A Good First Attempt, Not a Surface Killer

There’s a lot to like about Samsung’s first attempt at a Surface competitor, but I’m not convinced that this tablet-with-keyboard-cover is necessarily the right option for everyone wanting a Windows 10 productivity-focused tablet.

I really like the design of the Galaxy TabPro S. The body is sleek and made from solid, mostly premium materials. It’s slimmer and lighter than the Surface Pro 4, although both devices weigh a similar amount with the keyboards attached, and the overall footprint of the 12-inch tablet is smaller than the Dell XPS 13 I usually carry around with me.

The AMOLED display that’s included with the TabPro is vibrant and its contrast ratio is incredible, and I generally liked the visual experience that this tablet provides, even if the resolution is lower than what you get with the Surface Pro. Ideally I would have liked to see the strengths of this AMOLED panel paired with a proper Adobe RGB color profile, but at least there is an sRGB accurate display mode.

I am perfectly happy with the performance that the Intel Core m3-6Y30 provides, as this tablet’s strengths are in web browsing, document editing, and light photo editing. However, it won’t suffice for some people wanting to do more intensive tasks, because while the m3 is fast enough for web browsing, Intel’s Core i5 U-series chips are 30-40% faster and 4 GB of RAM is limiting. Video rendering and MATLAB simulations aren’t something you’ll want to do on the TabPro S.

In some ways it’s disappointing that Samsung doesn’t offer more powerful iterations of the TabPro S with Core i5 or i7 CPUs inside, because they would make a great rival to Microsoft’s higher-end Surface Pro models. With that said, upgrading to a Core i-series processor would require a beefier cooling solution with a fan, which would kill Samsung’s svelte fanless design.

The keyboard cover is easily the worst aspect of the TabPro S. The awkward, limited folding hinge design is significantly inferior to the Surface Pro’s kickstand (seriously, the two angles available suck), and the materials used for the cover aren’t as high quality as what’s used for the tablet itself. The keyboard is reasonably easy to type on for something with very little key travel distance, and the trackpad is serviceable if a tad small.

A single USB Type-C port on this device is both a blessing and a curse. Being able to charge the tablet through a standardized port is good, as is the way Samsung has future-proofed this device with a connector that will only increase in popularity. However, the Surface Pro 4 has a more versatile full-sized USB port, which is more compatible with accessories on the market today. Sure, USB-C will eventually take over, but right now you’ll be stuck carrying around adapters.

The Galaxy TabPro S is priced to compete directly with the entry-level Surface Pro 4, at $899.99 with the keyboard cover included. The Surface Pro 4 at this price comes with the same specifications (Core m3 CPU, 128 GB of storage, and 4 GB of RAM), but it doesn’t include the Type Cover, which costs an exorbitant $129.99 extra. If you’re after the cheapest tablet plus keyboard cover option, the TabPro S is the better choice.

Unfortunately, the TabPro S doesn’t include a stylus for the display, whereas the Surface Pro 4 does, and that’s a huge selling point in favor of the Surface for people who like to draw and annotate.

The good news is that Samsung plans on offering a “C-Pen” stylus for the TabPro S, although it’s currently not available to purchase and it doesn’t have a price. Expect it to cost somewhere in the range of $60-70 extra.

If you want a more powerful tablet, you’ll have to look past the TabPro S. Again, the Surface Pro 4 could be a good option here: the Core i5 model with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD costs $1,299 (or $1,428 with the Type Cover). But that’s more than $500 dearer than the TabPro S, a tablet that will suit buyers well enough at its more affordable asking price.

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Pros: Slim, light, and attractive build. AMOLED displays of this size are always a treat. Very respectable battery life. Keyboard cover is included in the price!

Cons: The keyboard cover, a crucial part of the package, is substandard due to its limited angles and cheap construction. USB-C can be restrictive. No option to buy a more powerful version.