Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

Released in August of 2019, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 becomes the new Samsung standard for tablets, in place of the Tab 4 and Tab 5Se. I  picked up the Tab S6 on an open-box deal from Best Buy (no deal or sponsorship). I have previously owned an iPad Mini years back, as well as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, though I no longer have either. The itch for a tablet was strong, and this time around, Samsung won the vote. But why? Let’s take a look at some of the selling points.

Price | The Tab S6, without the open-box deal I got, currently retails for roughly 650.00 USD for the base model. However, if you keep an eye out, you can snag an open-box deal on one for about 200.00 USD less! And at that price point, this tablet really packs a punch. Why?

Specifications | Because 650.00 USD (or 450.00 USD in my case) gets you a 10.5 inch screen, 128 GB of solid state storage, 6 GB of RAM, and a snappy octa-core processor. The base price even includes the tablet’s pen like with the Microsoft Surface, which other tablet manufacturers either don’t have (looking at you, Kindle) or require you to purchase separately (Apple).

UX | Obviously the user experience is a big deal, since I’m going to be the user experiencing the tablet. I was looking for a true tablet experience for while I am away from my custom desktop computer. I’m big on customization and versatility. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ running Android and enjoy it very much. The Google Play store has a huge variety of apps available, including the Microsoft Office suite, WordPress, as well as apps for social media, photography, games and other entertainment, as well as utilities that can be useful for an on-the-go IT professional such as myself. Additionally, while I like the Samsung flavor of the graphical user interface, Android allows me to overlay my own preferred launchers should I so desire–and without having to root or jailbreak my device to do so. I am currently using the Microsoft Launcher.

So thus far I’ve mentioned a few things that I really like about the device. But what cons are worth mentioning?

Downfalls | Let’s start with the pen. It is made of a plastic, which feels a bit light and cheap–though I suppose I didn’t expect too much for an included accessory. It pales in comparison to the pen that comes with the Microsoft Surface, and is also not as good as the Apple Pencil.

Despite being too light for my taste, and a bit cheap-feeling, my biggest gripe comes to storage of the pen. There is a shallow groove on the rear of the device beneath the camera lens. This groove has two magnetic points that hold the pen in place–uh, sometimes. The pen falls off the groove or gets knocked out of place easily, and the groove is difficult to find without looking at the rear of the device. I’ve lost my pen quite a few times in the last two weeks. To further my compaint, snapping the pen to the rear of the device means that the device can no longer rest flat on a surface such as a table, desk, and also restricts the use of some wall mounts. It also happens to be right where I prefer to hold the device while on the go, which is a bit inconvenient. None of these things will necessarily be a downfall for you, but they were for me. After extensive use, I’ve found that it is actually quite difficult to attached the pen to it’s groove without looking directly at it, and that the pen falls off quite easily, which has become annoying.

Further, the pen has less functionality than I would like. The S Gestures that you can do to interact with the OS are convenient and nice. Unfortunately, that is where the interaction runs out. The pen can be used as a replacement for your finger in other apps, but the button will continue to function in relation to the OS, not the app, thus prohibiting a large amount of usefulness. One thing I want to be able to do is hold the pen, lean back, and flick it up and down to scroll up and down a webpage or other app, but alas, this functionality seems to be missing.

Really, the pen was the only complaint I had with the purchase–and though I have things I wish Samsung had done better, the pen is still functional and is not uncomfortable to hold for short amounts of time. The pen might be a dealbreaker for you, or you might never touch it? So what am I doing with the device?

In the weeks that I’ve had the Galaxy Tab 6S, I have used it to import photos from my Canon DSLR (no additional software required), edit RAW image files in Google’s Snapseed photo editing application–which is shockingly good for being free, browse Reddit, the internet, access banking information, VPN into my home network, VPN into my work network, remote access and administer both workstations and servers, and listened to plenty of music and watched videos on YouTube.

I have had zero issues accomplishing what I need to. In fact, just earlier this evening my wife and I were at dinner and I had the tablet with me. I got a call from work with an emergency. I wouldn’t have lugged a laptop with me, but I happened to habe the tablet. Within a minute or so, I was VPN’ed into our company’s network, accessed a server, and did what I needed to do to assist an employee.

Similarly, the other night I had the opportunity to pick up my camera and create some images of my wife. I didn’t want to wait to import the photos on my desktop and process them there, so I plugged my camera into my tablet, imported the photos, and processed them, in Snapseed. Within 10 minutes I had a couple of fantastic images to share.

I’ve found that overall the tablet has conformed to my needs and flexed to every situation I’ve found myself in thus far. It has been a good buy. Would I buy it again? Most likely! Given that I like to use the pen and the pen is quite subpar, I likely would not pay full price for one, but I would willingly pay open-box or used pricing again. If you’re looking for a powerful daily driver of a tablet, then this might just be the ticket for you!

Do you have a Galaxy Tab S6? Let me know how you like it in the comments below! Cheers.

~ Griff


 AUGUST 2020 UPDATE

I had to come back to update this post after having used the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 for a longer period of time, as well as having traveled with it.

In the original post, I spent a fair amount of time griping about the terrible pen magnet/storage on the rear of the device. I’m sorry to say, but I am going to spend a moment griping about it again. Over the last several months, I have been constantly frustrated with the pen not attaching without careful placement, the pen falling off the magnet, and my inevitable loss of the pen since it fell off the magnet somewhere. Sure, you can get a case that secures the pen–but this should not be necessary. By design, the pen should be easy to keep track of, use, and stow. This has become a major downside to the device, for me at least. But onto more positive things.

One of my primary questions was whether I could use the tablet as a replacement for my laptop when traveling. The short answer is: absolutely! I spent the week of my recent vacation reading books, browsing the web, writing for this blog, editing a couple of casual photos, playing games, doing email, and a couple of other tasks, including troubleshooting some stuff with my parents’ home network. I had brought my laptop–just in case–and found that I didn’t pull it out even once. The Tab S6 was all I needed! Now, a qualification is necessary here. I did bring my Logitech MX Master 3 bluetooth mouse and my Keychron K6 bluetooth mechanical keyboard for when I was writing my blog posts, but otherwise, the tablet by itself was just fine.

So, my verdict after such extended use and travel with the Tab S6, is that I highly recommend it, but do note that some kind of case or other solution to keep track of the pen will be absolutely necessary.


Author: griffethbarker

Griff is a manager of IT, consultant of IT and management, and continuous student of organizational development. His hobbies and interests include games of all types (video, board, dice, card, tabletop, etc.) as well as listening to music, photography, and writing. Find him on LinkedIn!

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