Go out to buy yourself a good Android tablet, and you won’t find many choices. Some lag-riddled tablets can be fished off the store shelves, but really, in the end, it’s just Samsung’s top end Tab S series that you’ll probably end up choosing from.

Hybrid laptops that bend this way and that or even detach screen from keyboard altogether have demolished the tablet market as have large phones and the almighty iPad. Thankfully, Samsung hasn’t shown any signs of bowing out of the space and has instead fine-tuned its Tab S each time, otherwise we wouldn’t have a worthy tablet in any ecosystem but Apple’s.

This time around the Tab S6 succeeds the Tab S5e not a S5 coming with some iterative changes. It’s a 10.5 inch device which is narrow and long, much more suited to landscape use. In taking up these dimensions, it lets go a little of its ‘tablet-ness’ in my opinion. You can hold it in Portrait mode to read, but only just as it doesn’t feel as natural and cosy as a more A4-sized version. I have an older Tab S in those dimensions and value it because of its being easier to hold.

The Tab S6 is more a device to set down than hold in the hand. Of course the idea is obviously to act like a laptop, but if that’s what you need more, buy a laptop — there are ones that are even cheaper.

The 2560 x 1600 Super AMOLED screen on this tablet is something you can take quite for granted. If Samsung can’t make a beautiful display, who can? It’s crisp and rich in colour. It’s great for watching movies and there’s great sound to go with the display. The tablet we reviewed has 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage with a micro-SD card slot. It’s still based on Android 9. There’s an in-display fingerprint sensor that works really fast though I can’t vouch for its security level. I saw some complaints of the sensor not working the blue light filter turned on but I found it worked just as efficiently and as fast.

 

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High tech S Pen

The tablet comes with the S Pen included, unlike with the iPads for which you need to buy it at a considerable extra.

The S Pen feels a little heavier and differently balanced than earlier versions, but if you haven’t worked with those, you obviously won’t be disconcerted by the change. I own one of these so found myself having to get accustomed to a new weight and balance. The S Pen is actually the most advanced stylus there is.

The Apple Pencil does a fine job as well, but the S Pen has a whole lot of additional features such as air gestures that make it quite unique. You can use it to navigate sections of the tablet and control the upgraded cameras. And of course you can use it easily not just to take notes, including on a black sleeping screen, but mark up documents, edit, draw, and design. It’s a powerful and often underrated little piece of technology. The Pencil charges by being magnetically attached to the tablet.

Tricky keyboard

 

The Tab S6 doesn’t come with a keyboard but you can buy one that fits or pick up Samsung’s meant for this tablet. It’s a very interesting and unusual keyboard and rather clever, but I couldn’t quite make my peace with it. It comes in two parts: one is really a kickstand and attaches to the tablet with its own adhesive strips. Once clamped on, better not remove too often. Only problem is, I didn’t manage to get it to stick firmly enough and it would suddenly fly apart. Luckily I wasn’t anywhere where the tablet could fly off as well, but it’s just possible. The thing to do is stick it on as soon as it’s taken out of the pack and press it firmly in place. Still, I couldn’t help wishing there was some other way to do this or make the adhesive much stronger because it’s difficult to feel safe getting it to stand up, very specially ‘on the go’ when you actually use it on your knees.

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A clever touch is that the top section of the kickstand which covers the entire back has a flap that opens up and has a slot for the S-Pen where it’s meant to nott get easily lost. But it’s in the opening up of this flap that I inevitably find the entire cover coming off. The bottom section of this is otherwise the part that can be pulled out and that’s what makes the tablet stand. This bit is actually very firm, so it’s just the adhesive that’s iffy.

The problem with a cover that has to be permanently stuck on is that it increases the weight of the tablet and makes it difficult to hold in portrait mode, should you want to do so. In a way, that forces it to be more of a landscape device than ever, like a mini laptop, except that then you may as well buy a laptop.

The keyboard section attaches with its own pins. It’s a wider (or deeper, if you like) keyboard than is typical with tablets because it has a section in front which has a trackpad. There are also function keys. Someone’s tried hard to make an innovative keyboard, but there are a few problems with it. The entire accessory feels very plasticky and the keys on the keyboard section don’t have softness and smoothness to them making them not exactly a pleasure to type on though you get used to it, eventually.

Because of the dimensions you may need to look hard if you want a keyboard over case that fits but of course any separate keyboard can be paired via Bluetooth. The moment it connects to the tablet it goes into DeX mode to give you a desktop-like environment. It’s a pity the keyboard doesn’t come bundled with the tablet rather than the S Pen because it’s the more likely component to be used and because it’s being positioned so strongly as a notebook-tablet hybrid which it really can’t be without the keyboard.





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