Laptop Mag Verdict
Samsung's Galaxy Tab S6 Lite makes a case for Android tablets by delivering a premium design, bright display and long battery life for just $350.
Premium design with thin bezels
Amazing battery life
S Pen is included
Bright 10.4-inch screen
Android still isn't great for tablets
Face unlock is hit-or-miss
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CPU: Samsung Exynos 9610
Display: 10.4 inches, 2000 x 1200 pixels
Camera: 5MP (front); 8MP (rear)
Size: 9.6 x 6.3 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 1 pound
Without Samsung, Android tablets would be as extinct as netbooks or Windows phones. The company has kept the segment alive with its Tab line (including the excellent Galaxy Tab S6) and even revitalized the platform with DeX, a desktop interface layered on top of Android. But what about traditional Android tablets, like the ones that tried and failed to match the iPad many years ago?
The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite ($349), a cheaper, simplified version of the Tab S6, is proof that the fight isn't over.
The Tab S6 Lite has a sleek aluminum design, a decent 10.4-inch display, and incredible battery life. Better yet, an S Pen is included in the box for those who like to take notes by hand, and a facial unlock feature makes logging in easy (when it works).
That's not to say the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is a perfect tablet. Its performance leaves a lot to be desired when you're running multiple tasks, and some Android apps still aren't optimized for tablets. Still, the Tab S6 Lite offers enough to be a compelling iPad or Surface Go 2 alternative for those who want a no-nonsense, easy-to-use tablet.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite price and configuration options
Samsung sells only one version of the Tab S6 Lite. It costs $349 and comes with a 10.4-inch, 2000 x 1200-pixel display, a Samsung Exynos 9611 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD.
The tablet ships with the S Pen. Unlike the pricier Galaxy Tab S6, the Tab S6 Lite doesn't come with a keyboard accessory. We tested the tablet with the optional Samsung Book Cover ($70) case, which has a magnetic slot for the stylus.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite design
The Tab S6 Lite trades some tricks for a more traditional tablet design. The tablet has a glass front and a metal back cover. It feels solid in the hand and more premium than I would expect for something that costs less than $400.
Gone is the nifty magnetic stylus charging groove found on the rear of the Galaxy Tab S6. It was a nice feature, but I don't miss it too much. Plus, you get the stylus storage function back when you buy the optional Book Cover.
Without the stylus slot, the Tab S6 Lite has a flat aluminum back with a chrome Samsung logo in the center. On the top-right is a rounded square camera module similar to the one on the Galaxy S8.
The bezels surrounding the screen are relatively thin, but still thick enough that you can hold the tablet without covering the screen. On the right side of the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite (in portrait mode) is a power button and volume rocker while speaker grills can be found on both the top and bottom edges.
At 9.6 x 6.3 x 0.3 inches, the 1-pound Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is similar in size but lighter than the Surface Go 2 (0.3 inches, 1.2 pounds) and the iPad (0.3 inches, 1.1 pounds).
The only ports on the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite are a USB-C charging port on the bottom edge and a headphone/mic jack on top.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite display
The first thing that struck me about the 10.4-inch, 2000 x 1200-pixel display is how bright it gets. I typically view my XPS 15's screen at maximum brightness, but I was comfortably watching videos and browsing the web with the Tab S6 Lite at 65% brightness. The screen doesn't break any records, but it's colorful and sharp enough.
When I watched a trailer for the film Tenet, I could see John David Washington's eyes turn from ivory white to bloodshot red after he's given a mysterious capsule. Michael Caine's bold yellow tie stood out against his regal black suit and Dimple Kapadia's traditional Indian dress looked magnificent in its emerald hue.
I had no problems using the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite's touchscreen to navigate Android. The screen registered all of my swipes, whether I was pulling down the notification panel or flipping through the Play Store in search of a good weather app.
The S6 Lite's screen covers 98.4% of the sRGB color gamut, which means it's less colorful than the displays on the iPad (105%), the Surface Go 2 (107%) and the Galaxy Tab S6 (122%).
As I mentioned earlier, the Tab S6 Lite's screen gets very bright. We clocked a maximum of 435 nits of brightness, which makes it brighter than the Surface Go 2 (408 nits) and the Galaxy Tab S6 (290 nits). The iPad shoots for the sun with 450 nits of brightness.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite S Pen
Samsung gets what Apple and Microsoft don't seem to understand: when your tablet supports a stylus, include one. Now that Samsung brought the S Pen to a $349 tablet, there is no excuse for others to skimp out. Just as a reminder, neither the Surface Pro 7 or iPad Pro come with a stylus.
I'm not done singing Samsung's praises because the S Pen is a fantastic tool. The pen is lightweight and just the right size so it fits in your hand no matter how small or large your paws are. I also like the one flat side as it gives me a stable place to rest my thumb. There is a single button on the side of the S Pen that pulls up Samsung's drawing apps.
I used the Screen Write app to annotate a screenshot. The pen wrote just like a fine-tipped ballpoint and the sound effect in the app simulated moving a pencil across paper. There was never any lag and the stylus is so sensitive that a line would immediately follow the tip no matter how fast I swiped across the screen.
If you plan on using the S Pen, I recommend buying the Book Cover accessory. While it lacks a keyboard, the cover fits great and even has a magnetic S Pen storage slot built into the interior spine.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite audio
What a pleasant surprise. The dual speakers on the top and bottom of the Galaxy Tab S6 deliver balanced, crisp sound. Brandon Flower's distinctive voice filled my large living room without a hint of distortion. There was some strain in the treble when I listened at maximum volume, but it didn't keep me from jamming out to this pop-rock anthem. You'll be pleased with the sound quality of the S6 Lite as long as you're not expecting thumping bass.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite performance
The tablet delivered mixed performance during my testing. Swiping between menus felt sluggish compared with my Pixel 4XL (a pricey phone) and opening apps took several seconds. There was even one occasion where the home button wouldn't respond as apps were loading. That issue eventually resolved itself, but the time it took to open apps or render graphics on web pages was a reminder of the Tab S6's budget price.
That said, there was never a point when I had to close the app to get something to run, and the snags I hit were momentary, and never bad enough for me to fall back on my speedier laptop or phone. The Exynos 9611 CPU and 4GB of RAM inside the Tab S6 provide enough power to run a dozen Google Chrome tabs, two of which played a 1080p video, with only brief slowdowns.
The Tab S6 Lite did a solid job on our benchmarks but couldn't quite keep up with class leaders. On the Geekbench 5 overall performance test, the Samsung tablet notched a 1,291, a decent score but outdone by the iPad (1,429), Surface Go 2 (1,563) and Galaxy Tab S6 (about 2,400).
When we ran the JetStream 2.0 test, the Tab S6 clocked a 27.80. That pedestrian score doesn't even top Samsung's own $229 budget laptop, the Chromebook 4 (49). While not a fair comparison, our favorite Chromebook, the Asus Chromebook Flip C434, notched a 76.7.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite battery life
You can use the Tab S6 Lite off and on for several days without recharging it. The proof is in our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits), which the Tab S6 Lite tackled for 12 hours and 40 minutes before powering down.
That incredibly impressive runtime tops the endurance of the iPad (11:58), Surface Go 2 (11:39) and Galaxy Tab S6 (8:58). The tablet average is 9 hours and 11 minutes.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite cameras and Face Unlock
There is a 5-megapixel camera on the front of the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite and a single 8MP rear-facing camera on the back.
A selfie I took with the 5MP selfie camera was so sharp that I could see the damage months of quarantining has done on my appearance. Individual hairs in my beard and on my head are going in every direction and I can even see the pores on my skin.
This photo I snapped of the flowers on my balcony looks great. Colors are sharp, direct sunlight is properly exposed and the foreground is in focus. However, a few things are off. While the colors are vibrant, these Carnations-Dianthus are more purple than they look in the picture. Also, the flowers look blurry when you zoom in.
Samsung deserves some praise for including facial recognition in such an inexpensive device, but the Face Unlock feature on the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is hit-or-miss. It registered my face and logged me in about 70% of the time. I had to either press the refresh button (for it to try again) or use a pin code to login the other 30%. I'm still glad the feature exists because, when it does work, it cuts down the time it takes to manually input a password.
Android 10 (without DeX mode)
The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite runs Android 10. Unlike its premium twin, there is no DeX mode on the Tab S6 Lite, making the Tab S6 Lite one of the only purely Android tablets left on the market. As a reminder, DeX mode is a desktop interface designed to give Samsung phones and tablets the functionality of a laptop. By not including DeX or a keyboard, Samsung made it clear that the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is a traditional tablet.
If you own a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, then the Tab S6's UI will look familiar. Samsung added its own flair to Android by using bubbly icons and including a fleet of first-party apps from Bixby to the Samsung Internet Browser. Most of the differences between stock Android are cosmetic and Samsung even added some useful tools, including each of the pre-installed S Pen apps.
Some apps still don't scale well on a tablet. For example, the Instagram app doesn't work in landscape mode and the Twitter app lacks the sidebar window found on the iOS version. The majority of apps I used were identical to versions on other platforms and even those that weren't didn't have any deal-breaking issues.
As Google shifts its attention to Chrome OS, Samsung has once again found a way to make a case for Android tablets. With its premium design, bright display and epic battery life, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is a legitimate alternative to the iPad or Surface Go 2. It even has thin display bezels and an included S Pen, a pair of features usually reserved for pricier devices.
If you need a detachable keyboard, cross the Tab S6 off your list. It doesn't come with one and you can't buy one (I do recommend the $70 Book Cover accessory). The iPad and Surface Go 2, both of which can be outfitted with an optional keyboard attachment, are a better option than the Tab S6 Lite if you need to work on the go. Also, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite can be sluggish at times, but again, it costs only $349. Overall, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is an excellent option if you want a basic tablet to watch videos, browse the web or use Android apps.
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite Specs
|9.6 x 6.3 x 0.3 inches
|10.4 inches, 2000 x 1200-pixels
|5MP (front); 8MP (rear)
|Samsung Exynos 9610
Phillip Tracy is the assistant managing editor at Laptop Mag where he reviews laptops, phones and other gadgets while covering the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News covering 5G and IoT. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, traveling or watching soccer.