Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 review: As good as Android tablets get

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The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 gets a lot right for an Android tablet. It has a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Processor and flexible storage with 128GB or 256GB, which can both be expanded up to 1TB with a microSD card. Samsung’s recent updates to its DeX mode even make the Tab S6 a more viable laptop substitute than earlier models. 

The Tab S6 is lighter and thinner than the previous Tab S4, which felt slightly clunkier despite having the same 10.5-inch AMOLED display. The Tab S6 has thinner bezels and rounded corners, giving it a more minimalist look, comparable to the iPad Pro

Sign-ins are streamlined with an on-screen fingerprint scanner and a two-tap gesture to wake the tablet. Samsung may have streamlined too far by removing the tablet’s headphone jack, but it slightly makes up for it with the addition of quad speakers tuned by AKG and Dolby Atmos. 

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In terms of battery life, the older Tab S4 had a larger 7,300-mAh battery than the S6’s 7,040-mAh battery. Samsung says the Tab S4 provided around 16 hours of use, while the new S6 provides closer to 15 hours. On CNET Labs’ streaming video test, the battery lasted for 10 hours, 59 minutes. 

But even with these good-to-excellent features, choosing an Android tablet is a tough call these days. Microsoft’s Surface Pro line, Apple’s iPad Pro and newer Chrome OS tablets and two-in-ones have a lock on the market, and the Tab S6 doesn’t make a compelling case to switch, even if some features are as good or better.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 specs

Display size and resolution 10.5-inch AMOLED 2,560×1,600-pixel display
Weight and dimensions 420 grams, 244.5 x 159.5 x 5.7 mm
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Memory 6/8GB of RAM
Storage 128/256GB of storage expandable through a microSD up to 1TB
Operating system Android 9 Pie
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S Pen air ball  

The S6 tablet comes with the updated S Pen stylus. Now with a more angular design, the S Pen remains a great tool for drawing or taking handwritten notes on the tablet. I didn’t find the new shape off-putting, but the pen’s light weight may be strange for people who are used to the heftier weight of a traditional pencil or another typical writing tool. 

When in use, a small icon appears on the screen giving you direct access to productivity apps that work with the S Pen, including notes and on-screen writing, which makes it easy to quickly jot down any miscellaneous notes or to-do lists. Although writing on a screen does not feel the same as writing on paper, the stylus glides smoothly across the tablet while accurately recording the writing, so it gets the job done.

The updated S Pen now recognizes Air Actions, gesture controls that were first introduced on the Galaxy Note series. You can perform certain actions like scrolling through media, changing camera settings or adjusting the volume on the S6 by moving the S Pen through the air. Although great in theory, the Air Actions are limited to a few apps and are difficult to perform clearly enough for the device to recognize the command. You’ll spend more time waving around the stylus than it takes to just tap on the screen. 

To charge the stylus, the S Pen magnetically attaches to the back of the tablet for wireless charging. Just don’t leave it there full-time, it’s liable to get knocked off and roll under the sofa. 

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About that new keyboard…

The sold-separately keyboard cover comes in two parts: the keyboard that attaches to the plug located on the left side of the tablet, and the back piece with the kickstand. Having two parts allows you to use the kickstand without the keyboard and gives you a place to keep the S Pen safe. 

The new keyboard introduces a laptop-like trackpad and a row of function keys, including a quick-launch button for DeX, Samsung’s PC-like interface. Similar to the Microsoft Surface tablets or Google’s Pixel Slate, the added trackpad allows you to use a mouse cursor, which is definitely an improvement over last year’s cover. But, with the added trackpad, the keys are smaller, making it harder to use if you’re accustomed to the larger setup of a laptop or desktop. 

Similar to the Tab S4, Microsoft’s Surface Pro and other tablets, the new Book Cover Keyboard is not included with the tablet, which is frustrating since it’s what makes the tablet feel like a reasonable laptop substitute. With the additional keyboard, it has a laptop price without the added benefits of an actual laptop with a desktop OS. 

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A great Android tablet, but is that enough? 

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 offers innovative features in a category that is not known for innovation. Most Android-based tablets like Amazon’s Fire lineup are made to be inexpensive media-consumption devices. The Tab S6 is the rare Android tablet that does more. It’s a great update to last year’s premium Tab S4, but it doesn’t quite make the case for choosing it over the iPad Pro or Surface Pro. 

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 comes in gray, blue and blush. The base Wi-Fi-only model has 128GB of storage (plus microSD expansion) and 6GB of RAM for $649 or, for $729, you can get 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage. The S Pen is included with both, but not the keyboard cover, which costs $180. (In the UK it starts at £619 and in Australia at AU$1,099.)

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