Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 vs. Tab S5e vs. Tab S4: A look at all the differences

If you’re shopping for a new Android tablet, Samsung’s latest Galaxy Tab S6 demands consideration, along with other options in the range. You may assume that the newer Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is better than the year-old Galaxy Tab S4, but it’s actually a slimmed-down, more affordable offering. The Tab 5Se is to the Tab S6 what the Samsung Galaxy S10e is to the Galaxy S10.

All three of Samsung’s tablets have a lot in common, but dig deeper and there are some differences worth noting. The Galaxy Tab S4 has been sitting happily in our best tablets list since its release as the top Android option, so the Tab S6 has its work cut out to unseat it. Let’s take a closer look at how these tablets measure up.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
Size 244.5 x 159.5 x 5.7 mm (9.62 x 6.28 x 0.22 inches) 245 x 160 x 5.5 mm (9.64 x 6.29 x 0.21 inches) 249.3 x 164.3 x 7.1 mm (9.81 x 6.47 x 0.28 inches)
Weight 420 grams (0.92 pounds) 400 grams (0.88 pounds) 482 grams (1.06 pounds)
Screen size 10.5-inch Super AMOLED 10.5-inch Super AMOLED 10.5-inch Super AMOLED
Screen resolution 2,560 x 1,600 pixels (287 pixels-per-inch) 2,560 x 1,600 pixels (287 pixels-per-inch) 2,560 x 1,600 pixels (287 pixels-per-inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie
Storage space 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB 64GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot Yes Yes Yes
Tap to pay services No No No
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM 6GB, 8GB 4GB, 6GB 4GB
Camera 13MP and 5MP rear, 8MP front 13MP rear, 8MP front 13MP rear, 8MP front
Video 2,160p at 30fps 2,160p at 30fps 2,160p at 30fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C USB-C USB-C, 3.5mm audio jack
Fingerprint sensor Yes (in-display) Yes (side) No
Water resistance No No No
Battery 7,040mAh 7,040mAh 7,300mAh
App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support TBA None AT&T, Sprint, Verizon
Colors Mountain Gray, Cloud Blue, Rose Blush Gold, Silver, Black Black, White
Price $650 $400 $650
Buy from Samsung Samsung Samsung, Best Buy
Review score Hands-on review Hands-on review 3.5 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

samsung galaxy tab s6 news 19
Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 has a Snapdragon 835 processor inside, which was the best chip available a couple of years ago. The Galaxy Tab S5e has a newer chip, but it’s a midrange Snapdragon 670. There’s actually very little difference in how these processors perform, but the 835 is going to be faster in most circumstances — we’re talking around 20% according to the benchmarks. The Galaxy Tab S6 blows them away completely with the Snapdragon 855, which offers 80% more processing power. The newer tablet also promises faster graphics and boasts optimized gaming A.I. If you’re going to use demanding apps or play a lot of games, then the Tab S6 is the one to go for.

Both standard S4 and S5e models come with 4GB of RAM, but the Tab S5e has a multitasking advantage thanks to the option of upgrading to 6GB of RAM. The Tab S6 wins again, though, with 6GB or 8GB of RAM depending on the storage option you go for — 128GB or 256GB. All three have room for a MicroSD card to expand that storage space.

With more than 200mAh of extra battery capacity, the Tab S4 has a clear edge in the stamina department. All three can be charged quickly at up 18W, so there’s no dividing them on charging speed. The Tab S6 wins here with a much faster processor, but the Tab S4 has the greatest stamina.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

Design and durability

samsung galaxy tab s6 news 4
Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

All of these tablets are skillfully crafted and they each have a touch of luxurious style about them, but there are a couple of reasons that we slightly prefer the Tab S5e and the Tab S6. First, they are much slimmer and lighter, which makes them easier to hold one-handed. Second, they both have a fingerprint sensor — the S5e has one on the side and the S6 has an in-display fingerprint scanner — which is convenient and something most people are used to. The iris scanner in the Tab S4 is more secure, but it’s not as easy to use.

Samsung has also slimmed down the bezels a little, so the two newer tablets are more svelte in every aspect. One thing that you may miss with the newer tablets, however, is the headphone jack, but that’s the only design advantage the Tab S4 has. None of these tablets has any real durability to speak of, you will certainly want to be careful handling them and should probably consider a case. There’s no water resistance either, so keep them dry.

It’s tough to choose between the S5e and the S6 in this category, but the S6 gets the edge with a more interesting choice of colors and better accessory integration. The S Pen attaches magnetically and there’s a much improved keyboard case with a trackpad, though it’s an expensive extra at $179.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

Display

samsung galaxy tab s6 news 2
Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

The 10.5-inch Super AMOLED screen in the Galaxy Tab S4 is one of the best you’ll find, so we’re pleased to see exactly the same display in the Tab S5e and the Tab S6. The 2,560 x 1,600-pixel resolution is plenty sharp, with vibrant colors and great contrast. It’s ideal for watching movies or TV shows, gaming, or just browsing the web. We can’t separate the tablets here.

Winner: Tie

Camera

samsung galaxy tab s6 news 21

While the competition to release the best camera phone is fierce, it’s something of an afterthought with tablets. That said, the Tab S4 and Tab S5e sport a respectable pairing of a 13-megapixel main shooter and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera that’s ideal for video calls. The Tab S6 kicks things up a notch with a dual lens main camera that pairs a 13-megapixel lens with a secondary 5-megapixel wide-angle lens, which offers a 123-degree field of view. It also has an 8-megapixel front-facing camera.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

Software and updates

Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 and the Tab S5e will launch with Android 9.0 Pie on board and the Galaxy Tab S4 has recently been updated to Android 9.0 Pie. All have Samsung’s One user interface over the top, which offers a range of extras, including support for DeX mode, which turns your tablet into a makeshift desktop, the Bixby voice assistant, and more. Sadly, Samsung is not the fastest at updating its devices, but we expect the update schedule to be pretty similar for these tablets.

Winner: Tie

Special features

samsung galaxy tab s6 news 9
Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

For the most part, these tablets are evenly matched, but there is a standout feature that only the Tab S4 and S6 have — the S Pen. If you like to use a stylus, make handwritten notes, or sketch on your tablet, then the S Pen is a big reason to choose the Galaxy Tab S6 over the Tab S5e. The new S Pen that comes with the Tab S6 also offers remote control functionality and charges wirelessly. If you want a tablet to double as a laptop, then the Tab S6 also offers an improved version of DeX, and the Book Cover Keyboard has new function keys and a trackpad.

There are also versions of the Galaxy Tab S6 and S4 that support LTE connectivity, whereas the Galaxy Tab S5e is always going to require Wi-Fi.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

Price

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 starts from $650, but the 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage version is $730. That new Book Cover Keyboard costs a whopping $180, though there is a pre-order offer that drops the price to $90. It will start shipping September 6. When the LTE version comes later in the year, it will be even more expensive.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e can be yours for $400, and an extra $80 will bump you up to 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 has dropped in price since its release, when it started from $650, but you’re still going to have to pay more than $500 for the basic model, and the price climbs significantly if you want more storage or cellular connectivity.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

This is a tough competition to call and our winner comes with caveats. For most people, we think the Galaxy Tab S5e is going to be the best buy, and it certainly represents better value, but if you want cellular connectivity, S Pen support, or you’re willing to pay a premium for the best performance, then the Tab S6 is the device for you. If the Tab S4 continues to fall in price, then it may still be worth checking out. Ultimately, though, the Tab S6 is the best tablet here.

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