When I saw the Galaxy TabPro S during CES 2016 I knew almost immediately that this was the tablet I'd been waiting for. I had to wait until now to finally find out whether or not it lives up to the lofty goals I'd imagined for the tablet. Turns out it does, but let's back up real quick.
If you listen to the TechnoBuffalo Show podcast at all (you should), you know that I'm always looking for a better way to get my work done. I've said it in previous reviews and, really, the MacBook Pro and the Surface Pro 3 have been by go-to on-the-road machines. Now I can finally add the thin-and-light and freakin' awesome Galaxy TabPro S to that arsenal.
Look, it's not perfect, but it's great for me.
I've been using the Galaxy TabPro S for several weeks now. It's been with me into meetings with the tax man, a kitchen designer and, of course, into cafes. Let's talk about why it rules, why it doesn't and why you should buy one.
Software & Hardware Rock
The TabPro S runs Windows 10, a complete and full computer operating system. That's attractive to me and one of the primary reasons that I recommend buying this over something like an iPad Pro.
Look, I know people love iPads and iOS and it works for millions and millions of people. Me? I'm a big fan of Windows 10 and the work I can do with the applications I've been using for the past… 20 years of my life. I love iPads for watching movies and playing games, don't get me wrong, and that's what you should buy if you're in the market for an entertainment device. If you want more robust multitasking, multiple windows and the kind of experience you otherwise expect from a laptop, then get the TabPro S.
The AMOLED screen is easily the best I've ever seen on a tablet. Plus, the $899 asking price includes a keyboard, which is more than I can say about the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4, both of which easily get quite pricey once you start to add in the cost of accessories. You'll find nice and loud speakers on each side of the 12-inch display, a front-facing 5-megapixel camera that's great for a quick Skype call, a 5-megapixel rear camera that you'll probably never use (or maybe you will?) and even USB-C for quick charging. There's also a special connector on the bottom that magnetically clips right into the keyboard, which doubles as a stand.
That's one of my primary complaints with the TabPro S compared to a Surface device, however – there's only one prop mode. It's comfortable for typing most of the time but, when it isn't, you're kind of doomed. It's kind of stable in a lap, at least if you're just jotting down notes during a quick meeting as I did several times, but you're much better off using it on a table.
And speaking of notes, the keyboard is really great. This is coming from a guy who quite seriously wanted to throw the Surface Pro 3 keyboard into the Hudson river. It was my go-to machine several times and I found I was easily able to type on it – not as fast as my mechanical keyboard on my desktop, but that's asking a lot. The touchpad is nice and large, too, though the "clicky" function felt a little cheap; the keyboard is plastic and can be bent rather easily if you try – but that's part of the reason why the whole package is thin and light, too.
Performance & Battery
The TabPro S is an Intel Core M3 device with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage out of the box.
That processor, while solid for work with multiple tabs open on the Web, Word, Spotify and other apps at the same time, isn't built for gaming or Photoshop or anything of the sort. It'll get tasks like Photoshop done; this is a full Windows 10 machine after all, but not as well as a full-blown laptop would. Still, performance is far superior to the Windows 8.1 netbook I'd been using on the side.
The 128GB of storage is great for the price, but I do wish it had a microSD card slot for adding more. There isn't a full USB port, either so you can't just pop in a USB stick on the fly. Kind of annoying, and those are two things you get with a Microsoft Surface product.
Battery life was mostly good for me. If I kept the screen brightness at around 50-60 percent, I was able to work for more than just a few hours, take a break, and then catch up on some streaming baseball in the night without any problem. Boost up the brightness to let that display shine, or use power-hungry apps like Chrome, and you'll find the usage time drop to a few hours. I know power usage woes can be a Windows 10 problem, though, since I've run into the same problem on my Surface Pro 3.
The Galaxy Bonus
This doesn't apply to everyone, so I couldn't really make it the full part of the review. But there's a big bonus if you own one of Samsung's newer Galaxy smartphones. I bought the Galaxy S7, which meant I was able to use Windows Hello in Windows 10 with the Galaxy TabPro S thanks to a new app called Samsung Flow.
The execution is pretty awesome. Once Samsung Flow is set up, you just place your finger on the phone's fingerprint reader and then tap your smartphone to the NFC reader on the keyboard to unlock the tablet. It's a bit easier than using a PIN or a password, but not as simple as a built-in fingerprint reader, which would have been more appreciated.
That's not all.
You can also interact with smartphone notifications, meaning you can respond to text messages or see if you've missed a Slack notification, all without picking up your smartphone. This isn't the same as SideSync, which is a separate application that lets you mirror your smartphone on your device. (SideSync is supported, too.) The execution could be better – the UI isn't as good as something like iMessage, for example, but it does a lot more than just text messages.
Samsung Flow probably isn't a single reason to buy the TabPro S, but it's a nice option for folks who already own a Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, S6, S6 edge, S6 Edge Plus or Galaxy Note 5.
Every little fiber in my blogging body wants me to buy the TabPro S right now. It's practically a staple in my bag at this point.
Unfortunately, my wife and I are currently in the process of buying our first house. Since I already wasted some money on a new pair of cowboy boots last week, the TabPro S is going to have to sit on the backburner until I stumble upon some spare dough. If I had $899 and was in the market for a new tablet?
Yeah, I'd buy the Galaxy TabPro S.
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