Preview: Samsung TabPro S, a 2-in-1 That Is Neither

Samsung's new 2-in-1 Samsung TabPro S.
Written by Max Filipsson

By Max Filipsson
BU News Service

Samsung revealed its new 2-in-1 Samsung TabPro S at CES, promising to do what was needed to make the best possible product. Having seen the TabPro S close up it looked to fail to deliver on said promise.

“We’re going to break the rules and push innovation to new heights,” Allanna Cotton said at the end of the press conference, having revealed the 2-in-1 and its partnership with Microsoft to make it a Windows 10 device.

The design of the TabPro S made it feel as if Samsung broke a crucial rule of 2-in-1 computers: do not compromise its ability to function as either tablet or computer. As a result the Samsung TabPro S came across as a confused design unsure of its target audience and intended usage.

The strong points of the TabPro S are strong but few, and focused on form rather than function. It comes with a SAMOLED screen running at a crisp and sharp 2160×1440 resolution. It is bright and showed off colors beautifully. Its touch capabilities worked well. It responded immediately to both swiping, tapping and multi-touch gestures. The technology inside is the same as that found in other Samsung products including phones, tablets and televisions.

The computer is small for its size. The screen is 12 inches across and a quarter of an inch thick. It makes for a thin and light display, weighing in at one and a half pounds, detachable keyboard included. It never felt flimsy while handled due to its metallic casing. It gave the computer a feeling of comfortable density. The detachable keyboard itself is very thin (too thin) and light.

Samsung promised a 10.5 hour battery life on a 5200 mAh battery. This is longer than Microsoft’s recent Surface Pro 4, which promises a nine hour battery life on a roughly 5000 mAh battery.

The 2-in-1 that I tried at CES ran Windows 10. It launched productivity tools with ease. Switching between desktop mode and tablet mode was instantaneous and painless, unlike the second or so delay when doing the same on older models like the Surface Pro 3.

The things the TabPro S does well are done well. But what it does well is look good and for a long time. Its actual functionality seemed lacking, even on paper.

The TabPro S has an Intel Core M processor. It is a dual core chip that can perform at 2.2 GHz designed to be power-efficent and small. CNET’s tests of the chip last year showed its performance to be less than stellar. While it provided a good battery life, the chip came with a sluggish performance. In one case (the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro) it performed poorly even while in low-stress situations.

The TabPro S’s arguably worst sin is the ports. It comes with a single 3.5mm audio jack and a USB-C port. The USB-C port is used for both charging and any storage or device connections. A user who wishes to connect a separate storage drive and use a stand alone mouse while low on battery is two ports low. And even if storage is all the user wants the computer requires an adapter. For those relying exclusively on the cloud this may not be as big of a problem, but even a $150 Chromebook comes with the option to connect (multiple) storage devices without external adapters.

The keyboard was thin and light. This would make it easy to carry around. Unfortunately it felt flimsy and brittle where the computer itself felt dense and solid. It felt as though it would snap or crack under pressure. The keys themselves were mushy with shallow travel time making the actual typing experience unpleasant. The overall experience of using the keyboard made it feel subpar as an actual laptop.

The TabPro S should fare better as a tablet than a laptop. Good battery life and its hardware isn’t terrible when compared to other mobile processors. However, its tablet design is compromized due to it also trying to function as a laptop.

Where the size was praised when looked at as a laptop, 12 inches is massive for a tablet. It is hard to use a 12-inch tablet while held in hand, though far easier when cradled like large notepad. Such a grip almost necessitates a stylus however, which brings up its next tablet-related issue: it will not ship with a stylus. While using a 2-in-1 in the cradled, notepad style a stylus and Microsoft’s One Note program were lifesavers, making everything from notetaking to doodling and brainstorming easy, smooth and fun. One Note will function natively on the TabPro S; not shipping with a stylus is a bizzare choice.

Samsung representatives said the TabPro S will launch in the second half of 2016. No price has been set.

The impressions above were based on what was presented to the public and press during the CES 2016 press conference and some hands-on time at the booth on the showfloor. The assessment was not based on real use for any extended period of time. But if Samsung wished to generate buzz and excitement about their products they have to look better on paper and in inferred function than what it presented at CES 2016.

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