Samsung Galaxy TabPro S Review: Compromised for Mobility

by Reads (21,426)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 8
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 7
      • Usability
      • 7
      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Features
      • 8
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 8.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Stunning display
    • Slick build and design
    • Keyboard included
    • Long battery life
  • Cons

    • Lone USB Type-C input for charging and accessories
    • Keyboard travel too shallow

Quick Take

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is a premium Windows 10 two-in-one. Compared against the competition from Microsoft and others, its compromises make it better suited as a mobile or travel device.


Samsung’s challenge: create a high-end Windows 10 tablet and keyboard combo to compete with the Surface Pro 4 on specs, features, and price.

That’s not an easy task. The Surface Pro is the definitive Windows 10 tablet, with what we’ve called the perfect combination of power and portability. It has the best display, best hardware, and superb performance. How can Samsung match that?

Well, Samsung could undercut Microsoft on price by bundling a keyboard cover. Samsung could ship a thinner tablet. Samsung could incorporate some of the technologies we loved on its Galaxy smartphones, like Super AMOLED and quick charge.

And that’s exactly what Samsung did with the Galaxy TabPro S, a 12-inch Windows 10 tablet, with a sixth-gen Intel Core m3 processor and 4GB of RAM. It ships with a keyboard, measures just .25 inches thick, sports a Super AMOLED display, and features “Adaptive Fast Charging.”

Build & Design

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is a premium Windows 10 2-in-1.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is a premium Windows 10 2-in-1.

We wonder with each new generation of Windows device if they can get any thinner, and then they get thinner still. The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is thin for any tablet: iPad, Windows, or Android. It measures 11.43 x 7.83 x .25 inches without the keyboard cover, and .54 inches thick with the cover. It weighs 1.53 pounds, also without the keyboard cover, and 2.37 pounds with it.

The tablet alone is thinner and weighs less than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and is just a hair thicker and half a pound heavier than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

It’s built well and feels as solid as it can for such a thin device. It’s obvious Samsung wasted no space and packed all the internals as tight as possible. As with anything this thin, it will flex with moderate force.

Samsung went with high-quality plastic for the back panel, and a magnesium alloy ring around the sides. The plastic has a slight texture that makes it pleasant to grip, and helps it shrug off most smudges and fingerprints. Say what you will about plastic being a cheap build material, but it’s light and absorbs shocks well. We expect the Galaxy TabPro S to survive a drop or two because of it, and the tablet’s light weight.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has a textured plastic back panel.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has a textured plastic back panel.

The tablet has rounded corners, while the edges sport a subtle point. The top landscape edge houses the power button and volume rocker on the left side, with two Wi-Fi antenna stripes. The bottom houses the keyboard smart connector. A physical Windows key, speaker, and another antenna stripe sit on the left portrait side. A speaker, antenna stripe, USB Type-C input, and 3.5mm audio jack all reside on the right. A 5-megapixel camera rests centered on the upper portion of the back panel.

Yes, this is a basic tablet design with no frills. It works, and we like that Samsung put the USB Type-C jack toward the bottom of the device, given that you’ll have to use it for both charging and expansion. There’s little worse than having an adapter hanging from and tugging on an input. We were ready to complain that the Windows and power are the same exact size, neither with a distinguishing texture. But their placement on the side and top make it easy enough to remember which is which.

Ports & Inputs

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has a single USB Type-C input for both charging and data. The good news: USB Type-C is fast, small, and reversible. The bad news: it’s new and it’s the only input on the TabPro S outside of the proprietary keyboard connector. There’s not even a microSD card slot. It’s also not Thunderbolt compatible.

This presents two problems: You can’t charge the TabPro S and connect any accessories at the same time without a special adapter, which Samsung is happy to sell you; and you probably don’t have any USB Type-C accessories.  

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has a lone USB Type-C input.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has a lone USB Type-C input.

If you want connect to an external monitor, mouse, game controller, or memory expansion, you’ll either have to go wireless or get an adapter. Same goes with a wired Ethernet connection. As of this writing, Samsung’s adapter is not available, nor is its price, and we expect it won’t be cheap. We used a Dell USB Type-C to HDMI/VGA/Ethernet/USB 3.0, which costs $75, and still had to swap between the charger and adapter.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S smart keyboard connector.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S smart keyboard connector.

In a few years, everything will be USB Type-C, and this will be a moot point. We are in midst of a transition, which means you’ll have to pony up for accessories or accept the compromise.

At least Samsung includes a keyboard with the TabPro S. That’s the only must-have Windows 10 tablet accessory, and it makes the TabPro S a complete system out of the box. The same can’t be said for the iPad Pro or Surface Pro tablets.

Display & Speakers

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has an AMOLED display.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has an AMOLED display.

Finally, a Windows tablet with AMOLED! Many Android smartphone and tablet (and Apple Watch) owners know the benefits of AMOLED displays, including the deep blacks, vibrant colors, and power savings. Critics contend that the vibrant colors are overly saturated and inaccurate, and they are not wrong, but few can deny AMOLED is very easy on the eyes.

Those deep blacks give AMOLED an excellent contrast ratio, and a boost when it comes to cutting through overhead glare. Those deep blacks also come with dirty whites, or at least whites dirtier than what you’d find on an LCD display, another AMOLED critique. Samsung included a “Galaxy Settings” option for tweaking the display colors, applying a sepia tone, blowing out the whites, or adapting on the fly. We can’t see why anyone would want a sepia-tinged display, but it’s always nice to have options. There’s also an Intel HD Graphics Control Panel for further adjustments.

The 12-inch display has a 2166 x 1440 resolution, which results in a 3:2 aspect ratio and 217 pixels per inch (ppi). It’s boxy, which is great for productivity work, and decently sharp. Individual pixels are not discernible from an average distance, though the ppi count is below the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4, which hover around 265. Viewing angles are more limited than those devices as well, with the TabPro S rainbowing at the moderate edges. The TabPro S edges them all out with brightness, however. This is one of the brightest tablet displays we’ve seen outside of rugged tablets built for outdoor use.     

Bottom line here is that Samsung continues its streak of excellent device displays. The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S looks great by any measure, and we hope to see more AMOLED laptops and Windows tablets in the near future.

Audio output is a casualty of design thinness (smaller device = smaller speakers), and while the TabPro’s quality is acceptable for personal use, it’s compressed, with limited range. Thankfully there’s no distortion on the low or high end, as their undoubtedly would be on a cheaper product. As we stated in the past, tablet and thin notebook sound quality is typically average at best, so this shouldn’t sway any buying decision.

Performance

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has a sixth-generation Intel Core m3 processor and 4GB of RAM. The Core m3 is Intel’s entry-level Core processor, behind the m5, m7, and Core i series CPUs. The Core m series balances processing power with mobility, and the chips do not generate enough heat to necessitate an internal fan, resulting in thin devices like the Galaxy TabPro S.

Spec for spec, this matches the entry-level Surface Pro 4, and the TabPro S similarly performs. It’s fluid, swift, and stable in day-to-day use. In fact, there’s an almost unperceivable difference between any of the Core processors up to a certain point. They all power up Windows 10, and run basic apps just about the same, whereas Atom and Celeron devices noticeably sputter out of the gate.

We were able to run Chrome, maxing out at about a dozen tabs, Slack, the Windows 10 email client, and Office programs without issues. Going beyond that reveals the Core m limitations. The Galaxy TabPro S is capable of handling demanding photo and video editing programs, but not smoothly. And any AAA games released in the last few years will be unplayable, mainly because the TabPro S has integrated Intel HD Graphics 515. The TabPro S will run older titles like Portal just fine, but even a title like 2012’s Hitman: Absolution will run at a janky framerate.

Our Galaxy TabPro S review unit shipped with a 128GB SSD, while some regions may see a 256GB version. Of that, about 36GB is taken up out of the box by the system and bundled apps. Samsung kept the bloatware limited to a handful of programs, including presentation and screen-grabbing options, and Samsung Flow (more on that below). All of these prove useful, and easy to uninstall otherwise.

Our Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review unit has the following specifications:

  • 12-inch touch AMOLED display (2166×1440 resolution), 360 nit brightness
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
  • Intel Core m3 (4M Cache, up to 2.20 GHz)
  • Intel HD 515 integrated graphics
  • 4GB LPDDR3 (1600MHz) RAM (non-expandable)
  • 128GB SSD
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 5-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera
  • Dimensions: 11.43 x 7.83 x .25 inches (tablet only)
  • Weight: 1.53 pounds (tablet only)
  • 1-year standard parts and labor warranty
  • Ships with keyboard folio case, Adaptive Fast Charger
  • Price: $899

Benchmarks

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S performed respectably in NotebookReview’s benchmark tests, coming in near the Core m3-powered Surface Pro 4, and ahead of some lower-powered Windows 10 2-in-1s.

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):
wprime

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
pcm 8 h

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
pcm 8 w

3DMark 11 is a benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
 3dm 11

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance tests:
cdmark [67726926]

Battery

One major AMOLED benefit is that it requires less power than a traditional LCD, and we see that reflected in the TabPro S battery life. We managed to squeeze 6 hours and 14 minutes of life out of the 5,200mAh battery streaming Netflix over Wi-Fi with the display brightness set at max, and that’s excellent for a Windows 10 tablet. The Surface Pro 4 lasted a little less than 4 hours in the same test.

The TabPro S did well on the demanding PowerMark battery benchmark test too, losing only to the Atom-powered Surface 3.

Powermark battery life benchmark test results listed in minutes (higher scores indicate longer battery life):powermark

Samsung claims the battery charges fully in 150 minutes thanks to its Adaptive Fast Charging feature, and that holds true. We filled the battery up about ⅓ after 30 minutes of charging, which is very good for a tablet.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S keyboard has large keys, but feels cramped.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S keyboard has large keys, but feels cramped.

Keyboard

Included with the TabPro S is a keyboard folio, which magnetically connects to the Windows 10 tablet’s rear panel, and again to the smart connector on the tablet’s bottom. It has a textured, leather-like build, and looks and feels professional.

In a nice touch, the rear magnets act as a sort of smart cover, putting the tablet to sleep as they connect, and waking it as you open the case and they disconnect.

The case doubles as a kickstand, snapping out at two stops for a standard flat-surface setup and lap use. It’s not as stable as the Surface’s kickstand, but it works, and it’s well put together. Everything fits nicely into place, with the tablet always remaining secure in the folio. Its footprint is minimal for a device this size, and it fits perfectly on those small airplane seat trays.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S keyboard folio acts as a kickstand.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S keyboard folio acts as a kickstand.

The 80-key keyboard is attached, with its large square keys. They are bunched together in a block with limited space between them, similar to previous-generation Surface Type Covers. The keys lack snap, key travel is very short (less than 1mm), and there is no backlight. The keyboard also lies flat, and is not sloped, as seen on the recent Surface Pros and HP Spectre x2. It’s spacious, but this is very much a mobile typing experience, and not a comfortable one at that.

A single-piece trackpad sits centered beneath the keyboard. Its small size makes best for precision mousing only, as you’ll be better off using the touchscreen and Windows 10 tablet mode for navigation.

We give Samsung credit for bundling it with the Galaxy TabPro S. After all, an uncomfortable keyboard is better than no keyboard. It’s still easy to see where Samsung should put its focus for the next generation device.

Galaxy Features

Samsung Galaxy TabPro Pen

Samsung Galaxy TabPro Pen

Samsung Flow is an effort to add cohesion between the TabPro S and Galaxy smartphones (Samsung Galaxy S6 or later), serving as an Android app and Windows 10 program. Through it, users can pair the tablet and smartphone, and then use the smartphone’s fingerprint sensor to unlock the TabPro, as well as deliver basic smartphone alerts to the TabPro, and set up quick hotspot access.

Even in its early stages with limited functionality, there’s potential. Upon initial setup, the fingerprint unlock works as advertised. It’s more about adding additional security than convenience, however. Opening up the app and unlocking the TabPro S isn’t easier than typing in a password or PIN.  And we’ve waited forever for Android to deliver interactive alerts to a PC. Samsung’s take is basic at launch, with limited interaction. But it will be a killer feature if they can expand it to mirror Android and smartphone alerts exactly.

We had a chance to demo a Samsung Galaxy TabPro Pen, which is not available as of this writing. The two-button pen connects via Bluetooth and offers 1024 points of pressure sensitivity. Even though it’s powered by an AAA battery and functions similarly to the Surface Pen, Samsung claims it’s a proprietary tech, not N-trig. It’s a bit bulkier than the Surface Pen, and there’s no place to dock it on the TabPro S or keyboard cover. Samsung has not revealed pricing as of this writing.

Conclusion

GalaxyTabProSDevice mobility requires functional compromise. For the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, that compromise comes in the form of a lone USB Type-C port for charging and everything else, and an uncomfortable keyboard. Both are a nuisance we can live with if relegating the TabPro S to a travel device. Its strengths, like its slick design and outstanding battery life lend itself to such. And maybe that’s how Samsung distinguishes its high-end 2-in-1 with Microsoft’s. The TabPro S is built for mobility, while the Surface Pro 4 strikes more of a balance with its complement of ports and slightly bulkier build.

Understand that, and you’ll be happy with the TabPro S. At $900, it’s not cheap, but it’s a reasonable price considering the Core m3 Surface Pro 4 is the same price, and its keyboard costs at least $130 extra. There are less expensive options that serve the same purpose, like the aforementioned HP Spectre x2, Lenovo Ideapad Miix 700, and upcoming Huawei MateBook. Still, we’re confident those devices can’t match the Samsung GalaxyTab Pro’s quality. This is the premium Windows 10 device for travelers.

Pros:

  • Stunning display
  • Slick build and design
  • Keyboard included
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • Lone USB Type-C input for charging and accessories
  • Keyboard travel too shallow

 



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4 Comments

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  1. rolex905

    Just got one of these as a gift today and am totally impressed by it, review sounds like a fair assessment

  2. Pjamies

    No backlit keyboard is a mistake and so is the S pen.. There should be a magnetic strip that can house the pen and wirelessly charge it at the same time.
    Another USB-C or mini/micro USB port would also be a welcome addition.
    Hoping that they come out with a USB-C multi-fuction adaptor to allow extra connectivity, etc!

  3. SteveWasko

    Have you tried a USB-C port replicator/dock to see if this can effectively drive a couple of large external monitors?

  4. SteveWasko

    Any idea if you can drive a pair of dual monitors with this device when using a USB-C port replicator?