The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is the newest tablet from Samsung and it is a super high-end one. We get a premium design, a very pretty 10.5-inch Super AMOLED screen, and the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor. The S Pen stylus with tons of software features is included, it has a desktop mode, and you can get it with a keyboard cover. So, should you get it? That’s what you’ll learn in this Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 review.
Design & Build
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 looks very similar to the couple of month older Galaxy Tab S5e. It has a full glass front with small black bezels and there are no physical buttons underneath the screen. On the back, it features a full metal body that is very premium feeling. It’s a very high-end and super slim body with just 5.7mm. At the same time, it’s quite light for a 10.5-inch tablet with 420g. You can also see the S Pen charging pad on the back of the tablet.
On its left side, we get a power button, volume controls, and a microSD card slot. That one can hold up to 1TB cards. There’s a USB Type C 3.1 Gen 1 port on the bottom which you can use to charge the tablet but also to connect tons of accessories like USB sticks, external hard drives, a keyboard, or even a monitor. Yes, you can hook it up to a complex USB C dock and use lots of accessories at the same time. On the right side sits a magnetic PIN connector for the keyboard cover and the charging dock.
Samsung removed the headphone jack. So, you’ll have to use Bluetooth or USB C headphones with this tablet. That’s disappointing.
In-Display Fingerprint Sensor
The Galaxy Tab S6 is the first tablet with an in-display fingerprint sensor which means the fingerprint scanner sits underneath the screen. You’ve probably seen that in tons of smartphones by now. While I like that solution more than the Iris-Scanner of the Galaxy Tab S4, this fingerprint sensor is not as fast as the normal one of the Galaxy Tab S5e.
Most of the time it works well. But occasionally I’ve got to hold down my thumb twice and always much longer than with traditional ones. You also must activate the screen first for the fingerprint reader to work. That’s an extra step that’s not necessary with traditional fingerprint scanners. But that’s not an issue if you’re using a cover that activates the screen when opening it.
Speakers & Cameras
A big highlight compared to cheaper tablets are the four speakers by AKG integrated into the sides of the tablet. The sound quality out of those is noticeably better than what you get with most and especially cheaper competitors. You do get a real stereo separation, a decent bass, and a good overall sound. That makes it a great tablet for listening to music and watching YouTube or Netflix.
It has an 8-megapixel front-facing camera which you can use to take good selfies. The photos and videos out of that camera are similar in quality to many smartphones and much better than what you get with most tablets. And that’s what I can say about the 13-megapixel camera on the back too. Especially photos look very good and 4K videos look decent too.
There’s also a 5-megapixel wide-angle camera which is a nice feature. However, the photos from that camera are kind of bad due to some distortion and the low megapixel count. I would never print photos from that camera, but it still might be useful for some.
Display: Super AMOLED
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 has the same 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display we’ve seen in the Galaxy Tab S4 and Galaxy Tab S5e already. Yes, it might not be a new screen, but it’s a very pretty display. Thanks to the AMOLED technology colors and contrast look fantastic. I enjoyed playing colorful games like Fortnite with it and it’s great for watching movies too. Viewing angles are very wide and it’s bright enough to use outside. However, I noticed that the iPad Pro is a bit brighter.
It’s a great screen for reading too because it has a very high pixel density due to its high-resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels. Text and icons look very sharp. It also is the first HDR10+ certified tablet. And you can watch 1440p HDR content on YouTube, for instance. It looks very pretty and it’s a great experience combined with those four speakers.
By the way, you can watch Full HD videos on Netflix which not all tablets support.
S Pen Stylus
One of the main highlights of the Galaxy Tab S6 is the S Pen. That active stylus is included at no extra charge. But even if it weren’t: You can use pretty much every S Pen with this tablet. So, if you’ve got an older tablet with an S Pen or a Galaxy Note smartphone, those pens are all compatible. That’s important to know because this is not the case with Apple’s Pencil 1 and 2.
Now, the newest S Pen is a bit different than the one from the Galaxy Tab S4. Just like with the last Galaxy Note smartphones, this S Pen has Bluetooth build-in. That gives us some extra features but also means that it needs its own battery. It is charged wirelessly using a magnetic charging pad on the back of the tablet which works like what Apple is doing with its iPad Pro.
If you leave the stylus lying around for a couple of days, the battery will be empty fast. However, it just takes a couple of seconds to a minute or so to get a good amount of juice into the pen. So, its battery life is not an issue at all.
By the way, you can also attach the S Pen magnetically to the side of the tablet, as several people pointed out to me in the comments. It’s a good place to store it while you use the tablet, but the pen is not charged in this position.
The S Pen is much thicker than the one of the Galaxy Note which means it’s more comfortable to hold. It has a pressure-sensitive tip with over 4000 levels of pressure sensitivity. And it has one single button on its side which you can use for some shortcuts. Thanks to its softer tip, it feels much more like writing on real paper to me than the Apple Pencil does. You can replace the tip with extra ones that are included.
Samsung Notes & Air Commands
As usual, Samsung preinstalled tons of software features for the stylus. The most important one is the Samsung Notes app. It’s just a notes app but you can use it for handwritten notes and as a drawing app too. You can also use it to transform your handwritten notes into computer text.
You can access tons of additional features using the Air Commands. To get to them, you just hit the pen icon that pops up once the S Pen is connected. Using the Air Commands, you can annotate screenshots, cut something out, or even translate text. There are lots of more features you should check out in detail if you get this tablet.
Using those Air Commands, you can also open a new note on top of every other app. That way you can always start to take some notes very fast while doing something else. A new feature is that you can even adjust the transparency of that note window so that you can still see what happens underneath. That way, you could watch a lecture, for instance, and take notes at the same time without missing anything and while still using the whole screen real estate.
Another feature is called Screen-Off-Memo. If you want to take notes very fast even though the screen is turned off, you just have to press the button of the S Pen and tap on the screen twice and you can immediately start to write down a new note. It’s then saved in the Samsung Notes app.
There are lots of additional features build-in. Handwriting recognition built into the Samsung keyboard works great too, for example. You can also use a preinstalled app called Penup as a coloring book or to learn how to draw.
Now, let’s get to those Bluetooth features. The most important ones are that you can use the S Pen as a remote in the camera app now. If you press the S Pen button ones, it takes a photo. If you press it twice, it changes the camera. And with some hand gestures, you can zoom in and change camera modes but that does not work that great. I also like that you can use it as a remote in Microsoft’s PowerPoint.
Hardware & Performance
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 ships with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 octa-core processor. Depending on the version you’re getting, it’s supported by 6 to 8GB of RAM and a 128GB or 256GB internal storage. You can get it with LTE 4G too. My review unit is the cheapest Wi-Fi version with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. Out of those 22.2GB are used by the system when first starting it.
You can see in my benchmark comparison that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is the fastest Android tablet you can buy right now. It’s noticeably faster than the one-year-old Galaxy Tab S4 because the Snapdragon 835 of that one is two generations old already. That also means that if you care about performance a lot, you will see a difference compared to last year’s model. However, it’s also important to note that the iPad Pro continues to be much faster.
The Snapdragon 855 is the newest SoC you can find in tons of premium smartphones this year too. And that obviously means that everything runs super smooth on the Galaxy Tab S6. It’s great for everyday tasks and even complex multitasking works great. You can have three or even more apps running at the same time and you won’t see any stuttering.
It also is one of few tablets to support Adobe Premiere Rush to edit videos. This is the first serious video editor for an Android tablet. In the past, you could do a decent job of editing videos on an iPad but not so much on Android devices. Well, Premiere Rush works great on here. However, I noticed that the render time is noticeably slower than on an iPad Pro.
As usual, I tried lots of different games on the Galaxy Tab S6 and it is a fantastic tablet for gaming. It looks and sounds great due to the pretty screen and great speakers. But thanks to its fast hardware, games like Fortnite, PUBG Mobile, or Shadowgun Legends run super smooth too. And graphics look great. It’s certainly the best Android gaming tablet you can get right now. Games look much better than on the Galaxy Tab S5e, for example.
Software: Android 9 & One UI
Alright, let’s check out its software. Samsung is shipping the Galaxy Tab S6 with Android 9 Pie and its One UI in version 1.5. That means it’s running up-to-date software and chances are that it’ll stay up to date for at least two years. Samsung is much better with updates than most competitors and in the past, the Galaxy Tab S series has gotten at least two major updates. Regarding this, they’re not as great as Apple but better than Huawei, Lenovo, and many others.
Samsung is customizing Android with its One UI very heavily. Everything looks different compared to vanilla Android – even the settings. But overall, I think it looks modern and clean. Now, we get some features that are totally useless in my opinion. Among those are Bixby, an AR Doodle feature for the S Pen, and some of those S Pen gestures that make you look like you’re playing Harry Potter with a wand. But overall, Samsung improved a lot over the years. Many of the additional features have grown up and are well thought out by now.
For instance, Samsung further improved the multitasking features. You can open two apps side by side as usual, but there’s also a little dock you can access by swiping from the right. With that one, you can open two apps side by side very fast and switch between them fast. You can customize the apps in that dock too. And by dragging an app to the center, you can open it in a third, free-floating window.
That gesture kind of looks like what Apple is doing. But you could open apps in free-floating windows for a while with Samsung tablets, just this new gesture looks like a copy. Well, you can open several apps in windows like these. It’s interesting that you can adjust the transparency of these windows too. These free-floating windows seem to be imported from Samsung DeX.
Samsung DeX is a desktop mode that Samsung has been experimenting with for a couple of years already. And it seems to improve a bit every year. Once you turn on Samsung DeX, the standard Android interface gets transformed into a desktop, like what you get with Windows, macOS, or Chrome OS. There’s a taskbar at the bottom, and you get a desktop with icons.
In Samsung DeX, new apps are always opened in free-floating windows. You can open Chrome, YouTube, Twitter, Microsoft Word and many others like this. The desktop mode is only useful if you’re using a mouse and keyboard. It can be the official one from Samsung or pretty much every other keyboard and mouse. And yes, then you can kind of work like you can with a real desktop system. That works well for office work.
With that being said, you don’t have to use Samsung DeX for productivity work. You can use a mouse and keyboard without turning it on. And many features like the files app are baked into One UI and work great with accessories like external hard drives too. But Samsung DeX can be useful if you need to do a lot of multitasking while working.
Keyboard: Samsung Book Cover Keyboard
Let’s check out the official Samsung Book Cover Keyboard for the Galaxy Tab S6. You’ve got to buy it separately and as we’re used to from Apple and Microsoft, those official keyboards are quite pricy.
Samsung is using a bit different design as others are. The keyboard cover consists of the keyboard with an included touchpad and a back cover with an integrated kickstand. Yes, those two parts are separated from each other.
The back cover is attached to the tablet using magnets and a sticky, rubbery pad that feels like the material of suction cups. Ones you stick it on the tablet, it’s held in place very securely. And you won’t remove it often because at least to me it always feels like you’re about to break the cover when removing it. I’m not happy with this at all and would prefer a full magnetic cover. Dust and hairs can stick to that sticky part very easily and if you remove it often, I’m sure it’ll look messy fast.
On the positive side, you’ve got protection for the back and an integrated kickstand that you can use without the keyboard too. On the top of the back cover, there’s a protection that includes the S Pen while it’s charging. That’s good design.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The keyboard part of the cover is connected magnetically using the PIN connector of the tablet. And folded up, it’s protecting the screen at the same time. The keyboard itself works pretty well. It’s a bit smaller than a standard keyboard but that’s because of the 10.5-inch screen. You can get used to it and then it works without any issues. However, while it works fine, the keyboard is not as premium feeling as the Microsoft Type Cover or Apple’s keyboard are. The material feels like cheap plastic.
I really like that there’s a touchpad build into the cover because using a mouse works great on Android and especially in Samsung DeX mode. The touchpad is small but supports multitouch scrolling and works well.
Now, while the keyboard cover is not perfect, it can still be a useful accessory if you plan to work with your Galaxy Tab S6 while on the go. The integrated kickstand and touchpad are great, I just wish Samsung wouldn’t use this sticky material on the back.
If you would work with it at home only, you can use a real desktop keyboard and a real mouse too which is more comfortable, of course.
In my standard battery test, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 lasted 15 hours. For this, I’m always looping the same HD video at medium brightness and activated Wi-Fi.
As you can see in my battery life comparison, those 15 hours are very good. And this is what I experienced in real life too. The battery lasts very long and the standby time is long too. And it charges very fast, as long as you don’t use the included charger. However, when you’re playing Fortnite with maximum brightness, the battery will get empty after a couple of hours only. It obviously always depends on what you’re doing.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Review: Final Verdict
Alright, that’s the end of my Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 review. Is it a good tablet? Yes, of course, it is. It is the best Android tablet you can buy right now. We get a pretty AMOLED screen, it’s faster than all direct Android competitors, and the S Pen is included and works great. I also like that Samsung is pretty good with updates and their Samsung DeX feature with the official keyboard dock can be very useful for some.
It does have some downsides though. For instance, I wish Samsung would use a traditional fingerprint scanner because this one is not good enough yet. Personally, I also miss the headphone jack and I’m not a fan of that suction-cup thing on the back of the keyboard cover. But overall, it’s a great tablet and a great choice if you’re looking for the best Android tablet.
Let’s check out some competitors.
If you don’t care much about performance or the S Pen and just need a great screen, good speakers, and a pretty design, then you can check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e. Many aspects of those tablets are very similar but the Tab S5e is much cheaper. If you’re looking for a nice Netflix-Tablet, it’s a perfect and cheaper alternative.
You can check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 as well. That one is a good alternative if you need the S Pen and don’t want to spend as much money on the Tab S6. However, make sure you get it at a good price because it’s one year old and you shouldn’t pay anything close to the original price anymore.
If you’re looking for a better tablet than the Galaxy Tab S6, you could have a look at the Apple iPad Pro. Yes, it’s much pricier – especially if you factor in the Apple Pencil 2. But its performance is much better – not just in benchmarks, but in real life too. You also get a brighter screen and a bit longer battery life.
- Slim metal body
- Pretty AMOLED screen
- Very fast hardware
- Great speakers
- Excellent S Pen stylus
- Lots of software features
- Long battery life
- No headphone jack
- Fingerprint scanner should be better
- Weird sticky keyboard back
- Very pricey
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