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Lifewire / Bill Loguidice
Ultra-thin and light
Powerful stereo sound from quad speakers
Great battery life and fast charging
microSD card slot
Fingerprint sensor and face recognition
Latest Android version
Samsung software overpowers stock Android
Wi-Fi performance is inconsistent
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is a feature-rich, premium Android tablet with a beautiful Super AMOLED display and a quad speaker configuration for excellent multimedia performance. But be wary that the latest Android operating system takes a backseat to Samsung’s own software and features, and Wi-Fi performance can be inconsistent.
Although it’s not always fair to compare various mobile devices to Apple’s iOS-based smartphones and tablets, sometimes it’s justified. For instance, with the Galaxy Tab S5e, it’s clear that Samsung took a hard look at the iPad line and did their best to match or exceed Apple’s elegant design aesthetic. Of course, Samsung didn’t stop there, packing in a heck of a lot of technology—led by an amazing screen and sound system—for a relatively modest amount of money.
We tested the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e to see if it meets the needs of Android enthusiasts looking for a beautiful, feature-rich tablet with minimal compromises.
The Galaxy Tab S5e has striking looks. Its 10.5-inch screen is surrounded by a consistent quarter-inch black bezel. The silver backing has white pin-striping on the top and bottom. At just 0.22-inches thick and a weight of 0.88 pounds, it’s whisper thin and feels feather light. In short, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-designed tablet this side of Apple.
The Galaxy Tab S5e features a front-facing camera at the top and a keyboard dock port on the left side. This port interfaces with compatible covers and keyboard cover combinations like Samsung’s own Galaxy Tab S5e Book Cover Keyboard, which retails for $129.99.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-designed tablet this side of Apple.
On the right side of the tablet, from top to bottom, is a combination power/lock and fingerprint scanner button, volume button, and microSD card slot. The microSD card slot, which supports cards up to 512GB in storage capacity, is accessible with a tray removal tool (not included).
At the top of the device are two speakers. The bottom of the device features two more speakers and a USB-C port for charging and interfacing.
The rear of the tablet features the rear-facing camera, which adds only a slight bump to the thin frame.
Unlike many Android tablets that feature a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, the Galaxy Tab S5e has a 16:10 display. This extra length makes the tablet a bit awkward to hold in both landscape and portrait orientation, but otherwise, it has excellent weight distribution.
In its tasteful white box, you’ll find the tablet, USB wall charger, USB-C cable, type-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter, Quick Start Guide, and a Samsung Terms & Conditions/Health & Safety Information guide. The accessories maintain the white motif.
As is par for the course with Samsung mobile devices, there’s a Samsung-centric setup process even though the device is running an Android operating system. After charging the tablet, you can immediately bring over your previous data for quicker setup. You can do so wirelessly from the Samsung Galaxy family of devices or use USB for iPhone or other Android devices.
Despite the Samsung influence and the need to enter or create a Samsung account, you'll still want to enter or create Google Account credentials when prompted. Doing this allows you to seamlessly move between both ecosystems.
In terms of security, you can do all or any combination of face recognition, fingerprint scanning, or PIN code. PIN code requirements are only four digits.
After setup is complete, you’re presented with the Galaxy Tab S5e’s home screen. The temperature, time, and location are found at the top, followed by the standard Google search bar, which can be activated by saying “OK Google.” Below that are some standard apps and folders.
Most home screen apps are Samsung’s, but the Google Play Store icon and Google apps folder are also present.
The 10.5-inch, 2560 x 1600 WQXGA resolution (287ppi) Super AMOLED display is stunning. Colors are rich, there’s no dimming regardless of viewing angle, text and graphics are razor sharp, and motion is smooth. While this is not a performance-draining 4K display and there’s no HDR support, it does exceed the resolution of what is typically considered 2K and colors really pop.
There’s no question this is impressive, best-in-class display technology.
The Galaxy Tab S5e’s Adaptive Brightness setting does a great job of adapting to all kinds of lighting conditions, including direct sunlight and darkness. In all situations, it errs on brighter, rather than darker. There’s no question that this is impressive, best-in-class display technology.
Taps and swipes were responsive, and switching between portrait and landscape modes was quick and smooth. When rotating running videos, there was the expected half second pause while the display changed orientation, but no interruption to the audio.
Apps loaded quickly the first time, almost instantaneously. It was similarly fast and seamless when multitasking and switching between apps.
When we played 1440p and 60 fps videos, they looked incredibly lifelike and the Galaxy Tab S5e had no problems keeping up. The only time we had an issue was when the Wi-Fi performance lagged, which caused the video quality to drop (more on that later).
High-performance games like Asphalt 9 and PUBG Mobile also ran well, with what appeared to be optimal or near-optimal visual settings. Unfortunately, unlike its higher-priced brethren the Galaxy Tab S4, it can’t run Fortnite. Benchmarks reveal why.
Using the AnTuTu Benchmark app, the Galaxy Tab S5e achieved a total score of 154,932, besting only 36% of users in total CPU, GPU, UX, and MEM performance indicators. Its weakest performance was in the GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit indicator, where it scored 44,475 and bested only 26% of users.
Part of that performance deficit is explained by the device having to drive such a high-resolution screen. Although most use cases won’t strain the Tab S5e’s capabilities, this is still a clear indicator of why this type of tablet is priced relatively low.
Although the Galaxy Tab S5e doesn’t support the S Pen like its more expensive siblings, it still proves a practical solution for non-entertainment activities. Whether it’s paired with a keyboard cover or a separate Bluetooth keyboard, the large, crisp screen and fast app switching make multitasking between writing, research, and other work-related activities a joy.
If you’d like a tablet that can act as a laptop replacement, you’re probably better off with something like a Galaxy Tab S4 that’s expressly designed for that. But there’s nothing wrong with using the Galaxy Tab S5e for just such a purpose, particularly if you only need it for occasional productivity tasks.
There are lots of great tablet speakers these days, but the Galaxy Tab S5e’s quad speaker system by Harman’s AKG may just be the best. You not only get a great surround sound simulation but also good bass—a rarity for tablet speakers.
At peak volume, the sound can practically fill a room while remaining clear of distortion. It’s an impressive feat of engineering.
There are lots of great tablet speakers these days, but the Galaxy Tab S5e’s quad speaker system by Harman’s AKG may just be the best.
Using the included USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter and a nice pair of Razer headphones, audio quality was similarly excellent. In fact, the tablet was able to drive sound volume well beyond levels our ears were comfortable with.
Across the board, whether streaming videos, listening to music, or playing games, audio quality was exceptional. Paired with the superb screen, this tablet is a multimedia enthusiast’s delight.
With all of its other high-performance qualities, you’d expect good Wi-Fi coverage to be a given. Unfortunately, as widely reported, the Galaxy Tab S5e has inconsistent Wi-Fi throughput.
While we were unable to replicate some of the more egregious reports (one report claims that holding the tablet a certain way in landscape mode causes the Wi-Fi signal strength to drop down to practically nothing). But we definitely noted extreme variability when moving about around and changing how the tablet held. From a stable, hands-off position, however, the Galaxy Tab S5e performed well.
Using the Speedtest by Ookla app, we pitted the Galaxy Tab S5e against the Apple iPad Pro and the Huawei MediaPad M5 in a series of three successive trials from the same location. Each test was run off of battery power.
The best download speed for the Galaxy Tab S5e was 288 Mbps, with the iPad Pro at 354 Mbps and the MediaPad M5 at 187 Mbps. The best upload speed for the Galaxy Tab S5e was 24.6 Mbps versus 22.2 for the iPad Pro and 21.2 for the MediaPad M5.
This type of testing with Speedtest proves that the Galaxy Tab S5e is capable of excellent Wi-Fi performance in a controlled setting, which makes the tablet’s poor performance on the move and in the hand all the more disappointing.
Whether we were using the 8MP front camera or the 13MP rear camera, the picture quality was surprisingly good. There was a great deal of detail in both our outdoor and indoor photos and nice color reproduction.
For video, you can record a variety of resolutions beyond 1080p, including 1728 x 1080 and 1440 x 1440. The tablet has no problem keeping up with motion and does a great job of staying in focus and minimizing motion blur. As is typical for onboard microphones, while the audio recording was clean (if a bit flat), volume levels were on the low side.
While many even higher-end tablets provide middling photo and video quality, we were suitably impressed by what the Galaxy Tab S5e was able to capture. Samsung also did a great job with its camera app, allowing for considerable editing and fine-tuning of all kinds of settings.
For such a bright screen, the Galaxy Tab S5e gets great battery life thanks to its 7040mAh capacity. We were able to clock over 12 hours of mixed usage, which is very near its stated “up to 15 hours of viewing” of battery life.
Of course, even the Galaxy Tab S5e is not immune to the standby mode power management issues that plague most Android tablets. After leaving this tablet alone for four days or so, the battery was dead. In fact, unlike other Android tablets where this happened, we couldn’t even power it on briefly for it to tell us that the battery was depleted.
Also, unlike some other Android tablets, there’s no indicator light to show that it's fully charged, although it does flash the battery percentage onscreen when you remove the power plug.
As of the time of this writing, the Galaxy Tab S5e is based on the latest version of Android, 9.0 Pie, which was first released on August 6, 2018. Since it’s such a new version that only about 10% of Android devices are running at this time, security updates should be available for several years to come.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Samsung device without plenty of Samsung customization. While you can use many of the standard Google apps and the Google Play store, Samsung prioritizes its own apps and store over Google’s.
In fact, there are certain apps that aren’t even available to install from Google Play, even though the tablet is capable of running them—instead, you need to use the Galaxy Store app. Frankly, it’s a bit frustrating to have to move between two different stores to get full Android app coverage.
Not all of Samsung’s customizations are for the worse, however. For instance, activating the Bixby virtual assistant feature is great for managing appointments, photos, weather, IoT devices, and more.
If you’re looking for an unfiltered Android experience, this isn’t it. But if you don’t mind taking some time to decide between the best features from two similar but distinct ecosystems, this is a great tablet to do it on.
Retailing for just under $400, the Galaxy Tab S5e, with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, provides a great tablet experience for not a lot of money. In fact, you can spend another $80 and get a version of this same tablet with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Either way, it’s well worth the investment.
Huawei MediaPad M5: At $320, the MediaPad M5 is a compact 8.4-inch tablet that features similar performance, but a lesser screen and an older version of Android. The Galaxy Tab S5e is simply a better overall value.
Apple iPad Air: With a similar 10.5-inch display and support for the Apple Pencil, the iPad Air makes a compelling case for those interested in Apple’s more tablet-friendly iOS ecosystem. You will pay a roughly $100 premium over the Galaxy Tab S5e, however.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4: Although it retails for about $250 more, the Galaxy Tab S4 packs more overall horsepower and productivity features than the Galaxy Tab S5e and even includes the S Pen. But if you’re willing to wait, sale pricing sometimes brings the Tab S4 closer to $350. Generally speaking, the Tab S5e is the sleeker and more affordable alternative to the flagship tablet.
To see other great options, check out our list of the best tablets, the best 10-inch tablets, and the best Samsung tablets.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is a beautiful tablet inside and out, and it sells for the right price.
With a beautiful slim design, gorgeous screen, and blockbuster sound, the Galaxy Tab S5e is a joy to use both as a general tablet and multimedia powerhouse. It even does a good job with high-performance gaming. Although not a deal breaker, inconsistent Wi-Fi performance dulls an otherwise stellar overall experience.
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