Samsung's Ultra suffix is a recent addition to its Galaxy products, but it's one we're beginning to seriously look out for with each new launch. Introducing the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra; a bonkers, no-compromise tablet that takes the standard Tab formula and dials everything up to 11.
It has the latest flagship internals, a nearly 15-inch OLED display and quad speakers with Dolby Atmos support. On paper, this is a dream tablet for music and movie enthusiasts who want to take their media on the go without compromising on quality.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is the top-of-the-line model of Samsung's new crop of tablets, so no surprises when we say it's the most expensive of the bunch. It starts at £1199 / $1200 / AU$1999, which gets you 256GB of storage, 12GB of RAM and wi-fi-only connectivity. However, you can configure the tablet with up to 1TB of storage, 16GB of RAM and 5G, with the most expensive configuration coming in at £1699 / $1700 / AU$2949.
The most similar iPad is the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which features a Mini-LED Retina XDR display and Apple's powerhouse M2 chip, but only 128GB of storage in its base configuration. That costs from £1249 / $1099 / AU$1899.
The Tab S9 Ultra looks very similar to last year's Tab S8 Ultra but with a few modernisations and design tweaks. Samsung has ditched the glossy strip that used to house the cameras and magnetic charger/storage spot for the included S-Pen. There's now simply a seamless divot in the aluminium back panel of the tablet for the pen to rest in and wirelessly charge. The cameras are also separated slightly now, and they look very similar in style to those of the Galaxy S23 with their untethered, individual lens design.
Elsewhere, the tablet looks and feels mostly the same. It's still razer thin at 5.5mm and deceptively light (although technically heavier than its predecessor) at 732g, but still impressive when you take that behemoth 14.6-inch display into account.
Speaking of the display, it too retains a feature from its predecessor, and a controversial one at that. This is the only tablet (at least that we can think of), to feature a notch in its display. It's to house the dual front-facing 12MP cameras and, thankfully, it's not too intrusive, but it still just looks a bit odd and out of place.
The tablet's overall aluminium and glass construction felt substantial and premium in the hand during our brief demo of the device, but while it's lightweight and thin, there's no avoiding that it's also a bit unwieldy due to its sheer size. We will say that in the Graphite colourway, it had a pleasingly understated and stealthy appearance, and the Beige is equally elegant.
Starting with the internal specs of the device, the Tab S9 Ultra uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy Processor that's found in the Galaxy S23 series of phones – that's the Galaxy Z Fold 5, Galaxy Z Flip 5 and the rest of the Galaxy Tab S9 family. A+ for processor synergy, Samsung. It's backed up by either 12GB or 16GB of RAM based on your configuration and it runs Android 13 with Samsung's One UI skin over it. During our demo, the Tab S9 Ultra flew through its operating system and apps loaded in a flash.
Onto that colossal screen, and the Tab S9 Ultra might be the biggest tablet we've tested. That expansive canvas is a 14.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, with a variable refresh rate of 60Hz to 120Hz. Samsung says it's got a QuadHD resolution, although no specific figures have been shared quite yet. We do know it has a 16:10 aspect ratio. It also supports HDR10+, as this is Samsung's preference over Dolby Vision.
Moving onto audio and the S9 Ultra, despite its mammoth size, does not have a headphone jack; although as it seems to be slowly fading away from tablets after being ejected from almost all smartphones (shout out to Sony for keeping it alive) we're not exactly surprised. What it does have, however, is a pretty impressive set of speakers. There are four to be exact, one on each corner of the device, and they've even got Dolby Atmos support.
Finishing things off with the remaining features of the Tab, it has four cameras in total; a 13MP main and 8MP ultra-wide on the rear and a 12MP main and 12MP ultra-wide on the front. It also has a goliath battery inside rated at 11,200mAh, which should keep things running for quite some time. You also get the S Pen stylus in the box, ideal for occasional bouts of productivity or digital art, but let's be real, you're here to see how it fairs as a movie and music machine.
Picture and sound
This is where the disclaimers start: during our testing, we were in a fairly loud, bright and crowded room with no ability to log into the set of streaming apps that we'd usually use to test a tablet. Therefore, you should consider this a first impression of the tablet's AV ability, with a full review coming further down the line.
So, we fired up trusty old YouTube and whacked some of the latest film trailers on the screen for a preliminary test. For reference, we used the trailers for Oppenheimer and Blue Beetle, as one is more natural and cinematic while the other offers a more animated, vivid set of scenes.
Starting with Oppenheimer, we were immediately impressed by how cinematic it felt despite being merely a trailer on YouTube. The colours looked nicely balanced with an appreciable pop of glowing orange for the roaring explosion. Overall, the picture was really sharp and detailed, with plenty of environmental, skin and clothing textures to be picked out and appreciated. The outlines of subjects on screen looked nicely defined too, with a scene of two characters walking out onto a sports field having a good sense of depth. The picture exuded a richness and lifelike nature, and we think the larger screen really helped to make the whole affair feel more cinematic than it had any right to be.
Switching over to Blue Beetle, this is where the punchy, vivid nature of Samsung's display came into play. As the titular hero flies unwilling to the edge of the atmosphere, the deep inky black of space is contrasted by the rich, punchy blue of the hero's costume. During the high-octane fight scenes, the tablet refrained from stuttering and motion looked good overall, if a little overly smooth in some short instances.
We also used Oppenheimer's majestic score and dialogue to test drive the tablet's quad speakers. Speech was pleasingly clear and detailed and the booming bass at the end of the trailer sounded decent by tablet standards. As for the score that underpins the trailer, the Tab S9 Ultra managed to remain in control of the increasingly frantic strings, ensuring a spacious and well-defined performance. Obviously, we'll need to give this tablet a much longer listen with the appropriate reference material, but it sounded good on first listen.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra seems to live up to its billing in our initial impressions. This bonkers tablet is about as extreme as can be, making the iPad Pro look somewhat staid by comparison.
Once again, we'll need much more time before we reach our final verdict, but so far Samsung seems to have delivered an enticing new option for those who want serious picture and sound quality on the go and don't mind the heft that goes with it.
Check out our early hands-on review of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review
As well as our Google Pixel Tablet review