The Galaxy Tab S line from Samsung is best known for its top-of-the-line tablet range, but the company branched it out to bring the more affordable Tab S5e last year. Its spiritual successor—the Tab S6 Lite—came out quite recently, aligning better with the premium Tab S6. Costing about half of the S6, the Lite manages to undercut its pricier cousin by a big margin, but it had to make certain compromises to fit into that price range.
In this comparison of the Tab S6 Lite and Tab S6, we’ll find out what exactly is different between the two Samsung tablets, and if it’s worth spending more on the high-end model.
It’s tough to differentiate between the two Tab S6 models when you put them side by side. They’re almost, if not entirely, indistinguishable from the front with their thin bezels and displays with rounded corners. Frankly, there isn’t anything unique to their fronts anyway that you can point out or use to identify them apart. Both tablets are your usual glass and metal slabs, though things get a little different when you flip them over.
While both come with a flat, full metal back with some antenna lines, the more premium Tab S6 gets a couple of extra features over the Lite. For one, the non-Lite model has a pair of rear-facing cameras, versus just one for the Tab S6 Lite. And right below that big camera module, you’ll see a groove where the S Pen magnetically attaches and charges wirelessly.
As for their physical dimensions, the Tab S6 is not only noticeably thinner at 5.7mm but is also much lighter at 420 grams. The S6 Lite isn’t that far off either; it’s about 7mm thick and weighs in at 470 grams. We’re, of course, not counting their stylus’ weight in these figures; plus, the keyboard attachment of the S6 may further increase the overall load of the package.
Display: LCD vs. AMOLED
Samsung wanted to position its brand-new Tab S6 Lite in a particular price bracket to cater to a larger userbase who might not be interested in spending top dollar for a tablet. For doing that, the company had to cut some corners—one of them happens to be the display. Instead of its iconic and industry-leading AMOLED screen, Samsung has used a more modest LCD panel. While LCDs can’t produce blacks as deep as AMOLEDs, they sure have some advantage, like they aren’t prone to the jelly effect and other panel issues that are exclusive to OLEDs.
Since the Tab S6 is Samsung’s flagship offering, it naturally gets a best-in-class AMOLED display, which has better viewing angles and works well under direct sunlight. However, using the two tablets side by side showed that the two screens are too close in terms of color accuracy and the actual panel quality for you to find a noticeable difference. It’d be a different story entirely if you’re a professional or an eagle-eyed person.
Having said that, the company hasn’t skimped on the display sharpness on the budget model. Both slates use respectable display resolutions — the Tab S6 gets a little ahead with a 2K panel, while the Lite has just a tad lower resolution of 2000 x 1200 pixels. You must note that the former uses an in-display fingerprint reader placed under its AMOLED, while the latter doesn’t feature any such biometrics sensor at all. You might want some extra security if you often find yourself leaving your personal tablet in, say, public area in your office.
Thankfully, both Tab S6 models come with a stereo pair of speakers, so your movie-watching time is sorted with either device. Moreover, both the S6 and S6 Lite use speakers tuned by Samsung’s own AKG, which should give you peace of mind that the audio quality itself wouldn’t be compromising in any substantial way.
What’s different between the two devices in this department is the speaker count. Samsung has included four speakers — two on each edge — on the Tab S6, while the Lite settles for two of them — one on each side. As previously said, their audio quality isn’t affected as much as their loudness: the Tab S6 is naturally louder with its two extra vents.
However, the Lite one-ups the S6 by keeping the headphone jack, which the pricier model had to drop because of its thinness.
Hardware & Performance
Performance is one aspect where their differences will become even more apparent. As you’d expect from a flagship device, the Tab S6 comes running the Snapdragon 855 processor, which is one of the fastest mobile processors we’ve seen in recent times. On top of that, you get the option to configure the device with up to 8GB of RAM, which makes multitasking a breeze, and 256GB of storage. Based on our review of the tablet, we can safely say that the 2019 Samsung flagship is the most powerful mainstream Android tablet.
On the other hand, the Tab S6 Lite is, well, a lite tablet, which is evident from its internals. Samsung has gone for an older flagship chip — the Exynos 9611 — that is certainly not as capable as the Snapdragon 855. However, the Exynos SoC continues to be a respectable performer, and you aren’t likely to face performance dips with your day-to-day usage. With the Lite, you’ll get 4GB of RAM across the board, which you can choose to pair with either 64GB or 128GB storage options.
In terms of connectivity, both tablets are identical for the most part. You’re getting the usual dual-band Wi-Fi ac along with Bluetooth 5.0. If you need to stay connected to the internet while on the move, you can pick the LTE upgrade for either device. Both slates have a USB Type-C port for charging and data syncing, while only the Lite comes with a headphone jack.
You can rest assured that the overall software and general interface will remain the same on both devices. They run the latest Android 10-based One UI 2 version — the Tab S6 Lite came pre-installed with it, while the Tab S6 received it recently as a feature update. Google’s newest Android 10 itself is a feature-rich OS, and the One UI skin running on top brings its own flavor and take on different aspects.
Since both devices support the S Pen stylus, which we’ll be detailing, later on, they come preloaded with a whole lot of dedicated software features and little trinkets to interact with. However, only the more premium S6 supports Samsung’s desktop-like DeX interface, while the Lite simply isn’t capable of doing all those fancy tricks. If DeX matters to you much, then you know which tablet you should go for.
As for future updates, you must note that either model might not be eligible for the next Android 11 version, and even if they eventually become qualified, it’d take a long time for them to actually get the update.
In the camera department, the pricier Tab S6 takes a clear lead with its pair of rear sensors. The main 13MP camera clicked much better pictures than we’ve come to expect from most tablets, and the output was comparable to many modern smartphones (certainly not the high-end ones). A 5MP wide-angle cam accompanies the primary sensor and can come handy in certain situations, but we’d rather not use it much for its inferior quality. The 8MP selfie camera on the front also works pretty well, and the shots are definitely worth sharing on social media.
The Tab S6 Lite uses a lower-end camera setup with a single 8MP rear sensor along with a 5MP shooter on the front. In our preliminary testing, both these cameras were visibly worse even than the Tab S5e, which uses a similar camera setup as the Tab S6, barring the second wide-angle lens. While the Lite may be good enough for basic things like video calling, you shouldn’t expect a lot from it.
S Pen & Other Accessories
In a sense, the Tab S6 Lite succeeds the Tab S5e (review), but the two dropped different features to come to their respective budget prices. While the Tab S5e could attach to a keyboard but lacked support for the S Pen, the Tab S6 Lite does the opposite. The latter comes bundled with an old barrel-shaped stylus, which doesn’t stick to the tablet’s side. You’ll have to either carry it around in your bag separately or get one of Samsung’s book covers that have a ridge for the S Pen. The Lite lacks connection points to attach a keyboard, though you can always use a Bluetooth keyboard.
Those who don’t want to give up either of those features should go for the Tab S6, which also offers a better S Pen experience. Samsung introduced a new design for its stylus that is now a bit flatter and charges magnetically. The tablet has a little indent on its back, where you can stick the stylus for both storage and charging wirelessly. In addition to this, its companion keyboard is a two-part cover with the back portion capable of turning into a Surface Pro-like kickstand. The actual keyboard deck is as wide as the tablet and has a trackpad that works well on Android.
Funnily enough, both the Tab S6 and S6 Lite come with the same battery capacity of 7040mAh, but their actual life differs quite a bit. Samsung claimed that the high-end model can last for up to 15 hours on a single charge — a figure that our own battery test also corroborated. The S6 is one of the longest-lasting tablets out there, not just among Android-powered ones.
It’s a common understanding that Snapdragon processors are much more power-efficient than their Exynos counterparts, which is perhaps why the Tab S6 Lite is claimed to have shorter battery life. Samsung says that you can expect 12 hours of continuous usage time after a full charge, which isn’t particularly bad, but it still isn’t as good as the Tab S6’s usage time. We expect to do an in-depth review of the Lite soon to give you a proper conclusion.
Being the cheaper option of the two, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite comes in at $350 for its base model with 64GB of storage. For the more premium Tab S6, you’ll have to spend at least $650 for its variant with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. Since the latter is a few months old, you can easily find it retailing at a slashed price, further sweetening the deal. That might not be the case with the Lite since it’s a new product and isn’t likely to be discounted this early.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite vs. S6: Final Verdict
Going into the details of these two tablets, it shows how Samsung would’ve made the choices to add or skip certain features, especially for the Lite, to keep their prices reasonable. The Tab S6 Lite follows an entirely different philosophy than the S5e — that also stands true for their target audience. Samsung hasn’t designed its latest budget tablet for on-the-go productivity, but it’s more for entertainment and to bring out the artist in you.
For a sub-$400 price, the S6 Lite is a decent package offering almost everything that you can ask from a tablet in this range. The company has undoubtedly cut some corners to keep the price low, but the downgrades aren’t that drastic that you wouldn’t appreciate what all the Lite has to offer. At this price, you’re getting the excellent S Pen, which is bundled with the tablet. Plus, it’s the only one that can connect to wired headphones.
If your budget allows you to spend another $300 on a tablet, then it’d hard to find a better option than the Tab S6 (unless Samsung one-ups its own offering with a follow-up). It has got a much nicer AMOLED screen along with top-notch internals and a redesigned S Pen. It can even connect to a keyboard for your productivity needs using the company’s DeX platform. The Tab S6 is just a better device in nearly every way.
But at the end of the day, it all boils down to what your budget is, and if you’ll be able to derive enough value out of the more premium device to justify spending the additional sum.
- Premium metal body
- Excellent S Pen
- Good LCD screen
- Up-to-date software
- Good speakers
- No AMOLED screen
- Performance too weak for some games
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