It's taken Samsung a while, but there have been signs of late that it's finally cracked this whole tablet thing. 

Just last week we proclaimed the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 to be the best full-sized Android tablet on the planet. And now here comes the similarly specced 8.4in model out to repeat the trick.

On the surface it’s almost identical to its predecessor, the Galaxy TabPro 8.4 (stick with us), but it does have a new AMOLED screen, a slimmer, lighter build and a few software tweaks.

All of which adds up to far more than the sum of its parts. In fact, it’s the first small Galaxy tablet that we’ve truly loved living with.

This screen's a stunner

What. A. Screen.

If you thought the Tab S 10.5’s display was tasty, get ready for a mesmerising staring session with the Tab S 8.4.

With a 2560x1600 resolution and at this size, it’s sharper than the bigger Samsung tablet - a whopping 360ppi - and it’s also a bright, punchy Super AMOLED panel.

It’s the brightest small tablet we’ve ever used, in fact, so a bit of sunlight won’t stop you catching up on emails. And by sharp we meant insanely sharp, like the TabPro before it, with extra detail on hi-res images and in full HD videos to make your jaw drop. The fact that it's a Super AMOLED panel also means that deep blacks are seriously impressive. And if you like your colours vibrant, you won't be disappointed.

All that and it’s both taller and wider than the iPad Mini with Retina display’s 7.9in screen in a very similar sized body. So is it better?

After a lot of testing and squabbling, the iPad Mini just edges ahead. Why? The Tab S 8.4 might display beautifully inky blacks but whites in apps, movies or webpage backgrounds have a bit of a blue tinge to them and don’t look as pure and crisp as on the iPad. We got the best out of it when we manually chose a Super AMOLED setting to get eye-popping homescreens and Papergarden magazines then switched to Basic for movies. The iPad looks gorgeous with no alien colours or skintones no matter what you throw at it. If you plan to use it mainly for movies or gaming rather than browsing the web, though, you can’t get better than the Tab S 8.4.

Us? We use the internet too much. 

Performance just short of perfect

As much as we like the feature-packed, grown-up looking version of Touchwiz, sadly it must be responsible for the occasional lag we experienced when using the Tab S 8.4. Because it can’t be that beastly Exynos 5 Octa processor and 3GB of RAM.

It’s minor but up against flawless performance from the iPad Mini, it shows. Open and close Chrome or the Gallery a couple of times or swipe between Magazine screens and homescreens and you’ll see stutters.

When taxed with Asphalt 8 or less intensive games such as Blek though, the Tab S 8.4 is dreamy. Downloads are fast and 1080p video playback is smooth. With an AnTuTu score of 34,411 and that silicon, they should be too. It’s not an Android niggle, it’s a Samsung one.

Still, storage is a bright spot. 37,800 for a 16GB machine doesn’t sound so bad when you can drop another few thousand rupees on a 128GB microSD card if you really want locally stored media. A 128GB iPad Mini 3 cellular costs 52,900. Do the math.

Capable Cameras - If You Need Them

It goes without saying that Samsung has stuck a pair of decent cameras on the Tab S 8.4. Well, we wish it went without saying so we didn’t have to look like a berk testing the rear 8MP camera, but hey, some people use tablet cameras.

It fares better in daylight - at times getting close to matching smartphone cameras with rich colours and good exposure. Things get fuzzy at night, but essentially the rear snapper can step in when your smartphone’s sleeping. There’s an LED flash on the back too and the 2.1MP front camera handles Skype calls nicely.   

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is an incredible tablet with almost no flaws. Superb screen, unique features, a battery that doesn’t need charging every night… really, there's very little that's missing here.

So does it beat the iPad Mini with Retina display? Well, it’s lighter, easier to hold one-handed, has a bigger screen, offers more storage for less money and comes with tons of freebies.

But for us the iPad Mini stays on top by a whisker for its unrivalled tablet design, absolutely flawless performance and wider selection of optimised tablet apps. Sure, the Tab S 8.4 is smaller than most Android tablets and both the Magazine UI and Papergarden help but the App Store is where you’ll find the best apps for (slightly) bigger screens. 

Against other Android tabs, though, it's a winner. OK, so if a cheap price is your main requirement then the Nexus 7 and LG G Pad 8.3 have you covered. But if what you're really after is the very best Android tab on the planet, well then that’s now made by Samsung. In both sizes.

Stuff says... 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review

This light, bright Super AMOLED star is the best small Android tab there is
Good Stuff 
Stonkingly good screen
Magazine UI has really come into its own
Easy to hold, solid build
Bad Stuff 
Not quite iPad design magic
Some UI lag
Google Play apps aren’t tablet optimised