Samsung Galaxy TabPro S: Why in the universe does it run Windows?

by: Matthew BensonJanuary 26, 2016
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Samsung Galaxy Tab S Pro 3

Regardless of one’s personal opinion of Samsung and the evolution of its flagship smartphones and tablets, the brands “Galaxy S” and “Galaxy Tab S” are synonymous with one-thing, and one thing only: the Korean OEM’s top-tier, flagship Android products. Curious, then, that at CES earlier this month, the company unveiled the Galaxy TabPro S: it’s a high spec tablet that makes use of a 12-inch AMOLED display and that looks and sounds like it’s all up in Android’s business-centric business…yet is weirdly wed to Windows.

In considering this product, two different angles will primarily be approached: the issue of brand value, and the issue of poor Android tablet performance.

Some Spec Consideration

Before beginning in earnest, and especially as the device in question does not run Android and may therefore be unfamiliar to those who aren’t interested in Windows-based products, here are the specs as reported by CNET:

  • 12-inch, 2,160 x 1,440 Super AMOLED screen
  • Sixth-generation Intel Core M3-6Y30 processor (dual-core, up to 2.2GHz)
  • Intel HD Graphics 515
  • 4GB memory, 128GB or 256GB storage (SSD)
  • 5200mAh battery with up to 10.5 hours battery life
  • Charges in 2.5 hours with USB Type-C port
  • USB Type-C port also capable of USB 3.1 data and HDMI video output (with optional adapter)
  • Optional Bluetooth stylus
  • 5-megapixel front camera, 5-megapixel rear camera with auto-focus
  • 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1
  • GPS and GLONASS positioning
  • LTE model available in some regions

Samsung Galaxy Tab S Pro 2

Pricing is unavailable, however given Samsung’s modern history of expensive products – especially for high end ones – it is likely this computer will retail for over $1500, or perhaps somewhere in comparison to Microsoft’s own Surface Book. As Samsung already has a “Yoga” tablet which is cheaper than some models of the Surface 4, this would presumable be the top end offering.

The key points to note with respect to specs include the 12-inch Super AMOLED display and USB Type-C. While Lenovo has a new PC that will ship with an AMOLED display when the configuration is released this Spring, this will be the first time a Samsung PC has an AMOLED display. Likewise, the presence of USB Type-C is something that as of now, no Samsung Android product even has. By the looks of it, the TabPro S will only use the new standard, which actually makes it similar to Google’s own Pixel C in that regard.

On the other hand, there is some skepticism about the fact that the PC will only be available in a Core M3 variant as opposed to an M5 or M7 like Microsoft’s offerings provide. The 4GB of RAM is also “limited” in terms of what other products either have or else can be configured with.

Galaxy-S6-Edge+-vs-Galaxy-S6-Edge-AA-(9-of-12)

The TabPro S looks to have the same frame design as the S6 Edge+ (left).

As a final note, the device looks to be – indeed given the competition arguably could only be – made of a metal construction. This would make it the first Galaxy Tab to have such a build, with the Galaxy Tab 7.7 having used some metal, and even last year’s Galaxy Tab S2 using only a metal frame. And with respect to the frame itself, it looks to have the same “folded” approach that was used with the Galaxy S6 Edge+ showing that attention to detail was paid quite carefully.

Goals of the Galaxy

If Samsung were to have called its new tablet the ATIV Pro, or even the ATIV S, it would have been one thing. But to brand it the Galaxy TabPro S represents the first time the company has ever applied its Galaxy nomenclature to any non-Android device. Consider, for example, that while the original Galaxy Gear smartwatch did in fact, run Android, subsequent models (as well as updates to the original) all run Tizen and hence dropped the Galaxy branding.

In fact, when looking at Samsung’s overall consumer electronics catalog, the Galaxy brand can’t be found anywhere other than Android, be it headphones, PCs, Chromebooks, Tizen wearables or smartphones. Even the company’s virtual reality headset is called the Samsung Gear VR. The word Galaxy, assuming could have been used on any of these products – the headset and wearables seem the most likely candidates – yet was specifically not. For all intents and purposes, the “Galaxy” brand has essentially been used specifically for, and only for, Android-based devices.

While it may be too early to state this as a presumed fact, at the very least it appears that Samsung has – be it for tablets or otherwise – clearly decided to rethink what might be considered a Galaxy. The key here is likely that of all the brands the Korean OEM currently has related to IT consumer products, only the Galaxy moniker holds real water, especially when comparing it to the level of recognition – or lack thereof – that its ATIV branding has.

Galaxy Tab S Pro 4

For those unaware, “ATIV” was the name Samsung decided to use for its Windows-based products coinciding with the release of Windows 8 in 2012. This was basically a brand name change only, wherein for example the formerly branded Samsung Series 9 became the Samsung ATIV Book 9. The name was also used for a few of the company’s Windows Phone 8 devices as well, for example the Samsung Ativ S and the Ativ S Neo. In many ways, the former said smartphone was basically a Galaxy S3 only with a modified design to differentiate it. Still, the Galaxy branding was not used.

Just a few weeks ago, Samsung released the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Spin, a PC that can “yoga” like many of Lenovo’s ultrabooks. Despite this being the first ATIV product to allow such usability, the name – again – arguably hurts it as those who hear “ATIV Book Spin” are unlikely to think of Samsung.

In considering the Galaxy TabPro S however, there is absolutely no question that not only will Samsung PC fans be aware of the product, but so too will any Galaxy smartphone or Galaxy tablet users who catch word. Even without knowing what the product is, the very presence of the name “Galaxy” serves to immediately and intrinsically elevate the status of the product. The fact that Samsung is advertising it with all of the Android Galaxy products essentially speaks volumes in terms of the significance and power the branding has:

Samsung Galaxy Tab S Pro products

Indeed the above picture lists a host of Galaxy products, including the TabPro S. Of course along the bottom, the Gear S2 and Gear VR can also be seen, which should already convey some sense to the idea that Samsung considers products to be “Galaxy” affiliated simply by being compatible or designed for it- in the case of the VR.

A possible Galaxy alphabet for Windows?

Last year marked the clear end of the numbered Galaxy Tab series, with only letters appearing. Many expected to see a Galaxy Tab 5, but were greeted with the A and E, in addition to the Galaxy Tab S2. Now that Samsung has re-branded at least one of its Windows products to “Galaxy Tab”, it is quite possible – though at this point just speculation – that the company may proceed to release other “Galaxy TabPro” units for Windows. There could very well be a Galaxy TabPro A or Galaxy TabPro E to delineate what could be different installments of different product lines just as how it is done with Android. That is to say, whereas the TabPro S is for the top tier, a TabPro E could be for an entry level Windows tablet. In a sense, the naming would mirror the Android camp.

In this regard, the PRO branding would thus shift from being the Android “business” brand as it was in 2014, to simply a notation to denote a Samsung tablet running Windows. In fact, this would be a very good idea, because Android tablet sales are decreasing year after year, and thus companies need other venues with which they can earn money from large screen mobile devices. Windows products are really starting to pick up once again, at least mobile tablets or convertibles. Microsoft, as it had intended to from the beginning, compelled OEMs to produce “clones” of its Surface line and thus has sparked a major resurgence in the Windows-based tablet market.

Galaxy Tab S Pro 5

An S Pen would be logical

Perhaps the idea of a galactic Galaxy shake up would have less weight were it not for the fact that Samsung also expanded the scope of its S-Pen last year. Specifically, the inclusion of the stylus on select models of the Galaxy Tab A – and branded as an S-Pen no less – marks the first time the tool has ever been included on any device that was not a Galaxy Note product. While there were Windows ATIV tablets that came with stylus pens, they were not branded as S Pens, and they were obviously not running Android.

Samsung Galaxy Note Stylus Patent 2

Could Samsung eventually put an S Pen into its a Galaxy PC?

There have been some conflicting reports that the TabPro S has an S Pen, however it seems the device will just have a optional Bluetooth stylus. Given that Samsung was recently found to have patented an “S Pen case” for Galaxy phones in its native home of Korea, it may very well be that 2016 sees the expansion of the product to other platforms, rather than being restricted by the Note. In fact, given that Wacom itself is now making AES stylus input devices with the technology built into the pen and not the screen, this would theoretically allow any Samsung device to accept S Pen input should the company truly seek to re-imagine its usage.

If Samsung does indeed seek to expand its Galaxy brand, it might also be logical to expand the S Pen. Indeed it would be a great marketing tool for a Windows-based tablet to have a stylus with a brand name, unlike say that included in the Surface. Of course, this would also imply that the S Pen would need to live inside the tablet itself, and thus Samsung would need to consider design language.

The debate on the “sad” state of Android tablets

In announcing the Galaxy TabPRO S – a Windows device – Samsung also seemingly said a great deal about the Android tablet situation. 2014 saw the release of the Galaxy TabPRO series which contained devices in the 8, 10, and 12-inch size range. It also released a Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 at the same time. 2015 saw…absolutely nothing of the sort. Granted the TabPRO series was rendered irrelevant just months after it launched via the debut of the Galaxy Tab S line, however at the very least one might consider the NotePRO given that there has not been a large screen Note product released for almost 2 years.

Galxy NotePro Galaxy TabPro 8.4 12.2 10.1

The original PRO products were all about…Android.

2015 saw Apple finally announce and release the iPad Pro, a large screen tablet that even goes as far as to include support for a custom-made stylus. Microsoft, too, announced a productivity-minded new product, the Surface Book. And yet, where was Samsung? It announced the Galaxy View, an 18-odd inch television replacement that not only was promptly put on sale immediately after release, but was apparently so confusing to the general public that it felt the need to publish a detailed report explaining just what the purpose of the device was.

In a very real sense, by Samsung’s lack of a productivity-centered, competitive Android product yet now apparent presence of a Windows-based rival, it has put the spotlight on what can only be described as a general failure on Google’s part to properly present Android as a business-productive tablet experience. Perhaps nowhere can this be seen more readily than Mountain View’s own Pixel C, a device that starts at $499, has an optional $140 keyboard, and yet can’t even do multitasking. Engineers working for the company have not-so-subtly hinted that Android N will see the proper introduction to multitasking, something that was present yet removed from Android M pre-release builds.

Pixel C-34

For many, the Pixel C represents everything “wrong” with Android tablets, save for the hardware itself.

At the very least, Android software optimized for tablets is extremely limited compared to the number of devices on the market and the number of people who have a large screen product. Many still feel, and perhaps rightly so, that Apple’s iPad trounces any product running Android simply because it has so much more customized, tablet-specific software. Until Google finally decides to wake up and make pushing tablets a more pressing priority, this situation is unlikely to change, and all the more so given the plateau in sales observed recently.

Crushing on Chromebooks

For reasons totally unknown, Google has made it a proper priority to push Chromebooks for productivity. Their cheap price makes them excellent for the classroom where students can use them to browse the internet or write reports. Their simple nature makes them much easier to use than a Windows-based PC. Their “online based” content means that files will be connected to Google Drive and Docs. Even the expensive Chromebook Pixel series was designed to cater to those with productivity in mind; who else would want to spend over $1000 on such a product?

Lenovo-Thinkpad-13-Chromebook-3

Chromebooks are getting a reputation for productivity purposes thanks in part to many schools opting for them.

Meanwhile, in an almost paradoxical state, Android tablets are, arguably, getting less impressive by the month. Lenovo’s YOGA 3 series decided to go down in specs from the second installment. Samsung released two different lower-end tablets last year. Even the top end has seen a shakeup with companies like Asus, which released a very affordable ZenPad S: it has unbelievable good specs for the price point. For the most part, only Samsung with its Galaxy Tab S2 and Google with its Pixel C released expensive Android tablets in 2015.

Perhaps the greatest irony however, is with respect to Windows devices and pricing. Whereas PCs were once excessively expensive and have fallen to prices absolutely unthinkable even but a few years ago. Given that Android tablets arguably lack the proper support they deserve, this means that Chromebooks are the “defacto” Google productivity platform. This also makes it that much more logical for the rumors of a merger between Chrome OS and Android to be plausible.

Making what once wasn’t

As a final consideration, in an almost ironic way the Galaxy TabPro S is a more literal merging of the mindset one might have needed to create the unreleased Samsung ATIV Q. Designed to be a dual-booting device that ran both Android and Windows, the idea of merging the two systems into one was obviously a consideration Samsung took to task some years ago. Alledegly due to problems created by Microsoft, companies found themselves unable to bring such dual booting products to market, and as such the ATIV Q was seen but not felt.

Curiously the product made use of a stylus that was embedded in the device itself, something that could easily have been converted into an S Pen for later models. Granted the tablets Samsung released in the early days of Windows 8 tended to include this design so there was really nothing that special in and of itself. It does, however,  raise the question as to why the TabProS doesn’t have an embedded stylus. In fact, as Samsung’s site doesn’t seem to make mention of a the stylus at all, that is arguably a strike against it when compared to Surface or Lenovo products.

Many consumers would arguably be interested in having one to do both, as opposed to two to do one.

The idea of a Windows “Galaxy” could definitely have flowed from such an ATIV Q venture however, and in a way the ATIV Q would have been the ultimate “TabPro” for it would be a Galaxy Tab – i.e. Android based – and yet also an ATIV – i.e. Windows based. It would certainly be a cool consideration were Samsung to actually try and put out such a product again. At the same time though, it might cannibalize not only the sales of its own Galaxy TabPro S (Windows) line, but also the Galaxy Tab S (Android) line. Many consumers would arguably be interested in having one to do both, as opposed to two to do one.

Wrap up: Rethinking what’s what

It is quite logical that Samsung, in light of the keen challenges it’s facing from global competition in markets around the world – smartphones in particular – has deemed it necessary to start bringing its the weight of its Galaxy to other segments. To capitalize on what may be its best-known brand, so to speak. While Samsung fans may very well known the name ATIV, those who haven’t considered a Samsung PC most likely don’t. This is not the case, per se, with a name like “Galaxy” which has become a household name with respect to smartphones.

Samsung

Samsung Galaxy: not just for Android anymore.

In announcing the Galaxy TabPro S, Samsung was able to instantly get mass-scale attention and search engine optimization via the use of the famous moniker. It guaranteed people would be talking about a Galaxy product, and in many ways, almost guarantees the product will at least be considered among anyone who knows of its existence for the simple fact they know it exists. Now ask how many mainstream consumers might be considering the ATIV Book 9 Spin and chances are the only thing that will be rotating are the respondent’s eyes.

Galaxy Tab S Pro 6

In addition, various reports, including by Strategy Analytics, suggest that Windows tablets are going to see a massive increase in popularity in the next few years as more consumers – but especially enterprise customers – begin to buy in.

The fact that Samsung has finally announced a PC with an AMOLED display is reason enough for celebration for those who love the technology. It has been a long time coming, to say the least. At the same time, the fact that such a product is a Galaxy device will no doubt anger some Android fans who see the branding as being of an OS-specific nature. They might not be so happy that Samsung is now applying it to other devices.

  • Tran Nguyen

    Samsung always abandon “upgrade version” their Android devices after 2 years and Microsoft is abandon upgrade version their devices after change new version (no free). Both of them meet together that is a bad couple. Customers should aware about that. My Apple iMac 6 year olds but run version OS X Capitan but my Android devices (galaxy S 10.5 & galaxy Note 3 ) are still run Lollipop.

    • jasonlowr

      Engleshh? Also, my 7 years old Toshiba laptop just recently upgraded to windows 10 for free. Your point is?

      • devilreaper

        He’s just an android fanboy whose heart this article completely crushed. ” He’s just a poor boy. Nobody loves him.”

      • Tran Nguyen

        My laptop Lenovo can not upgrade window 10, reason the graphiccard

    • Kody

      Right, apple fanboy. Your statement about windows is irrelevant as Microsoft has been pushing people really hard to get Windows 10… for FREE. Who knows if the transition to the next windows iteration will be free but they don’t abandon their OS after 2 years, they continually do updates for years.

    • Hans Pedersen

      I have a 7-8 year old Acer laptop which I use as a Plex server. Upgraded with no issues to Windows 10 at ZERO cost.
      you’d have to buy a frigging ancient PC in order not to be able to upgrade it to Windows 10. We’re talking about PC’s from the era when Apple were running on Mac OS and its cooperative “multitasking”.

    • Vartslutardetta

      Well, between windows10, osx, ios, android…. win10 is the only which stays up to date for ALL its users globally at all time, unless a user hacked out the upgrade feature themselves, or run only wifi and selected “Metered Connection” for it which means its a data-plan connection and updates have to manually be triggered.. There is a reason why MS said “there might not be a win11”, because with win10 they provided the platform for continuing updates. You get not just fixes and patches for current features (like on previous windows) but new OS upgrades and new features + changes to your existing installation. Instead of MS developing and waiting years until they got enough features to package a new windows and sell, you get them for free as soon as they are done, to your current installation. Its what we call “agile development” where I work.

      When will the other OS companies do this? Several Linux dists have done it before MS, just so no-one starts flaming about me forgetting to mention that :)

      Anyway, Samsung doesn’t NEED to handle “upgrade versions” on this one. Just their own apps that are included.

  • Abhijeet

    As much as i love android on my 5″ Moto G, this tablet is a 12″ inch device. You cannot seriously expect people to pay up $1K+ and not even have multi windows (in 2016!). Hence, IMHO windows is ok here. I am sure whenever android gets a real tablet interface (around Android Z?), samsung and others will release some premium tablets/hybrids with android.

  • Rochak Singh Choudhary

    As long as it is a well optimised version of Windows
    It’ll be cool

    • Vartslutardetta

      Win10 is well optimized for this. Even running on phones, and on other tablets :)

  • mrochester

    Maybe Samsung want to disassociate the Galaxy brand from Android? It would seem like a smart move to me..

  • Johan

    On the question:
    “What do you think about the state of Android tablets and productivity?”

    I voted:
    “Android N may solve multitasking, but the App “problem” is still there.”

    Because it was the closest to what I actually think.
    Which is that Android as an OS and most first and third party apps need WAY better support for mouse/keyboard input (especially correct scroll wheel implementation) to even remotely stand a chanse of being a productive platform.

    Waving your hand around in the air for hours to click on a screen in front of you, is just not ergonomically realistic. Resting your hand on a physical mouse, while navigating with minimal movement is.

  • Luka Bulatović

    You made a huge deal over the Galaxy name which is pointless. We don’t care. The real problem here is Android on tablets. It is not good at all. As MKBHD said in Nexus 9 review, ICS and JellyBean had more tablet specific features than Lollipop. Android tablets are pointless for productivity (stock Android ones). We don’t need OEMs giving their implementations of multi tasking. It’s a shame that there isn’t that option on stock Android.
    So there’s a much bigger problem here than Galaxy branding. It’s uselessness of stock Android tablets for productivity.

    • Vartslutardetta

      How would android become more productive with real multitasking abilities, when it still uses up-scaled phone apps? No app will be more productive-friendly if you only make it bigger by increasing screen-size. Multitasking on android tablets is just a tiny missing part. Android (and IOS) got much bigger problems than multitasking. That is the only reasonable explanation when both android and IOS tablets started to sell less and less as windows tablets started to increase their sale a LOT with surface pro 3 (and more with 4). And that even as the windows tablets cost more or equal to very good laptops.

      “Extend your computer screen with a tablet” can only be done if your tablet truly offers that same functionality. “Let it cost more, as long as it let me do what I want” seems to be an increasing response. Not just by extending, but by being a full computer in tablet form-factor. Its like if Apple would merge IOS and OSX into one OS and put on an iPad. Would be no more Android tablets with that next to windows tablets.

      Android need desktop-like programs, not just mobile apps. A “photo editing app” with only 10 features? A texteditor with “open” and “save” as only features? Problem is much bigger and harder to solve than just multitasking.

  • Reijen1988

    I have to ask why this article mentions that the surface pro 4 has the m5 and m7, when they actually have the i5 and i7. Different processors, AndroidAuthority.

    • Vartslutardetta

      Its not ARM, hence not what androids use. Forgive them, they never heard of Intel before ;)

  • HerbalNekoTea

    I will be getting one of those Windows Tablet with Intel Processor for running my Visual Novel in my bed. I will not buy it if it’s over 1K$ CAD. It need to be cheaper than those ATIV Hybrid or else i will get one of those ATIV Hybrid or look for some other Tablet or Hybrid from other concurrent or get a surface pro 3.

    • Jon

      I just ordered a 128G tabpro s for $855 online at neweggbusiness

      • HerbalNekoTea

        2 week ago, i finally buy a Surface Pro 3 i7 8gb ram 256gb storage, cost me $1050 CAD used from kijiji (canadian craiglist). It work fine and has way better spec again this samsung tabpro. Also, buying second hand help to save the planet and your wallet and you don’t give money to some gruesome corporation.

        • HerbalNekoTea

          Normal price would have been $2500 here in canada for the same tablet

  • Kyle Ong

    It’s suppose to be a Android tablet…but pull off and switch to window.
    TabPro is not very productivity…
    We had seen in Sammy flagship massive build MS apps..
    Window apps work best for MS apps (excel, ppt…)
    Perhaps Sammy n Window/MS had some agreement to help each other
    Perhaps a Remix OS???

    Back to the name, Galaxy_ I guess Sammy is trying to change its mtg. It’s part of their plan (with all the A,E,J….)

  • It’s sad when a responsive website can adapt better to the tablet screen than a native Android app (still displays one-column layout on tablets for many apps).

    • Vartslutardetta

      All sites look same on my tablet as on my gamingrig. But I use a win10 tablet (surface) ;)

  • Doddo Gasparic

    You totally forgot about Xperia z4 tablet in 2015, which has keyboard and touchpad, windows-like taskbar and was released way before pixel c and underspecd S2. It’s actual Android tablet with productivity in mind. Too bad that Samsung gets most attention on this portal, and other manufacturers are marked as irrelevant or are completely ignored.

    • Vartslutardetta

      Yeah…. about that z4… a colleague bought it the day before I bought my surface pro 4. He had to return it and pay for the much more expensive surface when he noticed how non-productive that keyboard, mouse and UI was… my old Asus Transformer had better tweaks and keyboard/mouse to be an android productivity tab/laptop. Then there is the screen-size and fact android doesn’t get more productive on a tab/pc than it is on a phone. The absolute majority of the apps are still made for phones in mind. All of them in fact. Probably something Samsung realized as they made tabpro S now.

  • Degru

    You know, why can’t they just offer a choice of OS? Or even dual-boot? I’d love to have an Android tablet running on a Core M CPU. The Core M is merely “enough” for running a full desktop OS, but it makes a damn good device for running Android, at least on the CPU front. I’m surprised nobody has done this before with the Core M. It’d be nice to have an official solution rather than messing around with Android-x86 or one of the other Android on PC projects.

    If it was dual-booted, you could also switch between Google’s robust mobile ecosystem and Microsoft’s mature desktop OS depending on what you want to use it for at the time.

  • Shannon Bradford

    It really annoys me that no one is making a 12″ Android tablet right now that is current. I want to buy one but can’t find anything.