In fact, being a tablet is where the S6 Lite shines. I used it to watch The Weeknd’s music videos for The Hills and Blinding Lights and found the 2,000 x 1,200 display to be crisp and colorful. I was slightly disappointed Samsung used a TFT panel here instead of an AMOLED, but for the price I won’t complain too much. Besides, it still offered respectable image quality: details like blood dripping from The Weeknd’s teeth and the texture of his face were easy to make out. Unfortunately, the screen was harder to see in direct sunlight, even at max brightness. I did appreciate that the speakers pumped out clear, rich audio. It was plenty loud, though I wish the bass were slightly stronger.
I also liked using the Kindle app on the Tab S6 Lite to read books while lying on my couch — this is one of the main reasons I find a tablet so appealing. I can Netflix on my TV, play mobile games on my phone, but without pulling out an e-reader, the tablet is the best device for reading. It’s also great for the current moment, with all these quarantine calls over Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, or what have you.
For those relentless video calls, the Tab S6 Lite offers a 2-megapixel front camera, which captured surprisingly detailed selfies. The device also has a 5-megapixel sensor on the back, which I didn’t use much. (I’m not a monster, after all.) But based on my testing, the rear camera is good enough for Instagram Stories or videos if you really must — just don’t expect the superior exposure and colors you’d get from pretty much any other phone.
Since it runs Android 10, the Tab S6 Lite has access to a wealth of mobile-friendly apps. Google still has work to do to make its OS more tablet-friendly — Instagram just refuses to flip to landscape mode, for example — but for the most part I didn’t have major complaints about the software.
Since it doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner, the Tab S6 Lite only offers face unlock as a PIN/password-free login option. This uses the front camera, which, if you’re holding the tablet in portrait mode, is placed above the screen. When you’re holding the Tab S6 Lite horizontally, the camera is on the left. Thankfully, face unlock worked pretty much the same in either orientation, although it was a little slow in recognizing me in both modes, often taking a second or two to let me in.
Performance and battery life
In almost every other way, the Tab S6 Lite was satisfyingly speedy, thanks to its octa-core Exynos 9611 CPU. I jumped back and forth between Instagram, Chrome, the Criminal Minds mobile game and recipe videos on YouTube without delay. The 4GB of RAM Samsung provides here is on par with Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet and 1GB more than what you’ll get on the 2019 iPad. If you’re not pushing it too hard with intense multitasking and, say, playing Wheel of Fortune while on a Zoom date, you’ll find the Tab S6 Lite a speedy machine.
It’s not just fast — the S6 Lite is long-lasting, too. It clocked 10 and a half hours on our video rundown battery test, beating the Chromebook Duet and matching the iPad. In general, too, the S6 Lite hung around longer than a day before needing to be plugged in. That’s after fairly light tasks like playing a ton of Criminal Minds, drawing for a collaboration with my friend and reading a book on Kindle, though.
Ultimately, the Tab S6 Lite is good because it’s simple. It isn’t striving to be a 2-in-1 that might require better hardware and multitasking software. Those looking for a well-designed, long-lasting and capable Android tablet will find the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite a satisfying option. Plus, the S Pen is a huge bonus for the price, especially for those who like drawing or note taking. Those looking to save a little more money should consider something from Amazon’s Fire series, though you’ll have to make do with a slightly less powerful device. With the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, Samsung is bringing back the basic tablet, and I’m here for it.
Update (at 1:24pm ET on May 29th): Samsung clarified after publication that the Tab S6 Lite’s processor is an Exynos 9611 not Exynos 9610 like it previously told Engadget. We have updated this review with the right CPU model.