The latest tablet from Samsung is amazingly thin, lightweight, and looks like a premium product. But with Android tablets forever losing the battle against the iPad, has Samsung done enough to convince consumers that this is better for consuming content and productivity than what Apple offers? Let's find out.
- Slim and sexy
- Vibrant display
- Two operating systems
- S-Pen included
- Optical fingerprint sensor is poor
- Falls short as a notebook replacement
- DeX is still not perfect
Samsung prices the Galaxy Tab S6 high
Before we take care of the tablet itself, let's talk dollars and pounds. If you want to pick up a Samsung Galaxy Tab S6, you'll have to pay a steep price.
The Galaxy Tab S6 Wi-Fi with 6GB of RAM and 128GB starts at £619/$650. The S-Pen is included for that price. A 256GB model is available for £689/$729. There's also an even more expensive LTE version of the Galaxy Tab S6 which has the same 6GB of RAM and costs £689 for the 128GB version and £759 for the 256Gb version in the UK.
Samsung offers "Mountain Grey", "Cloud Blue" and "Rose Blush" as color variants. The S-Pen might be in the box, but the Keyboard Book Cover isn't. That will cost you another £159/$179. Whichever way you look at it, we're talking about a lot of money for an Android tablet here, there's no escaping that.
Thin and lightweight like no other tablet
For all that money, you get an amazingly thin tablet when it comes to size, and that's great. At 5.7 millimeters, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is incredibly slim, and at 420 grams, it weighs hardly more than two Galaxy Note 10 Plus'. That's remarkable for a tablet with a 10.5-inch screen. The feather-light weight and the extremely slim case ensure that the Galaxy Tab S6 sits comfortably in the hand and is easy to use. The brushed aluminum case is nicely finished and feels delightful in your fingertips.
At the back of the Galaxy Tab S6 two things catch your eye. One is the new camera, which is a dual 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel shooter. One is an ultrawide camera and one a regular wide-angle camera. You can even shoot 4K videos at 30 fps on this thing. More on that later.
The other thing you'll notice is an oblong dent in the back of the case. This is where the S-Pen is magnetically held and wirelessly charged. The official Samsung covers are split in two on the back so the pen is well protected and covered during transportation but can be removed without taking off the entire cover. It's a clever idea that outshines Apple and Microsoft's 'tablet and pen' solutions.
The Galaxy Tab S6 is charged via USB-C, and you'll get your sound via Bluetooth (there's no headphone jack) or the four AKG speakers in the corners of the tablet. These are Dolby Atmos-enabled and is this one area where Samsung does better than Apple.
The display is a feast for the eyes
A tablet as expensive as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 really needs a great display , and this one is a cracker. The 10.5-inch Super AMOLED screen, which displays 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, is a real feast for the eyes and is able to handle any situation. For a tablet like this, which is not only meant for consuming multimedia content, but also for working productively on the move, this is absolutely necessary. When it comes to the display quality, the Galaxy Tab S6 is without a doubt one of the best tablets you can buy.
As handsome and vibrant as the display is, I have two main issues with it that are hard to overlook. Firstly, the 16:10 aspect ratio is much more suited to watching videos, playing games and generally using the Tab S6 as a multimedia device than it is for getting any work done. This is the case in both Android mode and DeX mode. Nobody needs to pay $650 for a great multimedia tablet, so this is a problem for Samsung. The Apple iPad Pro's 4:3 aspect ratio, for example, is more conducive to multitasking and productivity.
The second thing I don't like about the display is the integrated fingerprint sensor. Rather than use an ultrasonic reader like you'd get in a Galaxy S10, for example, Samsung has put an optical reader in this. Aside from the positioning being awkward - I don't always pick up a tablet in the same place as I do a smartphone - it's just not good enough. Recognition is often poor and it gave up on it after a couple of days and went back to a PIN.
S-Pen support is useful on the Tab S6
The S-Pen is fun to use on the Galaxy Tab S6. For notes, sketches, or fine cursor work, the S-Pen is extremely practical. It also uses Samsung's new gesture controls. Charging and connecting the S-Pen is easy thanks to that magnetic groove on the back on the tablet. I happy Samsung has opted for this rather than try to squeeze the pen into the body of the tablet, which probably would have forced them to make the tablet thicker or the pen slimmer.
The S-Pen itself is chunkier than the one you get inside a Note 10 or Note 10 Plus, and features a single button towards the bottom, right under where your index finger sits when you hold it like a pencil. The only real downside to this design is that you can't lay the tablet flat when the S-Pen is attached. I also noticed the pen coming off the tablet when slipping it in and out of a soft case I have.
Two operating systems on board
Samsung's One UI is based on Android 9 Pie and is now very mature. The Android customization looks great on tablets, is adaptable in appearance and has many functions on board. You have to like the fact that Samsung is strongly promoting its own services as an alternative to Google's offerings. Samsung maintains its smartphones neatly with updates and security patches, that isn't any different with Galaxy Tab S6.
Samsung has attempted to make the Galaxy Tab S6 a suitable productivity workhorse with the conclusion of DeX. This turns the tablet into a kind of notebook together with the keyboard cover. Real multitasking becomes possible with just one keystroke, and the ability to open multiple apps in different windows is available. You can easily switch between normal mode and DeX mode on Galaxy Tab S6 from the drop-down quick menu.
If you've ever used DeX on desktop, you'll be familiar with how it works on a tablet. I'm on the fence about DeX. I like the idea, and a lot of the execution, but there are still frustrations that would probably stop me using it if I wanted to get some serious work done. Apps are very much desktop-like versions of mobile apps rather than having true desktop functionality. There are still a lot of limitations and bugs and some apps don't work at all in DeX. I like the window mode, but resizing and switching is not as slick as it is on iPadOS or ChromeOS. If you want to learn more about Samsung DeX, you can read about it in the article below:
Overall, DeX on the Galaxy Tab S6 is better than trying to get your work done on Android but not quite good enough to become a replacement for a notebook, Chromebook or Microsoft Surface device, for example.
Full power thanks to Qualcomm
Samsung does without its own Exynos processor in the Galaxy Tab S6 and uses the Snapdragon 855 from Qualcomm instead. The chip, which can access 6 GB of RAM, has a lot of power and is easily able to handle DeX and many parallel running apps. The internal storage is expandable, which will pay off especially when you travel and want to have a lot of offline content ready for entertainment. The MicroSD card can go up to 1TB in size.
I really didn't have any problems with performance on the Tab S6. Daily tasks are handled with ease and it can run any game you can throw at it. Performance in DeX was also quick and smooth. If you were planning on doing any intensive photo or video editing on this tablet, you'd have very few problems. The software may not be as fine-tuned for performance as Apple's is, but in the Android world, this is top of the pile for performance.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6: benchmark results
|Device||3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme ES 3.1||3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0||3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0||Passmark Memory||Passmark disk|
|Galaxy Tab S6||5508||4553||6039||31886||56805|
|Galaxy Tab S5e||1591||1535||26320||12143||57885|
A new dual-rear camera
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 comes has a dual rear camera and single front camera. The details of the configuration are as follows:
- 13-megapixel, f/2.0, 26mm (wide), 1/3.4", 1.0µm, AF (rear)
- 5-megapixel, f/2.2, 12mm (ultrawide), 1.12µm (rear)
- 8-megapixel, f/2.0, 26mm, 1/4.0", 1.12µm (front)
It's nice to have the extra lens on the rear camera, and having a huge viewfinder is quite nice when shooting ultra-wide angle shots, but nobody should be walking around taking pictures on a tablet in 2019. The selfie camera is perfectly acceptable for video calls on Skype or Google Duo and that's really all you need from the camera in a tablet, in my opinion.
Enough battery for 14 hours of video streaming
The Galaxy Tab S6 has a battery with a capacity of 7,040 mAh - quite remarkable considering the extremely slim body. In the S-Pen is a 0.35 mAh cell. After ten minutes of charging, the pen has enough power to work for ten hours. Samsung says that the Tab S6 has enough battery life for up to 14 hours of video playback.
If you are the kind of user who just wants to get through the day without having to recharge your tablet, you'll be fine with the Tab S6. Even with intensive use on both Android and DeX modes, you can get a full day of work done on this tablet without having to reach for the charger. Standby battery life, however, is not as impressive. The Tab S6 hemorrhages battery even when it's asleep. I left it at the office over the weekend and when I picked it up on Monday morning it was dead.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 technical specifications
Is being the best Android tablet enough?
"Creative minds today need a device that can keep up with their ideas and plans wherever they are," said DJ Koh, President and CEO of the IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics. I would like to agree with him and the Galaxy Tab S6 is a good device for many people on the move. If you ignore the price and just look at the product, this is the best Android tablet on the market.
The question of whether or not I would actually recommend the Galaxy Tab S6 depends on what you need it for. If you are looking for a tablet that can actually replace your notebook, I'm not convinced this is it. For professionals looking for a productivity device for the road, my issue is that Android is not the solution, not that the Galaxy Tab S6 is bad. Samsung has gotten a lot right with the Tab S6, but at the end of the day it is best at being an awesome multimedia device, and $600-$700 is a lot for that.