Last year I really enjoyed the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4. It doubled as both a simple media consumption gadget and a mobile productivity machine. And with the imminent arrival of iPad OS, it feels like premium tablets have matured to a point where they can frequently replace a traditional laptop. However, the Tab S4's outdated processor combined with a $650 price tag made it difficult to fully embrace, but on the new Galaxy Tab S6, Samsung has updated the guts on its top-spec tablet and crammed in a handful of new features—all while keeping its starting price the same at $650. And after spending a short time checking out the Galaxy Tab S6 ahead of its September 6th release, it’s starting to look like Android fans finally have a worthy alternative to the iPad Pro.
Instead of a two-year-old Snapdragon 835 chip, the Galaxy Tab S6 comes with a Snapdragon 855 processor that Samsung claims offers 80 percent better overall performance and 60 percent better graphics than last year’s device, along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage on the $650 base model, or 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for $730.
New for the Tab S6 is a built-in optical fingerprint sensor that makes it much easier to log into the tablet than the previous facial recognition tech or old-school fingerprint sensors used on previous Galaxy Tabs. Samsung also fitted the Tab S6 with dual rear cameras comprised of a 13-MP main cam and a 5-MP ultra-wide-angle camera with a 123-degree field of view.
But perhaps Tab S6's most important improvements are what Samsung did to the tablet’s included S-Pen. As with recent iPad Pros, the S-Pen attaches magnetically to the back of the Tab S6 and features pass-through charging to keep its battery topped up when not in use.
But my favorite aspect of all this is how Samsung designed both the Tab S6's $60 folding cover and its $180 keyboard cover (which will be 50 percent off for pre-orders) to include a little cubby hole that helps ensure the S-Pen stays securely attached even when you toss the Tab S6 in a bag. It’s simply way better than the silly loop Samsung put on the Tab S4's keyboard and the basic magnetic mount used on the iPad Pro.
When it comes to doubling as a laptop, the Galaxy Tab S6's biggest advantage over the iPad Pro is that its keyboard cover comes with a touchpad, so you don’t have to compromise when it comes to getting a traditional laptop experience. Samsung also made switching between the Android 9 and Tab S6's desktop DeX mode easier thanks to a new keyboard shortcut.
As for the rest of the system, the Galaxy Tab S6 comes with quad AKG speakers a brilliant 10.5-inch 2,560 by 1,600 OLED screen, and an AI-tuned Gamebooster mode to help improve the Galaxy Tab’s performance and battery life. Samsung says the Tab S6 will even have special Android Discord integration that should make it easier to keep up with your various gamer chats, though sadly, that feature wasn’t quite ready for demo when I was testing it out.
One decision I found somewhat interesting thorough is the use of a 16:10 aspect ratio display instead of the 3:2 or 4:3 aspect ratios that’s become common on productivity-focused tablets and laptops. When I asked a Samsung spokesperson about the reasoning behind that, they said that after testing out various options, 16:10 offered a better middle ground for watching widescreen content and office productivity, which makes sense for a portable gadget that often has to pull double duty.
That said, as good as the new Galaxy Tab S6 looks, aside from not having a headphone jack, there is one small thing the Tab S6 seems to be missing: a larger 12 or 13-inch version to go up against the plus-sized 12.9-inch iPad Pro. And while Samsung wouldn’t officially comment about future devices, if this smaller 10.5-inch Tab S6 seems a bit too petite, I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung releases a plus-sized Tab S6 down the line.
The Galaxy Tab will be available for pre-orders on August 23rd, while the official launch date is slated for September 6th. There will also be a model with built-in 4GLTE scheduled to arrive sometime later this year.