Sometimes, simpler is better. Not everyone needs a tablet that can replace their laptop, or partner up with a keyboard to knock out screenplays every time they visit Starbucks.
With Apple rapidly evolving the iPad into a multi-use productivity powerhouse, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is a breath of fresh air. It doesn't have a range of high-price accessories, just an S Pen included in the box for instant sketching and scribbling.
Samsung's affordable slate promises to do just about everything you'd want from a tablet, at a sensible price - as long as you don't mind a few compromises along the way.
DESIGN & FEATURES: SLEEK CHIC
Nothing about the Tab S6 Lite says "affordable" - in fact it's a dead ringer for the pricier, full-fat Tab S6, with the same skinny screen bezels, metal and glass construction, and slender dimensions. There's no physical home button to take away from the minimal good looks, either.
Instead you get the choice of facial recognition or onscreen passwords, as there's no in-screen fingerprint scanner like you'll find on its bigger brother. The 5MP front-facing webcam sits at the top of the screen, so isn't great for unlocking when you're holding the tablet in landscape view, but otherwise it works well enough.
You'll find USB-C charging, a microSD card slot and - praise the lord - a 3.5mm headphone jack dotted around the sides of the tablet, but it still manages to stay a svelte 7mm thick. At 467g it's not exactly a featherweight, so you'll definitely feel it if you drop it on your bonce while scrolling in bed.
The bundled S Pen hooks onto the right side of the tablet with magnets, which are firm enough that it should stay in place even if you toss it into a backpack. It's a chunkier stylus than the skinny twigs that slot into Samsung's Galaxy Note phones, which makes writing and drawing feel that bit more natural.
OS & SOFTWARE: QUICK ON THE DRAW
You'll find handy menus, shortcuts and toolbars strewn throughout Samsung's version of Android 10 to help you get the most out of the S Pen, letting you jump into note taking and sketching apps with just one or two taps.
The interface isn't all that different to a modern Galaxy phone, with one or two extras that make better use of the big screen, like a swipe-out multitasking bar which is far slicker than Google's fiddly way of doing things. Apps still live in a drawer that appears with a swipe, and the notification tray still pulls down from the top of the screen.
For all of Samsung's efforts, though, Android just isn't as optimised for big screens as Apple's iPad OS. The Play Store is still full of apps that don't scale well to tablet size, and there aren't enough professional-level apps for serious artists wanting to get the most out of the S Pen. Samsung's syncing efforts are well behind Apple's, too: swapping a pair of AirPods between an iPhone and an iPad is all but seamless, but here it's a mess of multiple apps, pairing and pull-down menus before everything will play nicely together.
SCREEN & SOUND: SMALL SACRIFICE
On paper, the Lite doesn't lose out all that much compared to the Tab S6 on the display front - sure, it's 0.1in smaller across, and resolution takes a bigger hit, but 2000x1200 is still more than Full HD, so video streaming doesn't suffer.
The biggest loss here is panel technology. You get an LCD screen, rather than AMOLED, so Samsung could keep costs down. Contrast isn't nearly as good when watching dark and moody Netflix dramas, but otherwise colours still have lots of punch, and the display gets plenty bright enough too. Step outside and you won't struggle to see what's on screen.
There's no HDR support here, and if you aren't a fan of the out-the-box colours there's not much you can do about it, as there's no colour temperature or white balance controls buried in the Settings screen. For the price, though, there's little to complain about, with largely balanced hues that make pictures and videos appear easy on the eye.
AKG-branded stereo speakers sit at the top and bottom of the tablet, which makes them best suited for horizontal use. They get impressively loud and have good separation once you turn on Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound, which helps give streaming video that extra dab of immersion, but there's not much in the way of low-end. Mids and high-end notes are clear enough, with just a hint of distortion when you really crank it, but you'll still want some headphones for bass-heavy listening.
CAMERA: TICKS A BOX
With a modest 8 megapixels and f/1.9 aperture, the Tab S6 Lite's rear camera isn't going to blow you away with its quality. There's no optical image stabilisation, only basic HDR processing that often struggles in scenes with varied light intensity, and no 4K video recording.
Feed it enough light and outdoor photos look decent enough, as long as you're shooting an evenly lit scene. Everywhere else, it struggles to balance highlights and shadows without throwing the darker areas into silhouette. Noise levels jump up when you step indoors, and the level of detail isn't all that impressive. If your smartphone is only a year or two old, it'll take better pictures than this.
The camera app also offsets the onscreen shutter button awkwardly to one side - possibly Samsung's subliminal attempt to get its customers to hold their tablets in landscape mode when snapping photos - but there's an optional floating shutter button for those that insist on portrait pictures. The front-facing camera has enough resolution for video calling, but selfie fans will again be better off reaching for their phone.
PERFORMANCE: MIDDLE OF THE ROAD
It might have an eight-core CPU, but the Tab S6 Lite is no speed demon. Samsung's own Exynos 9611 silicon is about on par with Qualcomm's mid-range phone processors, and it's paired with just 4GB of RAM. This is fine for the basics, loading single apps quickly enough and responding quickly enough on the Android home screen, but look a little closer and you'll spot the odd stuttery animation, slight delay when swiping between menus, and a sluggishness when trying to multitask.
It's not enough to ruin the experience, but a vanilla iPad just feels smoother across the board. At least the drawing apps we used felt fluid in use, so as long as you're not trying to do five things at once, you won't be too disappointed by the Lite's performance.
That's largely true when it comes to gaming, as long as you dial the details back on more intensive titles. Call of Duty Mobile is impressively playable, with the odd frame rate drop here and there, but you'll want to tweak Player Unknown's Battlegrounds to avoid heated moments dissolving into a juddery mess. Stick to 2D titles and the Tab S6 Lite is more than powerful enough to get the job done.
BATTERY LIFE: NO STOPPING ME NOW
Plan on using your Tab S6 Lite for social scrolling, doodling and catching up on your YouTube watch later list? Then you can easily expect a whole day of use from a single charge.
The hefty 7040mAh battery is capable of 11-12 hours of continuous use, even with the brightness cranked, so light and moderate use shouldn't force you to tether to a plug socket.
Gaming takes a bigger sip of your remaining juice, but you can still expect six or seven hours of Call of Duty: Mobile or PUBG Mobile marathon, if your thumbs are up to it. 15W USB-C fast charging isn't exactly speedy, so you'll need to set aside a few hours to top up once you do run out of charge. Better to plug in overnight and wake up to a fully fuelled device, rather than find yourself short by mid-afternoon.
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S6 LITE VERDICT
With decent performance, useful software additions and an S Pen included in the box, the Tab S6 Lite might be the most well-rounded Android tablet around right now.
Samsung has never come closer to matching Apple's entry-level model in terms of features and functionality. Android is still the weak like, though. A basic iPad might have less storage, and asks artists or note-takers to spend an extra £100 on an Apple Pencil, but it has more potent hardware and an OS that creates a slicker experience overall.
Still if you've made a happy home on Android devices, and your budget won't stretch to the full-fat Galaxy Tab S6, this is an excellent mid-range alternative.