Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ review: Mega mid-range tablet

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE is all the tablet most people need (Image: Samsung)

It’s a little heavy and awkwardly shaped but overall this is the best value large-screen Android tablet

What we love

  • Big, bright screen
  • Good tablet software
  • Decent battery life
  • S Pen stylus included
  • Fully waterproof

What we don’t

  • Heavy
  • Awkward to hold in both orientations
  • Can’t connect to external monitor

There are several Android tablets on the market, but we always find it difficult to recommend them over an iPad – Apple’s tablets are just so good. But Samsung is onto a winner with the Galaxy Tab S9 FE+, even if that is a real mouthful of a product name.

It’s very good value considering its huge 12.4-inch screen that makes watching videos on Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, and all other streaming apps an absolute pleasure. It’s not the highest resolution ever, but generally looks good whatever you’re doing, and the 90Hz refresh rate helps keep things scrolling smoothly. It gets plenty bright, and will just about last a whole day of heavy use.

At £599, the Tab S9 FE+ is £60 cheaper than the iPad Air with double the storage, a larger display, and an S Pen stylus included in the box. This means you can immediately start using it to navigate the Android operating system, or use it in Samsung Notes to draw, sketch and make notes – or download more advanced apps to create art.

The processor is a little underpowered so high-end games stutter a little, and with only 6GB RAM on the cheapest model you might see some lag when multitasking through apps. And despite having Samsung’s DeX desktop mode to use it like a laptop, the FE doesn’t support external display output, so you can run it through a monitor. But overall this is the best value large-screen Android tablet you can buy.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ review

It’s a little unfair to say all tablets are bad, but it is often difficult to recommend them when iPads are so darn good. Apple charges a premium, but an iPad does exactly what most people want – display webpages and play video apps – and last for several years.

Android tablets can technically last as long but they haven’t always had long software update support, or good software in the first place, for that matter. That’s why we’ve been delighted to test the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ – it’s a seriously impressive Android tablet with enough positives for it to go toe to toe with the , it’s closest Apple rival in function and price.

We’ve been using the tablet for well over two weeks for watching videos, texting via WhatsApp, banking, video calls, gaming, and everything in between and have been impressed. If only it weren’t quite so awkwardly shaped.

Design and display

  • Design and display
  • Huge 12.4-inch screen
  • Thin but heavy
  • Premium metal feel

We got the larger Tab S9 FE+ in for review, which has a mammoth 12.4-inch LCD screen. There’s also a cheaper, smaller Tab S9 FE with a more manageable 10.9-inch display. We found our S9 FE+ a little too heavy to hold in one or even two hands for long periods, which is what we wanted to do curled up on the sofa reading articles and browsing YouTube. Our grey review sample is a little dull – we’d go for the silver or mint colour.

The sheer size of the tablet isn’t necessarily the issue either – but the dimensions are designed for it to be viewed mostly landscape, as it’s shorter and wider than iPads are. This 16:10 aspect ratio is best when the tablet is used like a laptop – but Samsung didn’t provide us with the companion keyboard accessory or even a stand to try this out with, so instead we struggled on holding the tablet to use it to do normal tablet things. Neither landscape or portrait is particularly comfortable, and was the main thing that put us off using it for longer scrolling sessions.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE  in grey

The Galaxy Tab S9 FE looks and feels premium (Image: Samsung)

That’s a real shame because the screen is great – very bright, with HD resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate to keep apps, games, and text scrolling smoothly. This doesn’t feel like a mid-range tablet when you are using it, but that’s technically what it is. The ‘FE’ stands for ‘fan edition’ and is part of Samsung’s cheaper devices range. The regular Tab S9+ with the same size screen costs a whopping £999.

The Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ is pleasingly thin and feels very premium thanks to an aluminium frame with absolutely no bend or flex to it. There’s no headphone jack, which is a shame for easy media plug in, but there’s a fingerprint scanner built into the power button to keep your tablet locked from prying eyes, or to authenticate banking apps.

The Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ is pleasingly thin and feels very premium thanks to an aluminium frame with absolutely no bend or flex

You get two speakers on the top at either end if you hold the tablet landscape, which definitely intends due to this detail, plus the fact the selfie camera for photos ands video calls is in the middle when held this way, not at the top when held portrait like many other tablets (and all phones). The speakers are decently loud and are more than good enough for watching full movies, even in a group.

With two cameras on the back and a USB-C port for charging, this is a thoroughly modern and well-equipped tablet. We’re not ones to use tablets to take photos, but it’s good to have them there for quick snaps if needed. You also get Samsung’s S Pen stylus in the box for free (RRP £46) – it doesn’t need charging or connecting over Bluetooth and snaps onto the back of the Tab magnetically for safe keeping. Both the S Pen and the Tab are fully water and dust resistant with an IP68 rating. That’s impressive, and hard to find on a tablet.

Performance and specs

  • Samsung Exynos 1380 chipset
  • 6GB or 8GB RAM
  • 128GB or 256GB storage

We reviewed the base model Tab with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. The latter is plenty for most people’s use and is double the stingy 64GB Apple offers on its cheapest iPad Air. There’s even a microSD card slot to expand up to 1TB with a memory card. But the 6GB RAM does seem a little underpowered at times combined with the decidedly mid-level Exynos 1380 chipset inside – when you’re buzzing around between apps there is the occasional lag and stutter, but it didn’t ruin the experience.

Playing 3D racing games slowed the frame rate down though, and made those fast street races no fun to play. This isn’t the best tablet for gaming, unless your definition of gaming is a few rounds of Words With Friends. You might want to spend £100 more and get the model with 8GB RAM, which should ensure things are a little zippier.

The colour options for the Tab S9 FE

The large screen leaves tons of room for apps and drawing (Image: Samsung)

Software and apps

  • Android works well for multitasking
  • Five years of software support
  • No external monitor support

A section titled ‘software’ might seem boring, but far from it – it’s what makes this tablet extra special. Samsung’s version of Android is called One UI, and we find it a little overcrowded on a phone, but on the Tab S9 FE+ it really shines. Because there’s such a big screen, you can use clever split screen software to run two apps side by side, and they’re still big enough to read easily. It’s great if you want a video call open with your calendar if you’re sorting out work events, or to watch the football whilst chatting about the match in WhatsApp.

That’s right, WhatsApp. Unlike the iPad, there’s an Android tablet app for WhatsApp and you can quickly link your phone’s connection to the app on the Tab to get your messages rolling in. Instagram also works fine, and if you have an Android phone you can even mirror your text messages using the Google Messages app. The Tab can do everything your phone can, except make phone calls.

… this is a thoroughly modern and well-equipped tablet

With the S Pen, you’re free to make notes in the Notes app, or fire up your inner Picasso with a spot of sketching. Even though it’s free in the box, this is no cheap stylus. It is pressure sensitive so you can do light or heavy lines, plus there’s a button on it you can click to bring up a menu on the screen of what you can do with the pen. It’s great, and beats shelling out extra for the Apple Pencil if you have an iPad.

The Tab comes with Microsoft and Google apps pre-installed, and once you’re signed in with either it’s easy to access all your information and files via the cloud. Had Samsung loaned us a keyboard we would have probably been able to do our entire workday from the Tab thanks to every app under the sun right there in the Google Play Store.

Tab S9 FE  with keyboard case

With split-screen app, S Pen, and optional keyboard, you can use the Tab like a laptop (Image: Samsung)

One of the disappointments is the Tab S9 FE+ doesn’t support a tech called DisplayPort Out – which means you can’t hook it up to a monitor. The tablet comes with Samsung DeX built in, which turns the normal Android app layout into one resembling Windows, so you can use the device more like a laptop or desktop computer. If it supported DisplayPort Out you could plug in a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and run it that way. The fact it doesn’t is stingy of Samsung, and probably done on purpose to upsell people to its pricier tablet range.

The tablet ships with Android 13 but Samsung says it’ll give it four Android OS updates and five years of security updates to take you to the end of 2028.

Battery life and charging

  • Large capacity battery
  • USB-C port
  • All-day battery life

Samsung has stuffed a huge 10,090mAh battery into the Tab S9 FE+, one of the reasons to opt for it over the smaller S9 FE. It’s rated for 20 hours of use between charges, which we found about right unless you have the screen on all day for work and tasks. As an around-the-house tablet, it’ll keep on chugging for several days of casual use.

There’s no mains adapter in the box, only a USB-C cable, so you’ll have to buy a brick if you don’t already have one.

The Tab S9 FE 's USB-C port

The tablet is very thin despite its size (Image: Samsung)

Price and where to buy

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ costs from £599 for the Wi-Fi only model with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. You can pay £699 for the same version but with 5G compatibility via a SIM or eSIM.

A Wi-Fi version with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage is £699, or £799 if you want 5G.

We think the cheapest model will suit most people just fine.

You can buy the Tab S9 FE+ from Samsung, Very, John Lewis, Currys, AO, and Argos.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ is a great tablet with a terrible name. Ignore the name, and you’re left with an excellent large-screen device for surfing the web, watching Netflix, doing email, and even logging onto WhatsApp, Zoom, and all the apps you are used to on your phone or computer for work and play.

It’s a little awkward to hold for long periods because of the 16:10 size and it’s quite heavy, but thanks to the bright 12.4-inch screen it’s a great tablet to curl up with in a chair for a couple of hours. At £599, it proves you don’t have to spend any more than this to get a premium, capable, long-lasting tablet.

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