Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs Microsoft Surface Pro 8: What’s the best tablet?

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs Microsoft Surface Pro 8: What’s the best tablet?

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra might just be the best Android tablet yet, and Samsung has clearly put a lot into it. It has a huge, high-resolution display, powerful processors, and a sleek design. We’ve already gone hands-on with the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, but you may be wondering how it compares to other tablets, or perhaps if it can replace a laptop. To figure that out, we’re comparing the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra to one of the most popular laptop replacements, the Surface Pro 8.

Now, these are fundamentally different devices in almost every way. Different operating systems, processors, and sizes. But both are likely to come up if you’re looking for a tablet that can serve as a laptop. So which one should you go with? Let’s take a closer look.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs Microsoft Surface Pro 8: Specifications

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Operating system
  • Android 12 with OneUI 4.1
  • Windows 11
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapgradon 8 Gen 1 (1 Cortex-X2-based core @ 2.995Ghz, 3 Cortex-A710 cores @ 2.5GHz, four Cortex-A510 cores at 1.79GHz)
  • Intel Core i3-1115G4 (up to 4.1GHz, 2-core) (commercial customers only)
  • Intel Core i5-1135G7 (up 4.2GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core i7-1185G7 (up to 4.9GHz, 4-core)
Graphics
  • New Qualcomm Adreno (unspecified)
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM
  • 8GB
  • 12GB
  • 16GB
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
Storage
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
Display
  • 14.6-inch Super AMOLED (2960 x 1848), up to 120Hz refresh rate, touch, S Pen support
  • 13-inch PixelSense Flow (2880 x 1920) display, up to 120Hz refresh rate, touch, Surface Pen support
Audio
  • Quad AKG stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Two 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
Camera
  • 12MP standard + 12MP ultra-wide (front-facing)
  • 13MP main camera with AF + 6MP ultra-wide (rear)
    • 4K video recording
  • 5MP, 1080p front-facing webcam
  • 10MP, 4K/1080p rear-facing camera
Biometric authentication
  • Fingerprint scanner under the display
  • Windows Hello IR camera
Battery
  • 11,200mAh (rated), up to 14 hours of video playback
  • 51.5Wh (rated), up to 16 hours of battery life
Ports
  • USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 (with DisplayPort out)
  • microSD card slot
  • 2 Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C) ports
  • Surface Connect port
  • 3,5mm headphone jack
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6E + Bluetooth 5.2
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.1
  • Optional: LTE (Qualcomm Snapdragon X20)
Colors
  • Graphite
  • Platinum
  • Graphite
Size (WxDxH)
  • 12.85 x 8.21 x 0.22 in (326.39 x 208.53 x 5.59 mm)
  • 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 in (287.02 x 208.28 x 9.4 mm)
Weight
  • 1.6 lbs (725.75 grams)
  • 1.96 lbs (889 grams)
Starting price $1,099.99 (8GB/128GB) $1,099.99 (consumer models with Intel Core i5)

Right off the bat, you can tell some big differences between the two devices, and they’re all worth exploring in more detail. Let’s take a look at the full picture.

Operating System: Android 12 vs Windows 11

The first big difference is the operating system, and frankly, it is the most important one. Android and Windows run very different apps, so they’re meant for very different things.

With Windows 11, the Surface Pro 8 is a real PC. It can run just about any PC app you could want to, including things like Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, and even some games. These apps won’t all be optimized for touch, but as a laptop replacement, the Surface Pro 8 is more suitable just because it has all those apps that aren’t available on Android.

WSATools installing Outlook for Androidon Windows 11

Installing an Android app on Windows 11

You can also run many Android apps with an emulator or the Windows Subsystem for Android, though performance will be less than ideal on that front. Also, the Windows Subsystem for Android doesn’t include Google services by default, though you can install them with some trickery.

Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra runs Android 12, and it uses Samsung’s One UI 4.1 on top of it. Right off the bat, this is a much more touch-friendly operating system, so if your plan is to use it as a tablet more than a PC, it might be the better choice. Android also has some benefits you might like, like easy access to Google Assistant.

Samsung DeX Mode multi-window view

Samsung Dex experience

And if you want to use it as a PC, it’s not bad, either. Samsung has built the DeX experience into the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, so when you pair the official Samsung Book Cover, you can have a more PC-like experience. Still, if you want to run Windows apps, you’re going to need some kind of remote desktop service. Android does have many productivity apps, including meeting and chat apps, file editing apps like Microsoft Office (though not as fully-featured as the Windows versions). But if you want a true PC replacement, Android isn’t quite there yet, and you would be better off sticking with Windows on that front.

Performance: Two high-end tablets in different ways

Comparing the performance of the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra with the Surface Pro 8 isn’t as straightforward as you might think. These two devices run different operating systems with different requirements and features. So even if all the specs were the same (they aren’t), there are bound to be differences in performance. At the end of the day, these are both high-end tablets in their markets, and they’ll perform great in just about any day-to-day task.

The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is powered by Qualcomm’s latest smartphone processor, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, based on Arm technology. This is a very fast processor, and it packs major improvements over the previous generation, but it’s still designed for smartphones as well. It’s very fast in that context, but there are power limitations because it also has to be efficient enough for a phone.

Meanwhile, the Surface Pro 8 comes with 15W Intel processors designed for laptops, which have more thermal headroom and a bigger power budget. It comes with either an Intel Core i5-1135G7 or a Core i7-1185G7.

Snapdrago 8 Gen 1 (reference design) Intel Core i5-1135G7 (average) Intel Core i7-1185G7 (average)
Geekbench score (single/multi-core) 1,235 / 3,758 1,248 / 4,205 1,407 / 4,867

Comparing the CPU performance with Geekbench, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 gets impressively close to Intel’s processors. As we’ve mentioned, this is only a small part of the equation, and these are both very high-end devices either way. You’re getting a great experience on both, but they cater towards different needs in a lot of ways.

On the graphics side, neither of these is going to be your next gaming rig, but both can handle lightweight games alright. Of course, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is at the top of the food chain for Android devices, so it can run all Android games flawlessly. The Surface Pro 8 can’t run most AAA games on Windows because those are designed for gaming PCs that are far larger and more powerful. It’s hard to compare the two directly since they compete in completely different markets and have different architectures.

Xbox controller playing Forza

What we can compare more objectively is the RAM and storage. The Surface Pro 8 comes with up to a 1TB SSD and 32GB of RAM, making it one of the most powerful tablets out there, and giving you plenty of storage to boot. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra maxes out with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Again, context is important since Android just wouldn’t make use of 32GB of RAM – 16GB will get you all the performance you could want and then some. Almost no Android device has more than that.

Finally, there’s the battery, and this is one area where the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra will probably be way better. It comes with an 11,200mAh battery, while the Surface Pro 8 comes with a 51.5Wh battery. The two devices use different measurements for the capacity, and while Microsoft claims up to 16 hours of “typical device usage”, our Surface Pro 8 review showed it usually lasts less than five hours in real-life conditions. Samsung claims up to 14 hours of video playback for the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra on a charge, and you should get closer to that value in real life. Because of the more efficient Arm processor, it should be far more efficient and last longer on a charge.

Display and Sound: The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra has the biggest display on a mainstream Android tablet

Moving to the display, these two are a bit different, though both are great. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra comes with a massive 14.6-inch Super AMOLED display, which is the biggest display we’ve ever seen on a mainstream Android tablet. In fact, it’s one of the biggest displays we’ve seen on any tablet. It comes in a 16:10 aspect ratio with a total resolution of 2960 x 1848, plus it has an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz.

 

Since it’s a Super AMOLED panel, you get true blacks, vivid colors, and high contrast ratios. Of course, it’s a tablet, so it supports touch input, and it also supports the S Pen, which comes in the box. The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra also has tiny bezels around the screen, and there’s a fingerprint reader under the display. A potential downside of the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is that it has a notch, which some might not like. It’s not a huge notch, all things considered, and it houses two front-facing cameras.

The Surface Pro 8 also has a great display, but it’s slightly smaller. It’s a 13-inch IPS panel, and it comes in 2880 x 1920 resolution, so it’s even sharper than the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. It’s a slightly taller aspect ratio (3:2), which gives you more vertical space in landscape orientation, or a wider screen in portrait orientation. It’s not an OLED panel, so you don’t get the same contrast and pure blacks, but it still looks great. This display also supports an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz.

Close up of Surface Pro 8 screen

Surface Pro 8

Again, this is a tablet, so it supports touch input and the Surface Pen, but Microsoft doesn’t include the pen in the box like Samsung does. Something you might like about the Surface Pro 8 is that it supports haptic feedback in the Surface Slim Pen 2, which gives you the feeling of writing with a pen on paper. Microsoft also shrunk the bezels around the display with this model, but they’re still bigger than Samsung’s tablet.

As for sound, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra should also be better thanks to its quad-speaker stereo setup. It has four speakers tuned by AKG, which should give you a great experience for media consumption. The Surface Pro 8 has a dual-speaker setup with one 2W speaker on each side of the screen, which is solid, but not quite as good.

Cameras: The Surface Pro 8 is a PC, and PCs don’t have great cameras

Finally, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra also wins in the camera department. The Surface Pro family has always had one of the best cameras on a Windows PC, and it has a 5MP camera on the front with 1080p video. It also includes a 10MP camera on the back with 4K video recording. The front-facing camera also has Windows Hello facial recognition. That’s impressive for a Windows PC, but it pales in comparison to the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra.

Close up of Surface Pro 8 webcam

On the hardware level, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra has two cameras on the front and two on the back. On the front, you have a 12MP main camera and another 12MP ultra-wide sensor. On the back, it has a 13MP main camera and a 6MP ultra-wide camera, so right off the bat, it’s far more versatile and capable than the Surface Pro 8. The tablet also supports 4K video recording, but not all of its cameras support it.

But that’s not all there is to it, because the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra also has a bunch of smart camera features that just aren’t available on the Surface Pro 8. For example, the Galaxy Tab S8 can use the ultra-wide camera to view multiple people at a time, and then focus on each one by detecting who’s speaking, which is useful for meetings. It also has features like background replacements available in various apps, and you can even record your screen with your camera feed in the frame to create a presentation. Some of this is possible in certain Windows apps with the Surface Pro 8, but it’s a standard feature on the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 side view

Design: The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is bigger but lighter

On to the design, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is obviously the bigger device in terms of width and weight, thanks to the bigger screen. Because of the small bezels and the wider aspect ratio, it’s not that much taller (in landscape orientation) than the Surface Pro 8, but it’s still bigger. However, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is incredibly thin – just 5.5mm – and it’s also surprisingly light, weighing 1.6lbs. It’s worth noting that it doesn’t have a kickstand built-in, though that’s something you’ll get with some cases for the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, or the optional Book Cover.

By comparison, the Surface Pro 8 is smaller in width and weight, but it’s significantly thicker at 9.4mm. Plus, it weighs 1.96lbs, so it’s a bit heavier despite its smaller size. Both tablets are measured without their keyboard, which are optional and sold separately.

Where the Surface Pro 8 wins is in terms of ports. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra has a single USB Type-C port, which supports DisplayPort output and USB storage devices. You can also add a microSD card for more storage.

The Surface Pro 8 has less-than-stellar connectivity for a PC, but for a tablet, it’s great. It has two Thunderbolt 4 ports, meaning you can connect Thunderbolt docks, external GPUs, and multiple displays to it. It gives you plenty of connectivity options this way, plus you have a Surface Connect port for charging (or using a Surface Dock if you prefer that). You also have a headphone jack, which is missing from the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra.

Side view of Surface Pro 8

Surface Connect port on the Surface Pro 8

Finally, in terms of wireless connectivity, the two tablets are similar, but the big difference is in cellular connectivity. You can get optional LTE support on the Surface Pro 8 with a Snapdragon X20 modem. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra comes in models with optional 5G support, which should give you faster internet speeds in the right conditions. 5G is also a bit more future-proof since those networks are still being deployed and evolving.

Bottom line

There’s no definite winner when it comes to a comparison like this, but the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra has some big advantages. The screen is an AMOLED panel that looks stunning, and the larger size can, in theory, be better for getting work done. Plus, despite being bigger, it’s thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro 8, and it has much better cameras, too. It’s potentially a better tablet, but that big screen makes it a bit unwieldy for a tablet and it makes a bit more sense as a laptop. If your use case requires a lower emphasis on portability and more on table-top use, the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra will work out for you.

Meanwhile, the Surface Pro 8 has a slightly lesser screen, but it’s still a very high-quality panel, and while it’s slightly heavier, it might be more usable as a tablet because of the smaller overall size. Plus, it’s a real PC, with Thunderbolt support to connect all sorts of peripherals.

 

Performance-wise, the two tablets have great specs and they’re going to give you a solid experience across the board. The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra should also give you much better battery life, so it’s more suited as something you can take on a trip. But the hardware is only a small part of the experience here.

What the decision really comes down to is what you need from your tablet in terms of what it can run. With Android on the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, you can run mobile apps which are mostly great for entertainment and lightweight productivity. It’s great for things like Netflix, staying in touch with family via video calls, writing up some documents, and even some light photo pr video editing. But it’s not quite the same as Windows.

On the Surface Pro 8, you get a real PC experience with all the Windows apps you can run on a laptop or desktop. Photoshop, Premiere, and other productivity tools are easier to find and usually offer more features on Windows. You can even play demanding PC games with an external GPU connected through the Thunderbolt port. Plus, the Surface Pro 8 can run many Android apps with Windows 11.

If you know which one you want, you can buy your preferred tablet below. You can also check out the best deals on the Surface Pro 8 or the best Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra deals if you want to try and find a better price.

    The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is one of the largest Android tablets ever, featuring high-end specs, a fantastic display, and great cameras.
    The Surface Pro 8 is the best Windows tablets right now, and it's a true PC that can replace a traditional laptop.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Editor at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.

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