Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review: Impressively big and capable

I put the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra to the test over the last two weeks, using it as an entertainment-only device, and then for work. Here’s my experience.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Utlra on a desk

Not wanting to be left out, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S9 lineup received an update alongside the launch of Samsung’s flagship folding phone for 2023. Of the new family of devices, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is the largest and it still has a giant display that’s almost comically too big for a tablet. It has the added benefit of being waterproof this year, whether you see that as a particular benefit or not.

This is the new flagship of the Samsung Galaxy Tab line-up and I’ve been testing the Tab S9 Ultra for the last two weeks. I’ve found it to be superb at some things, and terrible at others. Let’s take a closer look at just what those things are.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra main image
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra

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The Tab S9 Ultra is a massive tablet from Samsung that has the power, speed and display to compete with most 2-in-1 laptops. It’s ideal for productivity tasks, as long as you opt for a keyboard accessory, adding to the overall cost. Its screen is brilliant and made for binging your favorite shows. And the included S Pen is perfect for taking notes or sketching ideas. But, it’s pricey and meant for a very specific type of user. For most, I’d wager, there are better options available.


  • Large, bright, vivid display
  • S-Pen included in the box
  • Solid performance, long battery life


  • It’s too big for use without a case
  • It’s pricey
  • Android apps still aren’t optimized for tablets


  • 208.6 x 326.4 x 5.5mm, 732g
  • Armor Aluminum, Corning Gorilla Glass 5, IP68
  • Cameras: 13MP main, 8MP ultrawide, 12MP front, 12MP front ultrawide

Despite being unbelievably thin, the Tab S9 Ultra is big – there’s no getting around it. Its 14.6-inch display is still unlike anything you’ll have seen on a tablet, and when you combine the display size with its 16:10 aspect ratio, you either get a short and wide screen when landscape mode, or a very long and narrow screen while in portrait mode. Either way, it’s unwieldy to hold and navigate without some sort of case or stand.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra S Pen.

I know this first hand because for the first week of testing the Tab S9 Ultra, I didn’t have a case or stand for it. I had the tablet the S Pen that comes in the box, and that was it. I cannot overstate just how awkward it was to place on my lap while trying to catch up on reading my news feed or stream a few YouTube videos. Propping it up with something behind it was problematic because of just how tall or wide it is, depending on the orientation. I had only used the Tab S8 Ultra with a keyboard case, and not as a standalone tablet, so I wasn’t aware just how cumbersome the tablet is.

After using the Tab S9 Ultra without that added luxury of a keyboard or stand, I don’t see why anyone would buy it without one. I’m also confused as to why Samsung doesn’t just bundle the Ultra with some sort of case or keyboard cover. Otherwise, you’re more or less forced to hold onto what amounts to be a small laptop monitor, sans the keyboard and bottom deck, while trying to type or watch a show. Eventually, I received Samsung’s $200 Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra Book Cover Keyboard Slim for testing the Ultra with, and it made a world of difference in how I used, and how easy it was to use, the tablet.

I do wish I had received the $350 Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra Book Cover Keyboard, though, as it includes a trackpad in addition to the keyboard. Using the Slim version, sans trackpad, meant that I could type and use keyboard shortcuts to interact with the tablet, but I still had to tap and swipe on the screen to navigate between apps, which is just a little more fiddly and less productive.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra charging port.

One major change Samsung made to the entire Samsung Tab S9 lineup is the addition of IP68 dust and water resistance to the tablets. It’s the first time we’ve seen such a rating for this type of tablet from Samsung, or even Apple. I’m not sure how often you’re going to need to use the Tab S9 Ultra near or underwater, but I can confirm that it will survive, and the S Pen – which is also IP68 certified – will write on the screen.


  • 14.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 16:10 aspect ratio
  • 1848 x 2960 pixels, 240ppi
  • 60-120Hz, HDR10+

By far my favorite aspect of the Tab S9 Ultra is its display. Not just because it’s big – which definitely helps when multitasking – but because of its clarity and aspect ratio. I don’t often spend a lot of time streaming shows from the likes of Hulu or Netflix on a tablet, but the AMOLED display of the Tab S9 Ultra and its clear, crisp, picture combined with color saturation has had me streaming shows even while working.

With a 16:10 aspect ratio, the Tab S9 Ultra’s display is wider than it is tall when in landscape orientation. That means when streaming a show or movie, you’re not going to see letterboxes (that is, the black bars) on the top and bottom of whatever you’re watching. Instead, the show takes up the entire display.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra streaming Alone

Watching shows like Alone in the History app or Pressure Cooker on Netflix has been a joy on the Tab S9 Ultra due to how life-like the picture quality is. Part of this is due to the type of display, but another aspect of improving the picture quality is that Samsung brought its Vision Booster feature to the Tab S9 line. Vision Booster uses sensors to detect the ambient light around you and automatically adjust the brightness of the display, keeping the colors and saturation at the same level.

Another reason I’ve found myself enjoying using the tablet as a way to consume content, and not just work on it as I typically do with tablets, is because of its sound quality. The quad stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support can get loud, but more importantly, they offer depth and clarity, especially in noisy scenes and environments.

The variable refresh rate of the Tab S9 Ultra’s screen means it automatically adjusts between 60Hz and 120Hz, based on what you’re doing, and it’s kept everything I’ve done on the tablet feeling buttery smooth. When scrolling through long websites or text documents, I didn’t notice any jitter or lag, for example. I’ve enjoyed staring at the Tab S9 Ultra’s display so much that, for the first time, I’ve definitely started looking at my 12.9-inch iPad Pro as having an inferior display.

Performance and battery life

  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
  • 12GB memory with 256GB, 512GB or 16GB with 1TB
  • MicroSD card up to 1TB
  • 11,200mAh
  • 16 hours of usage on a full charge

Inside the Tab S9 Ultra is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy. This is the same hardware Samsung used in the Galaxy S23 lineup, the Z Fold 5 and Z Flip 5. The “for Galaxy” portion of its name just means that Samsung worked with Qualcomm to overclock the chip, giving Samsung devices a performance edge when it comes to heavy tasks like gaming or multitasking.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra volume and power button.

Speaking of multitasking, with the Tab S9 Ultra, you have a few different ways of going about it. You can use the standard Android multitasking tools, with some of Samsung’s tweaks thanks to One UI. That means doing things like opening two apps, side by side, and using them at the same time, with a third app in a pop-up window, hovering over anything that’s on your screen. You can even drag and drop text or images between apps.

All of that works, if not a bit awkwardly, on the big display of the Tab S9 Ultra. But there’s another software trick built into Samsung’s flagship tablet that virtually ditches the standard Android interface and converts the experience into what’s akin to a PC-like setup, complete with windowed apps and a desktop with files and app shortcuts. I’m referring to Samsung DeX, which isn’t a new product from Samsung, especially in its tablet lineup. It’s still present on the Tab S9 Ultra, and the tablet’s components have no issues in keeping up with the demands of running apps in Android’s standard multitasking setup, or with the more resource-intensive DeX.

Almost all Tab S9 Ultra models come with 12GB of memory, which undoubtedly boosts its performance prowess. I say almost all because you’ll get 12GB of memory with the 256GB and 512GB models. If you want a Tab S9 Ultra with 1TB of storage, the memory is bumped up to 16GB. Personally, I’ve experienced no performance hiccups with the 256GB Tab S9 Ultra and its 12GB of memory. I see no reason to get the 1TB model just to increase the RAM, but also because the Tab S9 Ultra has a microSD card slot that you can add up to 1TB of extra storage through.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra fingerprint sensor.

Battery life has been phenomenal with the Tab S9 Ultra. It has an 11,200mAh battery, which Samsung touts as good for 16 hours of use on a full charge. I don’t have the exact timeframe down to the minute, but I do know that I haven’t had to charge the Tab S9 Ultra, but every few days with mixed usage. Some days I’d sit in front of it and work, bouncing between iA Writer, Chrome, Messages, my email app and Slack (occasionally with a show playing in picture-in-picture mode). While other days I would have it off to the side, with a show or music playing during most of my work day. More succinctly put – battery life isn’t an issue with the Tab S9 Ultra.


  • Android 13 with One UI 5.1.1
  • DeX built-in
  • S Pen support with wireless charging
  • Under display fingerprint sensor, facial recognition

The Tab S9 Ultra suffers from all the same issues any Android tablet before it has in that not all apps are optimised for the larger display. For example, some apps don’t support landscape orientation, meaning if you’re using a keyboard case, you’d need to pick up the Tab S9 Ultra and rotate it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra Android interface.

However, Samsung has done a lot of work on its own to ensure that its Android tablets at least improve upon the overall experience. For example, tucked away in the Labs section of the Settings app is a toggle that forces apps to work in landscape mode. It’s optional and something you have to either stumble upon yourself or know about, but it’s immensely helpful in improving the overall experience.

Again, due to its size, you’re going to want some form of keyboard case (preferably the Book Cover Keyboard) to get the most out of the software experience. You can toggle a setting so that every time you connect the tablet to a keyboard stand Samsung’s DeX activates and the tablet’s interface fades away, replaced by a laptop-like setup.

Samsung DeX running apps in multiple windows on Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra.

I like DeX and its approach to improving on the Android tablet experience. Windowed apps that you can resize on a display this size just make sense. I often had Chrome, iA Writer, Slack and Fastmail open in windows at the same time. I set up both the fingerprint reader, located under the display on the right side of the screen, and facial recognition. Every time I needed to use the tablet when it was docked into the keyboard, all I had to do is double-press the spacebar, facial recognition verified it was me, unlocked the tablet, and then took me to the home screen. All of that happened in a matter of a second, maybe two.

Included in the box is Samsung’s S Pen stylus. You have two options for storing it when it’s not in use. You can store it on the top edge of the tablet, where it’s magnetically held in place. Or you can store it on the backside of the tablet’s housing, again magnetically. The rear placement of the S Pen is the only spot on the tablet that will also charge the S Pen. Each time you attach it to the tablet, you’ll see a brief animation letting you know the pen is charging and what the charge level is.

I don’t often use the Apple Pencil with my iPad Pro, nor did I use the S Pen very often over the last two weeks with the S9 Ultra, but I did jot down a few notes and it writes as smooth and easily as you’d want a stylus to. There’s no lag between the pen moving and the digital lines appearing on the digital paper underneath.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra main image
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra

$1200 $1320 Save $120


I feel confident that I can get work done on the Tab S9 Ultra, and that’s exactly what a tablet of this size and build is designed for – to possibly replace a laptop, or at the very least fill the role of a 2-in-1 for some. But it’s not going to be for everyone. Compared to the Galaxy Tab S9, which now uses the same AMOLED display as the Ultra, or even the S9+, the Ultra is expensive. And that’s before you add a keyboard to the bundle.

If you’re looking for an Android tablet that’s built for work and play, the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is the one to get. Otherwise, Apple’s iPad Pro is another solid choice.