Review: Samsung DeX Makes Galaxy Tab S4 A Productivity Winner


If you're like most workers, an Android tablet with a modest display size—even if it’s a 2-in-1—isn't going to be your first pick for a productivity device.

At the CRN Test Center, however, we've found a few reasons why Samsung's 2-in-1 Galaxy Tab S4 may just be the rare Android tablet worth considering for work purposes.

[Related: Review: Samsung's Galaxy Tab Active2 Is The B2B Tablet We've Been Waiting For]

For starters, with a display of 10.5 inches, the Galaxy Tab S4 is not exactly tiny. The Surface Pro series is only 12.3 inches, by comparison. But the display size may still rule out the device for many workers.

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For those that are open to a 10.5-inch device, though, there are some good reasons to take a closer look.

The first is DeX, Samsung's Android desktop software.

Most Android tablets are, well, Android tablets. You just have to live inside the apps. By contrast, the Surface Pro and other Windows tablets let you switch between desktop and tablet modes.

The Galaxy Tab S4 does essentially the same thing, allowing users to flip-flop from the typical Android tablet view over to DeX, which gives you a desktop that can used for most of the usual stuff. Importantly, this includes storing files on the desktop and in folders—which is crucial for many workers' productivity habits. Having a desktop is just a more familiar way to work for most people, and so we think Samsung DeX is a smart approach.

One nice feature with DeX on the Tab S4 is that the tablet can be set up to automatically launch the DeX desktop when the tablet attaches to its keyboard/stand. The ability to easily switch back and forth between DeX and tablet mode on the Tab S4 also opens up some great possibilities around keeping your work and personal lives a bit more separate on your device. For instance, users can live in DeX mode during the workday—with access to Microsoft Office, Google Apps and other productivity software—and switch back over to tablet mode while off duty and ready for some Netflix time.

One thing we need to note is that the keyboard isn’t a highlight—the keys had to be kept pretty small on the Tab S4 keyboard, and we made a lot more typos than usual. At best, the keys will take some getting used to. The keyboard also doesn't include a trackpad, meaning that all of your navigating will need to be done by touching the tablet itself.

But helping to compensate is the included digital stylus, the S Pen, of which we are big fans. The S Pen is one of the best styluses for navigation that we've tried—it worked super fast and had no noticeable latency while navigating and scrolling through documents and web pages. Rather than suffering from "gorilla arm," by stretching your hand out constantly to get from place to place on the tablet, we'd suggest just keeping the pen at the ready.

The tablet's performance was excellent in our tryout, and the battery life was, too: We were able to stream video for five hours and lost just 50 percent of the battery life.

The Super AMOLED display (with 2,560 x 1,600 resolution) is bright, colorful and all-around awesome-looking, which makes the Galaxy Tab S4 a pleasure to look at and work on for extended periods.

The portability factor is a big deal, too. At 1.1 pounds and 0.3 of an inch thick, the Tab S4 is practically negligible for toting around—which is certainly not something that can be said for the Surface Pro.

All in all, Samsung makes a pretty good case that the Galaxy Tab S4 can double as a work and home device. Ultimately, it'll all just depend on what sort of work you do. And also, of course, on whether the starting price of $649.99 seems worthwhile for what you're getting with the Galaxy Tab S4.