If you wanted to, you could use the tablet as merely that — a tablet — and Windows 10 would surely let you, with both a tablet and a computer operating inside the one operating system, complete with a touchscreen keyboard.
That’s fine, and Windows 10 can certainly function this way, but we’re a little surprised to see no stylus included in the box since this tablet supports it. Samsung says this is coming later, though, so at least be happy with the inclusion of that keyboard case, as this links up with a physical docking connector on the bottom of the tablet and even brings a trackpad to the table.
The outside of the case is nice enough and pleasing to the eye, but more interestingly is how the case works, and how the keyboard makes the Surfac– sorry, Samsung TabPro S experience more complete. Simply put: you’ll want to use the keyboard case the TabPro S comes with, as it’ll make the whole experience just that much more usable overall.
Let’s talk about that case, though, because it comes with some folds on the back.
If you’ve ever used an iPad case, this “origami” style will be familiar, simply because it means there’s a stand built into the design. But hold on there, because this is a little different.
The back of the TabPro S has a fairly large magnet inside, which the case is only too happy to connect to, and slapping it into place while creasing the right origami fold means the keyboard will stand up in one of two ways: at a slight angle just off that of perpendicular, or laying down at a slight angle.
The first of these is the one people will no doubt most often use, but the laying down one we found was a little more useful on transport where the sudden jerking motions of brakes or trains stopping meant a possibility that our tablet could disconnect and go flying out of the case (trust in magnets only extends so far, especially when the magnets don’t seem quite as strong as you might otherwise think).
Then there’s the keyboard, and this is interesting because Samsung has opted for a design more like an older keyboard, with keys that don’t offer the same individual island key styling modern keyboards tend to offer.
Instead, we’re reminded of the original generation of Surface Type Cover keyboards, with keys that don’t offer the tiny gutter of space we’ve all come to expect, and yet provide that familiar QWERTY layout in a 12 inch space.
It’s comfortable enough, we’ll say that, and after a week of typing, we’ve gotten over the majority of the errors we’d normally have by recognising that the keys are a little too large. It’s a tiny thing that can actually amount to a big deal, partially because what you get used to in modern keyboards should be replicated across the board, and when it isn’t, it can mean a problem with how you type and consequently an adjustment period.
We test our computers by writing on the keyboards they come with, usually to the point of wanting to throw them out the window, and if we like the keyboards, we test them further by writing chapters of books on them (because this reviewer is a writer outside of work, too).
Samsung’s TabPro S keyboard got us through to the second part — the one where we test the keyboard more thoroughly — and despite the reverted key size, we found it wasn’t a bad typing experience, just one you had to get used to.
At least you get a Caps Lock key that lights up and a full-size right shift key, things tablet keyboard makers tend to skip, and there’s even a real touchpad here, providing another way of talking to the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S when you don’t have that stylus (which no one does at the time of publication).
We would have liked to have seen backlit keys, though, because using this keyboard in the dark is not super fun.
One area that Samsung scores points for is in the display, and that’s an area where Samsung has proven time and time again that it really, really, really knows what it’s doing.
For the TabPro S, you’ll find a 12 inch Super AMOLED displays, making it a superbly bright and beautifully dynamic display much like what you’ll find in Samsung’s phones.
Without doubt, this is one of the best parts of this tablet, and the use of such a lovely super AMOLED display results in a beautifully clear screen, providing a sense of dynamism that is just so hard to ignore.
Always a bit of a dilemma with laptops, Samsung attempts to curb any issues on the TabPro S battery with an Intel Core M processor, making this machine kind of like the tablet equivalent of Apple’s super-slim MacBook.
Does it get there, and can it nail the six to nine hours we see out of Apple’s equivalent?
Yes and no. Mostly no, though it’s not a bad result, just not a brilliant one.
Testing the TabPro S through the space of a week or so, we found the laptop could achieve over six hours of battery life, but it was rare and required you to leave aspects of the device on that dent on the usability experience, while also switching off others and relying less on this thing called the internet.
Like all tablets and laptops, if you manage to steer clear of WiFi, you’ll find the battery life goes up, meaning if you don’t use a web browser and sit on your machine writing until you fall asleep, you may find the battery meter goes up to above six hours.
Samsung even includes an odd little application called “Galaxy Settings” that most won’t know is there and yet runs the vital setting of dimming the screen shortly after not using it.
That’s the thing about a bright screen: it’s lovely and beautiful and totally dynamic, but it can also suck power, so dimming the screen and lowering the brightness on a regular basis can deal with this and save the battery.
So Samsung has brought in this dimming software that constantly flicks off the brightness much to the confusion of the reviewers, and likely you, meaning you’ll want to switch it off as quickly as possible, which you can’t technically do. You can, however, extend dimming to a greater amount such as 2 or 5 or 10 minutes, and by that point, you may have set your energy saver preferences to kick in and turn the screen off as it is.
Overall, making the computer work by connecting to WiFi and using the screen on an adequate brightness setting, we found we were more likely to see for to five hours, which isn’t bad especially for the size and the knowledge that the physical keyboard is sucking battery life away, too.
At least you can be happy in knowing that recharging is easy and doesn’t require a brick, because the Galaxy TabPro S is Samsung’s first USB Type C device, meaning you get a small charge pack much like that of a phone and the reversible Type C adaptor.
If you already have a USB Type C-equipped phone like the Microsoft Lumia 950 or 950XL, or a Google Nexus 5X or 6P, it’s the same plug.
But Samsung doesn’t want you on any of those phones with the TabPro S, and there’s a rather neat reason as to why: it’s called “Flow”.