Samsung was the first major brand to announce a 12-inch HiDPI ultralight notebook running with Windows 10 and an Intel core m3 processor. The announcement sent shock-waves through the PC OEMs who were impressed behind closed doors. At 1.53 lbs (694g), the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is impressively light and portable, especially when the lightest clamshell PCs often start at 11” and 2.3+ Lbs.
An extreme design like this will, of course, have strengths and weaknesses. In this article, we aim at showing you what they are, so you can see the beat use cases and be able to map our experience to your needs.
Configuration as tested
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S varies only in storage capacity (128/256 GB), so none of the variants would affect CPU/GPU performance. The SSD size could theoretically influence performance depending on the controller, but we only had access to one unit.
- Intel Core m3-6Y30 (0.9-1.51 GHz)
- 4GB RAM
- 128GB SDD [256 GB Max.]
- 108GB formatted
- Windows 10 Home [Windows 10 Pro]
The industrial design of the Galaxy TabPro S is very neat. At first glance, It is a metal and glass design, which look like a high-end 12-inch tablet. Interestingly enough the backside isn’t made of metal. Instead, it seems like a sheet of hard plastic, possibly to accommodate the optional wireless broadband LTE modem. The back seems to have been designed with the idea that most users will have the keyboard/cover on the laptop.
The number of connectors is extremely limited: one USB-C and one 3.5mm audio ports. At the bottom of the TabPro S, there’s a proprietary connector for the keyboard, which is nice because a wired connection avoids lag, pairing and having to include a keyboard battery. This is always the preferred option from a user standpoint.
At the top of the tablet, you will find the Power and Volume control. There are also two small holes which appear to be microphones. On the left side, there’s an additional button, which is the equivalent of the Windows “Start” button. The Stereo speakers are set on either sides when in portrait mode.
The speakers output a quality sound, and you can most definitely enjoy listening music with them. From that, you can conclude that movie soundtracks and voices will come out nicely as well. Even at 100% volume there isn’t much distortion: it looks like Samsung tweaked things well.
Keyboard (free / included in the box)
The Galaxy TabPro S comes with the keyboard directly in the box, which explains why it is a little more expensive than the closest competitor, the Huawei Matebook Pro, which sells its keyboard/cover option for $129.
I typically consider that the keyboard is a must-have feature, so most people should consider adding its price comparing with the Huawei Matebook. If you do not want to have the keyboard for some reason, then having it as an option may be a good thing.
"REMINDS ME OF THE SURFACE PRO 3 KEYBOARD"The Galaxy TabPro S keyboard is fairly compact and reminds me of the Surface Pro 3 keyboard. Since then, Microsoft has gone with a better chiclet keyboard with a longer key travel. That said, the TabPro S keyboard is pretty decent and gets the job done, although it could certainly use some design improvements later.
The trackpad integrated into the keyboard is relatively small but I found it to be sufficient, and it didn’t get in the way. Obviously, larger trackpads are more comfortable to use, but I don’t think that Samsung had a lot of options since the design is very compact and takes a minimal footprint on the table.
Galaxy phone fingerprint unlock
The Galaxy TabPro S doesn’t have a built-in fingerprint reader by default (unlike the Huawei Matebook), but Samsung added an interesting option to log-in via your (Samsung) phone’s fingerprint reader via Samsung Flow. It’s an interesting option which uses the phone as a proximity safety, but it adds just enough friction that I find myself not using it. If you have a long password, you could go through the effort, but I can type my relatively long password faster than login with the phone.
Your mileage can vary, and it’s nice to have the option — but in the end, it’s just better to have it integrated into the computer. Samsung Flow has other benefits, but I don’t think that it is a sway factor at the moment.
Display (very good)
The Galaxy TabPro S has a 12-inch, 2160×1440, Super-AMOLED, which means that it’s an AMOLED screen with an integrated touch sensor. Note that Super-AMOLED or sAMOLED is not a technology, but a Brand which is owned and used by Samsung.
"THE SAMOLED DISPLAY IS SUPERIOR TO HUAWEI’S LCD IPS DISPLAY"With a pixel density of 216 PPI, thinks to very sharp (for a PC), and Windows 10 comes out nice and clear. We measured the maximum brightness at 206 NITs, which isn’t very much as many laptops can hit 300+ NITs. Concretely, it means that working in a sunny/bright environment may become challenging, especially since the screen has a glossy finish.
That said, the closest competitor, the Huawei Matebook’s brightness is about the same (216 NITs), so that’s about the best will you get with this kind of form-factor, since I consider the Surface 4 Pro a serious machine, but not quite in the same category of size and price.
The sAMOLED display is superior to Huawei’s LCD IPS display in black-levels/contrast, and possibly saturation. The difference in brightness is small, and I don’t think it’s perceptible without instruments (216 NITs for Huawei vs. 206 NITs for Samsung). The difference in contrast is however visible to the naked eye, and everyone can see it.
Webcam + Main camera (very good, for a PC)
The Galaxy TabPro S has two cameras: a main camera at the rear, and a front camera (webcam) for video calls, and possibly selfies. Although both cameras are a far cry from what you can find on a Galaxy S7 phone, they are better than what’s in pretty much all the laptops I’ve played with recently, and it becomes the notebook to beat in terms of imaging and low-light selfies.
That’s nice because, with the increasing quality of displays, it’s fair to say that the PC industry has been cheaping out on decent camera module. It’s nice to see Samsung put some pressure here, and the difference is worth mentioning as we would like to encourage higher quality notebook camera hardware.
In general, the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has performance that is comparable to other computers running with the same processor. And because the Intel core m processor also integrated the GPU, the graphics performance is also very close from one computer to the other.
The TabPro S does not have a core m5 option, so there’s no way to pay extra to gain a little CPU performance. Huawei’s Matebook does have an m5 processor and 8GB RAM option, which is a big deal for multitasking.
The TabPro S now has a 8GB+ option (TabPro S Gold Edition), and although the lower memory amount won’t show up in benchmarks, it can affect performance if the system runs out of memory and starts swapping data (memory-intensive tasks like Photoshop/video editing). You may think that you’re “just browsing the web”, but leaving a bunch of browser tabs open can be incredibly taxing on the system too.
With a score of 4868, the Galaxy TabPro S has an excellent mobile storage system, which is even faster than the Surface Pro 4 (4662 points, core i7), but Huawei’s Matebook benchmark scores are even a little bit higher 4921. In reality, those differences are not perceptible, but your takeaway is that storage is excellent.
Speed in relation to price and weight
In general, the TabPro S performs decently regarding its price and weight, but in most benchmarks, the Huawei Matebook has slightly higher performance which puts it just a little ahead. The difference in performance isn’t really perceptible, but this shows how competitive this space is, and how cutting-edge both companies are.
It also shows that specialized designs can bring significant value to users who target ultra-light designs. Our charts clearly show that those small computers can pack a lot of punch in relation to their weight and that increasing the weight does certainly not increase performance linearly.
But in absolute terms, you will have to make some sacrifices in terms of performance because these Intel m3 based computer designs flirt with the edge of a “good enough” user experience. From time to time, things can start feeling slow if you are not mindful of your resource usage.
With a 39.5 Wh battery capacity, the Galaxy TabPro S come ahead of the Huawei Matebook that has 33.7 Wh. That’s even more than the Surface Pro 4 which has 38.2 Wh while being 35% bigger in volume.
While Samsung claims 630mm (10.5hrs of battery life), it’s not immediately clear in what conditions those numbers were obtained. Usually, this is done by watching a local video with the screen setup to be not overly bright.
In my personal use case where I write and do some photo/video editing in the context of Ubergizmo, I wouldn’t expect more than 4 to 4.5 hours of battery if I’m mindful of power consumption. Keep in mind that things like web browsers can be deceptively power-taxing when many tabs are left open.
The Galaxy TabPro S easily brings the most battery capacity for the price, and for the weight. At this specific size/weight point, that’s the most battery you will get.
Samsung says that you can go from 0% to 100% battery in 150mn, which is a believable claim since battery charging measurement can be done very accurately. There’s also a “fast-charging” mechanism according to Samsung, but without further data, I can’t lend more or less credence to it.
To date, the most effective fast-charging that we have seen comes from Lenovo, which can charge from 0%-80% in 30mn laptops such as the Carbon X1 (2014) or the Yoga X1 (2016) – this is a hot feature that every PC OEM should include, but yet, very few do.
I’ll see if I can establish a baseline later. 0%-100% in 150mn isn’t super-fast when compared to what we’ve seen with Lenovo. Also, charging tends to slow down considerably after 80%, so Samsung should really communicate about 0-80%… just a piece of advice.
OEMs should realize that fast-charging is one of the key features that this ultra-light category of laptops needs. There’s no way to put much more battery capacity in there, but it’s possible to replenish the energy storage faster.
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S introduced an impressive world-class design that still leads the pack today. It competes with the Huawei Matebook which also has an excellent industrial design. A complete comparison between the two would deserve its own article, but the bottom line is this: The Galaxy TabPro S works better because it has a better keyboard design. There’s also a wireless broadband LTE version as well, which we have not tested.
If you are shopping for a tablet-only Win10 device and don’t plan to use the Keyboard, the Huawei is arguably better in some ways, so it’s worth considering for that scenario. On Windows, I expect the large majority of users to want a keyboard. As you can see from the list below, both Huawei and Samsung have similar pricing once the keyboard is bundled.
"AN IMPRESSIVE WORLD-CLASS DESIGN"Also, the Surface Pro 4 is never far from mind when talking about these tablet/notebooks. It’s important to understand that despite some design and pricing similarities, the “feel” of using and carrying a Surface Pro 4 is quite different. That is because it has a ~35% larger volume than the Samsung TabPro S. It’s fair to assume that if you’re reading this, size matters to you. If not, just get a Surface Pro 4 — if in doubt, try to hold them at a retail location. Microsoft has stores in many places and good show rooms.
Performance-wise, the Core m platform is getting better. A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have considered one for my use (trade shows…), but now it’s getting “good enough” for my needs. Keep in mind that these are still ultra-light computers who do have performance trade-offs, so avoid heavy multitasking and heavy workloads.
- Samsung TabProS (m3/128GB/4GB): $798
- Gold Edition (m3/256GB/8GB): $999
- Huawei Matebook (m3/128GB/4GB): $670+$129 (keyboard) = $799
- Surface Pro 4 (m3/128GB/4GB): $899