capabilities, and a super-sharp screen, the Galaxy Pro 8.4 offers a premium experience for a premium price, but skip the 10-incher if you're in the market for a high-end large slate.

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The new flagship Samsung tablets come in 8.4 and 10.5-inch models. Sarah Tew

Galaxy Tab S

Last, but not least, is Samsung's latest and greatest flagship tablets. On paper, the Galaxy Tab S lineup looks similar to the Pro models, but their ultra-thin design topped off with a cutting-edge screen sets them apart.

The Tab S slates are the skinniest and lightest in Samsung's entire Galaxy and, though the screen resolution matches the Pro line, the Super AMOLED screens on the Tab S series struts higher contrast ratios, wider range of colors, and deeper black levels that result in more vivid and detailed images. The display isn't all beauty and no brains; it can automatically adjust the screen's settings to optimize your viewing experience in different environments -- but it only does this for a handful of native apps.

Movie and TV buffs will love the super-sharp and colorful screen for binge-watching the latest Netflix original programming and, though artists might sway towards the stylus-toting Note tablets, the purportedly accurate colors (90 per cent of Adobe RGB) on the Tab S will appeal more to professional creative types. Also, any gadget-hounds that must have the latest and greatest will appreciate the super-compact designs and colorfully mesmerizing screens on the premium pair.

Which one to choose?

Depending on your needs and wants, you can probably find a Samsung tablet that'll suit you. Pricing starts at the higher end, but with new models released every few months, you can probably find a good deal online.

The lineup of Note tablets should see a refresh this year and, unless you're looking at the 10-inch 2014 model, you might want to hold off on that big-ticket purchase. The release of the Galaxy Tab S line will probably bring down the price of the Galaxy Pro tablets, making them a tempting option, but if your budget allows, the remarkable screen and sleekest-design-ever of the Galaxy Tab S is as cutting-edge as it gets in the tablet scene.

If you need help parsing through the minutiae of differences between Samsung's premium tablets, below you'll find a breakdown of specs for the latest line-ups, categorized by size.

Mid-size (8 to 9 inches)

Tablet Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
Dimensions (inches) 8.3" x 5.35" x 0.31" 8.6" x 5.05" x 0.28" 8.4" x 4.9" x 0.26"
Weight (pounds) 0.73 0.73 0.65
Processor Exynos 1.6GHz quad-core 2.3GHz quad-core Exynos S Octa Processor (1.9GHz quad-core + 1.3GHz quad-core)
RAM 2GB 2GB 3GB
Storage 16GB 16GB 16GB
MicroSD card capacity 64GB 64GB microXD up to 128GB
Front camera 1.3-megapixel 2-megapixel 2.1-megapixels
Rear camera 5-megapixel 8-megapixel 8-megapixels
4G No No No
Screen size (inches) 8 8.4 8.4
Resolution (pixels) 1,280x800 2,560x1,600 2,560x1,600
Pixels-per-inch 188ppi 359ppi 359ppi
Display type TFT scLCD Super AMOLED
Starting price $330, £215, AU$375 $400, £270, AU$349 $400, £319, AU$425

Large (10 inches and up)

Tablet Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Dimensions (inches) 9.6" x 6.8" x 0.3" 9.6" x 6.7" x 0.29" 9.7" x 7" x 0.26"
Weight (pounds) 1.2 1 1
System-on-chip Exynos 5 Octa (1.9GHz quad-core + 1.3GHz quad-core) Exynos 5 Octa (1.9GHz quad-core + 1.3GHz quad-core) Exynos 5 Octa (1.9GHz quad-core + 1.3GHz quad-core)
RAM 3GB 2GB 3GB
Storage 16GB or 32GB 16GB 16GB
Expandable storage microSD up to 64GB microSD up to 64GB microXD up to 128GB
Front camera 2-megapixels 2-megapixels 2.1-megapixels
Rear camera 8-megapixels 8-megapixels 8-megapixels
4G No No No
Screen size (inches) 10.1 10.1 10.5
Resolution (pixels) 2,560x1,600 2,560x1,600 2,560x1,600
Pixels per inch 299ppi 299ppi 287ppi
Display type TFT scLCD Super AMOLED
Starting price $550, £400, AU$600 $500, £380, AU$550 $500, £399, AU$530

 

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