Samsung’s rugged Galaxy Tab Active 2 is a serviceable tablet, but who is it for?

Samsung’s latest rugged tablet is a serviceable piece of hardware, but who is it really for?

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2 is a serviceable piece of hardware with an attractive screen, workhorse processor and generally appealing design that nonetheless fails to address the question of who precisely it’s for.

According to Samsung, the Tab Active 2 is meant for workforce professionals — police officers on patrol, industrial workers, on-site engineers and warehouse employees.

Certainly, with its water-resistant, dust-resistant, heat-resistant and cold-resistant build, the device lives up to its rugged pedigree.

However, for day-to-day users looking for an affordable media machine — or for those looking to pay a premium for a high-powered laptop replacement — Samsung’s latest rugged tablet will most likely disappoint.

Rugged and ready for life are the only selling points

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2’s specs don’t particularly exude power.

The tablet features an 8.0-inch WXGA, 1280 x 800 pixel resolution TFT display. It’s powered by 1.6GHz Samsung Exynos 7870 processor and is packed with 3GB of RAM. The tablet has a paltry 16GB of internal storage, which is upgradable up to 256GB with a microSD card.

Additionally, the Tab Active 2’s 4,450mAh battery takes approximately two hours to fully charge, but is able to last for almost eight hours of sustained use.

In spite of the tablet’s dull specs, however, it’s important to note that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Samsung’s latest rugged tablet.

I read novels (both graphic and otherwise), I watched movies and television shows on Netflix, I consumed video essays on YouTube, and I even played some mobile games.

Throughout my entire time with the Galaxy Tab Active 2, the tablet performed admirably, lasting almost a full day on a single charge and chugging along at a workmanlike pace without slowing down or crashing any apps.

My issue with the tablet is that I’m still unable to justify spending $786.99 CAD on a device that’s less powerful than a similarly priced laptop. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that Apple’s superior 2018 9.7-inch iPad is not only cheaper, but has more storage, objectively better specifications, as well as a broader ecosystem of tailor-made apps and accessories.

In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2’s only real notable feature is that it’s almost indestructible.

The device is IP68 dust- and water-resistant, but is also able to survive dust, sand, 1.2-metre drops, as well as extreme cold and extreme heat.

 

I’ve thrown this tablet with friends like a frisbee, it’s been launched at wooden pillars, it’s been submerged in water for minutes on end, it was accidentally flung through the air only to smash into both a table and a monitor and despite all of this torment, the device has consistently survived with minimal damage to its body or screen. Whatever Samsung has done to ensure that the Galaxy Tab Active 2 can survive punishment has clearly worked, as I’ve been unable to damage the device in any meaningful way.

For those concerned that their particular models won’t be able to sustain as much damage as mine did, there’s no need to fear. In addition to including a ruggedized S-Pen in the box, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2 also ships with a rubber, anti-shock protective cover.

An Android tablet for people who don’t really care about tablets

As a result of my time with the Tab Active 2, I’ve been repeatedly forced to ask a complicated question: What is the point of using a tablet versus using a smartphone or laptop?

When they first became truly viable consumer devices, tablets were intended to occupy the space between smartphone and laptop. They were supposed to be devices meant for lengthy, versatile, comfortable web browsing and content consumption — devices that were simultaneously more powerful than regular smartphones, but that didn’t require the flexibility and sheer processing power of a desktop or laptop computer.

In 2018, however, the smartphone is not only significantly larger than it’s ever been before, it’s also more powerful than ever. If someone already has a smartphone with a 5.5-inch or 6.0-inch display, that person will need a compelling reason to use a tablet with an 8.0-inch or 9.7-inch display.

Sadly, I’m not quite sure that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Active 2 provides enough of a compelling answer to that question of utility.

Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the tablet and yes, given a choice between the Galaxy Tab Active 2 and Amazon’s Fire HD 8 — a tablet that I described as an affordable media machine — I would choose the Samsung device. However, as a tech reporter, I’m not the average user.

If my mother, for example, asked which tablet she should purchase — the $100 device she found on Amazon, a $429 iPad or a $787 rugged Samsung tablet — the answer to me is quite simple: don’t pick the rugged one, it’s too expensive for what it does.

Of course — and this really can’t be stated enough — this device isn’t for my mother. It’s also not for me.

For Samsung, this tablet isn’t supposed to be for average users. That being said, I’m not really quite sure who should buy this tablet anyway.

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