Artist Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite - Can you live with compromises?
I've been testing the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite for a few days now since the unboxing video and my excitement has tapered off.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is the budget version of the Galaxy Tab S6 (video review). Official retail price for the wifi-only model is US$349.
My unit was bought in Singapore for S$599 from hachi.tech which is owned by Challenger. The S$499 student price which works out to be around US $351. It sucks that the pricing strategy in Singapore is based on what the market can afford.
My review is from the perspective of an artist so I won't be talking about gaming. To see all the specs, it's all there on gsmarena, and so are the Tab S6 specs.
This review will make constant comparison with the Samsung Tab S6 which was released in August 2019.
The important thing to know is this tablet is powered by Exynos 9611 (Octa-core (4x2.3 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4x1.7 GHz Cortex-A53)) instead of Snapdragon, has 4GB RAM and starts with 64GB storage. There are stereo speakers, 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro SD card slot.
The box comes with an S Pen, USB-C charging cable, wall charger, earbuds and quick start guide.
Earbuds may or may not be included depending on your country.
The included S Pen is not powered by battery so it doesn't require charging. The S Pen could certainly be thicker, like as thick as a typical wooden pencil, but it's not that thin so that's the consolation.
The S Pen supports tilt and pressure sensitivity.
The flat side of the S Pen can attach to the side of the tablet, the side where the buttons are.
As usual, S Pen only has one side button which is still easy to press accidentally. Thankfully, Samsung has finally made it possible to remove the floating pen icon and Air Command that are activated by the side button. The functionality of the side button depends on the drawing app you use and I found that many drawing apps don't use the button or don't allow much customisation for that button.
The nib is medium soft and glides smoothly on the glass. On scale of 1 to 5 in terms of how slippery it is, where 5 is slippery, it's maybe a 4? It will take sometime getting used to the smoothness. You can get a matte screen protector but I'm not sure how that will affect the durability of the pen nib. Besides, a matte screen protector will affect the visual quality of the display which isn't that terrific to begin with. I recommend a flip case instead of a matte screen protector. But do note that the glass display can be scratched. I saw my daughter run her plastic building blocks against the glass of my Tab S6 and a scratch appeared before my eyes. Ouch.
Design looks good with thin bezels. Tab S6 Lite looks quite similar to the Tab S6. Build quality is solid.
The 10.4-inch display is TFT LCD instead of AMOLED. Resolution supported is 2000x1200 which is lower compared to the 2560 x 1600 resolution on the 10.5-inch Tab S6.
The higher resolution is noticeable. Text on webpages are sharper on the Tab S6 while I was noticed slight pixelation on Tab S6 Lite. When watching Youtube videos, Tab S6 was able to play videos at 1440P but the Tab S6 Lite plays at 1080P.
For user interface elements in drawing apps, they are quite similar in size which is to say that they are sized appropriately for fingers to tap on easily.
Tab S6's AMOLED display is noticeable brighter and has more vibrant colours and wider viewing angles. Colours on the Tab S6 Lite does shift slightly when viewed from an angle. So if you want to watch videos on the Tab S6 Lite with someone else, you'll both be affected by the less than ideal viewing angles and colours.
Display is laminated which means there's no gap between the pen tip and LCD beneath. There's no parallax and misalignment.
My unit has slight glow at the edges. Photo above was edited to show the glow more noticeably.
The tablet is 7mm thick compared to the 5.7mm of the Tab S6. Weight is 467g vs 420g. Without comparing to other tablets, it's a good size and weight that makes it very portable.
Aspect ratio is 5:3. When watching 16:9 videos, there will be small black bars at the top and bottom.
My small hand was actually able to grip the tablet vertically.
Overall performance feels more snappy on the Tab S6 vs Tab S6 Lite. It's not that noticeable when drawing. Few areas where performance are...
1. When you change tablet orientation from portrait to landscape, vice versa, there's a noticeable pause before orientation changes. The speed difference how much time you take to say "one thousand" (for Tab S6 Lite) vs "split" (Tab S6).
2. Face recognition is not flawless and not as instant when compared to iOS face recognition. Even when face recognition works, sometimes it takes a second to unlock. It may be better to just use pin/pattern unlock to save time because the alternative is to have face unlock fail and go into pin unlock. There's no fingerprint sensor on the Tab S6 Lite.
3. Webpages load slightly slower than Tab S6. When scrolling, it's not as smooth with very slight choppiness commonly associated with low refresh rate but both tablets actually have 60Hz display.
4. Drawing performance is quite smooth but when there's lots of textures, the performance will start to feel choppy when you pan, zoom or rotate the canvas. Tab S6 still remains responsive despite the texture and complexity of your art.
Drawing performance is quite smooth generally speaking except when there are lots of textures in your art, in which case the performance will start to feel choppy when navigating around the canvas.
If you draw fast, there's still the usual gap as the line trails behind the pen tip. The gap is there on the iPads as well and if you really want to look for it, it's there on the iPad Pro too. This is input lag. Refresh rate lag is not that noticeable so the lines still look smooth and not choppy when they appear on screen. There's no issue when drawing at normal speed and I was able to always have the lines accurately appear where I want them.
I'm actually quite satisfied with the drawing performance on the Tab S6 Lite. I'm saying that even though my main tablet for digital drawing is actually the iPad Pro.
My main gripe with drawing on Android comes down to the quality of drawing apps available from the Google Play Store. The thing is, there are actually some pretty good drawing apps out there.
My favourite drawing apps on Android currently is Infinite Painter and Concepts. Infinite Painter is a good alternative to Procreate on iOS even though it doesn't has as many features. Concepts is just a very beautifully designed drawing app on Android, iOS and Microsoft.
There are people who just don't like iPad because of iOS, Apple or whatever reasons. Right now, I can say confidently that you won't be missing out if you get an Android tablet for drawing.
When it comes to taking notes, there are plenty of quality note taking and handwriting apps from the Google Play Store.
The default Samsung virtual keyboard layout isn't that good. There's definitely a learning curve to it. You can install SwiftKey or Google Keyboard (I'm using that).
Often times when the virtual keyboard appears, especially in landscape mode, the keyboard may cover important buttons, eg. Send. This is due to the wider aspect ratio of 5:3 compared to 4:3 (on iPads). One way to solve this will be to turn the tablet vertically which will take a second (lag), and turn it back – feels dumb.
The other way is to resize the keyboard which is possible with Google Keyboard.
Also, the random zoom-to-a-different-place problem is still there with Medibang Paint.
Palm rejection works fine for the most part but occasionally there are still some stray strokes. It's not problematic to the point where I want to tear my hair out yet, thankfully.
Oh, there's no Samsung Dex desktop mode.
Should you get the iPad 7 (2019) instead?
Main selling point of iPad for artists is Apple Pencil experience is fantastic, and is definitely better than the S Pen. Other advantages include the OS and the ecosystem. There are plenty of quality drawing apps on iOS/iPadOS. Overall performance is also smoother even though they are still using the A-something chip from years ago.
However, Apple products are more expensive.
At the time of this review, the base model iPad 7 with 32GB storage and 3GB ram cost US $329 (US$279 on Amazon) and that does not include the US $99 Apple Pencil. 32GB storage is a bit low though and can fill up fast. So ideally, it's better to get the 128GB iPad but that's US $429. Amazon occasionally sells those iPads at US $100 off though. So the maximum you may spend during a discount is US $429 for the 128GB iPad with Apple Pencil.
iPad display is not laminated but it has better colours and the aspect ratio is more suited for productivity work. Samsung Tab S6 Lite display is laminated but colours aren't as good, but not too bad. Tab S6 Lite also has better speakers.
The maximum you may spend for the Tab S6 Lite is just US $349.
One thing I don't like about Apple is their file system which is not intuitive at all. Here's a recent problem I had on the iPad. There's a video file with mov file format inside the Files App. I wasn't able to play that video from the Files app, nor can I open the video with a video app because I can't move that video to the video app (on Android you just use the video app to open the file). I wasn't able to move that video file to the photos gallery app which I think may play the video too. There's also no way to always see file extension. And to open files, you always have to move the files inside the apps to open. You can't use apps to open the files because apps don't have access to the iOS file system. I can go on and on. Oh, file transfer via the Files app either online or through cable is so slow.
The Samsung Tab S6 Lite is a tablet with compromises.
The biggest compromise is the use of the Exynos 9611 which makes the tablet less responsive that what it could be (Tab S6). Thankfully, drawing performance for the most part is still considered smooth. Unfortunately I no longer have the Tab S4 so I can't tell you if it's better to get the older tablet if you have limited budget. You can go compare benchmarks, or check out my Tab S4 video review. Not sure if I can recommend older Android tablets as well because I'm not sure what updates they are still getting.
Good things I like about the tablet are... It looks good. Build quality is solid. Other than the processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage with micro SD card slots are reasonable base model specs.
Display is alright. Colours could be more vibrant or brightness could be higher. But the quality is still reasonable at this price point although I have to say that the iPad 7 does have better display.
As mentioned earlier, there are good drawing apps on Android so you won't be missing out if you choose Android over Apple.
My recommendation is that Tab S6 Lite is an okay buy if you want to go the Android route. There aren't many Android tablets that support pressure sensitive styluses for drawing so the Tab S6 Lite will still be on my recommended list. There's the Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro and M5 Lite but those are from 2018.
If you have the budget, I do recommend the Samsung Tab S6 though but that's significantly more expensive with a retail price of US $649.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design
+ Solid build quality
+ Lightweight at 467g
+ 2000 x 1200 resolution reasonable for display this size
+ Android 10
+ S Pen included
+ S Pen support tilt and pressure sensitivity
+ S Pen is not powered by battery
+ S Pen is accurate
+ S Pen replacement nibs are cheap
+ Palm rejection works great most times
+ No jitter when drawing diagonal lines slowly
+ Audio quality from stereo speakers quite good
+ MicroSD card slot included
+ 3.5mm audio jack included
+ Good battery life
+ Lots of decent drawing apps on Android
- Colours on the TFT LCD could be better
- Viewing angles for the display could be better
- S Pen could be thicker
- No Samsung Dex
- One second lag when changing tablet orientation
- Face unlock not as effective compared to fingerprint sensor
- Could lag when dealing with complex graphics and lots of textures
- Loading of webpages could be faster
- Scrolling webpages has this stuttering look as if the refresh rate is low (display is 60Hz)
- Earbuds not included in some countries
- Camera quality is so-so
Tags: samsung drawing tablet reviews