With excellent build quality, a bright and fluid display, and a brilliant all-inclusive stylus system, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE is a well-balanced mid-range tablet. Those after the very best media or gaming experience can do better for the money, but the Tab S9 FE’s strength is in its all-round competence.
With a 10.9-inch display, a premium flat-edged design, and pricing that starts from $449/£449, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE clearly has the iPad (2022) firmly in its sights. Samsung even bundles a stylus with every tablet, unlike Apple.
Of course, Samsung isn’t the only Android manufacturer thinking along these lines, as the OnePlus Pad and the Lenovo Tab P12 go to show. But really, only Samsung is in any kind of position to take the fight to Apple in the premium tablet market. For some time now, if you’ve wanted a classy tablet that isn’t an iPad, Samsung has supplied the primary alternative.
The last FE (fan edition) tablet Samsung supplied, the Galaxy Tab S7 FE, didn’t quite nail the formula, with a slightly high price tag and disappointing performance. Having seemingly skipped a generation, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE sees Samsung regrouping and trying again.
Has it managed to nail the brief for a compelling mid-range tablet this time around?
Design & Build
iPad-like premium design
Standout IP68 certification
S Pen included
Samsung makes more tablets than anyone, so it’s no surprise that the company has gotten rather good at it. The Galaxy Tab S9 FE looks and feels great, with a design that tips its hat to the iPad (to put it mildly) whilst actually managing to beat its great rival in one particular area.
The flat surfaces, curved corners, all-metal body (except for plastic antenna lines), and evenly proportioned display bezels are pure iPad. Samsung’s tablet is less square, however, with a 254.3 x 165.8mm body reflecting the decision to us a 16:10 aspect ratio display.
As ever, this makes the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE feel great when you’re watching landscape video content, but a tad less comfortable when scrolling through content in portrait.
Jon Mundy / Foundry
Even so, the fingerprint sensor stashed in the power button on the top left edge (in landscape) proves to be simple enough to operate in either orientation, provided you remember to enrol both forefingers. You’ll get in the habit (whether you realise or not) of orienting the tablet by the feel of the camera module on the back. The Galaxy Tab S7 FE omitted a fingerprint sensor, so this is a welcome addition.
At 6.5mm, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE is the same thickness as the OnePlus Pad, which makes it about half-a-millimetre thinner than the iPad (2022) and the Lenovo Tab P12. At 523g, it’s lighter than all but the iPad.
Samsung’s selection of colours is disappointingly limited, especially compared to the iPad (2022). The Grey and Silver options are predictably drab, while my Mint model has to be the most subtle brand of cool green I’ve ever seen. I thought it was supposed to be Silver at first glance. There’s also a Lavender option if that takes your fancy, though it’s oddly not on the Samsung UK store.
Jon Mundy / Foundry
For all the competent similarity that’s on show here, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE has one stand-out design feature compared to its mid-range rivals – IP68 certification. Even the iPad (2022) doesn’t offer this level of water and dust resistance.
If you’re someone who frequently exposes your tablet to the elements – or frequently makes it share bag space with a beverage – this could be a seriously compelling addition.
Like the Lenovo Tab P12, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE also stands out for the inclusion of a stylus with every tablet, which is a £46 accessory when bought separately. Samsung pretty much wrote the book on virtual pens, and its basic S Pen remains one of the best examples on the market.
Jon Mundy / Foundry
It’s simple, robust, and it attaches to the back of the tablet with magnets. Samsung’s software implementation is more mature than any other manufacturer’s, too.
It doesn’t slap you around the face and demand to be used, but the facility for pulling off quick, powerful S Pen-driven tasks is always there, lurking in the background. Press the button and double tap to open up a quick note, or tap the floating pen icon to bring up further shortcuts.
The writing experience itself is unimpeachable, with 4,096 levels of pressure and a distinctly pen-like level of resistance.
Screen & Speakers
10.9-inch TFT LCD
90Hz refresh rate
Samsung rarely trips up on pairing the right screen with the right device, and the Galaxy Tab S9 FE doesn’t let the side down. It’s not exactly exceptional for the money, however.
You’re getting a solid 10.9in TFT LCD here. The provision of LCD rather and AMOLED panel technology is by the by – good luck finding a tablet with such a component for less than $500/£500. You’ll be wanting the £800 Galaxy Tab S9 instead.
Together with a 1440 x 2304 resolution, however, this is a screen that’s both smaller and less sharp than that of the OnePlus Pad and the Lenovo Pad P12, which are both around the same price.
Jon Mundy / Foundry
One advantage over the Lenovo, and indeed the iPad (2022), is the provision of a 90Hz refresh rate. This is active by default too, or rather an Adaptive mode that extends up to 90Hz when the situation justifies it.
Even here, however, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE’s display is pipped or even lapped by the OnePlus Pad and its 144Hz provision. That’s total overkill, of course, but it’s another advantage for this mid-range rival.
In isolation, I have few qualms about the output of the Galaxy Tab S9 FE’s screen. It hits a maximum brightness of 562 nits, which is way brighter than the Lenovo Tab P12 and the OnePlus Pad, though it’s still not what you’d call outside-friendly.
Jon Mundy / Foundry
I also found it to be more colour-accurate than the Lenovo, at least once I set the screen mode to the more sRGB-tuned Natural rather than the default Vivid. Even so, the apparent lack of solid HDR standard support is notable in a media-focused tablet. In contrast, the OnePlus Pad wears its Dolby Vision and HDR10+ credentials proudly.
Unlike its two Android rivals, you don’t get a full quad-speaker array with the Tab S9 FE. However, what you do get is a strong AKG-powered stereo speaker provision.
They won’t blow your socks off with any amazing Dolby Atmos tricks or particularly deep bass, but they get very loud whilst remaining clear and reasonably full. They’ll do a good job with movie playback if you don’t happen to have your headphones (and are in a secluded area, of course).
Specs & Performance
6 or 8GB RAM
128 or 256GB storage plus microSD
Samsung has fitted the Galaxy Tab S9 FE with its own home-brewed Exynos 1380 chip. This is the company’s 2023 mid-range provision, which first found its way into the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G earlier in the year.
Given that the Galaxy A54 5G comes with an identical RRP, I’d say that the chip’s inclusion adds up. We found the chip to be smooth and reliable in the Galaxy A54 5G and so it proves here in Samsung’s latest mid-range tablet.
You’ll get just 6GB of RAM in the entry model that I tested, which isn’t a great deal for an Android device selling for this sort of money. Upgrading gets you 8GB, as well as 256GB of storage rather than 128GB (there is also microSD card expansion), which would ideally be the default, especially when utilising Samsung’s well-integrated split-screen multi-tasking UI.
In benchmarking terms, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE trounces the Lenovo Tab P12 with its crusty old MediaTek Dimensity 7050, but is in turn trounced by the OnePlus Pad and its zippy MediaTek Dimensity 9000. It’s middle of the middle-range pack, which seems in keeping with the general sense of competence on show here.
I had no complaints with the general running of the Galaxy Tab S9 FE, which seemed able to keep up with all of the light media and web-heavy tasks it’s clearly intended for. An advanced 3D game like Genshin Impact remains playable on Medium graphical settings, but chugs when you push things into High territory.
One point that’s all too easy to overlook relates to connectivity options. Samsung holds a key advantage over many other (non-Apple) manufacturers in that it reliably offers a 5G cellular option for its better tablets. The Galaxy Tab S9 FE also offers that option, albeit at a $100/$100 premium.
8Mp rear camera
12Mp ultra-wide selfie cam
Supports 4K video
I’ll only touch upon the Galaxy Tab S9 FE’s camera capabilities, partly because they don’t really matter, and partly because there isn’t much to say about them.
You get a brutally simple 8Mp rear camera, and a similarly modest 12Mp front camera. In this, it’s very much like its mid-range tablet rivals.
In the interest of professionalism, I stood taking a bunch of shots with this full-sized tablet so you don’t have to. The results were largely as expected: slightly soft and flat, with hints of overexposure, and with Samsung’s signature image processing doing a lot of heavy lifting.
The latter lends its signature colour pop, which I think actually serves more of a purpose here with such limited hardware than it does with the company’s flagship smartphones.
Despite its higher pixel count, the 12Mp front camera is even more limited, capturing washed-out selfies and drab skin tones. It’s fine in a pinch.
All in all, then, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE camera is somewhat akin to that of a very cheap smartphone, but with an extra twist of vibrancy and 4K video recording support.
Battery Life & Charging
45W charging support
No charger in the box
Samsung has given its tablet a chunky 8000mAh battery, which is pretty solid for a 10.9-inch tablet. It’s much smaller than the Lenovo Tab P12 and OnePlus Pad equivalents, but they’ve got much bigger screens to power.
This is a tablet with multi-day potential, assuming you’re using it for the usual casual web browsing, Netflix streaming, and light gaming tasks that such tablets were built for.
Even if your use case is more serious and intensive, Samsung’s mid-ranger should acquit itself admirably. In our usual PC Mark Work 3.0 battery test, which simulates everyday working tasks like web browsing, video and photo editing, writing documents, and data manipulation, it lasted 10 hours and 31 minutes.
Jon Mundy / Foundry
This suggests that the Galaxy Tab S9 FE will last you a full working day with room to spare. Comparatively speaking, this result is pretty average. It’s broadly competitive with the OnePlus Pad, and is several hours longer than the Lenovo Tab P12.
I tried the test again with the screen set to 60Hz, and it lasted an hour longer, which is edging from ‘good enough’ to just plain ‘good’ territory.
Samsung doesn’t supply you with a charger, but the Galaxy Tab S9 FE does support up to 45W charging. Hooking up a more-than-capable 120W Vivo charger I had to hand, I was able to get it from empty to 21% in 15 minutes, and to 42% in 30 minutes. A full charge took me a little over 1 hour 30 minutes.
Weirdly, hooking up a 65W Samsung laptop charger resulted in slower charging, so go figure.
Software & Apps
One UI 5.1
Busy, but very functional Samsung additions
It’s a strange thing to say about the biggest mobile device maker in the world, but Samsung’s approach to software is a little bit ‘Marmite’. For those of you not from the UK, that means there are those that love it and those that hate it.
On the love side, One UI 5.1 is a power user’s dream, with plenty of customisation options, solid split-screen multi-app capabilities, and – as discussed – a fully integrated set of S Pen controls and shortcuts. With a basic S Pen in tow, Samsung Notes becomes a truly brilliant sketching and scrawling tool.
On the negative side, Samsung’s chosen look hasn’t really changed in years, and it’s not as aesthetically pleasing (to these eyes at least) as Google’s own take on Android found on the Pixel Tablet, or indeed those UIs that stick closer to it.
Jon Mundy / Foundry
One UI feels somewhat busy, with a Settings menu I still get lost in after all these years of reviewing, and lots of additional apps that don’t always feel necessary. For every Samsung Notes there’s a Samsung Internet – the company’s own web browser, which exists alongside the vastly superior Google Chrome. Similarly, Microsoft Outlook (while a very good email app) is preinstalled alongside Gmail, Gallery is here with Google Photos, and Galaxy Store is here with Google Play Store.
For many people, though, this is simply Android as they’ve always known it. Samsung tablets are the most popular outside of the iPad, so it’d be foolish to say that the company’s approach is wrong, and I’d argue that One UI makes for a better tablet interface than it does a smartphone one.
What’s more, with four promised OS updates and five years of security updates, this is one of the better-supported tablets for the price.
Price & Availability
UK and US buyers can buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE directly from the Samsung website, Amazon, and many other retailers great and small for a starting price of $449/£449. This will get you the Wi-Fi-only model with 6GB of RAM and 128GB, which is the model I have here.
Step that outlay up to $519/£519 and you’ll secure the 8/256GB Wi-Fi model, while adding £100 to both will add 5G connectivity into the mix. Only the 6/128GB is available in 5G in the USA.
As we’ve already mentioned, one of the key advantages of Samsung’s tablet range is that it’s widely available around the world, including the US.
Check out our best Android tablet and best tablet charts for more options.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE?
The Samsung Galaxy S9 FE is another strong mid-range tablet, and a much better proposition than the Samsung Galaxy S7 FE which came before it.
It might not have the large, sharp, display of the Lenovo Tab P12, nor the rapid performance of the OnePlus Pad, but it has its own distinct charms. Those include a uniquely accomplished waterproof design and the best stylus system in the business bundled in as standard, adding value.
Its screen, while unexceptional, is bright and fluid, and its performance is similarly solid-if-unspectacular. Battery life, too, doesn’t let the side down.
While it doesn’t sing or shout, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE is a pleasingly complete all-round tablet package for $450/£450. It’s the kind of capable, pleasant-to-use tablet that will happily sit there on your coffee table performing simple tasks for years to come without issue.