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Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 review: Is an Android tablet still relevant?

By PY Ho - 30 Jan 2020
Launch SRP:

Performance, Battery, Conclusion

Benchmark Performance

Reversing the previous trend of including previous generation processors in their flagship tablet series, Samsung has finally incorporated a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip in the Tab S6, the same series used in other flagship phones launched in 2019. With a flagship processor, it performs far better than its predecessor but still falls behind its major competitor, Apple, by a huge margin. In fact, its benchmarks are almost comparable to iPad mini instead of iPad Pro!



Real-world usage performance

Benchmarks numbers tell the hard-technical details. In real-world usage, comparing Tab S6 to Tab S4, there aren't obvious performance improvements; the Tab S6 is better than Tab S4 mostly on ergonomics and improved user experience. However, when comparing Apple to Samsung, even the smaller iPad mini does feel more fluid than Tab S6, presumably due to the iPadOS optimization and its powerful A12 chip, compared to Qualcomm Snapdragon 855.


Battery life

Tab S6 comes with a 7040 mAh battery pack, which is slightly smaller than its predecessor (7300mAh). While the reduction in battery capacity is marginal, the battery life has reduced compared to the Tab S4 (~7 hours vs. > 9 hours). While it definitely outlasts its Apple counterparts, it falls short of its predecessor by a big margin. Once again, in the battery life test, a 720p video was played repeatedly at full brightness and at maximum volume, with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and some occasional email push.


Real-world battery usage

In reality, nobody actually plays videos for 9 hours straight, unless one is taking a low-cost flight to Athens from Singapore. As such, having a tablet with > 7 hours of video playback battery life is more than sufficient for lightweight tasks and productivity work, considering that the newer Tab S6 has improved design, user experience, build, is lightweight and more compact. Having said that, the only other time you might need a very long battery up-time is perhaps if you're driving up to Malaysia - those jams can be nasty.



It is without a doubt that Tab S6 is a marked improvement over its predecessor in terms of design and ergonomics. Combined with the redesigned optional Book Cover and Keyboard, Tab S6 is now closer to that of its main competitor, the 11-inch Apple iPad Pro, in terms of size and weight. The inclusion of a touchpad in the keyboard cover, as well as the kickstand, makes Tab S6 a possible laptop replacement - but only as far as hardware design is concerned.

What makes Tab S6 fall short of being a laptop replacement overall is its software. Let’s face it. Android in its vanilla form can never have a user experience remotely comparable to that of a tablet made for productivity, let alone full-fledged laptops, or even the iPadOS. In fact, given that Google’s guide on Android development has pretty much shifted focus away from targeting tablets, all hopes on popular apps integrating polished tablet interfaces have now evaporated. Hence Android tablets squarely rely on regular mobile apps designed for the phones.

This is why Samsung has to come out with DeX, and DeX is actually good at its core. However, improvements have stagnated, and mostly cosmetic, with many issues encountered a year ago still yet to be resolved or mitigated.

In fact, it can be argued that since Linux on DeX is not available on the Tab S6, but still currently available on the Tab S4, that the predecessor actually has a notable edge over Tab S6 in the software department that enables a different set of possibilities and usage scenarios. But that's likely to hold true only until the Tab S4 gets its Android 10 upgrade, in which LoD will no longer exist in the system. While it can be said that most users will not care about running Linux on a tablet, it is still a crucial differentiating point for prosumers, especially in the face of iPad Pros’ insane speed of video and graphics processing, and Microsoft Surface series of… well, just plain old full-featured Windows operating system. 

At the very least, unlike Tab S4, the Tab S6 is competent to tackle a good range of office productivity tasks - if and only if your purpose for Tab S6 is plainly for that. It must be stressed that if you do want to primarily use it run an office productivity suite, you will have to attach the optional Keyboard Cover (which has an integrated kickstand). However that adds to additional costs and worse yet, it will be hard to switch back and forth to a plain tablet form due to the adhesive layer on the cover which makes it hard to remove. Which makes one wonder, why not just get a Microsoft Surface if you need a convertible device for office productivity tasks in a native Windows environment without any application limitations?

Here's how the Tab S6 SKUs are priced:-

  • Wi-Fi only, 128GB: S$998

  • LTE, 128GB: S$1,098

  • LTE, 256GB: S$1,298

The price points are better than the Tab S4, while the base storage has increased substantially to 128GB. The Book Cover with Keyboard accessory, though, has its recommended retail price increased to S$268, and comes only in Gray colour. This means a total of $1,266 for a basic mobile productivity suite - without any chance of a basic yet proper software development environment or having the ability to run a wider variety of x86 applications. Comparatively, the Apple iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard combo goes for  S$1,468, while an equivalent basic Microsoft Surface Pro setup costs from S$1,737. So while Samsung does have a price advantage, it's up to the readers to decide on their usage needs to determine which is the best route to proceed.

Perhaps the interesting thing is that while Samsung’s flagship Tab S series has always been compared against iPad and iPad Pro, Samsung now faces a yet another contender: Microsoft’s Surface Pro X. While demos of this device seems promising, and given that it actually can emulate general PC programs well (in tech talk, x86 programs), at this point in time, Surface Pro X is still quite expensive.

So who should buy the Galaxy Tab S6?

All things said and done, if you're comfortably happy with your set of Android apps, appreciate a big screen device that's light and portable, love to watch and consume videos on the go for long durations and only require Microsoft Office suite on Android for any productivity tasks, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 slots in quite well for this need and as we've compared, doesn't cost as much as its immediate rivals, but it's not exactly affordable either.

For those interested, you can check out online retail options from Lazada (or here for better offers), Shopee and Samsung.

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  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8.5
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 7
The Good
Good build
Great speakers
Ergonomic keyboard cover
Battery life
The Bad
Default S-Pen holding slot not secure enough
Android OS in tablet form losing relevance
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