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Samsung's Tab S6 Lite Is the Cheap Tablet You Need

Illustration for article titled Samsungs Tab S6 Lite Is the Cheap Tablet You Need
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Let’s be honest: There’s nothing exciting about basic tablets anymore. I don’t mean those fancy (and pricey!) convertible tablets like the iPad Pro, which can double as a slate and a laptop. I’m talking about the kind of tablet that lives in your living room (probably on a coffee table) that you use to surf the web while watching TV, give to kids to keep them entertained, or maybe even take with you on a vacation (remember those?). But just because they’re boring doesn’t mean they’re unnecessary, because a lot of people use their basic tablets to control smart home gadgets, manage budgets or grocery lists, and stay connected with friends and family. With the new Tab S6 Lite, Samsung has made a solid, no-frills tablet for a reasonable price.

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Starting at $350 for a model with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (plus microSD), the Tab S6 Lite costs a bit more than a standard iPad or an Android-based alternative like Lenovo’s Yoga Smart Tab. However, when you consider that a base iPad comes with just 32GB of storage (the Yoga Smart Tab does slightly better with 64GB of base storage), and that neither Apple nor Lenovo’s offerings come with an included stylus (the Smart Tab doesn’t support styluses at all), the Tab S6 Lite’s value proposition quickly pulls ahead.

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Meanwhile, like its more expensive sibling—the $650 Galaxy Tab S6—the Tab S6 Lite has a similarly sized 10.4-inch display with slim bezels, a sturdy glass and aluminum build, and an OS based on Android 10 with Samsung’s One UI laid on top. The major differences between the standard Tab S6 and the S6 Lite is that instead of dual rear cameras, you only get a single 8-MP cam, a less powerful Exynos 9611 processor in place of the Snapdragon 855 chip in the regular Tab S6, and, most importantly, the S6 Lite features a 2000 x 1200 TFT LCD screen rather than the OLED panel found on Samsung’s more expensive tablet.

While the S6 Lite can handle all your basic apps and streaming video needs, with scores in Geekbench 5 of 1352, its Exynos 9611 processor delivers performance closer to what you’d find in a mid-range smartphone like the TCL 10 Pro (1624) than the standard Tab S6 (2560). If you’re a gamer, a few rounds of Fortnite won’t pose much a challenge, but for anything more demanding or graphics intensive, you might want to consider a device with a bit more speed.

Illustration for article titled Samsungs Tab S6 Lite Is the Cheap Tablet You Need

As for the S6 Lite’s screen, even though its resolution is slightly lower than what you’ll get on a standard iPad, to me that’s not much of an issue. Sure, if you have good eyesight and you bring your face real close to the screen, you can start to see individual pixels, but overall sharpness is very close to what you get on competing tablets. What I find a bit more frustrating is that by switching over to a TFT LCD screen, you don’t get the bright, saturated colors that Samsung has become known for. Don’t get me wrong, over the past week I’ve watched a bunch of shows and movies on the S6 Lite, and the screen didn’t really take anything away from the general experience. But at the same time, Samsung is the world’s best mobile display maker. I think the addition of a slightly nicer screen could have taken the S6 Lite from simply being a good tablet with an attractive price and turned it into something great.

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Thankfully, the S6 Lite’s dual AKG speakers do a more than sufficient job of pumping out rich stereo sound, while the tablet’s 7,040 mAh battery delivers ample longevity. The Tab S6 Lite lasted 11 hours and 25 minutes on our battery rundown test. This makes the S6 Lite a pretty good companion for watching videos on the go, or, if you’re like me, watching shows in bed because you’re bored of being in the living room. #quarantinelife

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The S6 Lite’s included S Pen is a passive stylus instead of one that needs to be recharged between uses, which makes it more of a general drawing and note-taking pen than a precision tool designed for artists or designers. That said, I didn’t have much issue with palm rejection, and thanks to a built-in button on the side of the stylus, there’s an easy shortcut available anytime you need to erase something quickly.

One minor quirk about the S6 Lite is that because its front-facing camera is on the left when you’re using it in landscape mode, it doesn’t always read your face immediately when you want to unlock the device. This forced me to enter my PIN a bit more often than I’d really like, though I admit this is relatively minor complaint. (The same is true of the iPads, so this is a common tablet problem.)

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Illustration for article titled Samsungs Tab S6 Lite Is the Cheap Tablet You Need
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

The only thing you probably won’t be able to do on the Tab S6 Lite is use it as a primary work machine, which might be kind of a bummer. But considering its price and that Samsung is positioning the S6 Lite more as a content-viewing device than a true hybrid productivity machine, it’s hard to be upset. Furthermore, while Samsung is making a $70 folding cover (seen in this review), it won’t be making a full keyboard case accessory like you’d get on the more expensive Tab S6, which means you’ll have to rely on third-party Bluetooth keyboard cases if you want to use the S6 Lite for work.

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In the end, the S6 Lite is simply a well-built media consumption tablet, and while I wish it had a slightly nicer screen, for $350 (including a stylus), the S6 Lite’s price is hard to beat—especially when you consider an equivalent iPad with 128GB of storage and an Apple Pencil costs well over $500. So while the Tab S6 Lite might not be an exciting device, it’s something you’d be happy to have sitting on your coffee table anytime you need a screen all to yourself.

Illustration for article titled Samsungs Tab S6 Lite Is the Cheap Tablet You Need
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
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README

  • Samsung isn’t making an official first-party keyboard case, so you’ll have to rely on third-party Bluetooth keyboard accessories if you want to turn the Tab S6 Lite into a mini-laptop.
  • Samsung says the Tab S6 Lite will receive quarterly security updates, but hasn’t specified how long that support will last.
  • The included stylus attaches magnetically to the side of the tablet, and it doesn’t have a battery so you don’t have to worry about keeping it charged up.
  • Unlike the more expensive Galaxy Tab S6, the Tab S6 Lite actually has a headphone jack.
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Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

It may be good now but all Android devices including tablets become garbage after two years, 3 max. I primarily use Android but recently got the iPad 10.2 2019, and for under $300 it’s by far the best device you can get. I had the original ipad (2010) and still use it as a baby camera monitor. It has been screen on, camera viewer app open 24/7 for 3 years and is rock solid.

Apple devices just seem to have a lifespan at least twice as long as any android device. I base that on the iPhones my wife gives me after she upgrades and we use them as smart home controllers for 2 years+ after her 2 year payment plan is up.