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Hands on: Samsung Galaxy TabPro S

We tried Samsung's gorgeous OLED laptop slayer, the TabPro S

The tablet world is changing, and Samsung is ready. Following in the footsteps of a string of high-end tablets from Apple, Microsoft, and Google, the Galaxy TabPro S is yet another extra-large tablet with a magnetic keyboard and dreams of replacing your laptop. And if you have that dream too, it may be a real contender.

We spent some time with the new 2-in-1 Windows 10 tablet and came away very impressed. We don’t yet know the price, but Samsung has been around the tablet block enough to know the kinds of features regular folks might enjoy on a laptab, or tabtop, or whatever you want to call these hybrids.

Windows 10 on AMOLED

The first thing that shocked us about the Galaxy TabPro S is that it’s a Galaxy … that runs Windows. Samsung has traditionally released tablets running Google’s Android operating system and has shied away from devoting a lot of resources to Microsoft’s Windows. Representatives told us that they just weren’t impressed with Windows 8, but Windows 10 … that’s a different story.

Windows 10 appears to run beautifully on the 12-inch tablet in full desktop mode. We had no trouble manipulating windows, menus, and digging into the OS.

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Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends

This is likely because it has a decent engine under the hood. Powered by 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a speedy CAT.6 LTE chip, and an Intel Core M processor — which has improved dramatically — this is no ordinary tablet. It should stand up to mid-range Windows laptops and outpower most every slate. It doesn’t stack up to the Surface Pro 4 in terms of sheer power (that has full Intel Core i3 – i7), but those looking into a powerful tablet like the Pixel C or iPad Pro do have a new option. And because it runs Windows, it’s built to do some of the more productive sorts of things most of us want to do on a laptop, like word processing, excel, image editing, multitasking, and light gaming.

Related: After years of stumbling, 2-in-1 laptops will finally find their stride in 2016

Samsung has made AMOLED tablet screens before, but this 2,160 x 1,440 pixel 12-inch screen is stunning. The blue Windows background on our test unit popped with vivid detail, and the Start menu and task bar had a deep richness to their black borders that only AMOLED can bring out. Every high end tablet has a gorgeous screen these days, but Samsung may have taken back the crown.

Finally, Samsung promises a lofty 10.5 hours of battery life, which would put it up there with the best tablets, if true.

A usable magnetic keyboard

Neither Apple nor Google impressed us with the iPad Pro and Pixel C keyboards, and charged about $150 extra for them. Samsung is including its new magnetic keyboard with the tablet and has emphasized comfort. The TabPro S keyboard has super thin, but fully mechanical keys, giving it more travel than competitors. It’s also just about full width, meaning the muscle memory in your fingers doesn’t need much adjusting. It’s easy to type on the TabPro S from the moment you start.

It’s easy to type on the TabPro S from the moment you start.

Long-term testing will tell us if the keyboard holds up in use, but we’re excited by what we see. Samsung has also created a fully magnetic design. Like a Surface, the bottom of the keyboard locks into place on the tablet, but then the entire back is magnetically attached to a Smart covering. This adds rigidity to the design, letting you use it on your lap like an actual laptop (though it is still top heavy and wobbly), and also gives it two more special features: the ability to easily fold up, and to drop to a second, more reclined position. Samsung reps recommended the more reclined 30-ish degree screen orientation for some on-the-go uses. We didn’t prefer it for sitting, but appreciate the flexibility nonetheless.

The keyboard also covers up the plasticky back panel on the tablet and gives it a more leathery touch, which helps up its appeal, as well. The magnesium edges of the tablet are left exposed and strongly resemble the stylish Galaxy S6.

You can use your phone to unlock

Windows Hello is one of our favorite parts of Windows 10, and Samsung is taking full advantage. Galaxy S6+ owners who purchase a Galaxy TabPro S can use their phone to unlock the tablet. Just plop the phone on the NFC-equipped keyboard and then touch your finger on the fingerprint sensor, and bam, you’re in. The process takes longer than entering a password (for now), but is likely a lot more secure, and definitely a fun party trick.

The touch unlock also has a hidden killer feature: It will automatically set your phone as a hotspot for the tablet. Trying to set up a hotspot is a notoriously annoying process, but here, you just say “Yes” when Windows asks you if you want to use the phone as a hotspot. If you want, the tablet can even intercept texts from your paired phone, like Macs now do with iMessage.

Why we like Hello: Windows Hello is the miraculous password killer you’ve waited for

There are a bunch of fun little ideas Samsung could explore with this NFC unlocking/pairing, and we hope it does. These kinds of features are sometimes a lot more useful than the gimmicky toys device makers often smush into their phones and tablets.

Conclusion

We don’t yet know the price (that could be a deal killer) or release date, and we’ve spent less than an hour with Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S, but what we’re seeing is exciting. It’s tough to say whether a lot of folks will flock to beefed-up tablets like the Surface Pro 4, Google Pixel C, and Apple iPad Pro, but if they do, Samsung has an offering that’s at least on par with the competition. It should be a good alternative to the phone-like iPad and Android devices, and if the end product impresses us as much as our early testing did, the second very good reason to buy a Windows 10 tablet. Microsoft’s After years of stumbling, 2-in-1 laptops will finally find their stride in 2016Surface may have some strong competition.

Highs

  • Beautiful AMOLED screen
  • Useful magnetic keyboard
  • Fun NFC unlocking with Galaxy phones
  • Windows 10 gives it full desktop functionality

Lows

  • Keyboard still wobbly
  • Price is unknown