Good battery life
No headphone jack
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 review: Why now?
Apple has owned the tablet space since the iPad’s 2010 debut. The current generation of iPad Pro slates are powerful, near-PC replacements that mobile pros take seriously.
Samsung has fiddled with the tablet market for years, seemingly for appearances more so than to legitimately compete. The company trots out consumer- and professional-grade tablets every so often, but it’s been hard to take some of the offerings seriously.
The Galaxy Tab S6 is Samsung’s best effort in the tablet market and finally brings some clout to the Android slate space. Can it get the job (literally!) done? Find out.
What is the Galaxy Tab S6?
The Tab S6 is a high-quality tablet aimed at people who need to be productive, as well as those who want an immersive media experience in a slate.
It features an aluminum chassis, brilliant 10.5-inch AMOLED display, dual rear cameras, and most of the other bells and whistles we’re used to on top-grade hardware. That means a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor with 6GB or 8GB of RAM paired with either 128GB or 256GB of storage. A microSD card slot can expand storage another 512GB.
The USB-C port is the only charging option. There’s no headphone jack (seriously, on a tablet?!?), but the four AKG-tuned speakers deliver a satisfying sonic punch when watching the latest Hollywood releases.
Pins on one side edge allow the tablet to connect with and provide power to Samsung’s keyboard accessory.
As far as the design and build quality are concerned, Samsung nailed it. The Galaxy Tab S6 is Samsung’s tablet game at its best.
Then there’s the S Pen. The Tab S6 supports a stylus, same as the Galaxy Note series phones. Samsung carved out a channel for the stylus on the rear that also serves as a charging dock. The S Pen adheres magnetically to the tablet fairly well, but it will pop off if it catches on something.
This arrangement isn’t dissimilar to Apple’s latest Pencil, which clings to and charges on the side edge of the iPad. Neither of these configurations is optimal, though I get the manufacturers’ reluctance to dedicate internal space in either tablet to the stylus.
The S Pen itself is large and comfortable to use. It connects to the tablet via Bluetooth, so even when not hovering directly over the screen you can use it to advance PowerPoint presentations or take snapshots with the camera.
As far as the design and build quality are concerned, Samsung nailed it. The materials are excellent and the device is assembled tightly. The Galaxy Tab S6 is Samsung’s tablet game at its best.
Is the Tab S6 good for mobile pros?
The answer to this question is, of course, “It depends.”
I spent several full works days with the tablet and I was indeed able to perform the majority of my job functions from the device. Mundane tasks such as triaging communications, editing documents, searching the web, and managing files were all easy to master. If all you need to do is stay in touch with your colleagues (or friends and family), then the Tab S6 excels at that.
Need to do some heavier lifting? I downloaded Microsoft Office, including Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. All these apps ran well on the tablet, with the obvious limitations thanks to screen size. You can use the trackpad, your finger, or the S Pen to navigate the screen. I found the S Pen necessary for Excel.
The Snapdragon 855 had no trouble with PowerPoint. Nor did it run into any issues with Adobe Lightroom, which can be RAM-intensive. Editing photos was simple, if not entirely speedy.
The Book Cover keyboard, a costly accessory, is absolutely necessary for people to be truly productive.
Samsung sent us the tablet with the Book Cover keyboard. In my view, this costly accessory is absolutely necessary for people to be truly productive. The keyboard comes in two pieces. One attaches to the rear of the Tab S6 and protects the S Pen, while the other section consists of the keyboard and snaps to the pins magnetically.
You’ll find a full keyboard complete with number keys, arrow keys, and other buttons for interacting with the UI, such as search and toggling DeX on and off. I dig the trackpad, and dig that you can turn it off even more. I’m sure some will complain about the keyboard, but I found it worked well enough for writing emails, keeping up with Slack, and, yes, contributing to this review. The biggest issue: No backlight.
The keyboard costs $180, though you can snag it for half price if you order it bundled with the tablet from Samsung.
As for battery life, the 7,040mAh lithium-ion battery crushes it. The Tab S6 easily coasted through 12 hours of productivity, which is well more than a full work day. Moreover, it recharges relatively rapidly with the included 2A charger.
See also: Best Bluetooth keyboards you can buy.
What is Samsung DeX?
DeX is the desktop-like user interface Samsung created so the Tab S6 (and some smartphones) can be used more like a PC. It’s better than defaulting to a giant-sized phone UI, but it has a bit of a learning curve and limitations of its own.
For example, the desktop is set up similar to a Windows machine, with some app shortcuts on the screen and a bevy of control strips across the bottom. These allow you to view notifications, check basic settings (screen brightness, sound), and view/open apps. Samsung ensured that a number of apps have been customized for the DeX environment, such as Gmail and the browser.
DeX is the best way to multitask on the tablet.
DeX is also the best way to multitask on the tablet. It’s definitely clunky, but you can manage multiple open apps at a time, arrange them on the display as you wish, and quickly jump between them. This is much better than basic Android multitasking, but it doesn’t match what you can do on PCs.
If you want a bigger screen, plug and HDMI cable into a monitor or TV and the Tab S6 automatically goes into DeX mode.
Huawei has a similar desktop-like skin for its EMUI tablets. DeX is better, but that’s not saying much.
Is the Galaxy Tab S6 good for movies and music?
Heck yes. The 2,560 by 1,600 screen is a fantastic canvas upon which to watch your favorite video content. Movies and shows from YouTube, Netflix, and the Google Play Store all look fantastic on the screen, which delivers deep blacks and rich colors.
Not only do the speakers sound good, Dolby Atmos is on board for enhancing and customizing sound. I think it’s a shame there’s no headphone jack (nor is there an adapter), but the Bluetooth options are robust and the tablet works very well with Samsung’s own Galaxy Buds. Bottom line, I was pleased with how music sounded both when blasting it through the tablet’s speakers and when listening privately via Bluetooth headphones.
Then there are the cameras. The tablet has three cameras, including a 13MP/5MP dual array on the back and an 8MP selfie sensor on front. I appreciate that the Galaxy Tab S6 can capture 4K video, and that the selfie camera has a 123-degree field of view for all-encompassing video calls.
See also: What’s new on Netflix in September 2019.
Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6?
Update July 17: The Galaxy Tab S6 has now been updated from Android 9 to Android 10. In addition to Android 10, the Tab S6 has received the OneUI 2.1 treatment, which means it has user interface elements that more closely match those of the S20 family of phones. This rollout includes to all major carrier/LTE variants, as well, including T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. The device is still for sale at the full retail price of $649.
Update February 26: Samsung raised the base price of the tablet by $100, from $549 to $649. This is the full retail price, as it was previously on sale. The trade-in deal that Samsung was offering is also no longer available.
The Galaxy Tab S6 is the best Android tablet I’ve used or reviewed. It matches superb hardware with plenty of horsepower and productivity features for people on the go. Similarly, the impressive display and tuned sound profile make the tablet a great multimedia device.
The only drawback is the price. The 6GB/128GB model sells for $549, while the 8GB/256GB model sells for $629. The keyboard, which I believe is necessary, adds another $179. That means you can spend up to $808 on this thing. That’s definitely less than Apple’s pricey iPad Pro (with keyboard), but it’s also in the range of full Windows PCs.
If you want a tablet that works, the Tab S6 is the only one to get. If you’re only going to use a tablet for media, perhaps look at Samsung’s lower-cost options.