Think about it. When you consider slim and light yet equally capable alternatives for your chunky laptop or PC, you would probably think of the Apple iPad or the iPad Pro, or something from the Microsoft Surface series or even something slightly larger but equally versatile in the form of the HP Spectre x360 convertible. However, conspicuous by their absence in such considerations are Android tablets. Or Android convertibles. Not to blame anyone else, but the way Google has remained completely nonchalant about developing Android for the typical work scenarios, is perhaps the primary reason. All that changes however, with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6. Trust Samsung to do what Google should have done with Android in the first place, and then develop a mighty capable product around that.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is available in two variants in India. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 (W-Fi) is priced around Rs 54,900 while the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 (LTE) will cost around Rs 59,900. We would strongly recommend spending that little extra on the LTE version, since you get the priceless convenience of staying connected while on the move and not have to search for a Wi-Fi hotspot. The rest of the specifications remain consistent all through—under the hood is the very powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB or 8GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of storage and a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display.
For what is a fairly large 10.5-inch tablet that measures 244.5 x 159.5 x 5.7mm, the Galaxy Tab S6 is incredibly compact and light (tips the scales at around 420 grams). This can be slipped into almost any bag with absolute ease. The metal chassis is at par with what you’d expect at this price, and while the Wi-Fi version is available in just the Cloud Blue option, the LTE spec version can be had in either Cloud Blue or Mountain Gray. The bezels around the screen are quite thin, yet thick enough to let you hold this up as a tablet and not intrude on the screen space to elicit ghost touch.
The party piece still remains the ability to attach a keyboard and get this going as a more rounded computing device. However, unlike the Galaxy Tab S5e which had a more conventional magnetic docking mechanism, the Galaxy Tab S6 does things rather differently. Instead of the simple snap on, the Galaxy Tab S6 has what is called a BookCover keyboard. This is a two-part attachment, so to say. The first part is the layer that sticks to the back of the Galaxy Tab S6 and has a hinge mechanism that converts it into a kickstand to prop up the tablet. Within it, the S-Pen stylus can be cradled safely, using its magnetic docking system to attach with the tablet and then the BookCover protect it further. The second part of this is the keyboard itself, which then attaches to give you the whole productivity feeling. While such an elaborate method to use the keyboard with a tablet is never really ideal, there are certain specific issues with this particular implementation. First, we noticed that the adhesive for the back cover doesn’t stick on very well the first time around. You have to be a bit forceful while applying it (be careful about it being in a straight line too) and then leave some weight on this for about 10 minutes to ensure it is properly stuck on. Secondly, ideally you shouldn’t be taking this off, else the adhesive will not retain its primary abilities after a while. This means you are saddled with a back cover on the tablet at all times, even if you may not be using the keyboard. Perhaps, conventionality might have been a simpler option.
That being said, the keyboard itself is great to use. It has a nicely spread out layout with adequate key spacing which is easy to get used to. In fact, there is a touchpad as well, which is the closest an Android tablet has come to a full-fledged computing device experience thus far. The touchpad also takes care of perhaps the biggest flaws with the hybrid computing devices—you do not need to switch from a physical keyboard while typing to a touchscreen to navigate the same piece of software. The touchpad takes care of that, which means you are interfacing with the keyboard and the touchpad for most things.
And that neatly leads us to Samsung’s party piece, which greatly improves Android as it us. It is called the DeX Mode, and you can configure the Galaxy Tab S6 to switch to this mode as soon as the keyboard is attached. It is designed to replicate the desktop-like experience that you may be familiar with on your Windows PC. I’ve tried this on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e and now the Galaxy Tab S6, and DeX works like a charm. It has a very Windows-esque interface, complete with a ‘desktop’ where you can keep app shortcuts and files, a separate menu for apps and even a taskbar at the bottom where you can minimize the open apps. If the idea was to make the transition from a computer to a tablet smooth, Samsung has succeeded to the fullest.
A lot of the popular productivity apps are compatible with DeX—the list is growing, and the highlights include the Microsoft Office apps, Microsoft Outlook, OneDrive, Skype, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Gmail, Google Drive, Chrome, Secure Mail and VMware Boxer. And not to forget Spotify and Alto’s Adventure game too, for instance. Yes, the apps that you run in the DeX Mode are still Android apps as we know them, but the new packaging they get when you are using the keyboard simply makes the experience more fluid than you’d imagine. To be honest, if Samsung were to replicate this on an even larger screen size (the way Apple has done with the iPad and the iPad Pro lines), the DeX experience as well as the push for productivity will an even bigger push.
The display is extremely impressive too. The 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display has the 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. The deep blacks help the colours pop out just enough, and the viewing angles are great too. This screen also ticks off the checklist for contrast, brightness and sharpness as well. Whether you may be working on documents, or spend a lot of time reading something on the Kindle app or the web, or even the binge watching session on Netflix and Amazon, the Galaxy Tab S6 does all of this with not even a hint of a compromise. For any video content that may support it, the HDR10+ support will make the experience richer still.
Performance is an aspect that doesn’t require you to ponder, at all. With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor under the hood, power will not fall short. Even with 6GB of RAM, the performance is quite smooth and a fairly heavy app load is handled with absolute ease. No complaints, whatsoever.
That being said, the Samsung One UI and DeX might still require a bit more work to come at par with the iPadOS that runs on the Apple iPad and the iPad Pro. Yes, the Galaxy Tab S6 has the Split View mode which allows you to open multiple windows and let them share the screen space or even the detailed S-Pen suite which gives you controls for Air Gestures which are basically hand gestures to control some of the tablet functionality and even the transparent Notes app that can be dragged on top of any other app so you can quickly jot down whatever needs remembering later. But, all this doesn’t feel as smooth as the multi-tasking on the iPad, for instance. This is not a criticism, but more a hope for better things from Samsung’s development of the Android experience.
Samsung claims about 15 hours of battery life, and for us, the Galaxy Tab S6 got close—regularly touched between 12 to 13 hours on a single charge, with brightness at 50% and a bunch of apps always open in the background. This should be enough for a typical day at work, without having to plug in, and yet retain enough charge to let you catch up on an episode of something you are watching on Netflix, on the commute back home.
Samsung has done for Android what Google hasn’t, in all this while. And that is make it more than capable as a work machine platform. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 won’t feel out of place on your workstation on a busy work day, purely because DeX is a timely reminder about the tasks at hand. The Galaxy Tab S6 is all work and no fun when you want it to be, and that is what should have the likes of the Microsoft Surface Go quite worried.