Samsung brings a new tablet to market, sporting a familiar concept and design aimed at those who want something fun with a helping hand.

We’ve been here before. That is to say that Samsung is following a familiar pattern of launching a premium tablet in the Galaxy Tab S6—and then bringing in a lighter version of the same model. Except the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is unique in that it bears a physical resemblance, yet veers away when it comes to actual performance.

What’s interesting is that Samsung chose to include the S Pen in the box with it. You get the impression that productivity is part of the promise here, but this is primarily a viewing screen above all else.


Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

Display: 10.4-inch 2000 x 1200 TFT LCD display with 224 pixels per inch
OS: Android 10
Processor: 2.3GHz + 1.8GHz Exynos 9611 octa-core processor
Memory: 4GB RAM, 64GB or 128GB internal storage (microSD card slot expandable up to another 1TB)
Camera: 8-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front-facing
Video: Up to 1080p HD recording
Battery: 7040mAh
Connections: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, A-GPS, USB-C, optical in-screen fingerprint sensor
Dimensions: 9.63 x 6.07 x 0.28 inches
Weight: 467 grams
Comes in oxford grey, angora blue and chiffon pink

Design

While there are enough differences to set the Tab S6 Lite apart from its more premium sibling, it’s no less pretty. Despite its more affordable positioning next to the more expensive Tab S6, there is a premium look and feel to this tablet. That bodes well for making it nice and comfortable to hold, which is important for what this is good at.

The 10.4-inch display is not of the Super AMOLED type in the other model, and it shows. There is a very respectable 2000 x 1200 resolution, but the TFT screen isn’t as colourful or vibrant. The lack of contrast also shows in dim and bright scenes when watching a show or movie, which I would expect in such a panel. However, it does make up for that a little with how bright it gets.

Don’t get me wrong, though, all of this is just keeping with the modest pattern that permeates the tablet. For instance, the Exynos processor is moderately fast, whereas the 4GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage will feel limiting. A microSD slot can expand on the latter, making space feel far more limitless, but the RAM plays a key role later on.

Another thing missing here are the magnetic connectors on one of the edges that would otherwise connect to a keyboard. There’s also no indent in the back to slot in the S Pen, meaning it’s something you will have to keep loose (and avoid losing). You do get a headphone jack, and decent built-in speakers, despite not being of the AKG-tuned variety.

S Pen

Kudos to Samsung for including the pen with the Tab S6 Lite, as it usually does with its devices. Other manufacturers sell it separately, but in including it, Samsung is hoping to incentivize people to use it regularly. It’s not often that a lower-priced tablet gets an accessory out of the box, but here it is.

The pen is similarly designed to the premium one in the Tab S6, right down to most of the functionality. Click the button on the side when holding the pen close to the screen and it brings up the pen’s menu. There’s a fluidity to using the pen that I grew to appreciate, even though it wasn’t new to me.

For example, if I had it in my hand, I would end up using it to navigate the interface. I’m not a great illustrator, by any means, but I can see how the artistically-inclined could benefit from that. I’ve liked the pen in the past for pinpoint edits in Photoshop and Lightroom. Doodling on screenshots of a map, or poking fun at a photo to share with friends. The pen is pretty versatile, and frankly, is critical to any semblance of productivity in this device.

I caution about keeping track of the pen. This also speaks to what you can use to prop up the tablet, like an Italian Folio case or Samsung Book Cover to match the tablet’s colour. They include foldable kickstands and a holder for the stylus, so you may want to go that route to add some convenience.

Performance

No matter how Samsung frames it, the Tab S6 Lite is primarily for enjoying content. The screen is obviously of a lower quality than its premium counterpart, but that won’t matter as much if you are looking for something to watch your favourite content. It can’t do 4K, in case that matters to you, but 1080p HD looks good otherwise.

I watched plenty of shows and movies over several weeks, and never really encountered a problem doing it. While there was a lack of vibrancy to the display, especially with the lack of deep blacks, I didn’t find it off-putting. One thing to keep in mind here is that this is a TFT LCD panel, not an LED. I mention that because it means deep blacks on any scene are going to have hints of grey on them. LEDs can at least reduce brightness in the darkest portions, unlike the uniform backlighting of LCD. That’s partly why the screen is so bright, making it easier to watch during the day or in well-lit rooms.

The tablet tries hard, though I would hesitate to call it a workhorse. Limited RAM makes multitasking a little more challenging, but I did have few issues with that, generally speaking. I can’t say the same for gaming, where more demanding titles will feel sluggish. Casual games are fine, it’s just the components inside aren’t made for handling more intense games.

Samsung offers a face unlock option, but I never really used it. It’s not a feature I like on other devices, either, though when I did test it on this, it never felt quick to me. I just used a PIN instead.

Battery life

Modest components and specs often lead to better battery life. That’s very much the case here with the Tab S6 Lite, which doesn’t push the envelope all that much. I easily got through a day after a mix of streaming, S Pen usage and web browsing. Charging it through USB-C is easy enough, and fills up fairly quickly.

Only intense multitasking and high screen brightness tend to bring it down, except both of things are highly manageable. For binge-watching a show or catching up social media, the tablet holds up quite well.

Final thoughts

The Tab S6 Lite isn’t all that multifaceted. Its purpose and strengths are largely limited to the basic needs one would have in a tablet. The S Pen changes things up and delivers some extra functionality, only that you have to go into this knowing those limits. If you want something that takes everything further, from screen to performance, the premium Tab S6 is the better route. Or you could consider the Tab S5e. For casual use, with modest expectations, this one should serve you just fine.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is available now in oxford grey, angora blue, chiffron pink and a 128GB version.

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.

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