Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE/FE+ Review: The Golden Mean?
For those of you who doesn’t know, FE stands for Fan Edition, and from being battery-refurbished Galaxy Note phones, they have evolved into a complete product family, including mobile phones, tablets, and even headsets.
What conclusions can be drawn about what Samsung believes their fans want based on these products? Something that is seemingly more affordable than their flagship models. In fact, the FE series seems to be defined more by its price tag, above mid-range but below flagship models, than by any cohesive vision. It gives the impression that someone pointed with their entire hand and said, “this gadget should cost this much in stores, figure it out.”
The result is, at least for the tablets Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE (which I got to test for this review) and Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus, a bit peculiar, and the tablets feel more like expensive mid-range products than affordable flagship models.
But let me start from the beginning. Samsung has been grappling with a tablet dilemma for a while. Their Galaxy Tab S series of flagship tablets boast cutting-edge technology, smart features, the best possible performance for the Android platform, large form factors, and staggering prices ranging from $1,500 up to $2,600 for the latest Tab S9 series. On the other hand, there’s the Galaxy Tab A series, genuine budget tablets priced between $220 and $330, with performance and quality to match, even a bit lacking.
Between the spectrum of very high quality and very expensive on one side, and very cheap and frankly poor on the other side, there has been a gap, where the absence of a more reasonably priced Galaxy tablet has been noticeable. Now, Samsung has released tablets to fill that gap – the 10.9-inch Galaxy Tab S9 FE and the 12.4-inch Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus. The base model starts at $449.99 for the model with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM, while the 5G version is $100 more expensive at $549.99, and the Plus is $599.99 (current Swedish prices).
Both tablets are available in various configurations, with or without a built-in 5G modem and different memory options. Opting for the best of everything still makes them relatively expensive, but far from the price tag of the regular Galaxy Tab S9 tablets.
The Galaxy Tab S9 FE shares almost the same design as its pricier sibling, the Galaxy Tab S9, with slim dimensions, a rectangular frame, and a back panel made of sturdy, matte aluminum. Not quite as thin, the FE model is half a millimeter thicker and weighs around 20 grams more, but that’s hardly something you’ll notice? And it still looks elegant, sleek, and well-built. It also comes in a few different colors (green, lavender or gray).
The most significant differences that make the Tab S9 FE more affordable are in its performance and screen. It is powered by Samsung’s in-house Exynos 1380 chipset, delivering stable mid-range performance with its eight cores. It operates at roughly half the speed of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 found in the regular S9. Nevertheless, it is more than sufficient for everyday tasks such as browsing, emails, office work, and media streaming.
In my tested variant equipped with 6 GB of RAM, some multitasking instances encounter a bit of strain. For example, when transitioning between various arrangements of split-screen windows, it exhibits moments of stuttering and micro-pauses. In such scenarios, considering the version with expanded RAM might be a prudent choice. This issue could also be associated with the likelihood that certain memory is being cached on the flash storage, which, in the Galaxy Tab S9 FE, is not notably swift, resulting in slightly prolonged loading times for larger files and resource-intensive applications.
The graphics performance falls further behind, making this tablet less suitable for those aiming for intense gaming experiences. An upside to the more restrained performance is that the tablet remains comfortably cool to the touch. Furthermore, the impact of limited graphics performance is noticeable primarily in a handful of 3D games; everything else operates seamlessly.
The display employs an IPS panel featuring a crisp 1440p resolution and a 90 Hz refresh rate. This differs from the equally sharp AMOLED screen with a 120 Hz refresh rate found in the Galaxy Tab S9. The 90 Hz proves adequate for a satisfyingly responsive feel during swipes and scrolling. In the high-frequency mode, it dynamically scales down to 60 when the higher rate is unnecessary. The entire system appears to function seamlessly, and there’s minimal battery conservation by limiting it to 60.
They’ve also cut back on the speakers. Instead of quad speakers for the best possible audio experience when watching movies or playing games, you’ll have to settle for stereo speakers here. However, I must say that this is a cutback that isn’t noticeable, as the sound remains genuinely impressive for a tablet.
It seems they haven’t compromised on the battery at least, which is a commendable priority. Despite LCD screens consuming more energy than OLED, I still achieve at least as good battery life in this model as in the more expensive one.
The tablet comes with Android 13 and Samsung’s OneUI, which is one of the better interfaces, especially for tablets. Samsung has invested a lot of time in creating a smooth interface for managing multiple apps on the screen simultaneously, and the numerous features for stylus control are also a plus.
Since the USB port lacks support for screen output, you can’t get OneUI’s Windows-like desktop interface Dex on a large screen, as you can with some high-end Samsung phones. This is also the case if you connect a wireless display. However, the tablet does support Dex, but only on its own screen. With a keyboard dock, such as Samsung’s own Book Cover, it can be transformed into a decent little laptop.
The competition is fierce from other tablets. The Apple iPad, OnePlus Tablet and even the Google Pixel Tablet all outshine the Galaxy Tab S9 FE in certain features. Some boast significantly better performance, others have superior displays, battery life, or audio quality, and, above all, they come with even lower prices (depending on model). However, the familiarity of the Samsung interface and features might be a reason to still prefer the Galaxy Tab S9 FE, especially if you own a mid-range Samsung mobile and have been longing for a matching tablet.
Galaxy Tab S9 FE vs. Galaxy Tab S9 FE+
|Galaxy Tab S9 FE
|Galaxy Tab S9 FE+
(Up to 90Hz)
(Up to 90Hz)
|* Measured diagonally as a full rectangle without accounting for the rounded corners. Actual viewable area is less due to the rounded corners and camera hole.
|Dimensions & Weight
|165.8 x 254.3 x 6.5 mm, 523g (Wi-Fi), 524g (5G)
|185.4 x 285.4 x 6.5 mm, 627g (Wi-Fi), 628g (5G)
|8 MP Rear Camera
12 MP Ultra-Wide Front Camera
|8 MP + 8MP Ultra-Wide Rear Camera
12 MP Ultra-Wide Front Camera
|Memory & Storage
|6GB + 128GB
8GB + 256GB
|8GB + 128GB
12GB + 256GB
|* Available storage capacity is subject to preloaded software.
* Memory option may vary by market.
|*Typical value tested under third-party laboratory condition. Typical value is the estimated average value considering the deviation in battery capacity among the battery samples tested under IEC 61960 standard. Actual battery life may vary depending on network environment, usage patterns and other factors.
|*Wired charging compatible with QC2.0 and AFC.
|**45W Power Adapter sold separately. Use only Samsung-approved chargers and cables.
|Network and Connectivity
|5G*, LTE**, Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi Direct Bluetooth® v 5.3
|*5G services are only supported in 5G network enabled locations. Requires optimal 5G connection. Actual speed may vary depending on market, carrier, and user environment.
**Availability of 5G model varies by market and carrier.
*** Wi-Fi 6 network availability may vary by market, network provider and user environment. Requires optimal connection. Will require a Wi-Fi 6 router.
|Dual Speaker by AKG, Dolby Atmos®
|S Pen (BLE not supported) in-box
|* IP68 Rating: Conducted under lab test conditions. Water resistant in up to 1.5 meters of fresh water for up to 30 minutes and protected from dust, dirt, and sand. Rinse residue/dry after wet. Not advised for beach or pool use. Water and dust resistance of your device is not permanent and may diminish over time.
|S Pen, S Pen Creator Edition
Book Cover Keyboard, Book Cover Keyboard Slim, Smart Book Cover, Outdoor Cover
|* S Pen and USB Type-C cable included inbox. Other accessories are available for purchase separately. Availability of third-party cases may vary by market, carrier and retailer.