During the past couple of months of using the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, one trope keeps coming back into my mind: Jack of all trades, master of none. In trying to be both an outstanding laptop and tablet, the TabPro S is forced to make a number of compromises, and it is never able to truly overcome them.
The TabPro S lands with a Super AMOLED 12-inch 2,160x1,440-pixel display that is absolutely superb, and being a mere 6.3 millimetres in width means the device is definitely nice to look at.
Initially, the sheer size of the device is most striking, but given time and the fact that other parts of the tablet market have caught up to taking on the 12-inch size widely mocked when the Surface first appeared, it's no big issue anymore.
Like other tablets on the market, the TabPro S has front and back cameras, can use both GPS and GLONASS for location, and has one model capable of using a 4G SIM card.
But it is its other internal components, particularly when compared to laptops on the market, that it is lacking. Its chip is a Skylake-based Intel Core M3-6Y30 -- a dual-core, quad-threaded processor that has a base frequency of 900MHz that can turbo up to 2.2GHz -- which means it should get good performance per watt, but is lacking on the raw grunt side of the equation.
Although decent for a tablet, the TabPro S only has 4GB of memory, and 128GB of storage, which doesn't put this device among a high class of laptop, meaning that despite its intent, it cannot truly service two markets at once.
What stops this device from being treated simply as a tablet is the addition of its keyboard cover, which takes it firmly into wannabe laptop territory with its full-sized keyboard and trackpad.
Mostly due to its size, the keyboard is nice to use, and for people who get customary shoulder pain from typing for a long time on a laptop, I can confirm that the same sensations occur on this device, too.
The trackpad, though, is a disappointment. It has two undefined buttons that are more likely to respond when they decide to, and not when the user wants them to.
The cover magnetically connects to the back of the TabPro, while the keyboard magnetically snaps into the bottom of the display, and only two viewing angles are offered. If you need to tilt the device at another angle to avoid reflections then you are fresh out of luck, and need to angle the whole device and keyboard.
There is also meant to be a pen for the TabPro, but it has yet to appear on the market and does not come with the device.
On its literature for this device, Samsung claims the TabPro S can get 10.5 hours of use out of its battery -- you won't get this in everyday use. For starters, Samsung's numbers are based on having the screen sitting at 50 percent brightness, which for extended use is far from beneficial.
Secondly, if you use the Samsung utilities that are bundled with the device, the 5,200mAh battery will only charge to around 85 percent in order to extend its overall lifetime to balance the damage that occurs when fast charging.
In my usage, the TabPro is able to eke out five to seven hours of constant use before needing to return to the comfort of its USB-C power cord.
Its behaviour in standby, or low power mode, was baffling. More than once, before I realised what was going on, I would use the device for a little while in the morning, power off the screen, and do other things. However, when I returned to use it in the evening, it would be dead flat, as though it had sat there churning away all day even though no one was using it.
I learned quickly that this device never wants to travel far from a source of power for too long.
For that reason, I question the need to have the TabPro S be only 6.3 millimetres thick, or for the keyboard cover to lack an extra power store, when what the device needs is a bigger battery, or more intelligent power usage by the operating system.
The use of Windows 10 by Samsung means that the TabPro S immediately has a leg-up on being taken seriously as a business device -- you can use the same applications and processes you've used on other Windows desktops and laptops.
When treated as a laptop, this is a proper operating system to do proper work on -- but in tablet mode, it never quite makes it.
For instance, reopening a closed tab on a desktop is a simple matter of hitting Ctrl+Shift+T, and mobile OSes will typically have a visual undo option appear, but the Edge default browser in Windows 10 will happily close a tab with no visual undo, and expect the user to navigate menus imprecisely with their finger to restore a tab.
Rather than wrestle with menus, I would open the onscreen keyboard to hit the usual desktop shortcuts instead.
While not a major fault, it is an example of the little things that mount up to make you realise that Windows 10 with touch is still not up to par with iOS and Android interfaces. That said, using the built-in Mail application is one of the better tablet email experiences I've had in some time.
Since the TabPro has a real operating system, you might be tempted to load heavy productivity applications, but given its hardware constraints, it would not be recommended. Depending on your workload, especially if you can keep it to simple tasks like browsing and email, your mileage may vary.
Taking the TabPro S in its entirety, it's clearly a hybrid device that can operate both as a tablet or a laptop, but never excels in either role.
The choice of chip and lack of sizeable memory and storage options dismiss it from contention as a laptop, and in that case means it can only be considered as a tablet.
When viewed as a tablet, the use of Windows 10 and its battery quirks do not make it a good choice for that role compared to other Android and Apple devices.
However, the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is more than that. Once I worked out how to route around its shortcomings, it was a decent if imperfect tablet.
In the future, should Samsung ever choose to decide to offer an upgrade of the chip to a Core i5 or i7, it would allow the device to properly compete against standard laptops, and better fulfill the dual roles it is said to serve.
But as it stands currently, there are better, more powerful options available at the AU$1,500 price point if you desire a proper laptop.
If can you limit your workload to something a tablet could handle, and would prefer a Windows 10 environment over iOS or Android, then the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S could be just the ticket for you.
Check out Matthew Miller's Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review.