Quick Take: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Brings New Productivity Features to Premium Android Tablets
Samsung is one of the only OEMs making premium Android tablets, and the new Galaxy Tab S6 adds meaningful speed, camera, S-Pen, and productivity enhancements. The Tab S6 blends Android’s rich touch-first entertainment and gaming library with the ability to use it in full DeX desktop mode with full-featured apps like Microsoft Office. However, Samsung will still find it challenging to draw sales from iPad Pro and Surface buyers. Apple’s iPadOS has more tablet-specific apps, and Windows can run desktop browsers and legacy PC apps.
Tablets can be broadly classified into three categories: inexpensive mobile OS tablets for content consumption, premium mobile OS tablets for content consumption and productivity, and Windows tablets for productivity and greater portability than equivalent laptops.
The premium tablet segment started out crowded, but largely dwindled down to Apple and Samsung. Apple still commands the most attention for its iPad and iPad Pro tablets, but Samsung has steadfastly provided high quality competition. Samsung continues to invest in Android tablets even as Google has retreated from making tablets itself and has largely lost interest in promoting Android as a tablet OS. (Huawei has also been ramping up investment in premium Android tablets, but its future outside of China is in jeopardy if it cannot get off the U.S. entity list or secure an exemption for Android licenses.)
The specs are strong. Samsung’s last premium tablet, the Tab S4, was launched without the latest generation processor. Samsung has rectified that this time around, with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 and either 6GB or 8GB of RAM. Storage is either 128GB or 256GB but can be expanded with a microSD card. Samsung uses its own 10.5” WQXGA Super AMOLED display, quad AKG speakers, Dolby Atmos, and an under-glass fingerprint reader for security. Samsung has found that tablet users really do use the cameras, so it added a wide angle camera to the rear, making it the only tablet with dual rear cameras. The front 8MP camera remains for selfies and video calls.
The redesigned S-Pen highlights several unique productivity capabilities for the Galaxy Tab S6. The new S-Pen now has wireless attachment/charging like the new Apple Pencil, but can also do things that Apple can’t, such as act as a remote camera shutter or remote control for presentations. Samsung’s DeX originally allowed select Galaxy devices to dock to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. This is interesting, but isn’t always practical. DeX on the Galaxy Tab S6, however, effectively turns the unit itself into an ultra-portable laptop without any external accessories, provided the user buys the optional Book Cover Keyboard. That keyboard cover includes a built-in trackpad along with a DeX hotkey to swap in and out of standard Android or DeX modes.
Samsung’s approach to “when is a tablet really a computer?” is not necessarily better than the competition; there are ecosystem and software-driven use cases where an iPad Pro or Surface Pro are more appropriate. However, combining DeX’s windowing capabilities, Android’s rich app library, and a few key apps like Microsoft Office365 for Android turns the Galaxy Tab S6 into a productivity machine that is unlike an iPad Pro or a Surface Pro. However, if Samsung wants people to give its tablet/computing solution a chance, it needs to market DeX more effectively than it has in the past.
Availability: September 6 (WiFi; LTE version later)
Pricing: $649 (6GB/128GB/WiFi; pricing not available for other variants); Book Cover Keyboard $180 ($90 when purchased with tablet until September 22)
Display: 10.5” WQXGA Super AMOLED
Colors: Mountain Gray, Cloud Blue, Rose Blush
Dimensions: 244.5 x 159.5 ×5.7mm
Camera 8MP(Front), 13MP + 5MP (Rear)
Memory: 6GB + 128GB or 8GB +256GB , MicroSD (Up to 512GB)
Processor: Qualcomm 855 processor
Battery: 7,040mAh, Fast Charging
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4G+5GHz, MIMO, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 5.0
Audio: 4 speakers sound by AKG, Dolby Atmos