Android Tablets are Still a Thing? | Samsung Tab S6 Review

  1. Discostu
    Jelly Bean Oct 7, 2019

    Discostu , Oct 7, 2019 :
    Android tablets, they're still a thing right?


    Well to this hapless soul they certainly are, and this is my review of the new Samsung Tab S6.

    It all started back with the nexus 7, remember that tablet by google? Probably not, heck some of you might not even be old enough to remember it - but I do. This was back in the time when phones weren't the size of your face and owning a small tablet was a thing to do. I loved this little tablet, it was the bridge between my HTC One and the laptop I owned. It served me well as a way to consume media in a larger format without the need of my laptop.

    Fast forward a few years and I bought the Tab S2 as an upgrade. I say upgrade, but Samsung really annoyed me with the S2. Bare with me folks. You see Samsung decided with the Tab S2 and S3 to release a "flagship" tablet with the prior years specs and as a tech nerd, this annoyed me. Why are you making me buy an expensive tablet with last years specs Samsung? WHY? I made do and in time "upgraded" to last years specs and purchased a Tab S3 and stuck with it for almost 2 years.

    Then the unthinkable happened, Samsung released a new Tablet with current specs! Ye gods the joy!. I scream - take my money and buy one, so what is it?

    Well it's finally a high end android tablet:
    • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855.
    • Memory: 6/8GB RAM.
    • Storage: 128/256GB + expandable memory slot.
    • Screen size: 10.5-inch Super AMOLED.
    • Resolution: 2560 x 1600.
    • Enhanced S-Pen.
    • 7040 mAh battery.
    • No headphone jack.
    Hows that screen?

    The tablet itself is a giant slab of screen on the front with minimal bezels (82.5% screen to body ratio) and a beautiful aluminum body, no back glass to be found. The screen is vibrant with solid viewing angles, though in the bright Australian sun (yes it is brighter down here don't argue with me) it can be washed out, but for most use cases it will be put into, the brightness will be perfectly fine. Colours are vibrant and there are a number of modes that can be set and tweaked. Underneath the front glass and screen is an under-display optical fingerprint sensor that operates about as you'd expect from any modern sensor - it is accurate and reasonably fast, though not as quick as my 7 Pro.

    Tab S6 Front.jpg

    What about the rest of the design?

    Oh Aluminum... my old friend how I missed thee. As you may have guessed the back and rest of the tablet are made from Aluminium, it feels premium and is cool to the touch when picking it up, with antenna lines running top and bottom (reminiscent of apple anyone?). The back is sparse with only the Samsung logo and a "tuned by AKG" notation, 2 cameras (yes 2 on a tablet) and a spot for the S-pen. Oh and of course USB-C charging and... NO headphone jack.

    The lack of a headphone jack annoys me, there I said it, however this is where the industry is heading. I have a long haul flight coming up and will be stuck on a plane for 15 hours, so I have produced a bar chart of exactly how I will manage to juggle keeping the tab charged, use my wireless headphones (and keeping them charged) and switching to my wired headphones with USB-C dongle when the wireless ones are dead. See? Complicated AF.

    Flanking the screen either side are 4 speakers that produce rich and loud sound, they definitely make watching movies or videos a pleasing experience.

    The S-pen slots into a little groove magnetically, I can't say this is an inspired design choice as all too often I find myself knocking it off or accidentally touching it. I am unsure why Samsung thought this was the pinnacle of design, but here we are. Come back to me in a few weeks time after I have taken a flight with it and ask me if I've lost it on a Qantas plane flying somewhere over Australia.

    Tab S6 Back.jpg


    As expected the tablet comes with Samsung OneUI atop Android 9, as of writing this I have not received any updates to Android 10. The experience is inoffensive and user friendly - I do not like the massive cartoon sized icons for apps and inexplicably the power button was mapped to bixby by default, so every time I tried to turn it off bixby would jump to life and annoy me until I changed it power.

    Dex comes now as standard and when plugged into a monitor can be handy, I've used it once to see what the experience was like however am unlikely to find a need for it going forward. The S-pen too is further enhanced which air-gestures and more precise screen responsiveness. Air-gestures are not my cup of tea however the precise nature of the s-pen on the screen has been very welcome while photo editing in Lightroom.

    Apps built for android tablets are becoming rarer and rarer, as such many of my day-to-day apps appear as over-sized versions of their phone selves. Angry Birds Evolution for example (yes I know...) runs and plays flawlessly however appears gigantic on the screen.

    Cameras & Battery life

    There are 2 cameras on the back and 1 up front. The rear houses a wide lens at 13mp and an ultra-wide lens at 2mp, the best thing I can say is that they are inoffensive. The wide angle is good enough and will serve you in a pinch however the ultra-wide at only 2mps and with an f2.2 aperture is frankly crap. I really don't know why Samsung included this other than to say that "they did" or to justify the cost. Images are grainy, distorted and lacks detail (if you want examples hit me up in the comments and I'll take some photos).

    Battery is a serious one folks. Battery life when gaming or watching Netflix/YouTube is excellent - routinely I am getting on average 10 hours screen on time however there appears to be a significant bug in the software when the tablet is in idle mode. Routinely overnight I lose approx 30% battery over 8-10 hours when the tablet sits idle - Wifi/Bluetooth are off (no lte), no apps are running, and nothing is syncing. The battery usage chart is no help either, showing no apps or services in use overnight.

    As of right now this still is unresolved and cause for concern, there appear to be other reports of the same issue on Samsung forums and Reddit here, here & here and if it continues I will return the tablet for a replacement.

    Wrapping up

    At $1,000 AUD for the base model (or $950 if you're lucky like me and score a deal) it is an expensive tablet competing with Apple. Is it as good as a iPad? Without owning an iPad it is hard to say, I am going to go with no from software and yes from design.

    If you're looking for a good android tablet that will give you an excellent experience while consuming content - there are better alternatives out there (Tab S4 or 5e spring to mind). If however you are in need of a tablet that can do more as I am (photo editing, occasional excel work & gaming) then this is a good buy assuming you can justify paying a premium.*

    *This also assumes no further battery/software issues.

    Hope you enjoyed this review. Phew it was long....
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019

    YRJ likes this.
  2. YRJ
    Lollipop Oct 7, 2019

    YRJ , Oct 7, 2019 :
    Thank you so much for the review @Discostu I was looking forward to this. Well rounded up!
    I love the slim bezels and thin design, it was generous of Samsung to add the S-Pen.

    From your review the Samsung tab sounds like a solid device all around, hopefully the battery bug is fixed soon :)

    Discostu likes this.
  3. Discostu
    Jelly Bean Oct 7, 2019

    Discostu , Oct 7, 2019 :
    You're welcome! it is a great little tablet, battery niggles aside.

    Coming from the Tab S3 it was like getting into a Ferrari from a 20 yr old Hyundai. Definitely worth the upgrade for me and my use cases.

    YRJ likes this.
  4. Rusty NZ
    Marshmallow Oct 13, 2019

    Discostu likes this.
  5. Maverick2.0
    KitKat Oct 13, 2019

    Maverick2.0 , Oct 13, 2019 :
    Excellent review. I still think the iPad would be a better choice (don't own one, though)

    BTW: It's bear. ;)

    Discostu likes this.
  6. Discostu
    Jelly Bean Oct 13, 2019

    Discostu , via OnePlus 7 Pro Almond , Oct 13, 2019 :
    Haha! bare! whoops, no one needs to be baring all in this review.

    However yes I was really tossing up between an iPad or the Tab S6. There were really 2 main reasons that I didn't switch to an iPad:

    1) Cost - there was an almost $500 between like for like tablets, I couldn't justify it
    2) The apple ecosystem and experience. I would have loved the supported apps but missed the flexibility of android and general customisation.

    Those were reason enough for me to switch. Though that always won't remain true in the future I guess.

    Maverick2.0 likes this.
  7. Discostu
    Jelly Bean Oct 14, 2019

    Discostu , via OnePlus 7 Pro Almond , Oct 14, 2019 :
    Ownership update

    My ongoing battle with idle battery standby time is ongoing however there has been a breakthrough. Thanks so some clever people over on XDA a user noted that putting the tablet to sleep when using a case rather than the power button would cause the Tab S6 to drain 30-40% battery overnight.

    The last 2 nights rather than simply closing the case and allowing the tablet to go to sleep I have pressed the power button to lock it and NOT closed the case - this has RESOLVED the issue of power drain overnight.

    From further reading it appears there is a flaw in the software that keeps the screen active when the Tab S6 is put to sleep by closing the case. Thus causing the reported battery loss overnight.

    This is a pretty significant bug Samsung has and to a layperson with little tech knowhow they won't know to investigate and assume there is an issue with their device. Based on this bug I couldn't recommend the tablet to anyone but a tech savvy individual until Samsung fix this.

    YRJ likes this.