If you hold both tablets in landscape mode, the Galaxy Tab S is 4 percent taller and 3 percent wider than the iPad Air. But one of the Tab S' killer features is how incredibly thin it is. It's 12 percent thinner than the already slender iPad.
The Tab S is only a smidge lighter than the iPad Air, but since it's a bigger tablet, I thought it felt a bit lighter in hand during our hands-on time with it.
The Galaxy Tab S has a dimpled faux leather (plastic) finish that looks a lot like the Galaxy S5's chassis. But once you get the Tab S in your hand, it has a firmer feel than the GS5's.
Like just about every Apple product you'll come across these days, the iPad Air has an aluminum unibody build.
Each device is sold in two different color options.
The Galaxy Tab S' screen is about 10 percent bigger than the iPad's. When you consider that the Tab S is also a bit lighter and a lot thinner, well, that's a pretty sweet combination.
If you ask Samsung, the Galaxy Tab S' Super AMOLED display is a breakthrough feature. Having handled it at Samsung's launch event, though, I'm not sure if its higher contrast, deeper blacks and greater color range are going to be that noticeable in most areas.
The one area where that Super AMOLED did really shine was when watching video. High-res videos look outstanding on this bad boy – much better than they do on the iPad Air, or any other tablet I've used.
The Galaxy Tab S has the same razor-sharp resolution as its six-month old predecessor, the Galaxy Tab Pro. Though it's sharper than the iPad Air, I don't think Apple's gorgeous Retina Display gives you anything to worry about.
The Tab S has the same swipe-based fingerprint scanner that we saw in the Galaxy S5. It isn't quite as convenient as the touch-based Touch ID sensor that you'll find in the iPhone 5s (and, most likely, the 2014 iPad Air), but it still gives you a great blend of security and convenience.
SideSync 3.0 is a cool new Samsung feature that lets you control a Galaxy S5 with the Galaxy Tab S. After pairing the two devices over Wi-Fi, you can place and receive calls, compose and receive text messages, and control anything else on your GS5. This could let you leave your phone on the charger while you're home, and only bother picking it up when you're heading out the door.
The biggest downside to SideSync is that it only works with the GS5. If you own any other phone, you won't be able to use this feature.
Apple offers a wider variety of internal storage options for the iPad Air, though the Galaxy Tab S' microSD slot can help to balance those scales.
Both tablets are sold in both Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi with cellular data (LTE) models.
The Wi-Fi only version of the Tab S ships with a Samsung Exynos octa-core processor. Owners of the LTE variant will get a Snapdragon 800 in its place.
The Tab S triples the iPad Air's mere 1 GB of RAM. As zippy as the iPad Air is, its limited RAM is the one area where its performance is due for an upgrade. Multitasking on the iPad too often requires app or browser tab reloads.
Speaking of multitasking, the Galaxy Tab S has another big advantage there. Samsung's Multi Window lets you run two apps simultaneously, in side-by-side windows. Apple was rumored to announce a similar feature for iOS 8, but it wasn't among the features that the company announced for the upcoming software update.
It's too early to say much about the Galaxy Tab S' battery life, other than that Samsung estimates 11 hours of video playback.
Ultra Power Saving Mode
The Tab S also gets one of Samsung's most innovative software features, Ultra Power Saving Mode. If your battery is running low, you can kick in UPS Mode, which turns your display black & white and severely limits available apps. Though the tablets' capabilities will be limited, it can keep you on the grid. This makes a lot more sense in a phone, but I suppose it can't hurt to have it in a tablet.
The Galaxy Tab's rear camera takes higher-resolution photos, but that also doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot. We'll have to wait for some extended hands-on time with the Tab S before jumping to any conclusions about its camera quality.
The Tab S ships with Android 4.4 KitKat, with Samsung's TouchWiz UI living on top. The iPad runs iOS 7, with the iOS 8 update coming this (Northern hemisphere) Fall.
App selection is still a big advantage for the iPad. Android's tablet app library has improved a lot – and should continue in that direction as Samsung releases more quality tablets – but the App Store's selection of tablet apps is still in a league of its own.
Samsung says that the Galaxy Tab S will start shipping in July. We'll likely see an updated iPad Air model launching sometime around this November.
Each tablet starts at US$500, for a 16 GB Wi-Fi only version.
Gizmag will have more on the Galaxy Tab S, as we move closer to its launch. In the meantime, you can check out our hands-on from Samsung's launch event for some early impressions. And for more on the iPad Air, you can check out our review from late last year.
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