Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 (2019) review

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Beautiful display
  • Kickstand accessory rules

Cons

  • Cheap feeling stylus
  • No headphone jack
  • OK camera

Bottom Line

It does little to disrupt your expectations but I wouldn’t hesitate to call the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is pretty much the new gold standard for Android tablets.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 1,099.00 (AUD)

Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 (2019)?

If you’re uninterested in buying into the Apple ecosystem through an iPad but still want a top of the line tablet, the Galaxy Tab S6 is a solid alternative. It’s a little expensive but that premium price nets you plenty of perks. 

You get a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED touch display, 4 built-in speakers with Dolby Atmos, a 7040mAh battery, an S-Pen and a single USB Type-C port that supports fast-charging. The one thing you don’t get here is a headphone jack. 

It does little to disrupt your expectations but I wouldn’t hesitate to call the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is pretty much the new gold standard for Android tablets. 

Price when reviewed

In Australia, the price of the Samsung Galaxy S6 starts at AU$1099. You can buy it through the following:

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 (2019) full review

The Galaxy Tab S6 gets almost everything right about the hardware side of the Android tablet experience. The screen is gorgeous, the design is tight, the S-Pen is charming and the battery life is borderline decadent. 

Credit: Samsung

The new Galaxy Tab S6 boasts a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED touch display, it’s thinner, lighter, brighter and more detailed than its predecessor. The bezels aren’t quite as strikingly thin as what you’ll get from a Galaxy smartphone but the Tab S6 is surprisingly light at just 420g. It also boasts 4 built-in speakers with Dolby Atmos support, an in-display fingerprint sensor and relies on a single USB Type-C port for charging. The one thing it doesn’t have is a headphone jack. 

These features make the Tab S6 great for content consumption. However, this time around, Samsung are also pushing the Tab S6 as a content creation machine through DeX. 

As with the Galaxy Tab S4, you can easily toggle the Tab S6 into a desktop-style interface at the press of a button. This works better than it did previously. It’s a little faster and smoother. It’d even go as far as to say it’s better than the DeX experience you’ll find the Galaxy Note 10+. 

However, you are going to need to invest in a decent Bluetooth-enabled keyboard and mouse to get the full value out of it and whether or not you’ll be able to make it work for your situation can be hard to predict. For our in-depth dive into what it’s like to work with DeX for a month, click here.

Credit: Samsung

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 hits most of the familiar notes that you expect a flagship premium Android tablet to hit. It looks and feels great but rarely strays too close to the edge of the map. It feels like a solid evolution on what Samsung have done before in the tablet space but it doesn’t quite sell itself as a laptop-substitute as well as Apple’s iPad Pro does.

Price

In Australia, you can buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 in several sizes with prices starting at AU$1099. Full local pricing for the Galaxy Tab S6 is as follows: 

  • Galaxy Tab S6 (6GB + 128GB): $1,099

  • Galaxy Tab S6 4G (6GB + 128GB): $1,299

  • Galaxy Tab S6 (8GB + 256GB): $1,299

  • Galaxy Tab S6 4G (8GB + 256GB): $1,499

Design - Look, Feel, Features and Camera

There’s a lot of things I liked about the previous Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 (review here) but the design isn’t really one of them. It was a well made device but it felt a little behind the times and out of step with the rest of Samsung’s post-infinity display lineup. 

The new Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 doesn’t have that problem. Built around a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED touch display, it’s thinner, lighter, brighter and more detailed than its predecessor. 

Technically, part of this is due to design changes made with the Tab S5e but that was more interested in being affordable. The Tab S6 is interested in making you sit up and pay attention. We burned through an entire season of The Man in the High Castle on this thing and the Tab S6’s WQHD+ display looked exceptional in action, except when it suffered from glare. This didn’t happen too often. It’s a pretty situational issue but it is a common issue you get with AMOLED screens and the Tab S6 doesn’t do much to combat it.

Credit: Samsung

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 weighs just 420g, boasts 4 built-in speakers with Dolby Atmos support and opts to use a single USB Type-C port for charging. I like that Samsung have opted for a sleek aluminum look this time around but I bemoan the departure of the headphone jack. 

Where the Tab S4 was about content consumption, the Tab S6 pivots towards creation. To that end, it comes bundled with a new S-Pen. 

This stylus is larger than it’s Note 10 (review here) counterpart and sleeker than the S-Pen found in the Tab S4 (review here). Unfortunately, to hold and use, the Tab S6’s S-Pen little too much like cheap plastic. It’s lightweight enough and ticks all the boxes when it comes to pressure sensitivity but it doesn’t come anywhere near the kind of premium flourish you’d get with the Apple Pencil. For a product billing itself as Samsung’s flagship tablet, that’s kinda disappointing to behold.

Thankfully, the actual experience of drawing and writing with the Tab S6’s S-Pen doesn’t disappoint. Sure, this stylus doesn’t feel as nice to hold as the Note’s S-Pen does. However, the upshot is that you have an enormous amount of extra space to work with. Writing and drawing on this thing is the most fun I’ve had with a tablet in years.

Aside from support for new Air Action gestures, the key improvement that’s been made to this part of the Galaxy Tab experience is that you now have somewhere to put the S-Pen when not in use. There’s a small groove on the back of the Tab S6 that the S-Pen magnetically attaches itself to. This is a really cool addition. However, it feels a little held back by the fact that it doesn’t take that much to dislodge the S-Pen. If not for the special case that Samsung sent us to use with the tablet, I’m almost certain I would have lost it by now. 

The back of the Tab S6 also touts a dual-lens camera. There’s one 13-megapixel (f/2.0) wide angle lens and one 5-megapixel (f/2.2) ultrawide lens. These will work in a pinch but they can’t hold a candle to the kinds of smartphone cameras you can buy nowadays. 

I’m not just talking about flagship fare like the Huawei P30 Pro (review here). The Pixel 3a (review here) and the Oppo Reno Z (review here) offer incredible optics at a competitive price and in a tiny form-factor. It’s frustrating to see tablets like the Tab S6 have so much extra space to work with and do so little with it. 

Credit: Samsung

The last thing  I want to touch on here is Samsung’s Book Cover case accessory for the Tab S6. It costs extra but it might just be worth it. 

Not for the keyboard, mind you. The mushy keyboard sold alongside the Tab S4 was bad enough but the plastic peripheral Samsung are shilling this time around somehow manages to be worse. It feels very cramped to type on, there’s a noticeable delay between what you type and when it appears on the screen and the trackpad is an abomination that I found regularly confused Android. 

Fortunately, these sins are balanced alongside the Book Cover’s one great success. The kickstand. Attach it to your Tab S6 gives the tablet a Surface-style kickstand and while this does sap away some of the slimness, it also makes the Tab S6 way better for watching content in situations like a long overnight flight. 

Performance - Specs, Software, Benchmarks and Battery Life

Specs

  • Processor:  Snapdragon 855

  • Operating System: Android 9 Pie with One UI

  • RAM: 6GB or 8GB

  • Storage: 128GB or 256GB

  • MicroSD slot: Yes

  • SIM: Yes, on 4G models

  • Battery: 7040mAh 

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, GPS

  • Rear Camera: 13-megapixels + 5-megapixels

  • Front-Facing Camera:  8-megapixels

  • Dimensions: 244.5 x 159.5 ×5.7mm

  • Weight: 420g

Software

While Samsung made major improvements to the software side of their smartphone equation earlier this year, the changes that One UI has brought to Samsung’s Android tablets don’t feel nearly as significant. 

Icons and menus look nicer. Applications feel just that little bit smoother. However, there’s nothing in the way of the thoughtful touches or new features that take advantage of the additional screen space that a tablet provides. It makes for a particularly stark contrast against what Apple is doing with the new iPad OS and, given how aggressively Samsung are pursuing the idea that the Tab S6 can be used as a content creation machine, I wish they’d do more with it.

As with the Galaxy Tab S4, you can easily toggle the Tab S6 into a desktop-style DeX interface at the press of a button. This works better than it did previously. It’s a little faster and smoother. It’d even go as far as to say it’s better than the DeX experience you’ll find the Galaxy Note 10+. 

However, you are going to need to invest in a decent Bluetooth-enabled keyboard and mouse to get the full value out of it and whether or not you’ll be able to make it work for your situation can be hard to predict. For our in-depth dive into what it’s like to work with DeX for a month, click here.

The short version here is that, based on the speed with which DeX is improving, the biggest barrier isn’t do with anything on Samsung’s side of the table. It’s going to come down to whether or not third party app developers actually optimize their apps to get the most out of the platform. Samsung can try to fill in some of the gaps but ultimately, it feels like it’s out of their hands and there’s no telling if and when it will improve. 

Benchmarks

Credit: Samsung

We don’t review a huge amount of Android tablets, so we don’t have a lot to compare the new Galaxy S6 against. For that reason, we threw it up against the Galaxy Tab S4. What better way to see how much Samsung have improved the internals of the thing.

Credit: Fergus Halliday ~ IDG

As you can see from the chart above, there have definitely been improvements made across the board. On some fronts, Samsung’s Tab S6 manages to walk away with double the performance of its predecessor. 

Battery Life

When it came to battery life, we came away pleasantly surprised with the Galaxy Tab S6. As mentioned before, a single charge lasted us well through an entire season’s worth of The Man In The High Castle. Using the Tab S6 as my main tablet, I’d usually manage four, five or even six (!) days of mixed use before I’d need to top it up. 

Subjected to Geekbench’s Battery test, the Galaxy Tab S6 scored 7033. This is only a marginal improvement over the Tab S4’s score of 6840. However, the Tab S4 actually featured a larger 7400mAh battery, so that small gain is sort-of impressive in its own way.

The Bottom Line

The Galaxy Tab S6 gets almost everything right about the hardware side of the Android tablet experience. In action, the screen is gorgeous, the design is tight, the S-Pen is charming and the battery life is nothing short of decadent. I just wish Samsung would be willing to put a little more muscle behind the areas where the gulf between the experience that the Tab S6 and iPad give you diverge most noticeably. 

DeX continues to become better and better and a version of this product that pushes that further is still something I’d like to see. 

The Galaxy Tab S6 is Samsung’s best tablet but it rarely tries to come across as anything but yet another tablet. I’d like to see that change.

Credit: Samsung

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