The Galaxy Tab S9+ is my first Android device in 2 years since I’d dove into the Apple ecosystem in 2021. I’d ended off with the LG V50 before getting an iPhone, and was really curious to see how this flagship Android tablet (the S9) would perform for my work tasks — especially compared to an iPad Pro.
For full disclosure I never owned a Galaxy Tab S8 so I can’t compare the relative performance of each, although from what I gather from other reviews the S9 provides a noticeable step up on processor performance and battery efficiency.
What I can do is talk about these things:
- How the Tab S9+ works with peripherals & at a desk
- DeX mode
- The Tab S9’s performance in general and compared to an M1 iPad Pro
- Small nitpicks you might care about between each ecosystem
- Integrating the Tab S9 into an Apple ecosystem
Here are the specs of the tablet I am reviewing:
- Galaxy Tab S9 Plus, 12.4″
- 256GB internal storage
- Screen: AMOLED HDR 1752 x 2800 pixels, 16:10 ratio (~266 ppi density), 120hz
- Processor: Octa-core [1×3.36 GHz Cortex-X3 & 2×2.8 GHz Cortex-A715] & [2×2.8 GHz Cortex-A710 & 3×2.0 GHz Cortex-A510]
- 12GB RAM
- 512GB Samsung Pro microSD card
- IPX 68 water resistant
- 10,090 mAh battery
Using The Tab S9 as a Hybrid Gaming and Work Device: Peripherals
We can’t talk peripherals without first mentioning how nice it is to get an S pen included with the tablet. That’s another $100-ish purchase for iPad users.
The S pen is smaller and more portable than the Apple Pencil, and while it can charge by sticking to the back of the tablet, it only uses the charge for bluetooth options and not to actually function as a pen. This is great, since you won’t be interrupted mid-task with a low pen battery.
The mouse cursor being a traditional cursor instead of the iPad’s circle was a little thing that seemed weirdly comforting to see as I began using the Tab S9+.
As expected, syncing a mouse and keyboard was quite easy, and with a combo like the Logitech MX Keys Mini and MX Anywhere mouse it fit into my setup pretty seamlessly. That’s mainly because that mouse and keyboard can sync to 3 devices at once and switch between them readily at the press of a button. This allowed my Tab S9, my MacBook, and my iPad Pro to share the same peripherals for a consistent experience.
Oddly, the battery widget on the Tab S9 only seems to show the tablet itself and Galaxy-branded devices, like the Galaxy Buds. My iPad shows the battery levels of all devices, including Logitech mouse and keyboard for what that’s worth.
^ Tab S9 battery widget, even with several peripherals.
For comparison, here is the iPad’s battery widget with the same devices attached below.
And surprising that in this way Apple actually plays nicer with third party products than Android. Aside the AirPods, which were connected to both devices, the iPad also shows battery power for my Logitech MX keyboard and mouse, which the Tab S9 does not.
Working At A Desk & DeX Mode
At a basic level I could tell right away that the Tab S9+ could do everything that my iPad Pro could do at a desk. It fit nicely onto my Anker stand and accepts even a 4K monitor via USB-C or HDMI (the latter through a hub) and absolutely breezed through app usage.
That was true from everything from web browsing to gaming or using photo editing software. While benchmarks still show Apple’s M1 is more powerful than the S9’s Snapdragon 8 gen 2 processor, I found in practical usage I didn’t really notice it.
Both tablets (the iPad Pro and the Tab S) are very fast.
However, the Tab S9 definitely brings something to the table that the iPad doesn’t, and that’s DeX. If you’re unfamiliar, Dex is basically a mode that makes Android devices display and act like a desktop computer.
DeX mode on the Tab S9+ is incredible.
If you’re a Windows user, Dex will look pretty familiar from how each window looks and can be positioned, as well as the taskbar and options on it. Keyboard and mouse integration shines the most here, and with this much processing horsepower this could definitely be a lot of people’s only computer.
Switching to DeX mode closes all the apps you have open on the tablet, so make sure you’re not in the middle of something unsaved. You can readily switch back and forth from DeX and regular tablet mode whenever you want through the pull down options.
Repositioning windows is super smooth, and the flexibility of moving them wherever is something you don’t get with an iPad Pro (as of writing this).
The 12.4″ screen is comfortable enough to be used in landscape mode on a stand for document editing, web browser stuff, and even photo software. And the OLED screen? Stunning contrast and color vibrance. Unless you have a really high end monitor/TV, this may end up being the nicest screen in your house.
The 12.9″ M1 iPad Pro has been celebrated for how great its screen is, rivaling Apple’s much more expensive Pro Display. I’m pleased to say that I feel the S9+ has a screen that holds up. The blacks are super deep and the brights are very bright, and the resolution is nice and crisp.
I think it does a great job of combining a lot of mobile horsepower with portability and OS customization. In most cases, it’s all the computer you need for serious life and work tasks, but you can put away the mouse and keyboard and disable DeX the rest of the time and it makes a fine casual tablet.
It tucks easily into a bag and carries nicely in the hand, and feels a fair bit lighter than a 12.9″ iPad Pro — especially once the iPad has a case on it.
The Tab S9’s Gaming Performance
This section will be short. As one of the most powerful tablets on the market, the Tab S9 will play any game on the app store with max settings and max frame rates.
The HDR display looks excellent and the 120hz refresh rate makes for extremely smooth motion with no ghosting.
Between Android’s ability to use Xbox and PlayStation controllers, the excellent screen, and the processing power, this is as good as it gets for tablet gaming.
And since Android allows you to use emulators and Apple doesn’t (for iPad), the Tab S9 is arguably the better gaming tablet.
The Tab S9’s Expandable Storage Is Cool, But Also Hampered.
Look, ultimately we’d all rather have the option of expandable storage versus not, so the ability to insert a microSD card up to 1TB into the Tab S9 is a clear advantage versus the iPad Pro.
However, as I talk about in this video below, more recent versions of Android limit what you can do with the expansion storage.
In short summary of the video…
- You can’t set it to install apps and games to the microSD card by default anymore
- There are a lot of apps and games that don’t allow you to manually move them to the card after installation, either.
- You can’t select to “format as internal” like you used to, where it’d integrate the card into the internal storage and treat it all as one storage. Now it’s more like a PC where you have your OS storage and then a separate hard drive alongside it.
So while you can definitely storage your music and other big files on an expansion card and that’s useful, the above items are things you used to be able to also do on Android and cannot anymore.
The lack of those options IMO really limits how useful that expansion slot ends up being. In fact, while to some this may sound like a nitpick, I feel this is the biggest shortcoming of this tablet.
However the fact that some might not even care about it is a compliment to the tablet if this is the worst thing I can say about it.
Google Gimps Web Versions of Drive/Docs/Sheets To Force Tablet Users To Use Comparatively Limited Apps.
I’d thought with the iPad that maybe it was just Google gimping the iPad’s ability to use the website versions of these tools. Mouse wheel scrolling randomly stops working, and other normal features sometimes get wonky. It keeps pushing you to get the app.
But the app either makes certain menu functions, like font settings, harder to get to. And for setting document-wide text defaults, something I use often, I don’t see a way to do that in the app whereas that’s very easy on the web version.
But the web version is just as wonky on the Tab S9.
I really wish developers would stop artificially forcing a bad experience for web versions as a cheap way to force them into an app. And if they’re going to force the app, make the app better.
The Galaxy Tab S9 Is A Great All-Around Tablet
…and if I didn’t already have an iPad Pro it would make a great daily driver.
As you might predict, these mega companies and their ecosystems make it tough to bounce between. For a Galaxy phone user, this tablet is a no-brainer. For a predominantly Apple user (now) like myself, you can integrate it a fair bit into the ecosystem but of course there are limits.
The Tab S9 is a great tablet.
There’s nothing obvious I can point at as a shortcoming, apart from perhaps what I mentioned earlier about microSD limitations.
Where I think the Tab S9+ is a universal win for anyone:
- Content consumption: YouTube, movies, and web browsing
- Mobile gaming
- Artistic apps and drawing with the S pen
Versus the iPad Pro:
- I prefer the iPad Pro’s taller 4×3 screen for drawing, reading, and working. The only thing the S9’s 16×9 screen seems better for are videos.
- The iPad still has a better selection of pro/artistic apps, but the Tab S9 is the better gaming tablet due to the app store selection and ability to use ROMs
- The Tab S9 is slimmer, lighter, and comes with an S pen
- Battery life seems roughly on par with the iPad, which is around 8-10 hours of screen time depending on usage. With occasional usage, days. (However, bear in mind my iPad Pro is 2 years old so it’s possible that a brand new iPad Pro would have slightly better battery life than the S9.)
- The Tab S9 supports 45W charging vs the iPad Pro’s 30W, so it will charge somewhat faster.
- While the Tab S9 generally feels very fast, for graphically intensive tasks the M1/M2 iPad Pro still feels like it has more grunt.
- The extra RAM of the S9+ (12GB vs. my iPad’s 8GB) does not translate to any tangible performance difference. In fact, I had apps refresh a couple times with only 5 open on the S9, and didn’t have that happen with 10+ apps open on my iPad, likely due to iPadOS’ insane optimization. Either is fine, but don’t get caught up in specs and think the extra 4GB RAM puts one ahead; Android seems to need more RAM so it balances out.
I’ll ultimately be sticking with my iPad Pro just because the Tab S9+ doesn’t add anything meaningful to my daily experience that the iPad Pro doesn’t, and I like the iPad’s screen more. Plus of course, being in the Apple ecosystem means the iPad is a better fit.
I’m still glad I got to try the Tab S9+, and it’s a great tablet even if you’re in Apple’s ecosystem. And if you’re not, get one and thank me later:
If this review has been helpful and you’re thinking of buying a Tab S9 anyway, please consider using my affiliate link at no additional cost to you as a way of saying thank you. I appreciate it!