What do you get when you take a Galaxy Tab, tack on a detachable folding keyboard and toss in big splash of Windows 10? The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S hybrid is what, along with a handful of important firsts.
Samsung is putting a renewed focus on Windows computing, and the flashiest of these efforts is this 12-inch Windows 2-in-1. It’s a clear shot across Microsoft’s bow. Going on sale March 18, the $899 TabPro S will be one of first Windows 2-in-1 with a Super AMOLED display (at 2160 x 1440), somethign that could potentially rivalthe superb screen seen on the Surface Pro 4.
The TabPro S weighs just 1.5 pounds and is 0.24 inches thick and comes in two colors (black and white), and in two models: one with built-in Cat. 6 LTE, and a more humble Wi-Fi only version. Even better, is that on the TabPro S, its folding keyboard cover comes included in its $899 price.
Inside, the TabPro S again takes another shot at Microsoft featuring almost the same specs as a base SP4. It has an Intel Core m3 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Those looking for something with a little more oomph will be out of luck initially, but during my hands-on session at CES 2016, a nearby Samsung rep mentioned that the company already has plans for a more premium Windows 10 Pro version.
At 5,200 mAh, the TabPro S' battery is pretty sizable too. Samsung says you can get up to 10.5 hours of life on a charge, although like all battery claims, that will need some testing.
The TabPro S also features 5-megapixel cameras in front and back, which was a little disappointing since the 16-MP cam from Samsung’s Galaxy S6 seems like it would be a better choice. I heard that porting over things such as Samsung’s image processing from Android to Windows would take longer than simply starting from scratch.
The biggest difference between the TabPro S and the Surface Pro 4 is that Samsung's device comes with a keyboard comes in the box instead of as an optional accessory. It's Samsung's stylus that's the optional extra. Other divergences include a single USC-Type C port (instead of an older USB Type-A) with fast charging, and the lack of a microSD card reader.
In back, Samsung opted for a folding keyboard that attaches to the tablet magnetically but only features two positions: an upright stance for traditional use cases, and a lower, more easel-like position for things like drawing and sketching. Samsung says it chose a folding keyboard because it sees the TabPro S firmly on mobile side of the 2-in-1 spectrum, and as such, doesn’t require the complicated mechanical kickstand found on Microsoft’s Surfaces.
Due to the collaboration between Samsung and Microsoft, the TabPro S has some features built-into Window that you won’t get, at least at first, on other Windows PCs. This includes the ability to unlock the TabPro S by touching the fingerprint reader on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, or the ability to view and reply to messages sent to your smartphone natively in Windows 10. There will only be a few of these features available at launch, but Samsung says it plans to add more functions along the way.
Unfortunately, while the Samsung Tab Pro S has the look and feel of a great premium hybrid, there’s a few features that concern me as a person who thinks that everyone’s next PC should be a 2-in-1. The first is that with only one USB Type-C port, users may often be forced to choose between recharging their system or using some other peripheral. It’s a problem Samsung should have tried to avoid after seeing how the 12-inch MacBook turned out, and a problem the Surface Pro 4 doesn’t have, thanks to its dedicated power port.
Another issue is the keyboard on the Tab Pro S. It’s not a true chiclet-style keyboard like you get on most laptops. In fact, it’s closest to the keyboard found on the Microsoft’s old Type Cover for the SP3. On the Surface Pro 4, Microsoft switched to a more spacious chiclet-style keyboard. This is because even though the keys on the SP4’s cover are smaller than the previous model, the increased distance between the keys resulted in a faster and more accurate typing experience. There’s no backlighting on the Samsung, either.
The end result is a 2-in-1 that leaves me with mixed emotions. Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S features great design, innovative improvements to Windows 10 and a stunning display, but there's also some trade-offs because of its thin profile. Still, the TabPro S is a solid first step and could give the Surface Pro 4 a real run for its money, especially if the stated battery numbers are accurate.