Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S6 is the best Android tablet on the market but it’s also the most expensive by far at $1,099 for the base WiFi model. It’s great for media consumption and for work/artistic drawing but we wouldn’t recommend using it as a primary laptop.
Sure, Lenovo still makes some Android tablets but they are pretty basic and mainly useful for giving to your young kids or for using as e-book readers / basic video streaming.
If you want a high-end Android tablet then Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S6 is literally the only option you can consider because virtually all the other Android hardware makers gave up on making tablets several years ago.
Samsung has positioned the Tab S6 somewhere between an Android tablet and a productivity-oriented device / laptop offering. While it does quite well as a tablet – albeit an expensive one – as a productivity tool, it’s not quite a laptop. Samsung’s DEX is good, as we’ve looked at below, but it’s not a substitute for Windows 10 for most users.
Unboxing & Setup
Inside the box you’ll find your new tablet, a fast-ish 5V/9V charger, USB C cable and S Pen.
Set up is of course quite quick, you can begin with a clean start or import your existing Android tablet or phone settings and apps. You don’t need to create or sign in with a Samsung account if you don’t want to.
Modern security options include face recognition and in screen fingerprint reader at the bottom centre of the screen. I always opt for fingerprint reader because for most new devices facial recognition gets bypassed pretty quickly by hacker groups. The fingerprint reader works pretty well though not as fast as some of the other leading brands.
- CPU: 2.8GHz Octa-Core
- Screen: 10.5″ 2560 x 1600 (WQXGA) Super AMOLED
- Rear Camera: 13.0 MP + 5.0 MP, Auto Focus
- Front Camera: 8.0 MP, no Flash
- Video Recording Resolution: UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) @ 30fps
- RAM: 6 / 8GB
- Storage: 128 / 256 GB
- External Memory Support: MicroSD (Up to 1TB)
- Connectivity: ANT+, USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, no MHL
- Location: GPS Glonass, Beidou, Galileo
- Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4G+5GHz, VHT80 MU-MIMO, Wi-Fi Direct Yes
- Bluetooth: 5.0 (LE up to 2 Mbps). A2DP, AVRCP, DI, HID, HOGP, HSP, OPP, PAN
- NFC: No
What It’s Good At
This tablet looks good – Long gone are the chunky bezels and physical buttons of previous Samsung tablets like my old Galaxy Tab S2. Instead there is a consistent thin bezel around the whole of the screen and on-screen soft buttons for home, back etc. At the back there is a small indent for the pen to attach to.
Sound & Vision – the four AKG tuned speakers produce the best audio I’ve experienced with any laptop or tablet when watching TV shows and Movies. The screen being a Samsung AMOLED is of course excellent at displaying inky black dark scenes and vivid colours.
Performance – just as good as the S10 phone series and that’s to be expected because they both use the same Qualcomm 855 processor. The battery life is great it lasted almost 2 weeks of being used for about an hour every day for a mixture of tasks including watching Stargate Atlantis on STAN, reading the news and typing up messages.
S Pen – this has evolved a lot over the years from a basic pressure pen to now be an all rounder “magic wand” that lets you hand write and convert that to text, draw with 4096 levels of pressure and control the tablet from up to 10 metres away via Bluetooth which could be handy when making presentations.
Since the pen uses Bluetooth it needs to recharge which you can do my magnetically snapping it onto the indent at the back of the tablet.
What’s Kind of OK
Unfortunately Google never really made a concerted attempt to make Android for tablets optimised for big screen productivity use.
DEX is kind of like a real desktop but still not fully polished because most Android apps are not optimised for it and realistically never will be.
Basically DEX is Samsung’s attempt to make Android in tablet form more useful for office workers. The reason it’s not a smooth experience is because Samsung has to build these changes into a layer on top of an operating system optimised for phones, not tablets.
If you want to try out DEX on a big TV screen you need to use a USB-C to HDMI adapter/cable. Samsung sells an official one but I used my $11 one from eBay instead.
What Needs To Be Better
Power button – Make it just do power on and shutdown, not activate Bixby! Every time I went to turn the tablet off I launched Bixby which was the pain. To actually turn the tablet off you have to press power and volume down at the same time. At least Samsung lets you turn off the Bixby home screen full page widget.
No headphone jack or USB-C adapter dongle – keen eyed readers will have noticed that the specs for the Tab S6 don’t include a headphone jack. This could have been forgiven if Samsung had included a USB-C double adapter dongle so users could charge and use a USB-C headset at the same time. But they chose not to include this.
Better Pen attachment – The pen magnet is not strong enough, it falls off the back if the tablet gets bumped.
The kickstand on my Surface Pro 3 is built into the laptop so it can be trusted, on the other hand the Samsung Book Cover Keyboard is not reliable as a kickstand because it gets loose at least once a day causing the Tab S6 to fall back onto my lap/desk.
Another issue I have with the Samsung Book Cover Keyboard is the size. It’s fine for small people or even average sized people but I’m a big person at 191cm height with large hands so the Book Cover Keyboard isn’t wide enough for both my hands to type next to each other easily. One improvement over the Tab S4 keyboard accessory is that this time you get a trackpad.
Is Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Worth Buying?
Samsung’s flagship Android tablet wants to be an entertainment powerhouse as well as your primary laptop so lets compare it to a leading Windows 10 tablet like the Microsoft Surface Pro 6.
Narrowing down the competing models to WiFi enabled with 128GB storage, to make a fair comparison you have to add a Microsoft Surface Pro Type Cover + Surface Pen to the Surface Pro 6 and add a Samsung Book Cover Keyboard to the Tab S6. That Tab S6 bundle costs ~ $1300 and the Surface Pro 6 bundle costs ~ $1700.
Note that the Tab S6 includes a pen whether you are going to use it or not. Some people like artists and people who like to take handwritten notes find a pen very useful with a tablet but personally I’ve never used any of the pens that came with my tablets. If you’re like me the comparison is Tab S6 bundle costs ~ $1300 and the Surface Pro 6 bundle without pen costs ~ $1560.
Which one you should choose comes down to whether you are happy working in the cloud on Google Docs / Office 365 and are quite happy to do all your work on the limited Samsung’s Android/DEX interface or you prefer the full power of the Windows 10 operating system partnered with matching hardware.
Personally, while Samsung has done an admirable job with the Tab S6, Android tablets feel like an evolutionary dead end that Google could abandon any day now (just as it’s ditched previous product lines and services before).
For work, I would opt for a proper Surface Pro 6 laptop with a 12″ screen and buy a much cheaper Samsung Series A or S5E tablet for leisurely catching up with Feedly RSS reader, watching streaming video services, reading the news etc.
If you want to buy a Galaxy Tab S6 you can do so from Samsung directly or leading retailers. The base WiFi 128GB model costs RRP $1099. Adding a Galaxy Tab S6 Bookcover kick stand costs $89 or to try and use the Tab S6 as a laptop you’ll need the Book Cover Keybooard for $199. Models with more storage and 4G capability are also available.