Just a couple of years ago, we were made to believe that the laptop segment will eventually die, and tablets will rule the world of mobile computing. Well, that hasn’t happened yet, and with modern-day notebooks becoming slimmer and lighter, the idea seems to be more far-fetched than ever. Samsung however, seems to be a firm believer in the usefulness of slates, and perhaps that explains its dogged focus on launching flagship tablets in the Tab S range. Right from the very first offerings in the lineup, the Tab S 8.4 and 10.5 that came back in June 2014, to the latest one, the brand is sticking to that formula with continuous refinements. And if my experience with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is anything to go by, it seems the company has come quite close to achieving that feat. To know why I said what I said, read on till the end…
Specs at a glance
- Measures 244.5 x 159.5 x 5.7mm
- Weighs 420g
- 10.5-inch Super AMOLED, a resolution of 1,600 x 2,560 pixels
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor
- 6GB RAM
- 128GB expandable storage
- Android 9 with OneUI
- LTE (in the LTE variant), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS
- 7,040mAh battery
It must be mentioned that I’ve used the Galaxy Tab S6 extensively with its keyboard accessory attached (available to purchase separately), and if you consider the slate without the Book Cover, it’d be difficult to make the case for Samsung’s offering. That’s because, while the Tab S6 is an impressive machine, its use cases would be fairly limited as a vanilla tablet.
Design and display
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is as premium as a tablet can be… with its solid aluminum construction and a sleek profile. The gadget tips the scales at 420g (without the attachment), and features a thickness of 5.7mm, which is quite impressive considering even phones are thicker than that.
Yet, you may not be able to enjoy that slimness, as the Tab S6 comes with a cover that holds the S Pen (yes, similar to the Note series, the tab comes with a stylus) and connects via POGO pins to the keyboard. This also allows you to use the device in landscape orientation in multiple angles, ala a laptop. Sadly though, it seems like a makeshift implementation – jugaad, if you will – and not for a product of its class. The cover is attached to the slate with an adhesive strip, and it’s not permanent, which means it could come out if the device is handled carelessly. The placement for the S Pen is also not inside the tablet, as it’s attached magnetically to a slight indent on the rear. This is odd considering the stylus is much larger than the one that comes with Note series smartphones. All this means that the cover could easily come off (which has happened with quite a few fellow reviewers), and the brand could’ve had a better mechanism for the same, a magnetic cover for instance.
With regards to buttons and ports, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S6 features a power toggle and volume buttons on the right spine (when the device is held in portrait orientation), whereas the USB Type-C port for charging and data transfers is present at the bottom, sandwiched between speaker grille. What’s bewildering is the fact that there’s no 3.5mm headset socket, since the argument of less space won’t be valid in the case of a 10.5-inch tablet.
Speaking of that, the screen on the Galaxy Tab S6 is a delightful affair. With a resolution of 1,600 x 2,560 pixels, the Super AMOLED panel is incredibly sharp and offers pleasing colours. The viewing angles are spot on too, and I didn’t face any issues with the brightness levels even while using it in harsh sunlight. A layer of Corning Gorilla Glass protects the screen against scratches. You’d love the loud sound output of the Dolby Atmos-powered quad speakers, making the slate an ideal multimedia device.
But as good as the display is, it seems that the Korean behemoth’s tablet team didn’t get a memo from the smartphone division. Considering Samsung has been at the forefront of a bezel-less revolution with its phone, it’s weird to see the screen surrounded by thick bezels.
Without a doubt, the trump card of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is the BookCover accessory. Not only it’s the most refined version of the keyboard from the brand, it also comes with a trackpad, giving it a feel of a laptop itself.
Attaching and detaching it to the device is a quite simple as you just need to align the magnetic pins. And the connection is really strong, though you can’t hold the device with its keyboard since the tablet is much heavier in comparison.
Coming to the typing experience, I must say that I was surprised as to how quickly I was able to adapt to the layout. Even though the keyboard’s size can’t be compared to the one present on laptops, there’s enough space between the keys, and you get good feedback when each of the key is pressed. This ensures that you can type accurately, though it’s not completely error-free and requires you to get used to it. I also had to get used to using special characters while writing. What I really like is that Samsung has tried to emulate Windows-like functionality, with features such as Alt+Tab to switch between different apps, etc.
The trackpad is small, yet it works like a charm. The entire area works for left and right clicks, and you could also use gestures such as zoom in or zoom out, et. al. Thanks to a rubberised texture, the palm rest area ensures that your hands don’t slip. Although, if you have large hands, then more often than not, your palm would be resting on the surface on which you’ve kept the device.
However, considering I make a living by penning down my thoughts, I really like typing on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6’s type cover and that’s a tall statement in itself. Worth noting that as soon as you connect the keyboard to the slate, you can also enjoy the famed DeX mode by pressing Fn + DeX key, which brings me to…
Software and more
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S6 runs Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, which is layered with the proprietary OneUI. If you’ve used any of the recent handsets from the Chaebol, then you know what to expect. We’ve appreciated the latest iteration of custom skin from the brand’s stables for its clean design and minimal bloatware.
Yet, the biggest bottleneck in this department isn’t Samsung, but Google. You see, Android tablets have been in existence for several years now (Honeycomb 3.0 was announced in 2011 as a tablet-specific OS and debuted with the Motorola Xoom). While the search giant has kept the tablet version of its OS the same as the one for smartphones, it pains us to see that it hasn’t worked with developers to leverage the large screen real estate of tablets. Most apps are a simply larger versions of the ones made for Android phones, and hence offer less-than-ideal experience.
Another issue that I noticed with the slate is that Samsung has kept the landscape orientation by default, which makes it difficult in cases you want to use it in the portrait mode, which is quite useful to browse or read eBooks, for example. What’s even more bothersome is that some apps open in the portrait orientation and not landscape… I noticed this while using apps like Instagram.
Then there’s the S Pen, which comes all the more handy with a device of this size. Along with notes, artists will definitely like using apps like PENUP among others to accurately draw. You also get features like Air Actions for remotely controlling slides or video playback with the stylus.
Performance and more
As expected from a flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 draws power from Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 855 SoC. The octa-core SoC is built with a 7nm fabrication process and has a tri-cluster architecture with its Prime core running at 2.8GHz. Paired with 6 gigs of RAM, the slate is well equipped to handle anything thrown at it.
Even with multiple productivity-centric apps open, the device was able to handle them deftly. Gaming was a delightful affair too, though it’s difficult to find games that are optimised to be played on a large slate.
Considering the Tab S6 is an excellent multimedia device, it’s important for it to have a good amount of storage. And the brand does take care of that by shipping with 128 gigs of memory onboard, out of which around 105GB is available to you. With the inclusion of a microSD card slot, you can also expand it further.
Of course, the battery life is a worthy aspect too… and you wouldn’t be disappointed with the 7,040mAh unit. I easily managed to use the device for a couple of days with moderate use without looking for the power socket. However, the same didn’t really translate In PCMark’s battery test, as the device lasted 9 hours and 27 minutes.
While it’s difficult to consider using tablets for their imaging capabilities, I’ve seen quite a few people doing that. To keep them covered, the Galaxy Tab S6 features dual rear cameras comprising a 13MP sensor and a 5MP depth-sensing unit. While it’d be difficult to expect flagship-grade imaging, the device does a fine job in landscape or close-ups. Low-light photography does seem difficult for the slate though, and it also lacks a flash.
For selfies, Samsung’s offering comes with an 8MP shooter on the front. It works well for self-portraits and video calling. The face unlock is fast too, though at times its placement seems odd since you’d be using the S6 as a notebook and then the snapper is placed on the left. This also creates an issue for face authentication as logically it should be present up top when the tab is being used in the landscape mode.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 price in India is set at Rs 54,990 for the Wi-Fi only variant, with the LTE option carrying a price tag of Rs 59,990. If you want the BookCover as well, then you’ll need to pony up an additional Rs 10,999. Now it’s easy to balk upon such pricing, considering that you can get a full-fledged laptop for far lower. But for a moment, if you ignore the pricing and consider the versatility and convenience that the Tab S6 brings to the table, then it’s difficult not to like it.
You see, the Samsung tablet is in a unique position, with the only competition coming from the arch-rival Apple. The iPad Pro 11 is an excellent slate for instance, and can be paired with both first-party and third-party keyboards, for converting them to notebooks. However, the pricing is difficult to digest and unless you are invested in the Apple ecosystem, it doesn’t necessarily make sense. But at the end of the day, you need to decide and define your use cases before swiping the plastic, and what we know is that you wouldn’t be disappointed with the Tab S6…
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Great display
- Can be used as a laptop with the BookCover accessory
- Good performance
- Impressive battery life
- The cover is attached with an adhesive
Photos by Raj Rout