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Computers

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 almost makes tablets interesting again

Building on last year's premium Tab S4, the 10.5-inch tablet adds some innovative features for work and play.

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The Tab S6 targets mobile workers who also game.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy Tab S6 is Samsung's Android-based answer to the iPad Pro and Surface Pro (and the discontinued -- but not discounted -- Pixel Slate). As a premium tablet, the S6 has all the stuff you'd expect: A powerful new processor, a great 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display and quad speakers as well as a new pen and keyboard cover. But it's all the little extras Samsung packs in that make it more than just another Android tablet. 

The tablet market in general is in decline but Samsung's tablet shipments -- Android and Windows -- remain strong, coming in just behind Apple's iPad shipments for Q1 2019, according to analyst group IDC. At least part of the slide is attributed to a lack of innovative features within the category, which is something the Tab S6 attempts to attack. 

The included updated S Pen stylus, for example, can be used as a wireless shutter release for capturing photos and video with the tablet's dual rear cameras -- a first for a Samsung tablet. The pen magnetically snaps strongly to the rear of the tablet for storage and to wirelessly charge it. Samsung says a 10-minute charge will get you through a day of use. 

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The tablet cover also acts like a pen case. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

A Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor gives the Tab S6 more than an 80% CPU boost and more than a 60% graphics boost over the Tab S4. The increased performance is better for day-to-day stuff, but you'll also see the benefits when using DeX, Samsung's desktop interface for Android, which makes it feel more like a PC.

DeX goes hand in hand with the Tab S6's new Book Cover Keyboard. A huge improvement over the S4's keyboard cover, the new version adds a touchpad (DeX has mouse support), a row of function keys and a quick-launch button for DeX. It also has a free-angle kickstand so it can be used in more than one position. 

Along with working more comfortably, you can work longer. Samsung claims up to 15 hours of battery life and it'll quick-charge through its USB-C port. 

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The Book Cover's kickstand lets you work at more than one angle. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Gaming on the Tab S6 with the Snapdragon 855 is also improved from the S4. A Game Booster with AI capabilities lets you optimize for smoother performance or better image quality on 16:10 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution display. Samsung also has an exclusive partnership with game chat platform Discord so you can live chat through the tablet's Game Launcher app. 

There are a handful of other things, too, like the quad speakers tuned by AKG and Dolby Atmos and an on-screen fingerprint scanner for quick sign ins. Plus you can wake the table with two taps on the screen. About the only thing missing is a headphone jack. 

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 comes in gray, blue and blush. It'll be available for preorder online at Samsung.com on Aug. 23 and available in stores and online on Sept. 6. The base Wi-Fi-only model has 128GB of storage (microSD expansion available) and 6GB of RAM for $650 or, for $730, you can get 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage. The S Pen is included with both, but not the keyboard cover, which costs $180. An LTE version is expected later this year. 

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Originally published July 31. 
Update, Aug. 7: Adds clarification on Samsung tablet shipments for Q1 2019.