With so many cookie cutter Android tablets available for schools, increasingly the differentiator will be the software that is included with the slate. In this regard, Samsung excels with its Galaxy Tab 4 Education. For $369, it provides a well-designed and durable tablet that has lots of software for schools and includes a protective case. In other words, the Tab 4 Education has everything needed to get a good start at school.
The black and chrome Tab 4 Ed is sleek and surprisingly elegant looking for a system that will spend its days – and often nights – at school. Oddly, it comes with a white AC adapter and USB cable that don’t match the system.
Overall, it’s a well-designed and –made tablet that is only 0.3-inches thick and weighs 1.1-pounds. One of the smallest and lightest 10.1-inch tablets around, it’s 5-ounces lighter than Toshiba’s Excite Pure model.
Inside is a 1.2GHz Qualcomm SnapDragon processor, 1.5GB of RAM and 16GB of solid-state storage. Unfortunately, Samsung only sells one model, so there’s no version with 32GB or more storage space. You can use its micro-SD card slot to add up to 64GB of storage for a total of up to 96GB of capacity.
Inside, the Tab 4 Ed has several surprising goodies that can help in the classroom and out. There’s a Near Field communications chip that allows the tablet to exchange data by bumping two units together or print by tapping a suitably equipped printer. It also has GPS for field trip work.
The system provides a micro-USB port for charging as well as an audio jack for a headphone. On the downside, the Tab 4 Ed lacks an HDMI connection for driving a monitor or projector, so it might not make sense as a teacher’s tablet. It does work with a Google Chromecast receiver or Samsung AllCast dongle.
The slate’s 10.1-inch screen provides more than one-third more viewing space than an 8-inch tablet, shows 1,280 by 800 resolution and has protective Corning Gorilla glass. It responds to 10 individual touches and has buttons for the Home page, recent apps and going back.
It can do something other slates can’t. You can pull a second app from the side and run two items at once with a split screen. This is perfect for a teacher to show a video in one while writing comments on the other or graphing a math problem in one window while showing how it might relate to the real world in the other. Someday, all tablets will be able to do this, but for now, only Samsung slates can do a two-for.
On the downside, unlike the Galaxy Note line, the Tab 4 Ed doesn’t come with Samsung’s stylus for doing everything from writing equations or sentences to drawing directly on the screen. The system worked well with a generic pen.
A big bonus with the Tab 4 Ed is that it comes with an Amzer silicone case and has a great set of accessories. To start, any school contemplating using a tablet for testing should get Belkin’s $30 Wired Keyboard. Rather than using Bluetooth to connect, the keyboard has a Micro-USB cable that plugs right into the slate. It doesn’t require any software, is self-powered and has comfy 19.2 millimeter keys.
There is one small sang, though. The keyboard takes up the micro-USB port so the slate can’t be plugged in while the keyboard is being used and needs to run on battery power. It’s a small price to pay because the Tab 4 Ed can outlast just about any test I’ve seen. While playing YouTube videos continuously over a WiFi connection, the system’s 6,800 milli-amp hour battery ran for 8 hours and 5 minutes. That should be more than enough for some classes, a few hours of testing and some afterschool activities before it gets charged for the next day.
Samsung sets itself apart from the educational crowd by its software. In addition to including Hancom Office Viewer that can open a variety of standard files, the system works with a wide variety of Google Education apps and can be set up for an entire class of students in a matter of minutes. At the end of the term or year, the system’s contents can be wiped clean with one click. As is the case with Chromebooks, Google sells a $30 management console that lets teachers, IT staffers and administrators perform remote maintenance and updates on the slates.
It all adds up to a powerful tablet that will fit right into the classroom. Its AnTuTu Benchmark score of 16,213 means that it’s slightly behind the smaller Acer Iconia One 7 and Google’s Nexus 7, but it will be able to handle just about any app that you load and still be able to run another alongside it in split-screen mode.
While the Galaxy Tab Ed kit comes with the industry-standard 1-year warranty, if you buy it through CDW, they will add an extra year of coverage that includes accidental damage for $105. The Tab 4 Education includes a dedicated support hotline with technicians who have been trained in what to expect when slates are used in schools. There’s a dedicated toll-free number.
Samsung has done the seemingly impossible by creating an elegant looking tablet that is not only rugged but comes with the software a school needs to create a digital classroom.
+ Excellent software
+ Good balance between performance and battery life
+ Thin and light
+ Includes case
+ Split screen operation
- Can’t power tablet while using keyboard
- Lacks an HDMI port