If you’re looking for an affordable tablet with active pen support, you’ve got two choices right now. Are you getting the Apple iPad 7 with the Apple Pencil or the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite with the S Pen? In this comparison, we’ll discuss which tablet is better for who.
Display: 10.4-Inch vs. 10.2-Inch
Let’s start with their most interesting features: Their displays and pens. While the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite has a 10.4-inch screen with a resolution of 2000 x 1200 pixels, the Apple iPad 7 features a 10.2-inch screen with 2160 x 1620 pixels. That means the screen of the iPad 7 is a little bit sharper, although it’s hard to see a difference.
Their aspect ratios certainly are different. Apple’s screen is a bit taller when holding it in landscape view. I like this form factor for working and reading. However, it also means that you’ll see bigger black bars at the top and bottom when watching movies. Due to its wider aspect ratio, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite has a bigger viewing area for watching videos.
Both are LCD screens and when viewing them side by side, it’s quite hard to see any major differences. While the iPad is a little bit brighter and has better viewing angles, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite has a darker black which gives you more contrast.
A huge difference is that the iPad 7 does not have a laminated screen. That means there’s a small air gap between the IPS-layer and the touchscreen. The S6 Lite does have a fully laminated screen. It’s not that big of a deal during normal use but it can be a downside if you’re interested in their pens.
The sound quality out of their speakers is quite similar. I feel like the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite has a deeper and fuller bass but the mids and highs can sound a bit scratchy at maximum volume. The highs sound more pleasing on the iPad. Now, the big downside of the iPad is that both speakers are placed on one of the shorter sides. So, when watching moves, the sound comes from one side only. On the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, on the other hand, you do get a real stereo separation.
S Pen vs. Apple Pencil
While you’ve got to pay 99 Dollars for the first-generation Apple Pencil, the S Pen is included at no extra charge. That also means that if you want a pen, the iPad combo is about 100 Dollars pricier since both tablets cost under 350 Dollars. Prices vary by country of course.
I think both pens are fantastic but there are some important differences. Let’s check out the S Pen first. It’s made of plastic, is much slimmer – more like a real pencil – and has one button on its side. It does not have a battery which means you don’t have to charge it ever. But you can connect it magnetically to the side of the tablet.
The S Pen has a bit softer tip which you can press down and it gives you a little bit of friction when writing. You can get extra tips if you don’t like that but you’ve got to buy it separately. I feel this friction gives you the feeling of writing on real paper.
Apple’s Pencil is much thicker, more the size of a standard pen, which makes it more comfortable to hold for long periods. It’s made of glossy plastic and it does not have any button. You’ve got to charge it using the Lightning port of the iPad. Unlike with the iPad Pro, there’s no way to attach it to the tablet magnetically.
In this case, the tip of the pen is a hard plastic which means it’s more slippery on the screen – just like you’re writing with plastic on glass. Some people certainly prefer that. You can get screen protectors that give you the feeling of writing on paper if you want.
Both pens are pressure sensitive. That means you can draw a thicker line by pressing down harder. Both support palm rejection too, so you can rest your hand on the screen when writing.
If you want to write and draw as precisely as possible, I think the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is the better option in this case. At least if you just look at hardware alone. That’s because the screen is laminated which is not the case with the iPad 7. On the iPad, if you look closely, you don’t have the feeling of directly writing on the screen because of this air gap.
But the choice gets harder if you also look at software. Yes, Samsung has lots of software features for the stylus build-in and they are great. And you can get drawing apps and so on in the Play Store. But for the iPad, you can also get more professional apps like Adobe Photoshop or Affinity Photo. You don’t have complex image editors like these for Android. That means if you’re looking for a tablet with pen support in this price range, you’ve got to decide what’s more important for your needs. Software or hardware.
Hardware & Performance
The 10.2-inch Apple iPad ships with an Apple A10 Fusion processor that’s supported by 3GB of RAM. You can choose between 32GB and 128GB of internal storage. With the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, on the other hand, you get a Samsung Exynos 9611 Octa-Core chip with 4GB of RAM and you can get versions with 64GB and 128GB of storage. Both have LTE as an option.
You can see in my benchmark comparison that the iPad 7 is much faster than Samsung – especially the graphics performance.
Now, who cares about benchmarks. But the real-life performance of Apple’s tablet is much better too. You can play Fortnite with graphics set to “high” and 3D resolution to 100% and the game runs great with about 30 FPS most of the time. It’s a great tablet for Fortnite. You can play with 60FPS if you set the graphics to medium.
You can play Fortnite with the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite too, but it’s barely playable. The loading times are super long and if you play with “lowest” settings, it looks terrible, and even then, it stutters in-between. If you set the graphics to “high”, just like with the iPad, the frame rate drops to 7 FPS when jumping out of the bus or during fights. It’s not fun at all.
Fortnite is an extreme example and with other games, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite performs okay. You can play Call of Duty with high graphics, for instance, and it runs great. But here again, the iPad 7 performs a bit better. Here you can set the graphics to very high and it does look a bit better. In this case, the differences are not that big though. And I noticed something similar with Asphalt 9. Both perform well.
That goes for simpler apps too, of course. Browsers, YouTube, and office apps run great on both tablets. But you’ve seen it, if you need performance, the iPad is certainly better suited for you.
Design-wise, Samsung has the upper hand. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite has a similar design as the Tab S6 and Tab S5e and it looks very modern. It has a full metal body, slim black bezels, and feels very high-end and well made. I think it looks much more elegant and also is more premium-feeling.
Now, the iPad 7 is well made too, of course. It does have a full metal body. But it basically has the same design as the first iPad with huge black bezels and a physical home button. Even though its screen is a bit smaller, the body is a bit bigger.
On the positive side, that also means we get the Touch ID fingerprint scanner which the S6 Lite is missing. You can unlock that one with facial recognition, but it’s quite slow and doesn’t work in the dark.
You have to live with the old Lightning port on the iPad while the Samsung tablet features a USB C port. The S6 Lite has a microSD card reader too, which is missing on the iPad. Both feature a standard headphone jack, power buttons, and volume controls.
The Apple tablet is a bit thicker and heavier with 7.5mm compared to 7mm and 483g compared to 465g.
Both tablets have an 8-megapixel camera on the back. While Samsung has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, we get just 1.2 megapixels on the iPad. That’s too little and the Samsung selfie camera offers noticeably more details – especially in photos.
I think photos and videos out of their main cameras look a bit better on the Tab S6 Lite too. That’s mostly because Samsung is adding much more contrast – which I like – but also a bit too much sharpening. You could get a similar result when editing the photos of the iPad but I’m guessing not many would do that with photos taken with a tablet. The iPad has excellent video though.
Samsung is not offering any official keyboard for the Tab S6 Lite, so you’ll have to use a Bluetooth keyboard. The iPad 7 does have a smart connector for the official Apple Smart Keyboard, which also can be used as a cover and stand. The iPad keyboard works great.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite ships with Android 10 and the OneUI out of the box. Usually, Samsung is releasing two major updates for its tablets. So, it might get Android 11 and Android 12, although I can’t promise anything of course.
Apple is shipping the iPad 7 with iPadOS and it runs the newest iPadOS 13.4. Usually, Apple is much better with updates for their tablets. But since the A10 is a bit older, I’m not sure how long it’ll get updates. But it’ll probably be a couple of years minimum.
Android continues to be more open than iPadOS. You can download any app you want, it doesn’t have to be in the Play Store. And Samsung is putting in lots of additional features. You can open two apps side by side but also in free-floating windows. Just like with a desktop operating system which is great when using it with a keyboard and mouse. It does not support the Samsung DeX desktop mode though.
In the past, I didn’t like iOS much. But Apple has fixed pretty much every issue I had with it. By now, it has fantastic multitasking, a real files app with which you can also access external storage and even mouse and touchpad support.
Many apps like Adobe Lightroom, Microsoft Word, YouTube, and Netflix pretty much work and look the same on both platforms. But the app selection, especially for more professional apps, is much bigger on iPadOS. I’ve mentioned it before, you can get Adobe Photoshop for the iPad and even alternatives like Affinity Photo which are all missing on Android. The iPad supports better video editing apps too, like LumaFusion and Adobe Premiere Rush. Premiere Rush exists for Android but is not supported by the Tab S6 Lite.
For most applications, it doesn’t matter that much which operating system you choose. As I said, many apps and features are the same or very similar. But in some cases, iPadOS offers you more options – especially if you also want to use more professional tablet-optimized apps.
When looping an HD video locally at medium brightness, the iPad 7 lasts 13 hours and the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite lasts 11.5 hours. However, when streaming HD videos at maximum brightness on YouTube, the Samsung tablet lasts much longer with 6.5 hours compared to just 5 hours on the iPad. It might be that YouTube is better optimized on Android and the iPad screen is a bit brighter too.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite vs. Apple iPad 7: Final Verdict
Well, so which is the better tablet? As usual, it depends on what you’re looking for. If you care about performance and a big selection of tablet-optimized apps, then the Apple iPad 7 is the better tablet. It’s much faster than the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. It also has a fingerprint scanner and you can use it with an official keyboard without Bluetooth. And if you own an iPhone, it makes no sense to get an Android tablet.
However, if you prefer more modern design and want to draw with the stylus as precisely as possible, I think the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is the better choice. I also prefer it for watching movies because the screen-real-estate for that is bigger and it has two separate speakers. And if you own a Galaxy Note smartphone, you can use the same pens on both devices.
One downside of the iPad 7 continues to be its non-laminated screen. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal for handwriting, but it could be if you need to draw super-precisely for work or school. But then again, you can get more professional apps for iPadOS. So, for professional work, you might have to invest more money and get an iPad Air, Pro, or see what Microsoft is doing with their Surface tablets.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 LiteThe Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is a mid-range 10.4-inch machine that supports S Pen out of the box. With its modern looks, the slate can match any of the premium options and is a great screen to watch movies on, especially with the included pair of stereo speakers. Plus, in terms of connectivity, you're getting LTE, if you want to work or stream content when away from your home or workplace.
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