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Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review: A great Windows tablet

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MSRP: $899.99
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The Good Samsung wisely includes a keyboard cover in the box. Battery life is excellent, and the AMOLED display is better than the screens in much more expensive systems.

The Bad The single configuration is stuck with a sluggish Core M processor, and the keyboard cover allows only two screen angles, neither of which may be right for you.

The Bottom Line Samsung builds a lot of value into the Galaxy TabPro S, including a keyboard cover and advanced display in a very slim Windows tablet.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Battery 8

Review Sections

Late 2016 update

When it debuted in March 2016, the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S packed more value into a Windows tablet for $899, £899 or AU$1,499 than any other contender. Fast-forward to November 2016 and it looks just as good.

But now it costs $200, £200 or AU$150 less.

It's not perfect; its Intel Core M processor is a little underpowered and its keyboard is ergonomically limited. But at $700, the Galaxy TabPro S has much to recommend it. It's razor-thin (about 0.2 mm thicker than Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Pro), comes with a detachable keyboard, and delivers more than 7 hours of battery life. But it's the brilliant AMOLED display that steals the show: With a native resolution of 2,160x1,440 pixels, images look clear, bright and sharp -- even from extreme side angles.

Still, Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 remains the gold standard for Windows tablets. It delivers robust processing power, a perfectly sized display with a just-right aspect ratio and a few critical add-on accessories. And it's got a better keyboard than the TabPro S. But it's also a couple of hundred dollars more expensive -- and that base price does not include that essential keyboard, which must be purchased separately for an additional $129, £110 or AU$200. The price difference is enough to make the TabPro S worthy of a serious look.

Windows tablet shoppers should also check out the Acer Switch Alpha 12, which packs a Core i5 processor into a tablet, and throws the keyboard in for free.

Of course, the tablet landscape is abundant with diversity and quality in this price range, especially if you go beyond Windows. This past September, Apple gave a storage boost to its lineup of iPads. Google's 2015 tablet, the Pixel C, is better than ever with the Android Nougat software upgrade. And if you can live without the keyboard, Samsung's Galaxy Tab S2 delivers many of the TabPro's virtues -- a slim profile, dazzling AMOLED screen and even more stellar battery life -- for a fraction of the price.

Editors' note: The original review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S, first published in March 2016, follows.

Samsung's latest PC takes the name of its Galaxy line of Android phones and tablets, despite running the Windows 10 ($100 at Amazon) operating system. The Galaxy TabPro S is a new tilt at one of the most persistent windmills in technology -- crafting the perfect Windows tablet.

Cracking the Windows tablet code has been a quest that computer makers have obsessed over for years. It's a quest that goes back to the days before Windows 10 or even Windows 8, and even before Apple's iPad made slate-style tablets everyday household objects. Some would say it's less of a quest and more of a fool's errand, full of false starts and overhyped promises.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Most of the time, the Windows operating system and the PC apps that run on it just aren't designed with the same single-tap access, consistent navigation, and optimal screen scaling as apps that live in the walled garden of iOS and the iPad. Even when Windows 8 introduced a tablet-friendly interface, it failed to scratch that particular itch, and instead just made everyday computing tasks more cumbersome.

Why is it so hard to make a Windows tablet that feels both useful and intuitive, while also providing the kind of instant gratification the best gadgets offer? It's because we still need these devices to do double duty as everyday workstations for email, office documents and shopping, on top of the easy tap-swipe-flick of media watching and games. Most PC makers have settled on hybrid machines that are full-time laptops and part-time tablets, such as the Lenovo Yoga series, but these are not iPad alternatives and never will be.

Microsoft has come the closest to date, with its evolving Surface line. Over the course of four generations, the Surface tablet has become an excellent overall product, thanks to extensive work in tweaking the physical design, including perfecting the adjustable kickstand and magnetic keyboard cover. I'd recommend the latest Surface Pro 4 as the go-to Windows tablet, but it has a fatal flaw -- it's expensive. That's because the keyboard cover -- by every account a required accessory for even basic everyday use -- doesn't come with the Surface. It instead must be purchased separately, for a not-insignificant $129, on top of a tablet that runs from $899 (£749 or AU$1,349) to $1,799. That puts even the most affordable Surface Pro 4 ($1,000 at Amazon) north of the thousand-dollar mark, an important psychological and practical barrier.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S sets out to emulate the best parts of the Surface line, while also correcting some of its flaws. The biggest news here is that the single currently available configuration, combining a 12-inch AMOLED display (more on that in a minute) with an Intel Core m3 CPU and a 128GB solid-state drive, is $899 (£849, AU$1,499), which includes a very familiar-looking and -feeling keyboard cover. With that simple move, including the keyboard in the box, Samsung earns a tip of my virtual hat for showing some respect for consumers.

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S

Price as reviewed $899/£849/AU$1,499
Display size/resolution 12-inch 2,160x1,400 touchscreen
PC CPU 2.2GHz Intel Core M3-6Y30
PC memory 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz
Graphics 128MB Intel HD Graphics 515
Storage 128GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

But the Galaxy TabPro S isn't perfect, even though it represents an excellent overall value. The keyboard cover, while solid-feeling and very usable, isn't as evolved as the one on the latest Surface, the Surface Pro 4. The Surface keyboard has moved to island-style keys, closer to what you'd find on a traditional laptop, while the Samsung keyboard has tightly packed keys that do not feel as natural to use.

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