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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.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

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.

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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.

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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.

Even though it's not a flashy feature, the Adapt Sound setting is one of my favorite ways to customize a Galaxy tablet. Easily found in the Settings menu, it allows you to optimize sound while wearing headphones, so those who travel in noisy environments or are putting up with construction outside of their window (like me) can use the tablet to its maximum audio potential.

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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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