Android tablets are don't seem to be as popular as they once were, and very few manufacturers are launching new models these days. Some companies that are still making Android tablets, such as Xiaomi, aren't bringing them to the Indian market. However, Samsung is one player that has been manufacturing and launching a variety of tablets in the country quite regularly for some time now.
We recently reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e, and we liked it for offering a good experience at a relatively attractive price. While the Tab S5e is a prime example of an affordable Android tablet, the more recently launched Galaxy Tab S6 is pitched as the best tablet that Samsung has to offer. So should you invest in a Galaxy tablet, or would you be better off with an Apple iPad? We put it to the test to find out.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 design and specifications
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 isn't the successor to the Galaxy Tab S5e (Review) which we recently reviewed. Here in India, if you are looking for something more powerful than the Galaxy Tab S5e, the Galaxy Tab S6 will be among the very few options that you'll find. This premium Android tablet sports a 10.5-inch AMOLED display with a WQXGA resolution (1600×2560 pixels).
The display has sizeable bezels all around which is acceptable considering the size of the device. You do need at least some bezels on a tablet to be able to hold it without touching the screen. Samsung has also added an in-display fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy Tab S6 but isn't the ultra-sonic kind found on the Galaxy S10 series. Instead, it uses an optical CMOS sensor. You'll notice that this AMOLED display lights up around the fingerprint scanner when in use.
At 5.7mm in thickness, the Galaxy Tab S6 is sleek, but its 7040mAh battery makes it heavy at 420g. One-handed use is very awkward due to the weight and bulk of the device. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 comes in Wi-Fi and LTE variants, and it seems that the company has only launched the LTE option in India. Samsung has positioned the power and volume buttons on the right side, along with a microphone hole and the SIM tray which can hold one Nano-SIM and a microSD card.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 has four AKG-tuned speakers, two of which are positioned at the top and the other two at the bottom. These speakers are loud, and the tablet has support for Dolby Atmos. There is no headphone jack on the tablet, and you don't get a Type-C to 3.5mm dongle in the box either. It would be best to use a pair of Bluetooth headphones with this device.
At the back, the Galaxy Tab S6 packs dual cameras. The touchscreen supports a stylus, and Samsung does ship an S Pen stylus in the box. This stylus is much bigger than the one you'd get with Galaxy Note smartphones such as the Galaxy Note 10+. The stylus is chunky and is comfortable to use on this big tablet.
Unlike the Galaxy Note series, this tablet doesn't have an internal silo to house the stylus. Instead, Samsung has designed a groove right below the camera module on the rear, which is lined with magnets to help the stylus stick to the back of the tablet. It also has a tiny charging pad which charges the stylus when docked.
We aren't too pleased with this kind of dock as it slightly raises the tablet up when placed on a flat surface. Also, the magnet used to hold the S Pen in place isn't strong enough, and it can be knocked off easily. We did experience this a few times during the review period, and there was no indication on screen, which could increase the chances of losing the bundled S Pen. It turned out there is a pen proximity alert setting that can be enabled for this. We would have liked it if it was on by default.
On the left side, this tablet has a 4-pin connector for compatible accessories as well as two notches that let the Book Cover Keyboard Case stay place. You do not get this accessory bundled with the Galaxy Tab S6, and it needs to be bought separately. Samsung did send it to us along with the Galaxy Tab S6 and we spent some time using it. We'll talk about that in a bit.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, the flagship processor for the first half of 2019. There is 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You do have the option to expand storage by up to 1TB using a microSD card. There is support for 4G VoLTE along with dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5. This tablet packs in a 7,040 mAh battery and Samsung ships a 15W charger in the box.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 software, Book Case Keyboard Cover, and DeX
Our Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 review unit was running One UI 1.5 on top of Android 9 Pie along with the September security patch. The UI is similar to what we have seen on Samsung Galaxy smartphones, just scaled up for the bigger screen. While the UI looks beautiful on a smartphone display, it does not make full use of the real estate that the tablet offers, and it could be optimised better.
We found most of the gestures to be similar to the implementation on Samsung's smartphones. There's a multi-window tray with shortcuts that can be opened by swiping inwards from the right edge of the display. This can be accessed from any screen. You also get S Pen actions, just like on the Galaxy Note 10+. You can read about them in detail in our Galaxy Note 10+ review. Screen-off Memos are also available, but unlike the with Note 10+ where this app is launched the moment you take the S Pen out of the silo, the Galaxy Tab S6 requires you to press and hold the button on the S Pen and tap the display first. Taking notes on the tablet is a breeze, and it does a very good job of palm rejection.
Samsung has an interesting feature called Call and Text on Other Devices, which lets you take over calls or texting to or from the Galaxy Tab S6. Yes, the Galaxy Tab S6 is capable of making and receiving calls, but these are routed through the device's speakers by default, which isn't ideal. If you wish to reroute calls, you'll need a compatible Samsung smartphone, and both devices have to be logged in to the same Samsung account.
Samsung also sells a keyboard cover for the Galaxy Tab S6 separately for Rs. 10,999 which was sent to us for this review. Unlike the keyboard case for the Galaxy Tab S5e which we used during its review, the new Book Case Keyboard Cover comes in two pieces. One piece is the keyboard itself, which snaps onto the left side of the Galaxy Tab S6. The other is meant to attach to the back of the tablet and acts as a cover as well as a kickstand. We found the magnets used for the back cover to be weak, and it did not stay attached securely. we could not use the kickstand at a wide range of angles, as the back cover would simply come off instead of propping up the tablet. The keyboard, on the other hand, stayed in place just fine. It has a trackpad as well, which can be used in OneUI as well as in apps.
Snapping on the keyboard enables Samsung DeX mode, which makes apps run in windows. This allows multiple apps to run at the same time and multitasking between them was a breeze. We were pleased with the trackpad's performance but found the keyboard to be too cramped for our liking. We did type out a part of this review on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6, and found that we could get used to the keyboard after a few days. The Book Case Keyboard Cover also has magnets near the trackpad so it stays closed when folded.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 performance
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 packs in a powerful processor, and that is evident while putting this tablet through its paces. We could multitask easily, and having 6GB of RAM does help keep apps running in the background. This model is a lot more powerful than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e, which only had 4GB of RAM and the Snapdragon 670 SoC.
We enjoyed watching content on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6, as the 10.5-inch AMOLED display had punchy colours and excellent viewing angles. We streamed videos from different streaming platforms and found the tablet to be very good for media consumption. The quad-speaker setup adds to the overall viewing experience. The speakers were loud enough that we didn't need a Bluetooth speaker. Switching on Dolby Atmos also improved the audio output.
Yes, the Galaxy Tab S6 has a dual-camera setup comprising of a 13-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. For selfies, it also has an 8-megapixel front camera. We found the camera performance to be average for a tablet, but we don't see people using this bulky device to take photos. The selfie camera captures good details and can be used for video calling.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 isn't the ideal shape or size for playing games like PUBG Mobile. We tried anyway, and the Tab could run it at the highest settings without a hint of lag. Asphalt 9: Legends and Clash Royale are games which are more suited to a tablet. Both of them ran fine without any issues. We could also play Asphalt 9: Legends using the keyboard.
We ran our standard benchmarks to gauge performance. In AnTuTu, the Galaxy Tab S6 managed to score 4,38,177 points. In PCMark Work 2.0, the Galaxy Tab S6 scored 9,858 points. For graphics, the device managed to do 24fps in GFXBench's Car Chase scene and 39fps in the Manhattan 3.1 scene. The Galaxy Tab S6 managed to go on for 11 hours and 46 minutes in our HD video loop battery test. With our usage, which involved watching a few videos on YouTube, trying out Samsung DeX, and running a few benchmarks over the span of two days, the tablet still had 57 percent in the tank. The bundled charger is capable of charging it to 25 percent in 30 minutes and 50 percent in an hour. Charging the tablet completely takes a little over two hours.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is the current flagship tablet from Samsung and is priced at Rs. 59,900. It has the best possible hardware in terms of performance for an Android tablet. We like the vivid AMOLED panel, and the quad speakers do make it a good device to consume media on. Thankfully for Samsung, there isn't a lot of competition, as manufacturers have pretty much stopped making Android tablets. If you absolutely have to get an Android tablet, the Galaxy Tab S6 is your best bet.
Things change drastically when you consider Apple's iPads, though. The Wi-Fi-only version of the latest iPad Air model is available at a lower starting price of Rs. 40,000, and you could still buy an Apple Pencil and keyboard case. If you want cellular connectivity, the Apple iPad Air offers that as well for Rs. 55,900. Alternatively, the iPad Pro 11-inch, which is a smaller version of the Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch which we have reviewed, is the direct competitor to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6. It has some advantages in the form of a 120Hz display and a more powerful processor, as well as its more polished iPadOS software that has been refined over the years. However, you will have to pay a considerable premium for the LTE variant, and if you want a compatible Apple Pencil stylus, then add another Rs. 10,000 to your budget. If you want most things done without breaking the bank, the Galaxy Tab S6 could be the way to go.