Samsung has not been very active in the Windows ecosystem the last couple of years. While Samsung has announced some laptops running Windows, they did not bring any new Windows tablets to the market. With the Galaxy TabPro S, Samsung is finally back with a Windows 10 2-in-1. I’ve used the device for about three weeks and in this review I’d like to share my impressions with you.
Before reading on you might also want to check out our previous articles dealing with Samsung’s TabPro S:
Design and Build Quality
Available in white or in black, the TabPro S is a stunning-looking device. Especially when looking at it from the side: With only 6.3 mm, the tablet is just extremely thin. The metal sides give the device the premium look and feel one would expect considering the relatively high price of about 899 $. The buttons located at the top and on the left side of the device are also made out of metal and feel just as premium as the whole tablet. On the top you’ll find both the power button and the volume rocker and on the side there’s a physical Windows button which I only used once to try out if it really is a Windows button. For me this button is just useless as I would always forget that in the top left corner there’s a button to open the Start menu. The front of the device is completely covered with glass and the bezels – which are about as thick as the ones of the Surface Pro 4 – are white. The back of the TabPro S is made of matt plastic which does feel quite premium as well – it’s definitely a much better plastic than the one Samsung used for their smart phone before the S6 and S7. All in all the device is really sturdy – despite the thinness you can’t bend the tablet. There’s one downside though due to the extreme thinness: The 5-megapixel camera on the back of the device stands out quite a bit which is quite annoying when you lay down the tablet on a table. This is especially annoying given the fact that the TabPro S– unlike 2-in-1 devices from other manufacturers – doesn’t have a kickstand. As a Surface Pro 4 user who considers the kickstand as one of the most useful features of the device this was something I missed very much when using the TabPro S. But otherwise the device is in no way inferior to the Pro 4 in terms of design and build quality: The Samsung tablet is nicely designed and feels very premium.
Regarding ports the device only has a USB Type-C port which is used both for charging and data transfer. Furthermore, there’s also a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Even though the USB Type-C might be future-proofing I for one would have loved to see a regular full-sized USB port as well but of course then the device would not be as thin.
Design and Build Quality – Pros and Cons:
+ Beautiful design
+ Thin and light
+ Feels premium
+ Very portable design
– Camera bump
– Personally, I really missed a kickstand
Before taking a closer look at the different aspects of the display a quick reminder about what you’re getting with the TabPro S in terms of display:
- 12” inch SuperAMOLED screen
- Resolution: 2560 x 1440 (3:2 aspect ratio)
With 2560 x 1440 pixels the display of TabPro S offers the same resolution as the Surface Pro 3 and therefore is really sharp: Watching videos, reading news or browsing the internet is a pleasure on the 12” display.
When I first got to see the TabPro S at Samsung’s Hands On event I was immediately impressed by the screen’s brightness. The screen can get really bright and most of the time 25 % screen brightness is totally enough.
Samsung is known for its great Super AMOLED displays. It’s no wonder that Samsung is very proud of that fact and therefore also uses Super AMOLED technology for the TabPro S. As is usual, the screen thus impresses with great and vibrant-looking colors: Personally, I’m a big fan of those colors but as I noted in my hands on and first impressions article there are also people who don’t really like those (slightly) over saturated colors. To find out whether you like the color reproduction of the device it’s best to take a look at it in real life. Luckily, Samsung also offers users an option to easily adapt the color reproduction of the screen with a pre-installed app called Galaxy Settings (picture above). Furthermore, blacks look just gorgeous: It’s really hard to find better blacks than on a device with a Super AMOLED screen. This is especially cool when you set a dark/black image as your desktop background.
In terms of viewing angles, I’m also satisfied. Nothing to complain at all.
As mentioned above, the device’s screen has a diagonal of 12” and thus has the same screen size as the Surface Pro 3. The Pro 4 – which I am using – is just slightly bigger with 12.3”. Since I’m used to the size it did not take me long to get used to the TabPro S. In my opinion a display size of 12” is a good compromise between screen real estate and portability.
Display – Pros and Cons:
+ Super AMOLED: Great looking colors and deep blacks
+ Viewing angles
Since the pen for the Galaxy TabPro S wasn’t available at the time of writing I couldn’t use the device as my main “school companion”. Thus I wasn’t able to really get a detailed feeling for the battery life of the TabPro S for a regular day. Nevertheless, when using the 2-in-1 at home I was quite satisfied with the battery run time and I think most people should get through one day with one charge – especially since the device isn’t meant for very resource-intensive tasks anyway. According to Samsung the device’s battery should be good for up to 10 hours of usage. Samsung also highlights the fast charging time (thanks to Quick Charge technology) of only 150 minutes – although when I measured it I got to about 225 minutes which is quite a bit more. But if you’re in hurry you could for instance just charge the battery till 50 % in about 115 mins and still get a decent battery run time.
Battery – Pros and Cons:
+ Very good battery life (at least for my usage scenario described above)
+ Reasonably short charging time
Not only the light weight and thin profile and the phenomenal display make the TabPro S to a great media consumption device – the two speakers located on both sides of the tablet contribute to the great experience too. While the front-facing speakers on the Surface Pro 4 are better in terms of location, I’d say they are quite comparable regarding sound quality. At least I for one enjoyed watching YouTube videos on the TabPro S just as much as I do on my Pro 4. The sound quality is very good in my opinion and the speakers can get quite loud as well. Furthermore, I was surprised to find headphones in the box. So if you’re not happy with the speaker’s quality you can just use the included headphones.
Speakers – Pros and Cons:
+ Really good sound quality
+ Headphones are included
Both the camera on the back as well as on the front can take pictures with 5 megapixels. While I would only use the back camera for occasional snapshots, the front camera is really good for Skype calls. There’s even a light indicator right next to the front camera showing you that one of the cameras is being used. Both cameras are good for video recordings in 1080p with 30 frames per second. Even though I don’t think that many people will use their 12” tablet for taking photos I’ve added some pictures below so that you can take a closer look at the picture quality yourself (click on one of them to make it bigger):
Something I’d like to have seen next to the front camera is a Windows Hello compatible “face recognition sensor” just like on the Pro 4. Because as I have written here after getting used to using Windows Hello you want to have it on every device. Sadly, Samsung did not build in such a feature – just like many other OEMs. At the moment the Pro 4 and the Surface Book are two of the few devices supporting Windows Hello. Luckily though, Samsung offers a replacement (well, kind of) for Samsung smart phone users. Just read on to find out how it works.
Camera – Pros and Cons:
+ Good front-facing camera
+ Back camera is good enough for snapshots
– Camera bump
(- No Windows Hello)
Unlike the name “Galaxy” implicates, the TabPro S doesn’t run Android but instead Windows 10 which for me is a big plus. I’m really happy that Samsung finally is back with a Windows 2-in-1 device and I hope that this is just the beginning of a whole Windows device family. In the Android world Samsung is known for their many adoptions to vanilla Android with TouchWiz and therefore I’m really happy that Microsoft doesn’t allow manufacturers to heavily change Windows 10 in terms of interface. I’m also pleased to report that Samsung – unlike other OEMs – doesn’t preload third-party software such as antivirus programs. Furthermore, the TabPro S doesn’t come with many pre-installed Samsung applications either. Nevertheless, there are some pretty useful tools pre-installed while the most interesting one definitely is Samsung Flow. Samsung Flow allows users with Samsung smartphones running Android 6.0 (or above) to unlock the TabPro S by holding the phone next to the NFC sign on the tablet or the keyboard folio and using the fingerprint scanner of the phone. After having connected the phone with the TabPro S you have access to messages and notifications of your phone right on the TabPro S. According to the description you can even respond to them using the TabPro S. Since I don’t own a supported phone I sadly could not try out this feature. Nevertheless, I’m sure that this is a very cool feature if it works well.
Users will also find Galaxy Settings, Scrap Box, Show Windows and Samsung Update on the TabPro S. Galaxy settings offers you some more customization options. Apart from the display settings you can also find an option to set a pattern to unlock your device – just like on your Android device. What I really like about Galaxy Settings is that the app looks quite like the normal settings app so it doesn’t feel like a strange part which doesn’t fit to the rest of the OS. Scrap Box seems to be a simple snipping tool alternative but somehow it did not work during my test period. Show Windows allows you to mirror a specific part of your screen on an extended screen. Samsung Update finally combines all the device-specific updates like BIOS updates.
At the end of the day the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S offers you a relatively clean Windows 10 experience while the pre-installed tools – especially Samsung Flow – are quite useful.
Software – Pros and Cons:
+ Runs Windows 10
+ No annoying bloatware
+ Useful tools like Samsung Flow
-(Not all pre-installed programs did work properly)
While the TabPro S is available in three different configurations (Wifi + Win 10 Home, Wifi + Win 10 Pro and LTE + Win 10 Pro; in some regions there are also versions with 256 GB of storage instead of 128 GB) those versions all have one thing in common: They’re powered by an Intel Core M3-6Y30 (Skylake) with a base clock of 0.9 GHz. Samsung told me at the event that they decided to go with the Core M3 because it should offer enough power for almost everyone and thanks to the Core M3 not relying on active cooling they could build an extremely thin and portable as well as fan-less device. And I’m glad they did this: For me the Core M3 offers enough power for everything I do (blogging and school work) and having a completely silent experience all the time is just a joy. When doing some more intense work or playing some Windows store games like GT Racing 2 the device gets quite warm though. Luckily, the heat is only located at the top right corner were you probably won’t touch your device. Also in terms of RAM all configurations are equipped with the same amount of 4 GB: I think that with this limitation Samsung might lose some potential costumers – for me though 4 GB tend to be enough but of course more is always better so I’d wish Samsung would offer an 8 GB version as well. At the end of the day it’s clear that Samsung’s aim was to produce a device which is a thin and light as possible and still offers acceptable performance making the TabPro S the perfect portable productivity device. At least in theory or in terms of specifications this might be true but there’s one aspect which for me “destroys” the otherwise so great experience: The keyboard.
Performance – Pros and Cons:
+ Core M3 should offer enough power for most people
+ Completely silent experience (no fans!)
+ Device only gets hot where you won’t touch it
– No versions with 8 GB of RAM and in Switzerland no 256 GB version
First things first: The keyboard folio is included which is an advantage over the Pro 4. Sadly, this is the only advantage TabPro S users get compared with users of the latest type cover. Unlike the tablet portion the plastic keyboard feels relatively cheap – at least the inside (keys and trackpad). The outside of the folio which is made of fake leather on the other hand feels quite comfortable although not too premium either. Furthermore, the keys are quite slippery and there’s no space between the individual keys which makes it harder to write. Of course you get used to it but unlike the new type cover this doesn’t feel like a laptop keyboard but more like a tablet keyboard. Moreover, there’s the problem of top-heaviness which makes the setup very hard to use on the go (e.g. in a bus). Since the tablet is much heavier than the keyboard, the keyboard gets bent when using the tablet on your lap while travelling in a bus for instance. With the Surface Pro 4 I don’t have major problems to work and write during a bus drive. Additionally, you’re limited to two angles only – one steep one and a very flat one. The trackpad on the other hand is actually quite good – although not on type cover level either. But I do like that supports all the important Windows 10 gestures: Even four finger gestures are supported.
At the end of the day, the keyboard isn’t terrible but it isn’t very good either. Don’t get me wrong: You will definitely be able to use it for some quick notes and mailing. And when you can place the device on your table than you probably will be able to write some longer texts as well. But if you’re on the go, writing on the keyboard isn’t a pleasant experience – which for a device that wants to be portable productivity machine isn’t really that great.
Keyboard – Pros and Cons:
+ Included with the TabPro S
+ Acceptable trackpad which supports Windows 10 gestures
– Feels cheap
– Gets bent quite easily due to top-heaviness
– Slippery keys, no space between the keys
– Limitation to two angles
Sadly, I wasn’t able to try out the Bluetooth C-Pen which according to Samsung will be available starting this June. Since I couldn’t use a pen with the device I could not use the TabPro S as a substitute for my Surface Pro 4 since the pen is the tool I use the most with my Pro 4 on a regular day.
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is an impressive device – at least as a tablet. It’s not only thin and light – which makes it ultra-portable – but also offers good performance and great battery life. Moreover, the display is just gorgeous: I’m definitely a huge fan of Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology. The build quality is on a very high level and definitely matches the one of the Surface Pro 4 although there are some design aspects which could be improved, for instance the camera bump might annoy some of you. Furthermore, as a regular Surface Pro 4 user I really missed a kickstand – especially considering the fact that the TabPro S is quite huge as well with its 12 inch display. In terms of software Samsung did do a great job: There is no bloatware from third-party companies and the programs Samsung pre-installed are quite useful. Especially Samsung Flow could be a very handy tool for Samsung smart phone users. So far I could recommend you the device without hesitation: If you just want to have a great Windows 10 tablet than the TabPro S is almost perfect! You do have to keep in mind though that you have to pay for the keyboard as well since it’s not possible to buy the device without the keyboard cover. Furthermore, the TabPro S might be too expensive at the moment for a tablet-only usage (899 $).
If you are looking for a “real” laptop replacement I would definitely check out other devices as well since the TabPro S for me isn’t a very sophisticated 2-in-1 device: The keyboard feels quite cheap and the keys are surprisingly slippery. But probably most annoying is the limitation to two angles only. Devices like the Surface Pro 4 and the Lenovo Miix 700 just offer much more flexibility. Furthermore, the top-heaviness of the setup makes the keyboard bend slightly when you’re on the go. The trackpad on the other hand is quite good and luckily supports all the important gestures of Windows 10. But don’t get me wrong: You will of course get used to the keyboard cover and it is good for some short texts but there are just much better options on the market.
At the end of the day I can recommendyou the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S if you intend to use the device mainly as a tablet and just sometimes want to have a keyboard for mailing and short texts.
Thanks to Samsung Switzerland for letting me trying out the device.