TAB S2

$400 to $500

New tablet ups Samsung's game

Samsung's new smartphones and tablets might not offer enough to entice current iPhone and iPad users to switch, but they keep Samsung at the head of the class among Android gadget makers.

Compared with the original Tab S, the Tab S2 update sheds bulk and weight, akin to what Apple has done with the full-size iPad Air and Air 2. But Samsung also scaled back on some features to make that happen.

The $500 full-size model is now 9.7 inches rather than 10.5 inches, while the $400 mini version is 8 inches instead of 8.4 inches. Samsung also dropped the camera flash, something rare in tablets to begin with. Battery capacity is reduced, though you don't need as much power to light up a smaller screen. In any case, the 12 to 14 hours promised for video should be enough for most flights or evenings at home.

As with the Samsung phones and the original Tab S, the new tablets use Amoled screen technology for vivid colors. This type of screen is rare for tablets because it's expensive to produce at such sizes. Colors are amazing when watching streaming video, as long as you overlook the occasional unnatural tone.

The dimensions are now 4:3, an excellent change. Android tablets, including the original Tab S, have typically used a wider, 16:10 aspect ratio, which is great for video but bad for just about everything else. The 4:3 ratio, which the iPad has long had, is better for photos, magazines and Web browsing.

Samsung is ahead with multitasking features that let you view multiple apps side by side, though similar features are coming to the iPad soon with the iOS 9 software update.

Again, Apple users likely won't switch. But just as an iPad can be a good companion for iPhone users, a Samsung tablet is great for Samsung phone owners. A feature called SideSync lets you receive calls, texts and notifications on the tablet. You can make calls and send messages, too. If you have a recent, higher-end Samsung TV, you can have the tablet display whatever's on the TV, so you can go check the grill or take a break without missing a scene.

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