Nowadays, there’s no shortage of tablets that transform into laptops, so much so that Microsoft Surface rivals are becoming a dime-a-dozen. The Surface Pro itself is in its fourth iteration, but then there’s the Dell XPS 12, the HP Spectre x2, the soon-to-be-released Huawei MateBook, and now Samsung’s entered the ring with the Galaxy TabPro S. That’s not to say a bit of competition isn’t a good thing, as the Galaxy TabPro S offers far more than your typical two-in-one hybrid.
First and foremost, there’s that 12in, 2,160×1,440 Super AMOLED display. It’s probably the first thing you notice when you turn the TabPro S on, as its rich, vibrant colours really jump out of the screen. It’s the same kind of panel you’ll find on Samsung’s latest Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphones, and it looks just as lovely here as it does on Samsung’s flagship handsets.
The other thing you’ll notice is its 4:3 aspect ratio, which is a little unorthodox for Windows-based laptops, as these are typically 16:9. However, I find a 4:3 ratio makes web browsing and editing documents a more pleasurable experience as you have more vertical screen space to work with. 16:9 is still better for watching films, though, as a 4:3 screen will have thicker black bars along the edge – much like the 3:2 Surface Pro 4 and any Apple iPad.
As expected, Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology means the TabPro S has top-notch image quality, including pure 0.00cd/m2 blacks and perfect 1:1 contrast ratio. Even its colour accuracy is almost perfect thanks to its 99.5% sRGB colour gamut coverage and Delta-E of 1.75. Brightness is very high at 363.4cd/m2, and its 2,160×1,440 resolution leaves images and text looking sharp and crisp. As a result, the TabPro S has one of the most beautiful tablet screens you’ll see today.
The only major problem with the screen is the limited viewing angle adjustment afforded by the keyboard cover. The display is propped up at one of three fixed angles – either 115 degrees or two almost-flat angles – which gives it two more positions than the Dell XPS 12, but it pales in comparison to Microsoft’s endlessly adjustable kickstand on the Surface Pro 4.
It’s comfortable to use upright, but flexibility is always welcome especially if you ever need to use it in cramped conditions, such as on a train. You also have to watch out how you attach it to the keyboard cover, as the tablet can easily fall backwards if its camera housing isn’t firmly inserted into the prescribed gap. Thankfully, the TabPro S doesn’t catch many reflections, so I didn’t need to adjust quite as much as other hybrid devices to avoid bright, overhead lights.
Another, more minor irritation I had with the TabPro S’s screen was Samsung’s screen dimming software. Regardless of whether the tablet’s on mains power or not, this will dim the screen after a period of inactivity to help prolong the lifespan of the AMOLED display. You can’t disable it sadly, but you can change its default timing from one minute up to five. Fortunately, it doesn’t kick in when you’re watching films or video even when you’re watching in a browser, so it’s not too disruptive in the grand scheme of things, but it would have been nice to have the option to turn it off completely.
As for the cover itself, it’s made out of the same faux-leather that’s synonymous with many of Samsung’s Galaxy devices, such as the Galaxy Note phablets and official covers for the S7. You get a choice of either a black or white finish and each one feels suitably premium to the touch without adding a lot of extra bulk to the overall tablet.
The cover attaches to the rear of the tablet using magnets, but you have to move the tablet towards you when using it in keyboard mode, as its magnetic dock sits about three inches below where the case folds in half. The magnet here is reasonably strong, and I was able to lift the entire device via the screen without the keyboard falling off.
The only problem is that aforementioned camera gap, as tilting the whole assembly backwards by lifting the front of the keyboard or giving the screen a strong prod will cause the whole thing to fall apart, which is really quite worrying for a device that costs £849. It’s sturdy enough when using it on a desk, but using on your lap it can feel rather hazardous. It might not fall forward like the Dell XPS 12, but having it tumble backwards isn’t exactly ideal either.
Undocking the tablet to close the lid is also a little fiddly, and will take some getting used to. Since the tablet doesn’t dock with the base at the hinge, you can’t simply just fold it shut when you’re done. Instead, I had to hold the keyboard base down with one hand while pulling with the other, which sometimes meant accidentally mashing the keyboard keys. It was here I really missed the kickstand on the Surface Pro 4, as this is much easier to open and close when you need to pack up.
As much as I like the keyboard cover’s exterior, I can’t say the same about the keys inside it. While the keys are full-size – not to mention a row of dedicated Function keys – the keyboard as a whole feels very cramped when typing. This is partly because there’s not a lot of room to play with once you’ve docked the tablet in place, but there’s also very little clearance between each individual key. This means striking adjacent keys happens far too frequently, leading to constant typos and frustration. Trying to correct typos was equally irritating as well, as the Backspace key is uncharacteristically the same width as the Enter key below. It’s usually wider on most keyboards, so I often missed that, too.
The amount of key travel is also incredibly shallow, despite having a hard, but ultimately unsatisfying, action. Attempting to write this review on the keyboard quickly became quite laborious, which is a real shame. I have a reasonably high tolerance for less than stellar keyboards as, more often than not, you can usually adapt and get used to them, but even after prolonged use I never felt completely comfortable with the TabPro S’ keyboard. Things do improve over time, but it’s still disappointing overall. After all, keyboard covers are meant to transform tablets into instant productivity devices, but here, it makes doing anything even vaguely productive more difficult than it should.
The touchpad, at least, is pretty good. It’s Precision-certified and feels swift and responsive in use, handling all of the multi-touch gestures you would expect from Windows 10 without much fuss. Again, the limited space does mean it can feel a bit cramped at times, but it doesn’t suffer as a result.
If there’s any consolation, it’s that the keyboard cover is included in the box, unlike with Microsoft’s Surface range. Still, there’s an argument to be made for paying extra, as the Surface’s Type Cover keyboard is not only much better quality, but it also includes backlighting, which is disappointingly absent on the TabPro S. The other notable difference is that the Surface Pro 4’s keyboard is also angled slightly to provide a more ergonomic working angle, whereas the TabPro S just lies completely flat.
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