Introduction and design
Samsung has played in the tablet space for a long time and even longer in the world of Windows laptops. Now, with the Galaxy TabPro S, the South Korean electronics giant has introduced a Surface Pro 4 rival that also aims to take down the iPad Pro with the full-fat power of Windows 10.
The 12-inch slate is insanely thin and features an extremely vibrant, Super AMOLED display that beats the pants off of almost every Windows device before it. That said, with only an Intel Core m series processor and limited memory, it lags behind some of the best Windows tablets on the market, like the HP Spectre x360.
There’s no overstating how incredibly thin this tablet it is. Measuring just 0.25 inches (0.63cm) thick, the TabPro S is thinner than Surface Pro 4 by a substantial margin, and by a smaller measure, the iPad Pro.
It would be easy to mistake the TabPro S for an Android tablet, as it’s almost as thin as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. It bares more than a striking resemblance, too, with a similar shape and minimalistic design down to the small camera hump on the back.
Of course, the major difference is the TabPro S is running with a headier CPU and Windows 10 where you might have expected Android to be.
This Windows tablet also, sadly, is not built with the same magnesium unibody design as the Tab S2. Instead, the TabPro S features a magnesium frame and plastic back. Materials aside, the 12-inch slate feels sturdy and light enough to hold upright for hours on end.
The bezels are a little large by today’s standards, especially with those on the side being nearly an inch thick. However, it’s forgivable, since these little areas help to actually hold the tablet without triggering the touchscreen.
While the TabPro S is an impressively thin and beautifully constructed Windows tablet, the included keyboard base is too flimsy to keep this 12-inch tablet standing.
Like most tablet covers, this folding keyboard folio sticks onto the Samsung’s tablet using magnets built into both the case’s sides as well as a magnetic anchor above the keyboard.
On one end, a pliable, segmented panel covers the back portion of the tablet and kicks out to extend the base. The bottom of the tablet, meanwhile, clips into a tilting, magnetic strip above the keyboard to hold it either a 115- or 155-degree standing position.
Tilting the screen between these two angles is annoying, as you need to gingerly separate the tablet from parts of the magnetic case while preventing the whole thing from coming apart. No matter how careful you are, you’ll quickly realize the thin back cover isn’t strong enough to hold the tablet in place.
The rear cover often slips out of alignment easily, causing the tablet to tumble onto its back, and on more than one occasion I had to catch it before crashing onto the floor. You can also forget about using the keyboard while lying back, as the tablet easily peels forward and falls flat on its face.
While these magnets are strong enough to support 10-inch Android tablets, with a larger 12-inch device that’s not necessarily the case. Specifically with the TabPro S, it’s more like cradling a baby who can’t keep its head up.
The ultimate downfall of this case is you simply can’t just flip the keyboard behind the screen to use it as a Windows tablet. Doing so will cause the device to fall asleep, thanks to a magnet built into the lowest panel segment covering the back of the tablet.
While you can flick the device back on, the NFC tag built into the left side of the keyboard rubs against the back of the slate. This ends up introducing another problem of triggering a constant stream of connection requests.
It seems like a mistake in design, and it means you’ll have to completely detach and toss the keyboard base aside whenever you want to use the TabPro S as a tablet.
A tablet-class keyboard in a 2-in-1 world
The keyboard itself feels surprisingly spacious both in the size of the individual keys and how they span towards the edges of the device. That said, it’s missing a few more media shortcuts than I would like, the keyboard follows a traditional layout, making it easy for anyone to pick up.
Ultimately though, the keyboard feels behind the times, as it lays completely flat on whatever surface you put it on. Many 2-in-1 devices have since adopted attachable keyboards that sit at a slight incline for a more comfortable typing position. It doesn’t help that the keyboard looks like the spitting image of the OG Surface Pro Type Cover.
The plastic trackpad is surprisingly decent, offering precise mouse movements and scrolling, though, I wish it were just a tiny bit bigger. You’ll also have to be wary of oily prints rubbing onto the keys and permanent imprints of your wrists appearing on the rubber palm rests.
Specifications and value
Measuring in at 11.43 x 7.83 x 0.25 inches (W x H x D; 29.1 x 19.9 x 0.63cm) and 1.5 pounds (6.93kg), the TabPro S is one exceedingly compact Windows tablet. Throwing on the keyboard accessory adds a centimeter of bulk and bumps up the weight to a considerable 2.4 pounds (1.09kg), but it’s still lighter than most Ultrabooks.
Comparatively, the Surface Pro 4 is a heftier device at 1.73 pounds, and that’s just the tablet portion. Adding the keyboard increases the weight of Microsoft’s darling tablet to 2.37 pounds (1.07kg) – a hair lighter than Samsung’s.
By itself, the TabPro S is even lighter than the 1.57-pound (0.71kg), 12.9-inch iPad Pro. In terms of thinness, Samsung also comes out on top, as Apple’s productivity slate measures 0.27 inches (0.69cm) thick.
Here is the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S configuration sent to techradar for review:
- CPU: 900MHz Intel Core M3-6Y30 (dual-core, 4MB cache, 2.2GHz with Turbo Boost)
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515
- RAM: 4GB
- Screen: 12-inch Super AMOLED Full HD+ (2,160 × 1,440 resolution) multi-touch
- Storage: 128GB SSD
- Ports: USB-C 3.1, headset jack
- Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2.4 & 5GHz), VHT80 MIMO, Bluetooth v4.1
- Camera: 5MP front-facing webcam; 5MP rear camera
- Weight: 2.4 pounds
- Size: 11.43 x 7.83 x 0.64 inches (W x D x H)
Equipped with the components as shown above, the TabPro S comes competitively priced at $899 or £849 (about AU$1,181). That price even includes keyboard, which is more than can be said for Microsoft and Apple’s contenders.
Also priced at $899 (£749, AU$1,349), the Surface Pro 4 comes equipped with exactly the same configuration save for a slightly sharper and larger 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 resolution PixelSense display. While Microsoft doesn’t include the $129 (£109, AU$199) Type Cover, you do get the excellent Surface Pen packed into the box.
Purchasing Apple’s $949 (£799, AU$1,499) iPad with 128GB of storage nets you even fewer packed in goodies, limited to just the necessary charging cable and adapter. If you want a keyboard it’ll cost you $169 (£139, AU$269), and the $99 (£79, AU$165) Apple Pencil doesn’t come cheap either.
From a purely mathematical standpoint, the TabPro S comes out on top. It’s a flagship tablet that offers plenty with a great screen and a thin, yet solid build quality. That said, I almost wish Samsung also offered this 12-inch device as a slightly cheaper standalone tablet because it’s that good.
Performance and features
Although the TabPro S is one incredibly thin tablet, it also packs a punch, thanks to its Intel Core m3 processor. It is easily able to handle the stress of a full work day of managing a dozen Google and Microsoft Word documents, snappy web research and, of course, cat GIF-filled chat windows.
You won’t be able to game much on this device shy of Solitaire, Hearthstone and other card related games. But, this is where streaming through the Xbox One and Steam for PCs comes in to save the day.
Here’s how the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 3,561; Sky Diver: 2,097; Fire Strike: 496
- Cinebench CPU: 201 points; Graphics: 29 fps
- GeekBench: 2,378 (single-core); 4,713 (multi-core)
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,092 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hours and 40 minutes
Looking at the raw performance numbers is surprising, with the TabPro S sitting on the bottom rung of processing power. In the GeekBench test, the iPad Pro rated higher with 5,472 points, and the (Intel Core i5-toting) Surface Pro 4 performed even better with a score of 6,649.
Of course, numbers are just one thing. Even though the iPad Pro proves to be faster in one test, it’s still limited to running only apps designed for iOS. The Surface Pro 4 and TabPro S, don’t have to adhere to the same restrictions and can run more heavy duty applications, like CAD and Adobe Premier.
Still, you’ll have the most luck running anything on the Microsoft’s slate, thanks to its headier Core i5 processor and higher-end integrated graphics.
Screen and speakers
OLED displays are just starting to hit the laptop world this year, and so the TabPro S’ Super AMOLED screen comes as a unique and pleasing treat. The panel is super bright, enough to show the sun and glare who’s boss while rendering gorgeously deep colors.
The extremely high contrast just helps everything pop and even makes text look sharper. Like most other 12-inch devices, Samsung also made the jump to 2K (2,160 × 1,440 pixels, to be specific) resolution. It’s a few ticks above 1080p, and the added resolution is a welcome addition that doesn’t seem to put a dent in battery life or performance.
This slate’s speakers are also a surprising treat. Though they’re oriented to the sides, rather than being forward firing, they still project clear and loud audio for both music and videos. There isn’t any pronounced bass, but the stereo speakers were punchy enough to convey the brawling action scenes in Daredevil’s second season.
The TabPro S lasts surprisingly long given its extremely thin body. The 12-inch tablet lasted for an impressive 4 hours and 40 minutes while running down the PCMark 8 battery test and 6 hours and 6 minutes on techradar’s standard movie test – a continuous loop of Guardians of the Galaxy at 50% screen brightness and volume.
With streaming media, you can expect even longer run times. During a long Netflix binge, the TabPro S predicted nearly lasted for its projected 10.5 hours of battery life. Thanks to Samsung’s fast charging technology, you’ll also be up and running in just under 2 hours and 30 minutes, too.
By comparison, the Surface Pro lasted a shorter 5 hours and 15 minutes, though, this might be partially a fault of Microsoft’s shaky firmware for its main tablet. On the other hand, the iPad Pro lasted for a closer six hours.
Overall, Samsung’s tablet takes a tiny lead, but these results are par for the course for most 12-inch slates available today.
Samsung has a reputation for bloatware, thanks to all the little “S” apps it has dropped on its Android platform. But, the firm has been cleaning up its act, and there are only four preloaded apps – and they’re all useful in their own right.
- Samsung Update – Your portal to official Samsung firmware and software updates.
- Samsung Recover – This app will help you create a recovery point in the event your system becomes inoperable.
- Samsung Flow – Arriving later this April, Flow is the replacement for SideSync, and it will allow you to pair the TabPro S with a Samsung phone. Features include one-touch hotspot connection and biometric logins using the phone’s fingerprint scanner.
- Online Support (S-Service) – Similar to the Helpout app formerly available on the Samsung Chromebook 2, this app provides a direct line of online support for the tablet. Help desk agents can even take direct control of the tablet – with your permission, of course.
The Samsung TabPro S is an ambitious tablet that aims to dethrone the Surface Pro 4 as the world’s best Windows 10 tablet while showing up the iPad Pro with a full build of Windows 10. And, I have to say, Samsung has accomplished this in some regards.
This is easily one of the thinnest and most premium Windows 10 tablets I’ve used. Couple that with an affordable price, and it’s sure to draw plenty of attention. But, while this device is great as a standalone tablet, I hope Samsung or third-party accessory makers can come up with a better keyboard base that’s so essential to the experience.
There’s no overstating how incredibly thin this 12-inch tablet is. You could easily mistake it for an Android tablet if it weren’t for Microsoft’s OS running on the device.
Samsung has taken its years of experience developing slates to make a nigh-pristine Windows device with a vibrant screen, punchy speakers, market-rate battery life and reliable performance.
There’s nothing wrong with the TabPro S alone, but the keyboard base it comes bundled with ends up dragging down the experience of using this 12-inch tablet. It’s simply too wobbly, and a trackpad that’s a smidge larger would be welcome.
In this case, Samsung’s experience in building Android tablets is a double-edged sword. While Samsung brought its winning tablet design to Windows and a keyboard cover that would be fine for its stellar Android slates, this one is simply not suitable for a laptop replacement.
The Samsung TabPro S has left me smitten. It is, hands down, the best Windows 10 tablet for watching video and reading online. This should come as no surprise considering the company’s rich history of Android devices.
That said, the keyboard case is a major let down. It’s works well when you grab it out of your bag and set it on a table, but it’s almost too unstable to safely use on your lap. Plus, you’ll need a place to throw the keyboard accessory whenever you want to use the TabPro S as a straight tablet.
As it stands – or attempts to – the TabPro S only works perfectly if you use it in the exact way Samsung has envisioned. But, damn, is this one slick Windows 10 tablet.
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