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Review: Samsung bets on best-of-class screen to sell new Galaxy Tab S tablet

TORONTO - Screen quality may not be the first thing consumers look for when shopping for a tablet, but Samsung is pushing the display on its new Galaxy Tab S as the biggest reason to pass on an iPad.

Apple was successful in selling the merits of screen sharpness to consumers when it launched its so-called "retina display" technology with the iPhone 4 in 2010, which boasted a sharpness of 326 pixels per inch (PPI).

Manufacturers have been racing to pack the most pixels into their screens ever since.

Samsung's latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S5, is rated at 432 PPI and both versions of the new Galaxy Tab S — available with a 8.4-inch or 10.5-inch screen — cram more pixels into their displays than the latest iPads.

But Samsung says there's an ever bigger reason why its new tablets arguably look better than iPads: Super AMOLED screen technology.

Samsung says Super AMOLED screens display richer, more accurate colours, better contrast and deeper blacks, which make dim scenes in movies more easily seen and not washed out.

Consumer feedback suggests video playback is becoming an increasingly important feature for tablet owners, which is why Samsung went with Super AMOLED for the Galaxy Tab S, says Vlastimir Lalovic, director of product marketing.

"If you look at what consumers are doing today versus what they did yesterday, consumers are actually going more from web browsing and social network updates and email to media consumption," says Lalovic, adding that all future high-end Samsung tablets will also use Super AMOLED screens.

"We believe at this time, understanding what the consumer demands are and patterns are, this is the right time for us to introduce Super AMOLED screens and that's why it's happening today.

"From our perspective we believe that's the technology that's going to remain to be the strongest and best technology in the mobile industry."

So is Samsung's Super AMOLED screen really appreciably better looking than the LCDs used by the competition?

Yes, say the experts at DisplayMate, who run a battery of high-tech tests on all the latest and greatest devices. They say the Galaxy Tab S tablets have the best performing screens they've tested to date.

And it's likely that most average consumers would also agree that the Galaxy Tab S looks better than the competition, especially when watching video, playing games or viewing photos.

Colours are beautifully vivid, so much so that in some cases they look maybe a little too over-saturated and otherworldly. The screen stands out a little less when web browsing, or using other apps that are primarily text-based, but still looks great.

LCD screens generally have the upper hand when it comes to performing well in direct sunlight but the Galaxy Tab S is still visible on a bright day outside.

There wasn't much to get excited about with Samsung's previously released tablets, which never had a really compelling feature to woo consumers away from choosing an iPad or another device running the Google Android operating system.

That changes with the Galaxy Tab S, especially for those who would use their tablet for multimedia more than anything else. As a mobile video-playing device — which can also browse the web, access social networks, play games and read ebooks — it can't be beat.

The 8.4-inch WiFi-only tablet sells for $419.99 and the 10.5-inch WiFi-only unit is priced at $519.99.

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