iPad mini 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 comparison

Samsung has unveiled a brand-new iPad mini rival, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4, alongside an iPad Air rival, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5. Here, we've put Apple's iPad mini with Retina display (iPad mini 2) and Samsung's Galaxy Tab S 8.4 head-to-head in our comparison review.

We've also compared the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 with the iPad Air here.

We've had a limited amount of hands-on time with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 so far, so we've yet to run our complete tests on the tablet to determine the speed, graphics and battery life capabilities of the device. So here, we've used our thoughts from the time we spent with the new tablet, in addition to the specs released by Samsung, to compare Apple's iPad mini with the latest tablet offering from rival Samsung. We'll update this article as soon as we've had more time with the Galaxy Tab S 8.4.

iPad buying guide autumn/winter 2014

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 vs iPad mini 2: Price

The iPad mini with Retina display is available from Apple starting at £319 for the 16GB WiFi-only model. If you want the extra 4G LTE connectivity, expect to pay an extra £100 for the iPad mini 2 with prices reaching up to £659 for the 128GB 4G model.

Meanwhile, when the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 goes on sale on 4 July, it'll actually cost slightly more than the iPad mini 2, starting at £349 for the 16GB WiFi only model. Like the iPad, it'll cost £100 more if you want 4G LTE connectivity.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 vs iPad mini 2: Design

Taking a closer look at the appearance of the iPad mini 2 and Galaxy Tab S 8.4, there are some big differences in the way they look.

The iPad mini 2 comes in two colour options: Space Grey or Silver. The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 has two colour options too, the first being Dazzling White and the second Titanium Bronze.

We much prefer the colours of the iPad mini 2 – the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 looks a little tacky. That's because it's made with a plastic back, with dimples just like the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. The iPad mini 2, on the other hand, has a sleek and stylish aluminium back.

Where Samsung has trumped Apple in terms of design, though, is the overall size of the device. Despite sporting a bigger display, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is actually thinner and lighter than the iPad mini 2. It's 6.6mm thick and weighs 294g, compared with the iPad mini 2's 7.5mm thickness and 331g weight. The iPad mini 2 is wider than the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 at 134.7mm to the Tab's 125.6mm, but the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is 212.8mm tall compared with the iPad mini'2 200mm, due to that bigger display.

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

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 vs iPad mini 2: Display

iPad mini 2

Talking of display, let's take a closer look at how these two tablets fair in the screen department.

Apple's iPad mini sports a stunning Retina display, which measures 7.9in diagonally and is an IPS multitouch panel with 2048x1536 pixels, at a pixel density of 326ppi.

Samsung has managed to pack even more pixels into its Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4, though. It has a Super AMOLED panel that measures 8.4in diagonally, and has a resolution of 2560x1600, which is a slightly higher 359ppi.

You won't notice much difference between the quality of the two displays, though, but you are likely to notice that size difference. Both are excellent devices for watching TV or movies on the go, or viewing photo slideshows, but if you want a bit of extra screen estate without opting for a 10in tablet, then it might sway your decision towards the Galaxy Tab S. Of course, you might prefer the screen to be smaller and more portable, in which case the iPad mini 2 is more suitable.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 vs iPad mini 2: Hardware

As mentioned above, we've not yet had a chance to run our benchmark tests on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4, so it's tricky to compare the performance with the iPad mini 2. There are lots of factors to take into consideration when it comes to performance, particularly when two devices are running different operating systems like these tablets are, as software can make a big difference.

We'll update this article once the test results are in, but for now, we'll share the specs so you know what each tablet boasts internally.

Inside the Galaxy Tab S 8.4, you'll find Samsung's own Exynos Octa-core processor, which pairs four 1.9GHz cores with four 1.3GHz cores. There's 3GB RAM, too.

The iPad mini 2 sports a 1.3GHz 64-bit Apple A7 chip with a motion co-processor and 1GB RAM.

The iPad mini 2 is available with up to 128GB storage, which beats the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4's 32GB, though there is a microSD card slot for up to 128GB extra storage in Samsung's offering, which means you can increase storage after purchase. With the iPad mini 2, you'll need to cough up the extra cash for more storage when you buy it.

As for connectivity, both the iPad mini 2 and Galaxy Tab S 8.4 have Bluetooth 4.0, but the iPad mini 2 lacks 802.11ac WiFi. Both tablets are available with 4G LTE, though.

Samsung has given the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 some extra features as a one-up on the iPad mini 2, including a fingerprint scanner. Apple has yet to introduce its Touch ID fingerprint scanner to its tablet range, but we're expecting the next generation of iPad Air and iPad mini to sport the security technology.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 vs iPad mini 2: Camera

We're not fans of using tablets as cameras, but if you are, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 might appeal to you more than its iPad rival. It has an 8Mp rear camera compared with the 5Mp camera on the iPad mini 2, and the Tab S even has an LED flash. Both offer full-HD video recording at 30fps, though.

We do, however, think tablets are great for video chats, and Samsung's front-facing camera on the Tab S 8.4 has slightly better specs, at 2.1Mp compared with the iPad mini 2's 1.2Mp iSight camera.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 vs iPad mini 2: 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 8.4 runs Android KitKat 4.4.2, so it's compatible with the latest version of the Android software unlike some current tablets and smartphones, and it'll be getting the next version of Android which is expected to be launched soon. It also uses Samsung's TouchWiz software, with the same icons, widgets and drop down notification bar as the Galaxy S5.

Read: How to transfer photos from Mac to Android & Windows tablets

OUR VERDICT

We're impressed with Samsung's latest tablet offering, at least when it comes to the camera, screen and size, but Apple's iPad mini 2 still offers us the operating system we love, a more stylish design and exceptional performance.

It's tricky to decide the real winner here, as everyone's going to have their own opinion, but for us here at Macworld and for those who already own an iPad and are considering an upgrade to a newer tablet, we'd still recommend the iPad mini 2. It's cheaper if you're opting for a model with lower storage, and it'll mean you can transfer all of your apps straight over without having to buy them again. Plus, you'll get all of the new Continuity features coming this year so switching between your Mac and your iPad will be a dream.

Of course, if you're already an Android user and you enjoy the operating system, you're more likely to be drawn to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4, and it's an excellent tablet that we think will certainly attract Apple's attention. Competition is hotting up and there's no doubt that Apple needs to up its game with the next iPad mini, which we expect will arrive in October.

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