Samsung Galaxy TabPro S Review: Super AMOLED with Windows 10
For the past few years, Samsung has been pretty synonymous with Google’s Android. Some would say that Samsung is really the reason for Android’s success. They’ve released many Android powered phones and tablets to satisfy all of the price points, but these days consumer tablet interest has waned. Everyone who wanted an Android or iOS tablet for media consumption on the couch already has one. There is a different segment that has seen a lot of growth though, and that’s in business-friendly tablet 2-in-1’s. The Surface Pro 3 was relatively successful as a “tablet that can replace your laptop” and the new Surface Pro 4 builds on that concept. There’s a statistic going around out there that over 600 million PCs in use today are over 5 years old. These types of 2-in-1 tablets running Windows are very good candidates for upgrading your old PCs, and that’s what Samsung is hoping to capitalize on with the release of their Galaxy TabPro S. If you’re carrying around a big old heavy laptop or an iPad with frustratingly limiting software or both, you should definitely take a look at the Galaxy TabPro S. This is Samsung’s version of the tablet that can replace your laptop.
Specs · Hardware · Software · Camera · Comparisons · Battery Life ·
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is only available in 2 configurations and 2 colors. You can get it in black or white with Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Professional. It’s got an Intel Core m3 Dual-Core 2.2Ghz 6th generation processor with a Intel HD Graphics 515 GPU running the 12″ FHD+ 2160×1440 pixel SuperAMOLED screen. For RAM, there’s 4Gb and for storage, you’ve got 128Gb SSD. At first boot, only about 86Gb of that SSD is available to you, but Office 2016 is pre-installed with a 30 day trial. There is no MicroSD card slot for storage expansion either, so you might want to look into getting a USB-C external drive or USB-C hub. That’s right, the Galaxy TabPro S only has a USB-C port for expansion/accessories/charging. It’s too bad USB-C wasn’t designed to be as forward-thinking as it should have been. It also has a 3.5mm TRS headphone jack for listening to audio. There’s also a 5200mAh (39.5W, 7.6V) internal non-removable battery, along with WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4+5Ghz and Bluetooh 4.1.
The Galaxy TabPro S is very light at only 693 grams. It’s also probably the thinnest Windows 10 tablet at 6.3 mm (0.25″) thick. The tablet’s dimensions are 290.3 x 198.8 x 6.3 mm (11.43″ x 7.83″ x 0.25″). There are also front and rear 5 megapixel cameras, but since this is a tablet, you probably don’t want to use those for anything other than video chats.
It also comes with a detachable keyboard cover that includes a track-pad and a USB-C Fast Charger that will get you 2.4 hours of battery life after a 30 minute charge. A Bluetooth pressure sensitive is going to be available separately as well as a USB-C dock with more ports for your expansion needs. You can probably use any USB-C compatible dock, but Samsung’s version includes fast charging. Incidentally, the Microsoft HD-500 USB-C Display Dock does not work with the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S. So, USB-C isn’t really that standard or compatible right now.
The Galaxy TabPro S’s hardware design is very reminiscent of the other Galaxy S brand tablets and smartphones. This is not a bad thing at all. It looks great. The back is matte black with a protruding 5Mp camera bump and the edges are all rounded metal with a series of plastic inserts as break points. Most likely this is required for assembly, but it matches the design of the Galaxy S6 and S7 smartphones nicely.
Really the first thing we should mention is that SuperAMOLED screen. This is the first Windows 10 devices and first 12″ tablet in general with Samsung’s beautiful SuperAMOLED display technology. The blacks are deep and dark while the colors are nicely saturated. It’s really pretty nice looking… as long as you’re indoors. The screen is very shiny so there’s going to be a lot of fingerprint smudges as well as a lot of glare if you’re trying to use it in a well-lit area. The automatic brightness feature in Windows 10 doesn’t seem to work either. If you turn the tablet on outdoors after using it indoors on a lower brightness setting, you won’t be able to see the screen at all or even tell whether it’s on. Luckily, the keyboard has some function keys for controlling the screen brightness.
Speaking of the keyboard, not all 2-in-1 tablets actually come with a detachable keyboard. Above you can see the magnetic contacts where the keyboard attaches to the tablet. The strip of plastic there is bendable so that the keyboard can stay connected while leaning the display back.
The bottom edge of the Galaxy TabPro S has 5 contact pins that magnetically attach to the included keyboard.
The keyboard is hard plastic on the bottom with a flexible plastic flap that goes around the back and magnetically attaches to the back of the Galaxy TabPro S. The back of the keyboard cover folds in two places to allow for two different display angles.One display angle is fairly upright. This is the one you would probably use while sitting at a desk or table.
The second keyboard angle is much flatter. This also extends the base area further back so that it’s much more comfortable to use on your lap while hunched over and looking down.
In terms of how the keyboard feels, we’d say the plastic is a bit cheap. Tapping the sides causes a tin-like rattle. The track-pad works well enough. It supports the Windows 10 gestures for quickly accessing task view (three fingers swipe upwards), scrolling/panning (two fingers moving parallel in any direction), and zoom (pinch or expand two fingers). It is fairly small compared to other laptop track-pads, but really… just use the touch screen instead or pair a Bluetooth mouse. The cheap feel of the keyboard was probably partially done to keep the price down so that it could be included with the tablet as opposed to charging an extra $130-$170 to buy it separately.
One important flaw about the keyboard cover is that its attachment on the back of the tablet using magnets is not as secure as it should be. If you have your left hand on the keyboard while it’s standing up in laptop mode and then touch the screen with your right hand (maybe with the stylus to activate something), that force can cause the magnets on the back to slide off the edge. At that point the tablet crashes back flat against whatever you’ve got the keyboard set on. If you’re going to be touching or writing on the screen while using keyboard shortcuts or typing, you might consider using the second, flatter angle since that’s much more secure.
Closing the keyboard cover up around the Galaxy TabPro protects it pretty nicely though the metal corners seem a bit exposed still. The cover also has a hole for the rear camera. I would have expected this hole along with the camera bump to help keep the back of the keyboard cover secure when set up in laptop mode, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The cover has a leather-like texture to the plastic. This keeps it from being too slipery, but it also tends to attract dirt a lot.
Here’s a closer look at the 5 megapixel rear camera while inside the keyboard cover along with one of the 3 Samsung logos branded around the device.
Here’s a closer look at the nice rounded metal edge of the tablet and especially the speaker grill. You’ve got these on the left and right sides of the tablet and their sound quality is pretty great. They’re located towards the upper edge so if you’re holding the tablet by its sides, keep your hands closer to the bottom to keep from muffling the sound.
The bottom right edge is where the USB-C and 3.5mm TRS headphone ports are. These are your only options for attaching accessories (other than Bluetooth). There is no MicroSD slot for adding storage space. There is no full-sized USB-A port for attaching peripherals like a mouse or printer or external hard drive or USB flash drive. You’ll need a USB-C adapter for any kind of expansion.
The top left edge is where the power button and volume buttons are located. It’s about the same location as the buttons on the Surface Pro 3. These buttons are very thin, but they protrude far enough to easily find them with your fingers.
On the left side of the tablet, just above the left stereo speaker grill is another unlabeled mystery button. This one is actually the Windows key. Unfortunately, its placement is kind of awkward making it not terribly useful.
While our review unit did not include the optional stylus, we did get to use it for a little while and talk to Samsung about it. It uses AAAA batteries and works over Bluetooth. It does not use Wacom’s digitizer technology that Samsung has used in the past for example on the Samsung Galaxy S Note. The stylus still supports 1024 levels of pressure and includes customizable buttons. It does support palm rejection, but it does not have a proximity hover function that disables finger touch recognition like Wacom and Microsoft’s N-Trig technologies do. We’re told that it uses the new Windows Ink APIs and not the older WinTAB pressure sensitivity drivers, so that means older graphics programs that use the WinTAB drivers may not support pressure sensitivity. Most of the latest versions of professional graphics programs do support the new APIs these days though.
With a proper USB-C adapter plugged into the side, the Galaxy TabPro S has no problem driving a secondary HD display. In this example, the display was set to span both screens and loading web pages along with a couple other applications in both screens worked fine. The 4Gb of RAM will probably be the limitation as to how much you can do on both screens though.
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S comes with Windows 10 pre-installed including all of the updates as of February 2016. Windows 10 is probably the most feature-rich operating system especially for tablet PC convertibles (AKA 2-in-1’s). It can easily switch between an interface designed mainly for touch that uses gestures and large active areas for controlling programs and snapping them side by side… and the more conventional desktop Windows style interface that gives you a small start menu in the corner along with infinitely resizable overlapping application windows like you’ve been used to since 1995. This is also one of the most mature tablet operating systems out there since Microsoft unveiled the first Windows tablets in 2002 running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. That means you’ve got access to the largest computing ecosystem in the world with more software than Android’s and Apple’s app stores combined. For more about Windows 10, check out our full review.
Samsung also includes some special software integrated with Windows 10 on the Galaxy TabPro S. First up is Samsung Flow. This is an app that hooks into the “Windows Hello” biometric log-in system to use a Bluetooth-connected Samsung Galaxy S6 (or newer) smartphone fingerprint reader to log-in. Basically, you open the (always-running) Samsung Flow app from the notification tray on your Samsung Galaxy S phone, then press your finger against the fingerprint scanner, and that will unlock your Galaxy TabPro S right away. It’s very quick if you don’t count how many steps it takes in order to get to the unlock app on your phone. Microsoft’s facial recognition system on the Surface Pro 4 is much more convenient. In fact, the native picture-password in Windows 10 seems to be easier as well.
Samsung Flow also has some other great features though. It can load all of your phone’s notifications into a window on the Galaxy TabPro S, and Samsung has enabled reply capabilities for some of them like SMS and WhatsApp. The software also enables you to use the a Samsung Galaxy S smartphone as a hotspot without having to turn it on through the phone. By the way, a placeholder for this app is built into the Galaxy TabPro S by default and it needs to be updated through the Windows Store to get the working version. Samsung Flow is also not going to be available for any other Windows 10 PCs at least at first. Hopefully, they’ll release it for all Windows 10 PCs so that anyone can use it.
Samsung also includes a Samsung Update program that will download special Samsung updates separately from Windows 10’s Windows Update. There’s a “Scrap box” app for screenshots, too, and a “Show Window” app for when you have secondary displays connected.
There are other Samsung customizations integrated with Windows 10 on the Galaxy TabPro S. Seen above is a Battery Life Extender option that shows up in the “Extras” section of the native Windows 10 Settings window. You’ll also see a “Pattern Log-in” option and AMOLED settings here.
The AMOLED settings area lets you customize the color balance, saturation, and sharpness of your display.
All of the Adobe CC apps install and run just fine on the Galaxy TabPro S. Here you can see Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015 with a couple of 4K HD videos loaded. Editing is totally do-able, but playback can be choppy. Also note that the Intel HD Graphics 515 GPU drivers are not up to snuff for Premiere Pro’s Mecury GPU rendering just yet, so if you have that option turned on (it is by default), then opening clips in Premiere will cause the whole device to crash with a Blue Screen of Death memory dump. Keep an eye out for updated Intel GPU drivers to fix this.
Photoshop CC 2015 runs totally fine on the Galaxy TabPro S as long as you keep things within the 4Gb of RAM usage.
As mentioned earlier, Office 2016 is pre-installed with a 30 day trial. If you already have an Office 365 subscription, of course you can simply log-in to activate Office instead of using the trial. All of those programs run beautifully and have no match in terms of functionality on Android or iOS platforms.
As mentioned above, the front and rear cameras are both 5 megapixels. Yes, the resolution is plenty for high-definition Skype video calls or capturing something that you want to save in OneNote, but taking photos or videos with this tablet out in public is not recommended. The image quality is pretty terrible.
Regardless, here’s a few sample 5-megapixel images from both the front-facing and rear-facing cameras on the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S.
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is actually very close in specifications and price to the cheapest version of the Surface Pro 4. The dimensions are almost the same. The big difference is that for $899, the Surface Pro 4 comes with a stylus while the Galaxy TabPro S comes with a detachable keyboard.
The Galaxy TabPro S also has a bigger bezel compared to the Surface Pro 4. In fact, the TabPro S’s screen is almost exactly the same size as the Surface Pro 3’s screen. The blacks are much darker on the TabPro S though thanks to its SuperAMOLED screen.
The Galaxy TabPro S is a bit thinner than the Surface Pro 4 without any keyboard cover. Here you can see the differences in their edges. Also note the Surface Pro 4’s mini-display port and full-sized USB-A port versus the TabPro S’s single USB-C port.
Once you add the keyboard covers, the difference in thickness becomes practically non-existent.
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is also very similar to the 12.9″ Apple iPad Pro. One big difference is the price. The 128Gb iPad Pro costs $949 and the keyboard cover is sold separately for another $169. The Galaxy TabPro S on the other hand costs only $899 with 128Gb of storage and that includes the keyboard cover. The iPad Pro actually doesn’t run any professional grade software either. It can only run iOS apps, while the Galaxy TabPro S can handle just about anything that runs on Windows (and if you install BlueStacks, it can also run just about anything that can run on Android.) The Galaxy TabPro S can also connect to workplace Active Directory controllers, support multiple user log-ins, print to practically any printer, and multi-task everything that it can launch. All of that, and it’s still thinner and lighter and much less expensive than the 12.9″ iPad Pro.
Apple is actually trying to market the iPad Pro to the same 600 million PC users with 5 year old PCs out there that we mentioned Samsung marketing the Galaxy TabPro S to in the intro of this review. Samsung certainly has the advantage given Windows 10’s flexibility for running both tablet apps and full-powered desktop programs.
Clearly battery life is a relative term depending on what kind of CPU intensive programming you’re going to do along with your screen brightness, but Samsung says you should get about 10.5 hours of constant video watching on one full charge. Obviously if you do a lot of editing HD video, or batch processing hundreds of RAW photographs, the battery life is going to suffer a bit, but in using the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, we have found no need to carry the charger around during the day. And if you do find the battery running low, Samsung’s USB-C fast charging will get you another 2.4 hours with just 30 minutes of charging.
- + Beautiful 12″ SuperAMOLED screen
- + Thinnest Windows 10 tablet
- + Integration with Samsung Galaxy S Android smartphones
- + Detachable keyboard included
- + Fast charging via USB-C
- + Largest application ecosystem of any tablet operating system
- + Huge hardware compatibility ecosystem (ancient printers still automatically install)
- + Many enterprise & business features (Active Directory support, Bitlocker encryption, central management, multi-user log-ins, etc.)
- + 10.5 hour battery life to get you through a full work day
- – Included keyboard cover feels cheap
- – Keyboard cover stand magnets are not nearly as secure as they should be
- – Keyboard cover stand only supports two display angles
- – No Hyper-V support in Intel Core m3 CPU
- – Only one hardware configuration option
- – No MicroSD storage expansion
- – No full-sized USB-A port
- – Intel GPU drivers are currently a bit buggy
- – Stylus is optional and doesn’t have proximity capacitive rejection or cursor hover
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is now available in black or white with Windows 10 Home for $899.99. As we said before, it’s only available in one configuration with 128Gb SSD, 4Gb RAM, and the Intel Core m3 processor. You can also get it with Windows 10 Professional which adds features such as AD domain connectivity, bitlocker encryption, and other special business features for $100 more. If you’re a large business with an IT department that manages thousands of users and PCs, that’s the version you’re going to want.
The consumer tablet market is kind of passe these days, but 2-in-1’s have already had a 40% yoy growth. Microsoft’s Surface Pro “the tablet that can replace your laptop” has been doing very well and even Apple is trying to market their iPad Pro as a laptop replacement. Businesses and consumers really do want their tablets to be completely capable of doing everything their desktop and laptop PCs do, even if that means latching on a keyboard and pairing a wireless mouse once in a while. Having one large-screen thin computer that you can set up on a desk for typing or write on like a clipboard while walking around is just as compelling as a phone that also plays MP3s and takes pictures was in 2002. Microsoft knew that back when Bill Gates first demonstrated Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, and now the rest of the world is starting to catch up. With the Galaxy TabPro S, Samsung has a very capable tablet that can replace your laptop as long as your computing needs are covered by an Intel Core m3 processor and 4Gb of RAM. It fits a little bit below the lowest end Surface Pro 4 and the price with keyboard reflects that.