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Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Bigger, bolder, brighter... but is it better?

Samsung’s flagship tablet is pitching itself as a creative powerhouse, although its sheer size may put some people off

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
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Price: €1400
Where To Buy: Samsung

If you wanted to sum up the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra in one word it would be “giant”. Although Samsung’s top-end tablet is thin and light, it comes with a frankly huge 14.6-inch display that makes everything else seem tiny in comparison.

What can you do with a tablet this size? Lots of things, as long as you don’t mind carrying it around. The S9 Ultra is pitching itself as everything from a creative powerhouse to a portable video screen.

It is Samsung’s flagship tablet model, and it certainly earns the title. It looks and feels similar enough to last year’s model, but there are some key differences. The screen technology has been updated, from Super AMOLED to Dynamic AMOLED 2X, which supports HDR10+. That’s basically a fancy way of saying that it is very good at displaying vibrant colours, crisp details and deep blacks, with the new technology having twice the contrast ratio of Super AMOLED. So that gets a big thumbs-up all round.

The tablet also has a 120Hz display refresh rate – which means the display refreshes itself 120 times a second – making any on-screen action buttery smooth.


As you would expect, the chip has also been updated. The S9 Ultra comes with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and up to 16GB of RAM, giving it plenty of power for running intensive apps or multitasking. Again, the screen size comes into its own here, with the multiwindow tool allowing you work across three apps at once. Using the tablet for work, it was useful to be able to open three apps and dip in and out of them as needed, but if you plan on using it for any extended typing sessions, you’ll need either a keyboard case or at the very least a bluetooth keyboard to make it more comfortable.

The S9 Ultra is pitching itself for creative tasks too, and the larger display works well if you need to create artwork with the S Pen or edit images or video.

One of the biggest advantages is the ability to use it as a digital notebook, with the included S Pen doing a lot of the heavy lifting here. And, like its Apple rival, the availability of decent third-party note-taking apps is crucial here, so it is nice to see that the GoodNotes app has finally been launched for Android.

All of that will need a decent battery, and the Ultra comes with an 11,200 mAh battery that will give you up to 10 hours of web browsing and 16 hours of pure video-watching, if that is what you would prefer to do.

But some of the very things that make it stand out from the pack are also the things that might put people off. The size of the tablet, while great for using it to watch streaming video or taking notes, also makes it less portable than the smaller Tab S9 or S9+. And using it in portrait mode makes it a bit more unwieldy.

The cameras haven’t changed much either, with the dual 12-megapixel lens – wide and ultra wide – on the front working well for the still-regular video calls, while the positioning of them on the long side of the display means you can (sort of) look your subject in the eye rather than somewhere off to the left or right. There is a small notch taken out of the screen to accommodate them, however; Samsung hasn’t brought the hole-punch camera to the tablet series just yet.

On the back, you have two more cameras, a 12-megapixel and an eight-megapixels, although they will probably get less use given the size of the tablet. You would look a bit ridiculous holding this big tablet up to take a photo, and you’ll end up with a sore wrist, especially in portrait mode, but the option is there.


There are many pros to this tablet. It is powerful enough to run more demanding software without stumbling, and comes with more RAM that you might think you need.

The display technology is a step up, too, with video content looking better and gaming a breeze.

The S Pen feels a bit more like pen on paper, although it’s not quite indistinguishable just yet, and the impressive display on the Tab S9 Ultra will make it a versatile work and leisure device.

The speakers are also surprisingly decent, something that Samsung has been improving, and comes despite the super thin design of the tablet.


As far as upgrades go, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the S9 Ultra and last year’s model – at least on the surface. And it is expensive, even before you take into account the necessary extras, such as cases and keyboards – although you don’t get much of a discount for opting for last year’s technology.

Everything else

For the first time, too, Samsung has brought an IP68 water- and dust-resistance rating to the Galaxy S tablet series, which makes the tablet more durable. Arguably it is more important to have this rating in a phone, which is exposed more often to risks, but it is reassuring to know your expensive piece of electronic kit won’t immediately die should it find itself taking a dip.

You can choose up to 1TB in storage, or go for the entry-level 256GB and expand it with a microSD card.

There are also wifi models and 5G-enabled S9 Ultras to choose from, depending on your connectivity needs. And this year’s tablet comes in two colours: graphite and beige.


A high-end tablet, but its size may limit its appeal to a niche audience.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist