Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review: Bringing the S Pen to the masses
Tablets are no longer in vogue, and people are buying them in fewer and fewer numbers these days. Samsung, of course, doesn’t really care about the declining sales and continues to launch new tablets every now and then. Last year, Samsung launched the Galaxy Tab S5e, with the intent of bringing much of what makes its flagship tablets so great to a more affordable price point.
The Galaxy Tab S5e was an unbeatable value proposition at the time of its launch, and prices for that tablet have reduced further since then. But Samsung decided the Tab S5e wasn’t affordable enough, and it launched the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite this year as an even cheaper alternative for those who weren’t keen on getting one of the company’s high-end tablets.
Of course, a lower price means more compromises on the spec sheet, and the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite certainly has them in abundance, like an LCD display instead of an AMOLED panel, only two (AKG-tuned) speakers instead of four, a processor that’s weaker than the one found in the Galaxy Tab S5e, and no Samsung DeX support or keyboard accessory.
Still, despite being cheaper, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite supports (and comes bundled with) the S Pen, and it offers some other attractions as well, like a 10.4-inch display, a 7,040 mAh battery, and the latest software (Android 10 with One UI 2.1) out of the box. But is all that worth the asking price, or is the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite a tablet you should avoid?
Let’s find out in this review.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite design
The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite may be an affordable entry in Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S lineup, but thanks to a metal body, it feels premium and high-end when you hold it in your hands. Naturally, a metallic build means the tablet is slippery as all hell. Combined with the 10.4-inch display, this tablet is best handled with two hands, as gripping the wide, slippery body with one hand can become uncomfortable in a few minutes. When you’re using the S Pen to draw, propping it up against your thighs is recommended.
The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite has no cutout on the back for attaching the S Pen. The sides of the tablet are magnetic, but the stylus only properly sticks to the lower right side, below the power and volume buttons. There’s a satisfying click when the S Pen latches on to the tablet, though I just ended up carrying/holding it separately as it can get in the way at times, like when you’re switching between landscape and portrait orientation. Not having a slot for the S Pen is simply a limitation one has to accept when it comes to tablets.
The Tab S6 Lite may not be as thin or light as its flagship cousin, but at 7mm and 467 grams, it’s still quite sleek and light. The thicker body gives it an advantage that the Galaxy Tab S6 (or the Galaxy Tab S5e) doesn’t have: It has a headphone jack. There are no headphones in the box, though, so you will have to bring your own to enjoy wired audio on this tablet. In fact, despite support for 15W fast charging, the Tab S6 Lite also comes bundled with a regular non-fast charger, making it clear that Samsung had to cut down on more than specs to keep the overall cost down.
Unfortunately, the Tab S6 Lite doesn’t have a physical or in-display fingerprint sensor, leaving facial recognition as the only biometric option. While face recognition works well for the most part, you will have to manually wake up the screen using the power button or by tapping it twice before you can unlock it, as there is no lift-to-wake gesture. Furthermore, facial recognition can be fooled with a bit of effort, so you might just want to depend on the good old pin or pattern lock if security is a major concern for you.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite display
The 10.4-inch display on the Tab S6 Lite has a 16:10 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2000 by 1200 pixels. Except for the large screen estate, the display doesn’t exactly have any redeeming qualities. It has somewhat muted colors, doesn’t get exceptionally bright, and lacks the deep blacks you get on an AMOLED display. And while text and images look sharp enough, you will instantly notice the jagged edges when you fire up a game.
The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite also lacks any sort of HDR certification, and you also see black bars above and below videos because of the 16:10 aspect ratio. Again, the only advantage you are getting here is that you have a large screen for all your content and for putting that S Pen to use. LCD displays simply can’t match the beauty of AMOLED panels, and if you thought you’d be getting a viewing experience as good as what you get on Samsung’s costlier tablets, you will be disappointed.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite S Pen
The display may not be great, but you get the same excellent stylus experience that you get on Samsung’s flagship devices. There’s no Bluetooth or gesture functionality on the Tab S6 Lite’s S Pen, but it works great when you actually use it on the screen. My wife started using Galaxy Note smartphones just a few months ago and loves drawing with the S Pen on her Note 10 Lite, and she loved having access to the Tab S6 Lite’s big screen for a few days.
The S Pen is very responsive, and the palm rejection is excellent so there’s never any accidental touch when you’re drawing something. Naturally, you can also take notes with the S Pen or annotate screenshots, just like you can on the Tab S6 and the Note flagships. All of the S Pen tools are present here except Translate, which lets you hover over a word and instantly have it translated into a chosen language, though perhaps Samsung will add that feature with an update later on.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite audio
The two AKG-tuned speakers on the Tab S6 Lite produce clear, distortion-free sound. They are loud enough for a medium sized room when you’re watching a movie, and thanks to Dolby Atmos support, you get good stereo separation: I was able to clearly hear all the different instruments in the amazing ‘Lighting of the Beacons’ scene in the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
You can think of the Tab S6 Lite’s speakers as equivalents of the stereo speakers on flagship Galaxy smartphones, only the former are notably louder, as you would expect from a tablet. And if you have a good pair of wired audio headphones, you can use those thanks to the headphone jack. It’s as complete an audio experience as you will get at the sub-$400 price point on a tablet, or even on any of Samsung’s non-flagship phones.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite performance
The Exynos 9611 processor that powers the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite has been seen on multiple budget and mid-range Galaxy phones in the last year, including the Galaxy A51, and its performance is not very special. You will see some stutter in the animations and apps won’t always open as quickly as you would like, but it gets the job done when you’re navigating through the user interface, browsing, watching videos, or drawing or taking notes in the Samsung Notes app.
When it comes to gaming, the Exynos 9611 is a capable performer on phones, and that’s also the case on the Tab S6 Lite, probably because its screen resolution is only slightly higher than phones like the Galaxy A51. Heavy games like PUBG, Call of Duty, and Asphalt 9 run well, at least at their default graphics settings. Frame drops can occur, but they are rare and don’t affect the overall experience.
Sadly, because there’s just 4GB of RAM, the Tab S6 Lite can struggle to keep apps in memory. Multitasking with two apps open on the screen at the same time works great, but the tablet tends to kill off apps in the background pretty quickly. The not-so-powerful performance and limited memory is probably the reason why the Tab S6 Lite does not support DeX mode.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite software
The Tab S6 Lite is Samsung’s first tablet to launch running Android 10 and One UI 2.1 out of the box. This is a lower mid-range tablet, so the feature set is limited compared to the Galaxy Tab S6 and the Galaxy Tab S5e. There’s no DeX mode, as I said in the performance section, which is unfortunate because DeX mode and the S Pen are a match made in heaven.
You do get some of the useful One UI 2.x features, like a screen recorder, Bixby Routines, Quick Share, and Music Share. There’s also Call & text on other devices, which lets you make and receive calls and messages on your tablet by logging into the same Samsung account as your Galaxy phone. And, this being a tablet, you can also make multiple user accounts, so others in your family can use it as well.
The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite also has Daily Board. Daily Board lets you view the time, weather, calendar, and a wallpaper slideshow on-screen when the device is charging. It’s basically a screensaver feature that has been around on Samsung’s tablets for some time, though I never found myself using it because I didn’t exactly need to charge this thing all that much in the time that I used it for this review.
As far as software updates are concerned, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite should get both Android 11 and Android 12. Like every other Galaxy tablet, this one gets security updates every three months, though going by Samsung’s track record for updating even its flagship tablets, it would be best if you don’t expect security updates to actually arrive according to schedule.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite battery life
According to Samsung’s official battery life figures, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite can provide up to 13 hours of video playback on a single charge. I put this to the test with both a movie streaming on Netflix and a movie played off the internal storage. With the movie stored on the device, the display at 70% brightness, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth active, the tablet lost around 23% battery after watching a nearly 150-minute movie, so a full charge should last for around 11 hours.
The movie I streamed on Netflix was around 200 minutes long (the final part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and I decided to set the screen to max brightness. Battery endurance in this case was expectedly lower. I lost around 43% of battery, so the tablet would have lasted a little under eight hours if I had gone all the way. It’s still more than good enough, and the mileage will no doubt be better with the display at 60-70% brightness.
I didn’t test gaming for long periods, but continuous gaming should allow the battery to keep the lights on for around 6-7 hours before it drains completely. With intermittent light to moderate usage involving browsing, some YouTube videos, and a match or two of Call of Duty, the Tab S6 Lite can easily last 2-3 days before it asks for a charge. If you game and browse and watch videos all day long, expect it to die out by late evening, especially if you use it at high brightness.
Fast charging on the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is the good old 15W version. The battery can go from 0 to 100% in a little under 3 hours, which is good enough considering the 7,040 mAh capacity. But, as mentioned earlier, there’s no fast charger in the box, though that shouldn’t be an issue as there’s a good chance you already have a fast charger for your phone that you can use for the Tab S6 Lite as well.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite cameras
Tablet cameras have traditionally been underwhelming, and Samsung certainly isn’t going against that tradition here. The Tab S6 Lite has 8MP and 5MP rear and front cameras respectively and only just gets the job done. The front camera is good enough for video calls and the occasional selfie, but there’s obviously not a lot of detail because of the low megapixel count.
The rear camera takes okay photos, though the colors are usually quite muted and the dynamic range isn’t that great. Again, cameras on a tablet have always fallen in the “serviceable” category, and the same is true on the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. You’re better off getting your photography fix on your phone and use this tablet only for video calls.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite verdict
The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite hits the sweet spot as a tablet that gets all the basics right while offering something not many other tablets in the sub-$400 segment can boast: Access to Samsung’s S Pen experience. It’s great for drawing and taking notes, and the big screen and excellent stereo sound also make it a good media consumption device, despite the fact that you have to make do with an LCD display. Gaming performance is more than adequate as well, and it’s only the serious workaholics who won’t be happy with the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, owing to the lack of support for Samsung DeX and an official keyboard accessory.
|Premium design||General performance isn’t that great|
|Big screen, S Pen support on a budget||LCD display simply isn’t as good as Samsung’s AMOLED panels|
|Good battery life||No Samsung DeX support, no keyboard accessory|
|Excellent sound over AKG-tuned stereo speakers||No fast charger in the box|
|Good gaming performance||No fingerprint sensor|
|Android 10 and One UI 2.1 out of the box|