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Samsung’s new $600 Android tablet is better than I expected

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ laying on pillows.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
MSRP $600.00
“For everyday tablet users, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus is well worth your time and consideration.”
  • Very competitive price
  • Water and dust resistance
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Bright, vibrant display
  • S Pen included for free
  • Android software brings it down
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Refresh rate is disappointing

Shopping for a Samsung tablet can be confusing due to the sheer number of options available. The introduction of the Galaxy Tab S9 FE series has only added to the confusion. The “Fan Edition” tablet, similar to the newly released Samsung Galaxy S23 FE, offers the essential mobile features that most users need at a more affordable price than the company’s pricier models.

Getting started, I approached this review as an average tablet buyer who is less inclined to buy a top-of-the-line tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra or Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro. My goal was to assess whether the Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus is a well-rounded tablet or if Samsung had to make too many compromises to create a cheaper version of its other tablet offerings.

To my pleasant surprise, I found more positive aspects than negatives.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus: what is it?

Official product render of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus.

Before we get into it, let’s clarify where the Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus fits in Samsung’s tablet lineup and how it’s different from the recently released Galaxy Tab S9 FE. The Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus offers a 12.4-inch display, which makes it comparable to the Galaxy Tab S9 Plus that came out earlier this year. On the other hand, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE model has a 10.9-inch screen, putting it in the same league as the Galaxy Tab S9, which boasts an 11-inch display.

Apart from the difference in display size, there are just a few internal variations between both FE tablets. Firstly, the Tab S9 FE model is the only one with a 5G option, with the FE Plus model only available with Wi-Fi. Secondly, the entry-level 128GB Tab S9 FE Plus has 8GB of RAM, while the 128GB Tab S9 FE has 6GB. The 256GB models also have differences in memory, with the FE Plus offering 12GB RAM compared to the FE’s 8GB RAM.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus: what I love

Showing off the colors on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+.
Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus is a stunning device right out of the box. Although I would have preferred a review unit that wasn’t in the mint color, it quickly grew on me. The tablet is also available in more traditional colors such as gray and silver and, for something softer, lavender.

The Tab S9 FE Plus features a 12.4-inch WQXGA display that is not AMOLED like the one on the Galaxy Tab S9 Plus. However, it still provides a pleasing viewing experience. With a 2560 x 1600 resolution, it is more than enough in most situations. However, the 90Hz refresh rate can cause occasional hiccups when scrolling websites, especially if you have fast fingers. Mobile gamers could also experience some problems, especially with games that involve lots of movement.

Nevertheless, if your top priority with a tablet is to watch your favorite videos, draw, or video chat, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus is very valuable.

The Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus is a stunning device right out of the box.

Apart from the display, the tablet has a powerful 10,090mAh battery, providing extended battery life. With occasional usage, the battery can last for a few days, while continuous use can give you up to 20 hours of battery life between charges. Additionally, the tablet supports fast charging, ensuring the battery is fully charged in less than 90 minutes.

I ran down the battery on my review unit twice during my testing. The first time, I used the Tab S9 FE Plus for a few hours a day over three days. The second time, I wanted to see if I could achieve the 20 hours of continuous use that Samsung had promised. In both tests, I used the tablet for drawing, listening to music, watching Netflix, and playing online word games. I edited a few photos, read through the Amazon Kindle app, and video-chatted with my daughter.

The back of a mint colored Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+.
Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

Whether through occasional or continuous use, I could use the Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus for just under 18 hours before the battery needed recharging. Whether the tablet averages 18, 19, or 20 hours between charges, that’s pretty impressive for a 12.4-inch device.

While using the tablet, I listened to a lot of audio through its AKG-tuned dual speakers or my Galaxy Buds 2 Pro earbuds. And let me tell you, these speakers are legit! They are more powerful than I expected, and the sound quality is crystal clear. I’m incredibly impressed with how they sound when listening to podcasts and audiobooks. The speakers aren’t super loud, but you can kick back and listen to tunes in one room while working in another. All in all, the audio output is pretty impressive.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus has a Samsung Exynos 1380 CPU and Arm Mali-G68 GPU, providing mid-range performance. When opening multiple apps simultaneously, the tablet does seem to struggle a bit. Although it’s not terrible, it’s not exceptional either. More often than not, the performance is decent.

A Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ showing off itself on a piece of furniture with an S Pen nearby.
Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

The Tab S9 FE Plus comes with an S Pen, which impresses me a lot as someone used to buying Apple Pencils separately. The S Pen even matches the tablet’s color, which is a nice bonus. The S Pen works perfectly well with apps like Goodnotes, Clip Studio Paint, and Samsung Notes.

Apart from the S Pen, Samsung has included several other features in the Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus that make it an excellent value for its price. These features include support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3. Additionally, the tablet has an IP68 rating for protection against dust and water. This rating is not available on any iPads and ensures that the tablet will remain safe and functional for many years to come, even with everyday use.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus: an imperfect size

A Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ above a 11-inch iPad Pro.
A Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus above a 11-inch iPad Pro. Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

As a mobile technology writer for several years, I have noticed a clear trend: people are increasingly interested in larger smartphones. However, I don’t think the same methodology applies to the tablet market. Although I don’t have any data to support my claim, I am convinced that most users prefer a tablet with a screen size of no more than 10-11 inches diagonally, such as the Galaxy Tab S9 FE and iPad Air. Beyond that size, these devices become too cumbersome to carry around, and purchasing a laptop becomes a better option for most people.

The 12.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus has a bigger display than optimal and is also somewhat heavy, weighing 1.38 lbs. Adding a case or keyboard case only makes it bulkier and more cumbersome to carry around. None of this means that the tablet is outright bad. It simply makes it a more difficult sell.

I tried to ignore the size of this tablet, but I have to say, it’s just too big for me. Whether I’m lugging it to my local Starbucks or using it in bed to watch Netflix, it just feels bulky.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus: software

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ in Samsung DeX mode.
Samsung DeX showing on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus has Android 13 and Samsung One UI 5.1.1. As an Android user, you are already familiar with the software. However, using it on a tablet can be more challenging as most objects are larger, and some elements may appear stretched out.

If you use any social network app, such as X (formerly Twitter) or Facebook, you may notice that the experience becomes less enjoyable when photos are involved, as things tend to appear overly large. On the other hand, some apps, like the Target app, don’t use enough space on the display, making it difficult to use.

Android tablets have consistently faced optimization issues, especially the larger ones. However, Samsung has developed a solution through Samsung DeX, which replaces the standard Android interface with a user interface that closely resembles that of Windows and macOS.

With Samsung DeX, you can place app shortcuts anywhere on your desktop, and there’s a permanent taskbar at the bottom for displaying app shortcuts, quick settings, and more. When using Samsung DeX, apps open in a window view, which you can adjust to full size if you prefer.

Samsung DeX is actually pretty slick and works as advertised.

Samsung DeX is actually pretty slick and works as advertised. However, it does require that you rethink how to use the tablet — any tablet, for that matter. Using the Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus as something closer to a desktop, coupled with its large display, once again calls into question whether you want a tablet or a laptop and removes some of the touch-friendliness long associated with tablets.

And, even though Samsung DeX has improved with each new release, it remains an imperfect solution. Some apps, for example, still won’t play nice with it, while others get a little bit funky when you resize them. Regardless, if you grow frustrated with how everyday Android works on tablets, it’s an option.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus: accessories

The back of a cover for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ showing the S Pen and place to put it.
Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus comes with an S Pen, and, for a limited time, Samsung is offering a free Smart Book Cover, which usually costs $99. The cover features a special slot for the S Pen to ensure you don’t misplace it while providing excellent protection.

Additionally, you can purchase the optional Book Cover Keyboard for $230. This keyboard also comes with a slot to secure your S Pen and is highly recommended if you plan to use Samsung DeX. With the keyboard, your experience with Samsung DeX will be much smoother and effective.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus: price and availability

A Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ showing two apps opened at once.
Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

If you’re interested in purchasing a Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus, you can buy it directly from Samsung’s website or authorized retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy. The 128GB version is priced at $600, but you can pay an additional $100 for the 256GB version with more memory. If you compare it to the Galaxy Tab S9 Plus, which starts at $1,000, you get better internals, storage, and memory on the latter, but it still runs on Android 13.

Alternatively, if you are considering purchasing an iPad, the 11-inch iPad Pro begins at $800, the iPad Air (5th Generation) starts at $600, and the most affordable iPad (9th Generation) starts at $329. However, it’s important to note that apart from the iPad Air, all other iPads have half the storage capacity compared to the Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus.

It’s important to remember that prices for accessories such as covers, keyboards, and Apple Pencils (in the case of iPads) will increase the overall cost of your purchase.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus: verdict

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ closeup.
Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus is an excellent tablet that stands out for its features and affordable price. It boasts a beautiful design, comes with an S Pen, and has a mid-range display that produces vibrant colors and high brightness. The speakers are fantastic, especially for a tablet. Performance-wise, it can handle most tasks with ease.

However, the tablet’s large size and weight may be a drawback if you plan on carrying it around frequently. The tablet’s display is satisfactory but may not be ideal for everyone. The Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus also suffers from compatibility issues with Android 13, which can cause some software-related problems. The Samsung DeX interface can also be challenging to use despite its improvements.

Despite the drawbacks mentioned above, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus is still a fantastic choice for anyone looking for an Android-based tablet, particularly a larger one from Samsung. It is priced competitively and offers more features than most of its rivals. If you require a better display, chipset, and more RAM and storage, you may want to consider the Galaxy S9 Plus, but be prepared to spend almost twice the amount.

Editors' Recommendations

Bryan M. Wolfe
Bryan M. Wolfe has over a decade of experience as a technology writer. He writes about mobile.
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