Review

Published on August 1st, 2016 | by Varuna Singh

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Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S : A true mobile Windows 2 in 1

You probably don’t update your laptop as frequently as you update your phone. That’s probably because the one we have now is good enough for most of the things we do. That’s the reality for PCs these days. That’s also why we are seeing a lot of new lifestyle based convertibles, 2 in 1s and Surface – like devices. Laptops are trying to be cool again and tablets are trying to be them. There’s a trend the Surface started– to set a bar for other PC manufacturers to create good and similar designed products.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S raises the bar a few bits further in some regards and lower in some. It’s a Windows tablet that is in the premium flagship Galaxy line of products. It feels just like their galaxy phones and looks and performs ace in all other regards. We first saw the Galaxy Tab Pro S at CES earlier this year. The device has made it to the region and is going head to head with other 2 in 1 convertibles. It’s interesting that this comes from Samsung’s Galaxy line of products that are well known to make the best mobile devices out there.

Hardware

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S is actually a very big tablet. A 12-inch screened tablet. It weighs at 693 grams and is unnoticeably thin at 6.3 mm. Its build quality is exactly what you’d expect from a modern galaxy device from Samsung. It’s well built, designed just like its other product line up and sturdy. You get solid feeling housing with a very dark color. It doesn’t come in many colors, just black and white.

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The Pro in the Tab Pro S means a couple of things. On the outside it means the devices can be magnetically attached to a keyboard and back cover that’s included in the box. The tablet comes with the keyboard dock and cover right in the box – making the device a complete Pro device. You can use the tab pro s in tablet mode as well as use it in laptop mode.

Its build quality is exactly what you’d expect from a modern galaxy device from Samsung

The keyboard and cover is one unit and it attaches to the tablet magnetically. You can treat it any way you want at this point – tablet or laptop. Its Samsung’s 2 in 1 device. In my usage the tablet being quite big isn’t super comfortable to use over long periods of time. I can see why Samsung decided to include the keyboard case in the packaging. It truly makes it complete. There is no hassle of setting it up, it connects, charges and docks magnetically and works out of the box. Yay for magnets.

Screen

The front of the tab pro S is probably the most important bit of the Galaxy Tab Pro S. You’re going to be looking at this screen a lot and its beautiful – complete 12 inches of it. Samsung has used its amazing screen technology from its Galaxy line of phones on this 2 in 1 convertible. Colors pop screen and look beautiful. Images are crisp on the 2160 x 1440 resolution panel. It’s what Samsung calls super AMOLED that it has been praised for.

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It’s quite different seeing the new wave of Windows PCs with such contrast. Windows 10 really blends with the device well. Lenovo is another company that has incorporated OLED screens on its new ThinkPads. What sAMOLED gives you is deeper blacks and higher color distinction.

The screen is also of a 3:2 aspect ratio. It isn’t widescreen as most laptops out there. That’s good for more common things like surfing the web or writing essays. You get a big more information on the screen in content creation. Movies and TV Shows while looking great do have the widescreen black bars on top. Its not a deal breaker, I quite like this aspect ratio but it might take you some time to get used to.

A well done display with indistinguishable viewing angles – one of the best in the market today

The only negative bit about the screen on the Tab Pro S is that I personally didn’t like how bright the display got. Maybe my eyes are used to flatter levels of color on a big 12-inch display. The good news is that you can tweak this under Samsung settings in Windows 10. I would have liked to tweak the adaptive brightness as well as it was a bit too extreme for my eyes. It’s a great sale but Id recommend you play with the settings to find what’s best for you. All in all, a well done display with indistinguishable viewing angles – one of the best in the market today.

Tablet

The tablet is the main guts of the 2 in 1 Galaxy Tab Pro S. It weighs at 693 grams and is unnoticeably thin at 6.3 mm. It’s about 290.3 mms wide and 198.8 mm tall. It’s not heavy and is really comfortable to use with two hands on the couch but it does get a bit off when using with one hand over long periods of time. I usually found my hand stressed out after 4 minutes of one hand use.

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Internally its powered by an Intel Core M dual core processor at 2.2Ghz. It’s quite fast and its backed with a moderate 4GB of RAM. There is a 5-megapixel front facing camera for video calling and selfies that works just fine. There even a 5-megapixel rear facing camera for the odd times you’d want to take a picture with the tablet. The cameras can record full HD worth of videos. The tablet in its own can play 4K content without any hiccups.

Only one USB Type C port

This is all powered by a 5,200 mAh 39.5 Wh battery rated at 7.6V. That opens up scope for really fast charging as well. It takes about an hour to charge the Tab Pro S from 0% to 70%. Samsung says a full charge should give you over 10 hours of battery life.

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The tablet has the usual suspects when it comes to radios – 802.11 a/b/g/n as well as ac MIMO which gives you better range. There is NFC pairing built in as well as Bluetooth 4.1. The tablet can sense tilt, movement and ambient light. It can track your location with GPS built in to the tablet with GLONASS.

There is just one port on the Galaxy Tab Pro S – one innocent looking USB Type C port. Type C ports are the future of all ports out there. They can charge in, display out as well as be a USB hub for peripherals and data transfer. That’s all good but there is just one USB Type C port on this device. While Samsung may be wanting to target businesses, The Tab pro s doesn’t really do well in terms of ports. It’s also a bummer that the Galaxy Tab Pro S’s USB Type C port isn’t Intel Thunderbolt compatible – which could lead to some interesting docking and gaming scenarios.

Speaking of gaming, the graphics on the Galaxy Tab Pro S is done by Intel and it doesn’t have a dedicated GPU chip. That means it won’t do gaming well. However, with Windows 10, Samsungs making game streaming case with Xbox One – but you could do that with any Windows 10 PC out there.

The speakers on the Tab Pro S sound impressively loud as well. It’s got two speakers which makes it stereo that are on the side of the laptop. They aren’t facing you but they do offer good sound quality without any sense of bass.

In short, the tablet in its own is well built without many ports for expansion and some really good speakers making it a good on the move tablet.

Laptop Ergonomics & Lap-ability

Samsung bundles the keyboard dock with the product. After spending brief time with the tablet, you’re going to want to dock this thing. That’s the major and more useful appeal of a windows 10 tablet. The Galaxy Tab Pro S is as much as a laptop when docked as any other laptop.

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The laptop orientation is annoying

It has great touchpad drivers and the keyboard feels really well. Typing was a joy on the keyboard. The keyboard cover snaps to the bottom of the tablet and its quite assuring when snapping to and from the keyboard case. Keyboard is surprisingly good in terms of layout and it’s pretty quick to get used to. It sounds – not the quietest keyboard. Aptly spread keys and comfort is a good tradeoff for that.

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What is annoying by design on the Tab Pro S is the orientation of the keyboard case. The Tablet part of this rests on the back flaps of the keyboard case. There are only two modes to the keyboard case. One lays really acute and one almost perpendicular to the keyboard making working around it is kind of cumbersome. That means the sweet spot that most laptop screens are in is absolutely missing. I found myself very irritated at this. If only Samsung made a third mode that was in between, it would have worked better.

Software

I never knew I’d say this but the two most annoying things about a Windows laptop have been accounted for by Samsung. The Tab Pro S has a really good trackpad and comes with bare minimum crapware installed. The trackpad uses Microsoft’s signature trackpad drivers and the additional Samsung software doesn’t get in the way.

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Samsung Flow is an application on the Tab Pro S that allows you to log in to the Tab Pro S with your Galaxy phone. Naturally Samsung’s Galaxy ecosystem at work here. Samsung even extended this functionality to Windows Hello. Its pretty neat but nothing revolutionary.

Surprisingly clean version of Windows 10

While the tablet has good cameras, the Tab Pro S didn’t have a straight forward way in launching the camera. In fact, I had to look for the Camera application. It isn’t pinned to the start screen by default and working with the app while holding the tablet up right is a pain. Windows 10’s tablet mode isn’t perfect and its moments like this where it shows. That’s improving however.

Performance and Battery Life

It might be scary to see a Core M processor instead of an ultrabook level processor on the Galaxy Tab Pro S. But the dual core M processor here is fast for majority of the applications I used. Its sadly Core m3 instead of the higher spec-ed m5 or m7. Samsung clearly favored battery here and I applaud them for it. I could easily have over 10 tabs on Edge, play music over a Windows 10 app, run slack in the background and write this review on Word without it feeling slow.

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The tablet cold boots to Windows 10 in about 22 seconds. I opened up YouTube in one tab and started steaming a 4K video to see how the Tab Pro S handled that- really well. Everything ran butter smooth. I pushed it a bit further and opened a 3D modeling application – Autodesk 123D; and here is where we see some issues. That really slowed it down.

The rundown is basically anything to do with high GPU intensive tasks slows down the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S. Basic video editing worked well but nothing on the lines of professional editing. Many business applications as well as top apps from the store work perfectly well.

Core m3 with 4GB of RAM gives decent performance at great battery life

The Tab Pro S comes with a moderate 4GB of RAM. I’d liked to have seen a bump in that regard. If Samsung bumped the RAM to say 8 GB it would have left space for more applications to run concurrently. That’s not an indicator of speed but the perception of speed would have been felt.

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All that has to be balanced by battery life. While Samsung says you get over 10 hours, in reality I got about 8. Needless to say the device could get you through one whole working days’ worth of usage. Samsung’s screen can get so bright it can have a direct impact on the battery and if you’re not careful that battery score may even come down to 6 hours. It’s still impressive given the tablet is just at 6.3 mm thin.

The keyboard case doesn’t add any extra battery to the tablet. So you’re left with just the tablet. The tablet charges really quick as its supports quick charging. To sum up, Core M has come a good long way for PC computing and the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S does well in most tasks but not in GPU. Its battery charges quickly and gets you through a working day.

Price

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S is available in two simple configurations. One with a SIM Card slot for LTE connectivity plus WiFi and other just with WiFi. The LTE + WiFi model is going to set you back AED 3,999 and the WiFi model at AED3,899. There is only AED100 difference between the LTE and non LTE models.

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If you’re even remotely thinking of connectivity on the move, the LTE model makes sense as it’s not a mbajor difference in price. However, I should point out shedding almost AED4000 for a mobile tablet is slightly on the expensive side.

While the keyboard case comes in the box, the device isn’t cheap

In comparison, the Surface range of devices with keyboard case can offer you more value for raw performance. But the kind of portability on the Galaxy Tab Pro S is very much rooted from Samsung’ phone line. That gives you the tablet and the keyboard case in the box. While Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices charge you a hefty amount for they keyboard cases, Samsung made the right decision bundling it in making the device complete.

Last words

Despite who the tab pro S is aimed for, there are a few things you must know you need. If you’re in the market for a Windows PC that’s extremely portable that can be a laptop as well, the 2 in 1 category is a great choice. Now that you’ve made that decision, it’s really easy to recommend the Tab Pro S. For its beautiful display, good trackpad, great battery life it makes it a very portable device. This is a pro device meaning unless you are a windows fan, this PC is meant for people who want a Windows laptop for the sake of the ecosystem.

I wish Samsung fixed some of the ergonomic issues that I had with the laptop set up. Maybe bumped up the processor and added more RAM. But if your work doesn’t demand graphic intensive tasks like video editing, rendering – something that involves post processing – the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S is a decent device.

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About the Author

I work with technology in Education. I also write stuff. I love design and people. @varunasingh



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