Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 vs. 11-inch Apple iPad Pro: Can Samsung overtake the iPad?

Samsung has updated its Android tablet line with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6. The new device features a lightweight and sleek design compared to the last-gen Tab S4, as well as improved specs and a clean software experience. With S Pen support, DeX mode, and a new keyboard cover, the Tab S6 is also being touted as a laptop stand-in. Of course, the default tablet choice for most people is the iPad, and the most recent iPad Pro models are better than ever, boasting a modern design, plenty of power, and support for the Apple Pencil and a keyboard cover.

But which tablet is really the best? And is one better than the other for specific situations? We put the two head-to-head to find out.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Apple iPad Pro (11-inch)
Size 244.5 x 159.5 x 5.7mm (9.62 x 6.28 x 0.22 inches) 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm (9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches)
Weight 420 grams (14.8oz) 468 grams (16.48oz)
Screen size 10.5-inch Super AMOLED 11-inch LED
Screen resolution 2,560 x 1,600 pixels (287 pixels-per-inch) 2,388 x 1,668 pixels (264 pixels-per-inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie iOS 12
Storage space 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
MicroSD Card slot Yes, up to 512GB No
Tap-to-pay services No No
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Apple A12X Bionic
RAM 6GB, 8GB 4GB, 6GB
Camera 13MP and 5MP rear, 8MP front 12MP rear, 7MP front
Video 4K at up to 30fps 4K at 60fps, 1,080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display No
Water resistance No No
Battery 7,040mAh 7,812mAh
App marketplace Google Play App Store
Network support TBA AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
Colors Mountain Gray, Cloud Blue, Rose Blush Silver, Space Gray
Price $650 $800
Buy from Samsung Apple
Review score Hands-on 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

iPad Pro (2018) review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 and the Apple iPad Pro are relatively different devices — but they’re both flagship-tier. The Galaxy Tab S6 features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, which is Qualcomm’s latest and greatest flagship chip. Couple that with 6GB or 8GB of RAM, and options for up to 256GB of storage, and you have a very powerful device.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as powerful as the iPad Pro. Apple’s A-series chips are just getting better and better, and the A12X Bionic is Apple’s most powerful chip yet. Sure, the iPad Pro may have a little less RAM, but Apple handles memory management differently, so the RAM doesn’t necessarily matter as much. When it comes to storage, Apple wins again, offering up to a whopping 1TB. However, it’s much more expensive to buy built-in storage with the iPad Pro and the 1TB model costs a lot more than the 256GB Tab S6 model plus a 512GB MicroSD card.

The battery capacity on the iPad Pro may be bigger than the Galaxy Tab S6, but the Samsung tablet will likely last longer on a charge, partly thanks to the OLED display. While Apple rates the iPad Pro as offering up to 10 hours of normal use on a charge, Samsung says the Galaxy Tab S6 will run for up to a whopping 15 hours.

Both devices can charge through their USB-C ports, and they both offer fast-charging tech of some kind. Neither of the two devices has wireless charging.

The Galaxy Tab S6’s battery may be better, but the iPad is simply more powerful, which makes it the winner here.

Winner: Apple iPad Pro (11-inch)

Design and durability

samsung galaxy tab s6 news 13
Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

The iPad Pro offers a much more modern design compared to previous-generation iPads, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is relatively modern in design too. The bezels on the Galaxy Tab S6 may not be quite as thin as the iPad’s, but they’re still relatively slim, which is nice to see in 2019. One minor difference is the fact that the iPad’s display still has rounded corners, while the Galaxy Tab S6 does not — and it does contribute to a modern look.

On the back of the Galaxy Tab S6, there’s a small magnetic spot for the S Pen, along with a dual-lens camera. The iPad Pro, on the other hand, has a magnetic spot for the Apple Pencil on the side of the device. Both devices have a USB-C port on the bottom.

While companies invest a ton of cash into smartphone durability, they generally don’t put as much into tablets — neither device has water resistance of any kind. They both have a metal build save for the front, so they should be able to withstand minor bumps.

Winner: Tie

Display

what is project catalyst ipad pro

While the iPad is a more powerful tablet, the Galaxy Tab S6 offers a better display. The display on the iPad Pro is an 11-inch LED display with a resolution of 2,388 x 1,668 pixels, which equates to a pixel density of 264 pixels-per-inch. The 10.5-inch display on the Galaxy Tab S6 may be a little smaller, but it has a higher resolution, at 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, or 287 pixels-per-inch. What really gives the Galaxy Tab S6’s display the edge is the fact that it’s a Super AMOLED display, which provides deeper black levels. It’s a close call, though, as the iPad Pro’s display also boasts a refresh rate of 120Hz, which ensures smooth scrolling and makes for a more fluid experience in games.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

Camera

samsung galaxy tab s6 news 21

While most people probably stick to taking photos on their smartphones rather than their tablets, a decent camera can still come in handy every now and then. The iPad Pro features a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 7-megapixel front-facing camera, which should be more than good enough for things like FaceTime and taking the odd selfie. They also come in handy if you want to delve into the world of augmented reality apps.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6, however, steps things up a little, with a dual 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, and an 8-megapixel camera on the front. The secondary rear-facing lens is a 123-degree wide-angle lens.

Despite the fact that the Samsung tablet may have more megapixels, Apple is known for its excellent image processing, and may take better photos. We’ll have to wait to award a winner once we can do some more testing.

Winner: Tie

Software and updates

everything apple announced at wwdc 2019 ipados
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 runs Android 9.0 Pie, coupled with Samsung’s skin, One UI. The iPad Pro, on the other hand, runs iOS 12 — and will soon be updated to Apple’s new iPadOS.

We’re not going to go into the Android vs. iOS debate here, but the basic gist of things is that Apple’s iOS is probably a little more intuitive for some, and the iPad Pro boasts more apps and games that have been especially optimized for it. While the Galaxy Tab S6 offers more customization options and features, there’s one area where Samsung seriously lags behind Apple — updates. Samsung is usually pretty slow with Android updates, not to mention the fact that Samsung devices sometimes don’t get updates at all. The iPad Pro, however, will get immediate updates for at least a few years to come — and because of that, it’s the winner here.

Winner: Apple iPad Pro (11-inch)

Special features

samsung galaxy tab s6 news 12
Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Both the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 and the iPad Pro offer a few special features — but the Galaxy Tab S6 seems to go above and beyond. The iPad offers support for the Apple Pencil, which is great for graphic design, though it costs an extra $130. The iPad Pro also has Apple’s Face ID facial-recognition tech, which is super secure and pretty high-tech.

The Galaxy Tab S6 boasts an in-display optical fingerprint sensor, along with support for the company’s S Pen, which comes with the tablet. The standout feature, however, is DeX mode. What that means is that you can essentially use the device as a computer when you connect it to an external monitor. Not only that, but the Galaxy Tab S6 Book Cover Keyboard has a built-in trackpad, making for a laptop experience when connected to a display, though it does cost an extra $180. Because of those extra features, the Galaxy Tab S6 is the winner here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

Price

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 starts at at $650 for the base model, but if you want to upgrade to the model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, you’ll need to shell out $730. A model with cellular connectivity is coming later this year and will cost more. The iPad Pro, on the other hand, starts at $800. To upgrade to 256GB of storage, you’ll pay $950, while 512GB costs $1,150, and 1TB costs $1,550; it’s not a cheap device.

Overall winner: Apple iPad Pro (11-inch)

There are advantages to both devices here, but if money was no object, we would pick the iPad Pro — it’s our favorite tablet right now. Which should you buy? Well, if you own an iPhone and use other Apple devices, it’s easy to recommend the iPad Pro. If, however, you’ve got a Samsung smartphone, or you’re looking to save a bit of cash, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is an excellent device and it may be a better buy for you.

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