Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 review: A simple slate with a stiff price

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.3
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:

The Good The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0's multiwindow feature provides smooth navigation, and its performance is consistently fast. It houses a microSD card expansion slot and can be used as a universal remote.

The Bad Given its simple specs, the $279 starting price is overreaching. The plastic build feels cheap and the screen resolution is notably subpar.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 is a smooth-performing midrange slate, but it's overpriced compared to similar tablets.

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The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 is a glorified budget tablet. It features a lightweight design and a ton of software features, but it suffers from inflated pricing. Further, its silky smooth performance, even when multitasking, can't distract from its remarkably low screen resolution, plastic build, and mediocre performance speeds.

Starting at $279, the 8-inch Tab 4 is priced competitively when compared to premium midsize tablets like Samsung's own Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 or the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, but they rock larger super-HD screens, zippy processors, and deluxe designs that justify their high starting prices. Aside from the myriad of Touchwiz software features, the Galaxy Tab 4's basic specs scream "budget tablet," so its lofty price is hardly warranted.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 is a fine, simple tablet but -- depending on your needs -- it's far from the best deal out there. You can find a more affordable midsize slate for basic use, or pony up the extra cash and go Pro for a truly premium experience.

Design

The 8-inch Galaxy Tab 4 is a nice, compact size that fits comfortable in either one or both hands. It's offered in black or white and brandishes a textured finish on its back that's simultaneously smooth and grippy. Unfortunately, its plastic construction makes the Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 feel a bit cheap, and it lacks the premium feel of its sleeker predecessor.

Tested spec Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 Acer Iconia A1-830 Dell Venue 8 Google Nexus 7 (2013) Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7
Weight in pounds .70 0.83 0.64 0.66 0.66
Width in inches (landscape) 8.3 8 8.3 7.8 7.3
Height in inches 4.5 5.4 5.1 4.5 5
Depth in inches 0.31 0.32 0.38 0.34 0.35
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.5 0.8 0.7 1 0.6

Like a typical Samsung gadget, the Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 houses a pair of capacitive buttons on the bottom bezel. These are always a nuisance when watching long videos, because they can easily be accidentally triggered by wandering thumbs, but they aren't as bothersome during activities with more movement, like browsing and gaming.

samsunggalaxytab480tablet3.jpg
The capacitive buttons on the bottom edge don't light up. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The rounded plastic back ends solidly at the flat, straight edges of the tablet, a combination that works well when holding it in portrait orientation -- fingertips sit flat on the silver edge while your curved palm conforms to the rounded back, but holding it in landscape orientation is a different story; the rigid edge between the straight sides and curved back can dig slightly into your palms. I wouldn't call the tablet uncomfortable to hold, but it's not a melt-in-your-hands design.

Features

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 runs on Android 4.4.2 with Samsung's Touchwiz skin. Touchwiz is quite user-friendly, and out-of-the-box it provides helpful how-to tips via pop-up windows. You can easily turn them off, but they help the uninitiated learn how to navigate the almost overwhelming number of features. Even without the extra help, the Touchwiz overlay is basic enough for the tech-novice to use, without stripping away customization options -- like the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9's simple and restrictive OS.

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The split-screen function is one of the software highlights. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The 8-inch Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 impressively handles multitasking. Samsung's split-screen feature was previously reserved for its Pro line of tablets, but the simple Tab 4 takes on the dual-function duties with grace. As long as large apps aren't open in the background, the tablet consistently runs smoothly when using the split-screen to simultaneously use two apps.

By swiping right to the center of the screen, you can activate the split-screen window. Once I got the hang of it -- start with a finger on the right bezel and slowly drag it onto a blank space on the screen -- launching the menu screen was easy.

screenshot2014-05-30-18-28-25.png
You can easily adjust the split-screen apps. Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

Not all apps are split-screen capable, but you can perform most basic tasks like browsing and streaming videos on YouTube. The budget Asus MeMo Pad HD 7 tablet features similar bare-bones multiwindow functionality, but it doesn't hold a candle to the Galaxy Tab 4's consistently smooth performance. Its multitasking capabilities are far from the prowess of productivity-geared slates like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, but it gives the Galaxy Tab 4 a performance edge in the midsize tablet category.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0
  • Type Android 4.4 (KitKat)
  • Weight 11.3 oz
  • Storage 16 GB