Is it time for something new?
When Samsung launched the 8” Tab Active 2 in 2017, its specifications were generally mid-range. It was certainly a significant upgrade over its predecessor, the Galaxy Tab Active, but relative to most tablets available at the time: the processor was mid-range, the cameras and display were unremarkable, and the 16 GB of internal storage was not really workable. However, what Samsung did with this tablet was to deliver a bargain-priced ruggedized tablet with specifications that allow mobile workers to reliably operate in very challenging environments. As it has been nearly three years since it was released, I wondered if it was still a good option for mobile workers.
The short answer is yes; this tablet is still a good tool for mobile workers who are faced with getting the job done in challenging environments. In heat, cold, and rain, this tablet is still worth the premium paid for a rugged-mobile device. Read on for the details.
Both the tablet, and S Pen that is provided with it, are IP68 rated. The IP (ingress protection) rating means that the tablet has met an international standard for dust and water protection. The tablet is completely protected against dust and can withstand immersion in water at a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes. Consequently, mobile workers can be confident that the tablet will continue to operate in torrential rain, and dirty/dusty conditions. If you would like the gory details, there is a great summary of the IP codes in Wikipedia.
This tablet is rated to operate at temperatures as low as -40 and as high as 80 °C (-40 to 176 °F). I have used a variety of devices in harsh conditions and typically run into trouble with consumer-grade devices outside the range of 0 to 30 °C. I tested this tablet and an iPad Air 2 in our freezer at -28 °C. After 15 minutes in the freezer, with the display off, the iPad ceased to operate. The Tab Active 2 would still boot up instantly after four hours in the deep freeze. Also, in spite of a layer of frost on the display, it still responded to touch and the S Pen without issue. I could not test the tablets at high temperatures, so we’ll just have to take Samsung’s word on it (the truth is, I didn’t really want to subject myself to those kinds of temperatures!).
At 500 NITS, the display is as good as the best consumer-grade devices. However, it is at the low end for ruggedized devices. For comparison, the Panasonic FZ-G1 is 800 NITS and the CF20 is 1200 NITS. Certainly, screen brightness is a big part of making a display viewable in sunlight. Anti-reflective coatings help as well. In the photo (below), you can see how an iPad Air 2 compares to the Tab Active 2. The iPad has quite a good anti-reflective coating, while the Samsung appears to have none (that I could see). However, I actually found the Samsung easier to see because the display is brighter. By tilting the tablet, I could manage the glare – making it relatively easy to work with the display in full sunlight.
One of the best features of this tablet is the S Pen that comes with it. It is conveniently stored on the top edge of the case. It also has a place to attach a lanyard – a must-have for me (as without the lanyard I would lose it very quickly!). The S Pen provides a reasonably natural “feel” when writing, annotating, and drawing. It works equally well when the screen is dry, frozen, or has water droplets on it. The fine tip makes it easy to mark drawings or photos with accurate annotations. Best of all, it requires no batteries and can be used in harsh environmental conditions – try that with an Apple Pencil!
The digitizer on this tablet works well with, or without, gloves. In the Settings, the user can choose a standard digitizer sensitivity or “High Touch Sensitivity”. This facilitates the use of gloves. I have always struggled to use consumer-grade tablets while wearing rubber-coated gloves, as the digitizer will not recognize touch unless the gloves are wet. This is not an issue with the Tab Active 2. I found the adjustable touch sensitivity worked well in wet or dry conditions. It’s definitely best to reduce the sensitivity when working in wet weather, to limit the likelihood of water droplets activating the digitizer. I was pleasantly surprised by how rarely the water droplets on the display created an issue.
Although this tablet does not come with the fastest processor, it is adequate for pretty much any mobile worker’s requirements. There may be some specialized applications that need a faster device with more memory to operate efficiently, so be sure to check the hardware requirements for the applications you need. Also, you should plan to add a Micro SD card to augment the inadequate 16 GB of memory this tablet comes with; you can add up to 256 GB of storage.
Another terrific feature is the removable battery. I cannot count the times that a consumer device has let me down in the mid-afternoon, with a low-battery warning. With the Tab Active 2, I can bring a spare battery with me and quickly swap it in the field. This actually makes me more productive as I can keep the display running longer – and on full brightness!
Overall, the Tab Active 2 is still a great option for field users that need a ruggedized device. I would not recommend it if all you are worried about is bumps and drops. A consumer device, protected with a good case, will work well enough for most applications. Get the Tab Active 2 for temperature extremes, rain, or if battery life is an issue. If you need more horsepower or a larger display, check out Samsung’s newer Tab Active Pro.
If you want more info regarding the specifications, here are links to some articles that I thought did a great job of getting into the details: