Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review: We first met the TabPro S back at CES 2016, but now we’ve been using one in the real world to find out whether it justifies that base £850 asking price.
Why the TabPro S forgoes Samsung convention and gets the ‘Galaxy’ sub-brand in its name, despite not running Android, may have something to do with the design, but that’s a guess on our part. Luckily, like Sammy’s high-end smartphones, the TabPro S is a thing of beauty.
The tablet itself is consists of a punchy 12-inch display and a fibreglass back surrounded by an elegant metal frame that’s just 6.3mm thick (excluding the rear camera bump). It’s not the lightest 12-incher around, but at 696 grams you can wield it in one hand and tap or swipe away with the other for short periods without it becoming too uncomfortable.
The frame itself also features metal hardware keys for power, volume control and the Windows start button, as well as finely drilled holes for the stereo speaker grilles on either side; pumping out clear, although not particularly bass-laden sound.
There’s also a slot for a nanoSIM (not present on the WiFi-only model) and a single Type-C USB port too, but whilst the convenience of its reversible design is appreciated, you’ll likely run into issues should you want to connect other peripherals like USB sticks or external hard drives – not unlike Apple’s single-port MacBook.
The TabPro S also comes with a hardware keyboard-laden protective cover in the box, that connects to a proprietary pushpin port on the bottom edge of the slate and snaps magnetically to its back. It lets you prop up the tablet in two distinct positions with the lower step ideal for writing or drawing with the C Pen (sold separately). The typing experience is pleasant with a good amount of travel in the keys and a near full-sized layout, with a sturdy base so you can type on your lap if there isn’t a table nearby.
On the flip side the magnets holding the tablet upright aren’t particularly strong and as we discovered when reviewing the Nexus 9 tablet, one jostle too many and the TabPro S could potentially tumble backwards.
Whilst we’d have liked a thinner bezel around that 12-inch display, it doesn’t detract from the fact that the TabPro S’s screen is excellent. Its size, paired to its 3:2 aspect ratio makes it great for web browsing and working on documents, whilst the 2160×1440 resolution ensures text and visuals remain pin sharp.
Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology also bestows it with great contrast, perfect blacks, and punchy colours, even if it does appear a little on the cool side and lets in a little colour distortion at the fringes of comfortable viewing angles.
It also supports the aforementioned C Pen with up to 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity should you want to jot notes down by hand within compatible apps or stretch your artistic muscles, but as it isn’t included in the box and clocks in as a £45 accessory, it’s unlikely digital artists or stylus fans will opt for the TabPro S over its rivals.
With the Galaxy TabPro S, Samsung opted for Windows 10 Pro in place of Android and that makes for an infinitely more powerful and adaptable tablet experience. Whilst Microsoft’s latest operating system can fray more readily than the mobile-focused structure of Android, it means the TabPro S supports things like true file management, full-fat web browsing, granular levels of tweaking and customisation to the base experience, and support for millions of programs.
There’s still a strange disconnect with the Windows Store and installing applications from the wider web as a whole, and not everyone will appreciate the likes of Cortana or other Windows 10 offerings, but if you want a versatile software experience, the TabPro S offers that in spades.
Samsung has also, for the most part, left the experience well alone. There are a few pre-loaded applications for cloud storage and updating some of the Samsung-specific features and hardware tools, but on the whole, the TabPro S feels light on bloatware and that’s very much appreciated.
One great feature that Samsung has added is called Samsung Flow and not unlike Apple’s plans with its forthcoming update to OS X, lets users tie in the power of their Samsung Galaxy smartphone for unlocking Windows using a fingerprint sensor, relaying notifications and automatically connecting to the phone’s hotspot remotely. The mobile app activates your phone’s Bluetooth in order to function and is currently supported by the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, Note 5, S7, S7 Edge and Note 7.
Samsung has kept things simple with the skews of TabPro S you can pick up. Whichever model you go for it’ll be powered by an Intel Core m3 chipset and 4GB of RAM with options for 128GB and 256GB of storage as well as a WiFi-only or an LTE cellular model on offer.
Those considering the TabPro S for conventional computing needs such as web browsing, email and (up to 4K) video playback will find that it packs plenty of punch in everyday use. If you’re a tab fiend when it comes to web browsing you might find that things start to chug, but we suspect that’s more of an issue with the amount of RAM on offer, rather than the processor.
The 5,200mAh battery is quoted as lasting up to 10.5 hours, but in our tests it gave up the ghost closer to eight hours (expect less with LTE usage), still offering enough juice for a full work day across emails and the occasional jump into apps like Photoshop. Thankfully the quoted 2.5 hours full charge time is accurate, though.
Whilst we’d always try and dissuade people from using cameras on tablets where possible, the TabPro S is equipped with matching 5-megapixel auto-focus snappers on the front and back.
You can capture up to Full HD video although automatic contrast adjustment and focus can be sluggish and overall quality across stills and video isn’t all that impressive. The native Windows 10 camera app does offer an impressive level of control over the experience but overall the snappers on the TabPro S are fit for video calls, but not mobile photography.
Samsung has struck an interesting balance with its first Windows 10-powered 2-in-1. It feels more closely geared towards business and productivity than creative applications or media, but it’s nonetheless a versatile slate, slotting in somewhere between Apple’s iPad Pro family and Microsoft’s entry-level Surface Pro 4 tablet.
We love the design, the screen, and the typing experience but were hoping for more ports, power and longevity. The TabPro S will fit the bill for some users, but in an increasingly competitive market, we’re left wondering how much life is left in this slate before something with similar functionality at a lower price point comes along, IFAs just around the corner after all.
You can buy Samsung tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 right now from O2.
Note: This review was written in its entirety using the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S.