Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review: Makes a good case for affordable Android tablets

Samsung dipped a toe in the ‘affordable’ tablet segment with the Galaxy Tab S5e last year. The idea was to bring a flagship tablet’s features to an affordable price segment. This year, Samsung has launched the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite – priced at Rs 27,999 – with the same intent.

I received the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite a few weeks ago. During the review period, I had both good and bad days with the tab. So in this review, we’ll talk about everything: What’s good about the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite? What could have been better? Is it a good substitute for an iPad or Surface Go?

Let’s go!

Decent display and a gorgeous design

The first thing you notice about any device is always its design. You may not be big on how a phone/tab/laptop looks, but in my opinion, the design of a device can make or break your experience. The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite does excellently on that front.

When I unboxed the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite for the first time, that beautiful blue matte-finished back struck me, enough to get me excited. (I can’t tell you how sick I am of reviewing black colour variants of everything that comes in; some days, it’s hard to tell them apart.) The symmetrically cut edges and rounded corners fit naturally between my hands. I love how sleek the tab is. And for a tab with a 10.4-inch display, it’s not too heavy either (467g).

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite has a sleek and sturdy build. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

The Tab S6 Lite features a 10.4-inch IPS LCD display with 2000 x 1200 pixel resolution. The display colours are well-balanced. It’s great for reading e-books. I also watched tons of movies and videos on the tab. Add a smartphone stand and the video viewing experience is excellent.

The device has two speaker grilles; one on the top and one at the bottom. So when you set the tab horizontally, the stereo experience is really good. On several occasions, Jake Peralta’s slick lines echoed in my room without the slightest distortion. As long as you don’t expect thumping bass from the device, the Tab S6 Lite’s audio output will not disappoint you.

An S-Pen with an affordable tablet? Yes, please

I think Samsung’s decision to club the S-Pen in the box works really well for the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. It’s good enough to make one feel that you’re using a premium device.

The S-Pen that comes with the Tab S6 Lite is lightweight and feels like a pencil in your hand. It has a single button on it that can be used to open a list of different doodle apps on the device. Without switching on the screen or unlocking the device, holding the button on the S-Pen and double-tapping the screen also activates a notes mode, where you can jot things you need to, quickly.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite comes with an S Pen. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

When not using it, the pen can be magnetically snapped onto the right side of the tablet, so you don’t lose it. Notably, like the pen that comes with the Galaxy Tab S6, this S-Pen is not pressure-sensitive within doodle apps such as Samsung Notes or AR Doodle. However, you have the option to manually choose different pen and brush sizes.

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When I got the Tab S6 Lite for review, the first day I was just using the S-Pen to doodle and draw, but instinctively, I was typing to send messages or write mails. However, on day 2 of reviewing it, I started using the handwriting-to-text feature on the tablet. It’s been almost two weeks since, and I haven’t typed anything on this tab. I only doodle or write in cursive.

The handwriting-to-text recognition on the tab is brilliant. I have written lying down, I have written hastily, but as long as you draw the alphabet even slightly like what it should be, the device recognises it. You will also see suggestions of words you may have meant to write, instead of the gibberish you actually scribbled as well as words that you use very often.

The S-Pen makes me want to get a stylus for my own phone too.

Camera

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite features an 8 MP camera at the rear, and a 5 MP camera up front. It’s basic, it’s decent, it will get the job done, but it’s not what you are looking for to take pictures for Instagram. But then again, for Instagram, you have your phone.

Besides the picture quality, the UI for the camera app isn’t well-optimised for the tab. It’s hard to reach the camera button. Image quality is quite average. Low-light images are grainy and dark. Night-time pictures are just dark. Selfies are also only decent in bright light.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite has an 8 MP camera at the back and a 5 MP camera for selfie. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

Battery

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite has a 7,040 mAh battery. It comes with a fast-charging 15W adapter with a Type-C charging cable. It takes a while to fuel up from zero to 100 percent. When I timed it, the tab took a little over three hours to go from zero to 100% charge. I preferred putting it on charge overnight, instead.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite uses a Type-C charging port. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

Interestingly though, despite watching a lot of videos, surfing through social media and doodling, the tab easily offered me a day and half’s battery life. This would go up to two days sometimes.

As a secondary device, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite can last you several days.

Performance and UI

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is powered by the company’s own Exynos 9611 processor, paired with 4 GB RAM. It runs Android 10-based Samsung’s OneUI 2.0. I reviewed the LTE version, which makes it very easy to carry around without needing Wi-Fi or a hotspot available constantly.

In the days I reviewed it, I was using two mail apps, three Slack workspaces, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Spotify, YouTube, Netflix, Hotstar, and Google Chrome on the tab. All apps looked well-optimised; and I was surprised how good it is to use Instagram on a big-screen device.

However, while the performance of the tab is good and makes mutil-tasking really easy, it’s not really glitch-free. Google Chrome crashed on the tab on multiple occasions. Even while surfing through the feed, the Instagram app froze a couple of times, where I wasn’t even able to return to the home screen. I had to power off the screen and log in to the tab again. The Slack app also became unresponsive a few times.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite runs on OneUI 2.1. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

I also played a few games on the tab including Sky, Catan Universe, and Air Hockey. While the gaming experience is quite good with a large screen, the large size also makes it hard to game for a long time as the hands get tired quickly.

But I’m happy to ignore these foibles. What really upset me about the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite are two flaws in it’s UI – the absence of ‘double tap to wake’ and facial recognition.

Imagine your tab sitting next to you, and you want to check the time or see your notifications. The UI forces you to reach for the power button first. Maybe this was acceptable previously, but with all the training our phones have given us, today it feels counter-intuitive. The only feature you have on the lock screen is the notes you can take with the S-Pen without unlocking the device. This is great, but does not make up for the absence of ‘double-tap to wake’.

Like most Samsung devices – even the premium ones – the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite’s face unlock is slow and ineffective most times. Barring a few times it worked (and it would literally surprise me when it did because I would always be ready for it to show error and ask for the passcode) I was always using the passcode to unlock the device. Ultimately, I chose to remove the face unlock entirely. It was ok while living in lockdown, but won’t be very safe in the real world.

If using the LTE version, there is one feature of the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite which is both good and not-so-good. Calls on the tab are automatically received on loudspeaker. While it’s a sensible feature because you’d look funny answering calls on a tab like a smartphone, with the device to your ear, this very feature can also be very awkward.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

Verdict

The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite’s USP is that it brings the premium feel of the Galaxy Tab S6 and the S-Pen to a slightly more affordable budget. It’s great to watch shows on, play light to moderately intense games on, it’s absolutely fit for daily social media surfing, it allows you to quickly take notes, it’s has a perfect size to be an e-reader, it lets your doodle very easily, and has a very intuitive algorithm for converting your scribbles into text.

But, in order to be “affordable”, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite does not come without compromises. Its performance leaves you wanting. Its software has scope to be further optimised. Additionally, if you are hoping to get a tab with a detachable keyboard, you can scratch the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite off your list; this doesn’t come with one, neither can you buy it separately.

Having said that, despite the tablet’s short-comings, I still think the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite makes a good case for Android tablets and is a good substitute for an iPad or a Surface Go, especially at its price. Also, the S-Pen is included within the price of the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite – I can’t stress that enough.

You can get a base model iPad for a little more money, but you’ll have to pay more for a stylus. Quite a bit more. Frankly, the iPad really is the only game in town as far as a reasonable, well-supported tablet device is concerned, but the S6 Lite is in a pricing sweet spot with its included stylus. You have to hand it to Samsung for the S-Pen: it really makes using the tablet fun.




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