Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite Review: An excellent starter tablet!

A decent iPad 10.2 alternative?

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite Review
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As a tech enthusiast or just a regular consumer, it is utterly crushing to discover how Android tablets have become a niche product. Like… how did we get to this point? A big form-factor with so many possibilities should’ve been a slam dunk. Yet, the industry is almost completely saturated by Apple’s iPad while a handful of manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, and Lenovo are still breathing life into the Android tablet business. However, the latest Tab S6 Lite may just be what it takes to, at the very least, make a dent against Apple’s iPad in the entry-level market. So, let’s find out if the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite can actually prove a better worth than Apple’s iPad in this review.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite Specifications:

  • Body: 9.63 x 6.07 x 0.28 inches; 465 gm
  • Display: 10.4-inches TFT LCD panel; 224PPI
  • Resolution: WUXGA+ (2000 x 1200 pixels); 5:3 aspect ratio
  • Chipset: Exynos 9611; 10nm Mobile Platform
  • CPU: Octa-core (4×2.3 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4×1.7 GHz Cortex-A53)
  • GPU: Mali-G72 MP3
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64/128GB (expandable using a micro SD card)
  • Software & UI: Android 10 with Samsung’s OneUI 2 on top
  • Rear Camera: 8MP f/1.9 lens
  • Front Camera: 5MP f/2.0 lens
  • Security: Face-unlock
  • Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack, dual speakers by AKG, Dolby Atmos
  • Connectivity: Nano-SIM (LTE variant only), WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS/AGPS/GLONASS/BDS, USB Type-C
  • Battery: 7,040mAh with 15W fast charging
  • Colors: Angora Blue, Chiffon Pink, Oxford Gray
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 53,000 (4/64GB)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite Review:

Overview

Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, as the name suggests, is a stripped-down version of the standard Tab S6 which costs almost twice as much. Starting at $349 in the international market, it is only a couple of bucks costlier than the iPad 10.2 (2019). Thankfully, Samsung has thrown in an S-Pen free of cost inside the box, thus changing the value proposition altogether. That’s a pretty clever move I’d say.

Accentuating the appeal by delivering where it matters? Genius!

Whereas retailing for $329, you’ll have to throw in an additional $99 for the Apple Pencil in case of the iPad 10.2.  Anyway, it comes in two variants: WiFi-only, and LTE. And our unit is of the 64GB WiFi-only configuration.

Design

  • Premium build with glass front & metal back
  • The back is resistant to scratches as well
  • Fairly lightweight, thin, and therefore easily carryable

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - Design

Starting with the design, there’s nothing “lite” about the device. Unlike many other tablets in this price segment, the Tab S6 Lite has a strikingly premium build. With a glass front and metal back & frames, it is a surprisingly lavish gadget to hold for the price. More importantly, the back doesn’t scratch which is another point in the bank.

And it’s fairly lightweight too with an excellently balanced weight-distribution. At just 465 grams, you won’t have a problem holding it in your hand for long either. In terms of thickness, the Tab S6 Lite is quite thin as well, measuring 7mm. Yet, the more premium Tab S6 has it beat despite featuring a larger display and a battery of the same size. The chamfered edges further add to the tablet’s portability.

Though its no-button front may have you fooled as a traditional design, the bezels are sufficiently minimal to cram in a big display, while also leaving adequate space to place your fingers when holding the device. Moving on, all the button resides on the top right which includes the power button and volume rockers – when holding the tab in portrait orientation.

Similarly, you’ll find the memory card slot down below using which you can expand its memory up to 1TB. Calling attention to the top of the tablet, there is the treasured 3.5mm headphone jack and a speaker grille, while another one resides on its bottom alongside a USB Type-C port. Tab S6 Lite has a dual-camera setup, one at the front and one at the back.

No camera bump!

The back camera on the top left corner is practically flat, which means there will be no wobble when placing it on a table or other surfaces. Likewise, the S-Pen stylus magnetically attaches on the right (but more on that later). You can also buy a separate Book Cover accessory that magnetically folds around the tablet and also provides a separate compartment for the S-Pen.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - Front Camera

Unfortunately, that’s about it when it comes to additional accessories. No official keyboard support, though you can always go down the Bluetooth route for pairing external keyboard and mouse. Finally, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is available in 3 color variants: “Oxford Gray”, “Angora Blue” and the one I have with me is called “Chiffon Pink”.

Display

  • 10.4″ TFT LCD panel with 5:3 aspect ratio
  • A noticeably less sharpness of 224 pixels per inch (PPI)

Getting to the display, it has a 10.4” TFT LCD panel with 81.6% screen-to-body ratio and an abysmal 224PPI. Its 1200 x 2000 WUXGA+ resolution has a 5:3 aspect ratio and that is close to the common 16:9. What this means, is that you won’t encounter those distracting black bars when streaming videos on YouTube, Netflix, or other platforms; provided that the content itself is of the same aspect ratio.

But when looking closely, you can most definitely see the app’s icons and text lose sharpness. I mean, I repeatedly rubbed my eyes doubting something’s gotten inside, just to realize it’s the fault in the display itself. On the contrary, Tab S6 Lite’s closest competitor – the iPad 10.2 (2019) has a higher 1620 x 2160 resolution and a sharper 264PPI display.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - Display [1]

Yeah, the TFT panel certainly is nowhere near as colorful and vibrant as Samsung’s AMOLED displays either. Notorious for their slow response time and a poor viewing angle, this becomes apparent here too. Samsung is famous for its display technologies but sadly, the Tab S6 Lite feels like an underachievement from the company’s end.

Samsung should’ve gone with an AMOLED panel instead!

I watched the newest teaser for Zack Snyder’s Justice League and as expected, the dark areas on the video where Diana discovers Darkseid’s mural doesn’t get dark enough. Later on, you can notice the lava on the ground turn sufficiently red which is nice. But what further let me down is that you can’t edit the color tone of the screen like we can and have in so many Samsung smartphones.

Maybe that’s the limitation of the panel itself – its 98% sRGB color spectrum probably isn’t wide enough to allow any meddling around. Brightness wasn’t an issue for me on the Tab S6 Lite albeit this statement comes mostly from an indoor usage experience. However, you’ll observe some difficulty in visibility when heading out, even with brightness cranked to the max.

Also, although the display would register swipes and clicks fast enough, I could feel some friction build up on my fingers. Yet, that’s not a problem when using the stylus. Mind you, I haven’t applied any screen protector on this review unit. And because it’s not an AMOLED panel, there is no Always-on-Display (AoD) available either. All in all, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite’s display is just about average and the AMOLED panel is dearly missed.

Performance & Memory

  • Exynos 9611 (10nm) SoC paired with 4GB of RAM
  • Is fine for lightweight tasks but visibly struggles in heavy apps
  • Either 64 or 128GB of internal storage with expandability

In the performance side of things, the Tab S6 Lite is powered by the same 10nm Exynos 9611 SoC that we’ve seen in multiple mid-range smartphones from Samsung like the Galaxy A51, M31, M30s, etc. While it’s a decent chipset in itself, the A10 Fusion on the iPad 10.2 is streets ahead. Pair this with the fact that Android for tablets is just not as optimized and well designed as Apple’s iPadOS, then you’re in for a disappointing ride.

Though Google’s apparent abandonment of Android tablets in favor of its own Chrome OS sounds downright hopeless, Samsung’s take on the “OneUI for tablet” gig definitely deserves some praise for keeping the platform alive.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - UI

I mean, there are still a lot of quality-of-life improvements that can be made. For instance: in portrait orientation, when navigating the recent apps section, all the apps are arranged in small rectangular tabs and you can see the lack of motivation in making use of the large screen real-estate. When you have just one or two apps running in the background, the unutilized space screams unmotivated design.

Android for tablets isn’t that great, tbh

Maybe Samsung could’ve gone with an accordion-esque approach for a much better visual experience. Also, some menus on the tablet have you tiresomely move around the screen to perform the task. Similarly, even though the minimalistic volume panel is a great implementation for smartphones, it is damningly annoying on a large screen device. And of course, it is summoned on the upper portion of the screen making you unnecessarily work for such a feeble task. Samsung is a major player in the Android tablet market and I hope the company keeps working on the software aspect as well in its future venture.

Anyway, the octa-core Exynos 9611 CPU has been paired with 4GB of RAM and either 64 or 128GB of base storage. For what it’s worth, I was surprised to see how well it performed in areas expected from a tablet. Web browsing, watching videos on YouTube, taking notes, making video calls, doodling, etc. don’t break a sweat – but not simultaneously.  The 4GB of RAM can’t seem to handle switching between the apps, especially when you throw some heavy apps or games in the mix.

Gaming

Though navigating around the tablet itself is met with slight sluggishness here and there, it is when using the split-screen functionality that the inability of Exynos 9611 becomes vivid. The floating screen itself is great, but having two apps share the screen and resizing them is thoroughly laggy and not instant. I also tried playing a couple of games like Asphalt 9, Call of Duty: Mobile, and MLBB on the Tab S6 Lite.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - Gaming

While the latter ran flawlessly, I was quite shocked to observe some stutters on Asphalt 9. I mean, there’s a noticeable drop in framerate when performing drifts, or knocking out your opponent. Likewise, CoD runs pretty well under medium graphics but it will lag when pushing the graphics settings to “High”.

And it’s not just about the inferiority of the Exynos 9611 alone either. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, like every other Android tablet, is also a victim of unoptimized apps as I discovered during my review. Even leaving rookie and less popular apps aside, some of the most prominent ones like Twitter, Instagram, etc. don’t fully utilize the screen space, especially when using the tablet in landscape mode.

S-Pen

  • A lightweight, battery-free stylus comes inside the box
  • Has a 0.7mm rubber tip and 4096 pressure levels

I’ve already praised Samsung’s ingenuity of bundling an S-Pen inside the box. Admittedly, it does come short of a lot of things we’ve come to expect from a traditional stylus in the company’s premium “Note” series of smartphones. This S-Pen is battery-free and doesn’t support those fancy air gestures either since it doesn’t have a gyroscope underneath. And I couldn’t be happier. I can honestly say I’ve rarely used those features and Samsung once again deserves the credit for nailing its basic use-case, while simultaneously bringing down the cost of production.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - SPen

The S-Pen has a flat side for a better grip and this is also how it magnetically attaches to the side of the tablet – with an oh-so-satisfying click. There’s also a button on the side of the stylus to trigger S-Pen shortcuts which double as an eraser when doodling as well. However, depending on how you hold the pen in your hand, it may or may not be easily reachable. For me, I would have to slightly adjust my index finger to the top to access the button.

But like I said earlier, it is the basics where this S-Pen shines bright. Weighing just a little over 7 grams, this lightweight stylus is great for writing or creating art projects. Thankfully, its 0.7mm pen tip is made of rubber and as a result, doesn’t slide off of the screen when writing. It is also pressure sensitive with 4096 pressure levels which means the line you’re drawing will vary in thickness and darkness depending on how hard you press it against the screen.

Noticeable input latency

Here, the input latency is admirably low, though you can notice it when quickly writing or drawing stuff. Let me show you in slow-motion.

Yet, my biggest issue with it was how terrible the palm-rejection feature is.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - Doodling

Full disclaimer, I’m no professional artist but I tried my hands with sketching the Samurai Champloo trio on Infinite Painter (the latest beta-release of Krita was a little overwhelming for this amateur). Thanks to the lackluster palm-rejection, I would have to constantly erase-out abrupt lines throughout the canvas.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - Drawing

You already know how the Android ecosystem lacks pro-level sketching software like “Procreate”, so allow me to skip that chapter altogether. Besides drawing, you can take notes, create live messages, annotate a screen capture, etc. using the stylus. I was also quite impressed with its “Handwriting to Text” feature which works accurately even on my wildly cursive font. Additionally, the Tab S6 Lite also comes really handy in case you have to demonstrate something in writing during a live video meet with the call recipients.

Cameras

  • An 8MP sensor at the back, & a 5MP one on the front

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - Back Camera

Jumping to the cameras, the Tab S6 Lite has an 8MP sensor at the back and a 5MP lens on the front. Right off the bat, it’s okay to not expect a stellar camera setup on a tablet. Both lenses are comparable to a good webcam instead. The images from the 8MP sensor are sharp, at times overexposed, and a little undersaturated. Nevertheless, you can get good looking shots provided that the ambient lighting is sufficient.

Similarly, the front camera brings in that weird “ultra-detail” trait we’ve seen in Samsung’s smartphones where you can see the pores on your skin. And since the Tab S6 Lite is void of a physical fingerprint scanner, I opted for the face unlock as my go-to biometric option for getting into the device.

This only works like 80% of the time and takes a second or more to unlock. Having said that, the cameras on this tablet are perfectly fine for making video calls on Google Duo, Zoom, Messenger, etc. So in the end, it serves its purpose I guess.

Audio

  • Stereo speakers tuned by AKG with Dolby Atmos Surround Sound
  • A 3.5mm headphone jack for wired audio output

Okay, the audio quality on the Tab S6 Lite blew me away. There are two speakers on the top and bottom, tuned by Samsung’s own AKG which also delivers Dolby Atmos Surround Sound. And you know what, they work like a charm. You do get a nice depth effect with clear and bass-rich audio, and the volume can get pretty loud as well.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - Headphone Jack

I’d even go as far as to say that these speakers can render your low-tier speaker system redundant. Also, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack on top of the tablet whose audio output is equally awesome.

Battery

  • 7040mAh battery with 15W fast charging

The battery life on the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is incredible too. With its 7040mAh cell, it lasted me nearly two days, which consisted of watching YouTube videos, taking notes, creating doodles, and mild gaming now and then. In terms of charging, the 15W charger can fill up the tablet’s battery in under 3 hours.

Final Words

Let’s wrap up this review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. It is undoubtedly an excellent starter tablet for artists, students, and even for enterprise customers. With the free S-Pen, it makes a strong case against the entry-level iPad and for inexpensive Android tablets. It does sacrifice a quality display and the performance certainly could’ve been better. However, it is an excellent product for the price. But if you’re someone who has little to no use of the S-Pen, you should opt for the Tab S5e instead which has an AMOLED display and even better audio system.

  • Watch our video review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite!

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Excellent design and fairly lightweight build
  • The stylus is included for free inside the box itself
  • Great battery life which can easily last for two days
  • Amazing audio quality from both speakers & 3.5mm audio jack
  • Decent camera performance

Cons:

  • A mediocre TFT LCD panel with abysmal sharpness
  • Palm-rejection feature of the stylus needs some work
  • There is a perceptible input latency from the S-Pen as well
  • Exynos 9611 isn’t the best of chipsets for a tablet of this price
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
8.5
Display
7
Performance
7.5
Back Camera
7.5
Front Camera
7
Software & UI
8
S-Pen
8.5
Battery
9
Audio
9
Value for Money
7.5