Despite being called Lite, Samsung's midrange tablet has plenty to offer anyone looking for an Android tablet to do more than stream movies and shop.
After spending a few weeks using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, I've decided the tablet's capabilities exceed its name. I mean, it is lighter on features and performance than the full-fledged Galaxy Tab S6, so in that sense it is a "lite" version. But the name does it a disservice, because I never really felt like I was missing features. Maybe it's because the S6 Lite isn't trying to be an Android two-in-one laptop and instead just does more than I expected from a midrange Android tablet, and that's what makes it a standout.
The Tab S6 Lite starts at $350 with 64GB of storage or $430 for 128GB. Both have microSD card slots to expand storage up to 1TB and include the full-size S Pen and four months of ad-free YouTube Premium service. It's $70 for Samsung's Book Cover, although you can likely find it cheaper with a bundle. Costco, for example, sells the 128GB model with the cover for $450. You'll probably want the cover because it not only protects the tablet, but stands it up -- horizontally and vertically -- and gives you a safe place to store the pen. The cover also gives you a place to grip the tablet without actually touching the display. (There are cheaper options, too.)
By comparison, the current base model 10.2-inch iPad is $329 with 32GB of storage, but the 128GB version is the same as the Lite at $430. It does not include Apple's $99 Pencil or a cover with ($160) or without ($50) a keyboard. So, as is usually the case, Samsung is giving you more for your money against that iPad, in hardware, at least. Of course, if you don't care about writing and drawing on a screen or being overly productive, you might be best off with Amazon's $165 Fire HD10. The Tab S6 Lite is more than an entertainment tablet though.
One of the biggest differences between the S6 and S6 Lite is that the latter doesn't have Samsung's DeX, which gives its Android tablets a "desktop OS" feel. For instance, there's support for a touchpad or mouse. Because of this, it might feel like the Lite isn't as good for work and that might be the case for some people, but wasn't for me. I just leaned into using the S Pen more.
The pen is as comfortable to hold as a regular pen. It's responsive, with little discernible lag in my experience. I'm not much more than a doodler when it comes to illustration, but I loaded up Autodesk's Sketchbook to test out the S Pen and was able to draw straight lines without jitter, accurately shade with varying amounts of pressure and create broad or narrow strokes by angling the tip. My biggest issue was that it didn't reject my palm on the screen incredibly well, so I would accidentally open menus or move my drawing on occasion.
As a productivity tool, the S Pen is great. You can write notes on the screen without unlocking the tablet or launch the Notes app or other pen-enabled tools from the onscreen Air command shortcut that appears when you hover the pen over the display.
I used the pen to write a chunk of this review in Google Docs using the built-in handwriting-to-text translation. Similarly, you can highlight your writing in the Notes app and have it turned into text. Your results will vary based on how sloppy your handwriting is, but it does work well. While I was watching a slide presentation recently, I used the Smart Select tool to draw a box around a slide, which could then be used to extract text from the slide. With the Screen Write option, I could take a screenshot of the presentation and then write notes on the picture to include more details.
Like I said earlier, you can be productive with the S6 Lite without a keyboard and mouse, you just have to take advantage of what the S Pen can do. If you do want to type, though, Samsung does make a $99 keyboard cover for the S6 Lite, but any Bluetooth keyboard will work. I paired it with this $20 Arteck keyboard that's roughly the same size as the tablet, so it's good for travel when you want a full keyboard. Basically, what I'm getting at is you don't necessarily need to spend more for the higher-end Tab S6 just to get a good tablet for work.
Tablets are generally great for entertainment and the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is no different. When you're ready to put the S Pen down and relax, the 10.4-inch LCD and the AKG-tuned speakers with Dolby Atmos support look and sound first-class for the money. The top-notch Super AMOLED display and quad-speaker system on the higher-end Tab S6 are better, but the Lite will likely be fine for most.
Likewise, you'll probably get a more immersive gaming experience out of the S6, but that didn't stop me from playing Modern Combat 5 and Asphalt 9 for hours. I would've liked a bit more screen brightness, but between using a Bluetooth controller and the Book Cover's two position options, I was able to adjust the display angle to mitigate reflections.
Battery life is another plus for the tablet. In our streaming video test, the S6 Lite ran for 11 hours, 17 minutes with the display brightness set to 50% and the audio played through earbuds with the volume set to 50%.
In the end, with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite you're getting an all-around tablet that's good for both entertainment and productivity. It might not replace a laptop like the Tab S6 attempts to, but you can easily use it for classes, commuting and more -- especially if you're ready to pick up the pen.