iPad Air vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 comparison review

Update, 12th April 2016: Apple has discontinued the iPad Air 1, replacing it with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. (The iPad Air 2 is still on sale.) For the latest advice on which iPad to buy, see our updated iPad buying guide for 2016.

During a special event in New York on 12 June, Samsung unveiled two new tablets, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (with a 10.5in screen) and the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (you guessed it, with an 8.4in screen). The Tab S 10.5 is has become the latest rival to Apple's iPad Air, so here, we put the two 10in tablets to head-to-head in our Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 vs iPad Air comparison review.

We've had some hands-on time with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5, but haven't yet been able to run our complete tests on the speed, graphics and battery life. So here, we've used our thoughts from the time we spent with the new tablet as well as the specs released by Samsung to compare the new tablet with the iPad Air. We'll update this article with more information when we spend more time with the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 for testing. See: Galaxy Tab S 8.4 vs iPad mini 2 comparison.

iPad Air vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Price

It may come as a bit of a surprise, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is actually more expensive than Apple's iPad Air. The iPad Air starts at £399 for the 16GB WiFi only model, while the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 starts at £449 for the 16GB WiFi only model. Samsung's offering does have built-in GPS, though, while you'll require the £100 more expensive 4G/LTE model of the iPad Air to get that feature.

The price of the LTE models of Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 have yet to be revealed, but we think it'll start at around £549 when it goes on sale on 4 July. See: Surface Pro 3 vs iPad Air

iPad Air vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Design

The iPad Air is a stunning, thin and sleek tablet with a 9.7in display. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has a bigger, 10.5in display, but is actually thinner than the iPad Air according to Samsung, at 6.6mm compared with the iPad Air's 7.5mm.

Plus, with small bezels around the display, Samsung has managed to keep the size of the Tab S 10.5 to a very similar size to the iPad Air overall. They also weigh almost exactly the same, at 465g for the Tab S and 469g for the iPad Air.

However, where the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 falls down, in our opinion, is the plastic back, which has the same dimpled design as the Samsung Galaxy S5. The iPad Air's aluminium back is much more stylish, upmarket and premium, and oozes the sophistication we've grown to expect from Apple's products.

The iPad Air is available in Silver or Space Grey, while the Galaxy Tab S 10.5's colour choices are “Dazzling White” or “Titanium Bronze.”

When it comes to buttons, both tablets have physical home buttons on the front, but the Tab S 10.5 has two additional touch-sensitive buttons. See: iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet

Read our alternatives to the iPad with Retina display, 4th generation iPad

iPad Air vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Display

iPad Air

As mentioned above, the iPad Air's display is smaller than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5's at 9.7in. The displays also differ in quality.

Samsung's Tab S 10.5 has a Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 (WQVGA), which makes for a pixel density of 280ppi. The aspect ratio is 16:9. Samsung has also developed an adaptive display mode to help make better use of the display.

The iPad Air, meanwhile, has a 4:3 aspect ratio for its Retina IPS display with a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels, which means it has a slightly lower pixel-density than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5.

However, both of these tablets offer incredible display quality, and its quite unlikely that you'll notice much difference between the two in day-to-day use. They're both excellent devices for watching movies and viewing photo slideshows, for example.

iPad Air vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Hardware

Now let's take a look inside the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5. It's powered by Samsung's Exynos 5 Octa-core processor, though some regions get a model with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800. It has 3GB Ram and either 16GB or 32GB storage, though you'll be able to expand that thanks to the microSD slot for up to 128GB.

The iPad Air has less RAM, at 1GB, and lacks the microSD slot. You can choose up to 128GB storage, though, but you'll need to make that decision upon purchase. It boasts Apple's A7 chip, too.

The iPad Air lacks a TouchID fingerprint sensor, so the Galaxy Tab S's fingerprint scanner is a win for Samsung here, as is the IR blaster, both of which can also be found in the Samsung Galaxy S5.

WiFi is better in the Galaxy Tab S, too, with support for 802.11ac WiFi which the iPad currently lacks.

We'll bring you more information about the performance of Samsung's latest tablet as soon as we're able to complete our testing, so you can see how the speed and graphics compares with the super-smooth and speedy iPad Air.

iPad Air vs Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Camera

Samsung has trumped Apple when it comes to the camera. It has an 8Mp rear-facing camera compared with the iPad Air's 5Mp camera. The Tab S 10.5 also has an LED flash, unlike the iPad Air.

We don't know many people who use their tablet as a camera, though, so the camera wouldn't be the deciding point between these two tablets for us.

That said, the front-facing camera on the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is better than the iPad Air's, at 2.1Mp, and we certainly know many people who use their tablet for video calls and selfies. The iPad Air's front-facing camera is 1.2Mp. See: The best cases for iPad Air

iPad Air vs Galaxy Tab S 10.5: Software

We're pretty sure that we'll always prefer Apple's iOS software to Android, though we know that there are many of you out there that'll disagree. Software really is a case of personal preference, but we love iOS's interface, design and ease-of-use, plus the security benefits and incredible iOS App Store.

We've been using iOS on our devices for a long time now, so switching to Android and re-downloading the apps again would be a real burden. Also, with the new Continuity features coming with OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, the benefits of having an iOS device that's able to communicate seamlessly with our Macs will be a major boon.

However, for those who already use and enjoy Android, Samsung's Galaxy Tab S 10.5 runs Android KitKat 4.4.2, so it's compatible with the latest version of the Android software unlike some current tablets and smartphones. It also uses Samsung's TouchWiz software, with the same icons, widgets and drop down notification bar as the Galaxy S5.

OUR VERDICT

Overall, there's no doubt that Samsung has unveiled tough new competition for the iPad Air with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5. It's thinner, has a better camera, a slightly better display and some extra features compared with the iPad Air, but the iPad Air is better-looking, runs iOS and is less expensive than the Tab S 10.5. Plus, with just a few months to go until the expected unveiling of a new iPad, we don't think the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has long before its specs are blown out of the water by Apple.

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