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

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Samsung consistently includes IR blasters with its Galaxy tablets. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The IR blaster on the right side of the Galaxy Tab 4 allows you to use the tablet as a remote control. The included WatchOn app connects to your television and home-entertainment system with ease. Once I added all of my devices, the tablet worked as well as most universal remotes, with the bonus of being able to easily look up familiar faces on IMDb without having to pull out a second device.

Performance

Simple activities like checking email and surfing the Web are executed swiftly; I rarely had an issue with crashing apps, sluggish behavior, or buggy functionality. Its 1.5GB of RAM is evident when multiple apps are open in the background, as performance remains unfazed. If large apps or files are being downloaded, the tablet justifiably slows down, and the touchscreen tends to lag, but it consistently runs smoothly otherwise.

The Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 fares well during gaming. Large games take awhile to launch, as well as their levels, but gaming was lag-free once loaded. It earns low benchmarks due to its basic specs, but simple mobile games like Riptide GP run fast and smooth with no problems.

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The speaker is easy to block. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Tablets aren't known for great audio quality, and the Galaxy Tab 4 does nothing to change the status quo. The single speaker on the back is fine for simple activities, but at full volume it's tinny and screechy. Its location also makes it easy to block when holding the slate which might be for the best.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0's biggest weak spot is its low number of pixels per inch and resolution. The 8-inch screen's 1,280x800-pixel resolution and brightness are modest at best. When compared to the super-HD screens on higher-end slates, it's embarrassingly pixelated, but it's definitely comparable to budget 8-inchers like the Lenovo A8 and Dell Venue 8.

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Color range and sharpness are fine, but 'just fine' doesn't cut it anymore. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The screen responds fast to touch as well as gestures, and it lags only when many large apps are running in the background. The buttons on the bottom bezel also respond quickly, but the capacitive buttons don't light up the way they do on previous Galaxy Tab models.

Tested spec Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 Acer Iconia A1-830 Dell Venue 8 Google Nexus 7 (2013) Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7
Maximum brightness 337 cd/m2 306 cd/m2 356 cd/m2 570 cd/m2 430 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.34 cd/m2 0.42 cd/m2 .43 cd/m2 0.44 cd/m2 .37 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 991:1 728:1 828:1 1295:1 1162:1
Pixels-per-inch 189 ppi 162 ppi 189 ppi 323 ppi 323 ppi

The front-facing 2-megapixel camera is functional for basic video conferencing, but you're better off using something else for selfies. The same goes for photos using the rear camera; neither have a manual focus option, and photos are dull and grainy with washed-out colors, and tend to be blurry in low light.

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Both cameras take fuzzy and dull photos. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Conclusion

The 8-to-9-inch tablet category is seeing a robust revival, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 misses the chance to make an impression on its peers. Its simple offerings conflict with its steep pricing and, though Samsung took the hint and priced the Tab 4 lower than last year's Galaxy Tab 3, it's too little, too late.

Budget tablets such as the Dell Venue 8 and Acer Iconia A1-830 offer similar performance for basic tasks and comparable screen resolutions, but they're priced considerably less at $179. If you don't mind a size downgrade for a performance upgrade, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX and Google Nexus 7 start at a lower $229 price. Even when taking its consistently smooth performance and bevy of software features into consideration, $279 is too much to ask for a simple slate like the 8-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 4.

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