Apple versus Samsung is a pretty constant confrontation, but the arena is usually the crowded smartphone market. Tablets, however, have almost always been dominated by Apple, with the entire industry almost engulfed by one iPad or another.
That’s not to say the battle is won, however, and Samsung’s latest efforts, the Galaxy Tab S7 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, may have what it takes to bring Android tablets back into the limelight.
But how they overlap with those of Apple iPad Air 4, the latest model in its light and powerful Air range? Let’s find out.
Price and availability
The first thing to note is that none of these tablets are what you would call “budget conscious”
Adding 5G (in supported territories) and increasing screen size (and display technology, but more on that later) with S7 Plus pushes prices down to $ 1,049.99 / £ 999 / AU $ 2,049 at the higher end, still with 128GB of UK built-in storage (some other territories have 256GB and 512GB options).
Meanwhile, it’s not often that you offer an Apple product as a cheaper alternative, but you can get the iPad Air 4 for $ 599 / £ 579 / AU $ 899 with a decidedly skimpy 64GB of storage.
As for the high-end model, a 256GB version with 4G (Apple doesn’t offer a 5G device yet), costs $ 879 / £ 859 / AU $ 1,329.
The iPad Air 4 will begin shipping in October, while the Tab S7 and S7 Plus are available now.
In many ways, both the iPad Air 4 and the Tab S7 range appear to have been inspired by Apple’s iPad Pro 11 (2018) update. Both offer rounded corners and narrower bezels than you’ll find on most tablets, and if you place them side by side, it might take a second to spot the differences.
Apple’s new Air is available in the usual Silver, Space Gray and Rose Gold options, but it also adds Green and Sky Blue to the mix. Meanwhile, Samsung is a bit more conservative, offering “Mystic” bronze, black, and silver for both Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus.
While the iPad Air 4 offers a single 12MP camera module, the Galaxy Tab S7 range offers two rear cameras: a 13MP main and a 5MP ultra-wide, but we’ll get to that later.
On the top edge of the iPad Air 4, you’ll find a new lock button. While it still wakes the device up, just like it would on an iPad Pro, here it cleverly doubles as a Touch ID sensor. While that means no Face ID (as you’d find on its more expensive sibling), the front camera still offers 7MP photos and video recording.
It’s a similar situation with the standard Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, which also includes a fingerprint scanner in the lock button. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus offers an in-screen fingerprint sensor. It’s undoubtedly a smart technology, but as we noted in our review, it doesn’t work as fast as it does on mobile phones.
You’ll also notice the respective connectors on each device for their own attachments, such as keyboards, and yes, the iPad Air 4 supports Apple’s Magic Keyboard, if you’re so inclined, as does the second-generation Apple Pencil.
As for the screens, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus diverge pretty drastically here. The S7’s 11-inch display is a 1600 x 2560 LCD screen, and while it’s a good canvas for any content you throw at it, there’s no denying that the S7 Plus is the golden baby here.
Offering a stunning 12.4-inch AMOLED display, it’s incredibly bright and bold, with a resolution of 1752 x 2800 and a 16:10 aspect ratio. This means it’s a little shorter when using it horizontally, but you’re unlikely to notice it too much.
The standard Tab S7 also has this aspect ratio, and both slates offer a refresh rate of 120 Hz, which makes animations and inputs smooth.
Meanwhile, Apple’s listing offers another Liquid Retina display (read: LCD) and has a resolution of 1640 x 2360. It’s also 10.9 inches, so it’s a bit smaller than even the base Galaxy Tab S7.
Camera and battery
Apple has made great strides with its camera hardware and software in recent years, but the Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7 Plus are the clear winners, at least on paper, offering both 13MP and 5MP sensors.
5MP is an ultra-wide option, which allows you to capture multiple scenes in a single shot. If you are the type of person looking for your tablet rather than your phone, it’s hard not to recommend the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7.
That’s not to say the camera is a disaster in the iPad Air 4. Its 12MP sensor is great for taking photos during the day, but without a flash or the iPhone 11 range’s night mode, it won’t be your goal. for photos after dark.
In terms of video, both are capable of 4K recording at 30fps, but the iPad Air 4 also offers 60fps recording.
As for the battery, Apple did not disclose the iPad Air 4’s battery size, but said the slate offers 10 hours of battery life, dropping to 9 when using the mobile.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 meanwhile has an 8,000mAh battery while the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus has a whopping 10,090mAh one. Despite this, Samsung claims that the base Tab S7 lasts longer, apparently withstanding up to 15 hours of video playback, compared to 14 on the Tab S7 Plus. This can presumably be explained by the larger, higher resolution screen on the Plus model.
Unlike Apple, both Samsung slates also support fast charging, but all of these tablets offer a USB-C port.
Specifications and features
The iPad Air 4 is powered by Apple’s new A14 Bionic chipset, with a neural engine that enables machine learning. While it may seem like a series of buzzwords, what it boils down to is that the iPad Air 4 is very fast and quite smart too.
Apps that take advantage of machine learning will use artificial intelligence and algorithms to empower users, whether they enable more precise photo editing or better graphics performance.
iPadOS 14 may be a modest update, but it contains some great new features that Android devices still can’t quite match. If you buy an Apple Pencil, there is the new “Scribble” feature which allows you to write text in any text field and automatically convert it to digital text, among other things.
Then there are the redesigned Home and Notes apps, a new Safari translation feature, and an increased focus on privacy within the App Store. You’ll also get mouse and keyboard support.
Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus each have an octa-core Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset, which also features a neural processor, one that’s 77% faster than that of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 that precedes them. These lists also work on Android 10, which brings with it improved privacy settings, live transcripts, and more.
Tab S7 and S7 Plus also come with a new and improved S Pen, the company’s stylus device. It offers incredibly low latency and attaches to the back of the tablet to protect it. In terms of functionality, it is similar to the Apple Pencil, but it’s nice that it comes with the tablet rather than having to buy it separately.
Plus, with Samsung tablets you can expand storage up to 1TB with a microSD card, while iPad Air 4 owners are stuck with whatever they choose when buying.
As noted above, you can also get 5G optionally with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, while the iPad Air 4 only offers 4G.
As with any comparison between Apple and Samsung, there is no real loser and it could depend on which operating system you prefer.
Then there’s the price, as Samsung’s offerings cost more than the iPad Air 4, but if you’re likely to buy an Apple Pencil on top of the latter, things smooth out a bit more.
The latest revision of the iPad Air improves on its design, but remains a fairly modest upgrade outside of a not insignificant performance boost. Meanwhile, the standard Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 has been blown away in many respects by its slightly larger sibling with its beautiful AMOLED panel.
If you’re a fan of the Apple ecosystem, the choice is simple, but if you’re feeling adventurous, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7 and Galaxy Tab S7 Plus are very enticing.