Artist Review: Samsung TabPro S (2016) with C Pen

I finally found a secondhand unit at good price and bought it for this review. As usual, my review is written for artists who are thinking of getting a tablet like this for drawing purposes.

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S was released in March 2016 to replace the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2.

Specifications

  • OS: Windows 10
  • Dimensions: 11.43 x 7.83 x 0.25 inches (29 x 19.9 x 0.6cm)
  • Weight: 696g (not including keyboard)
  • Screen: 12-inch Super AMOLED
  • Resolution: 2160 by 1440
  • Processor: Intel Core m3-6Y30 Dual 2.2Ghz
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 128 - 256GB
  • Battery: 5200mAh with fast charging
  • Battery life: 4-5 hours in real life
  • Port: 1x USB Type C
  • Wifi: Yes, of course

Design and build quality

The design of this tablet is beautiful, build quality is excellent and the 12-inch AMOLED screen looks sharp.

In theory, color gamut support is up to 99% sRGB and 85% Adobe RGB. Such colour reproduction for a tablet is fantastic. BUT that wonderful colour reproduction only works well around the centre of the screen. Areas near the edge have a slight blue tint to it. Is that why AMOLED computer monitors aren't that popular in real life.


There's only 1 USB Type C port. To use other devices like SD card reader, USB thumb drive, or connect to external monitor, you'll need to get the Multiport Adapter which is sold separately.

You can charge the TabPro S through the multiport adapter but sadly it doesn't supply enough power to through the USB Type A port to power an external hard drive.


The included keyboard cover uses strong magnets to attach itself to the tablet.


The exterior surface finishing is tough faux leather which I prefer over the SP4's because it's easier to clean.


Typing on it is uncomfortable because the keys are spaced to close to one another and there isn't much key travel. Its main use is to protect the tablet. Typing is secondary. The good thing is the keyboard cover is included in the price. There's no backlight though.



Keyboard cover allows for two position. The lower angle is nice for drawing.


Trackpad is useable, small and meh.

General performance

The Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor is not that powerful but good enough for a tablet. Performance is snappy almost all the time. For the price paid, it better be.

The 5200 mAh battery with fast charging capability but in real life it's just average charging speed. Battery life is around 4-6 hours depending on what you do, instead of the 10.5 hours marketed by Samsung. Battery life is actually not too far behind Microsoft Surface Pro 4 which only has a 5087 mAh battery. Anyway, both tablets lose out to Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch's 10,307 mAh battery.

Maximum RAM is at 4GB is which is sufficient for light users. If you want to run lots of apps, prepare for slight lag. In real life I don't really notice lag with my workflow.

When you first use the tablet, be prepared to spend an hour or two to install the Windows and Samsung updates. The latter will give you access to the Samsung TabPro Pen Manager, which only tells you how much battery life is left in the stylus. You can't customise the stylus' shortcut buttons or pressure sensitivity.

Galaxy TabPro C Pen


Oh hey, guess which other stylus does the TabPro C Pen looks like? The sub-par Wacom Creative Stylus 2 (for iOS use only).


The tip to the TabPro C Pen has a more textured rubbery feel compared to the shiny polished plastic tip of the Creative Stylus 2. Rubbery tips are not good for writing because of the friction. For drawing purposes, it's works fine, and the tip is small and does not block off lines beneath.


There are two shortcut buttons on the side. Their functions depend on the app. By default, double clicking on the first button brings up the Windows Ink Workspace which is a menu of links to other apps. Double clicking the other button brings up Scrap Box which allows you to screen capture. As mentioned earlier, there's no way to customise those two buttons.


The stylus uses a micro-USB port for charging, the port that many Android phones and other device uses. Nice.

The TabPro C Pen is not your typical Samsung S Pen. There's no hover mode, so you won't see any cursor moving around as you hover the pen above the screen. This is unlike the S Pen, Surface Pen in Microsoft Surface Pro, Wacom Stylus in their Cintiqs or other Windows tablets with stylus specially programmed to work with the hover mode.

Here are some things to get used to. You can't tap+hold to scroll webpages unless you're using the scroll bar. And you can't hover over a file to right-click with the stylus to call up the contextual menu.

One irritating thing about the stylus is it will not be detected when you reboot the system. You have to press the side button to power on the stylus again.

Drawing performance

First of all, if you want to use pressure sensitive brush with Photoshop, you have to install the Wintab drivers. Secondly, because Wintab drivers may not work well with other graphics software, you have to use a hack to turn Wintab on or off.

Palm rejection, lag, jittery diagonal lines depend on the apps you use.

How well palm rejection works depends on how well the app is designed. I've tried several apps and palm rejection does not work perfectly. So stray marks are still likely. This applies to all the apps that I've tested and listed below. This issue with palm rejection is not anything new with capacitive styluses.

There may be slight jitter in some apps when drawing diagonal lines slowly. This is a common problem with digital styluses. To get perfect accuracy, you have to get big rubber tip styluses like the Adonit Mark for example but that will block the view of your lines, or the Adonit Jot Pro (the one with the disc tip). However, such styluses don't support pressure sensitivity.

Anyway, the jitter is present. This happens if you draw very slowly. If you draw at moderate speed, the lines will be smooth. I point this out because this is a potential deal breaker for those who need precision.


Shown above are strokes from Medibang Paint Pro. You've to decide for yourself whether or not the amount of jitter is acceptable to you. I drew the boxes very slowly. I drew the "MEDIBANG" words at moderate speed and they look fine.


Slow diagonal strokes from Mischief seem to have more jitter compared to Medibang Paint Pro.

The Galaxy TabPro C Pen supports pressure sensitivity. I'm not sure exactly how many levels. The information is difficult to find so I guess it's not a marketable number. It works but the line thickness variation you can get depends, again, on the app you use. If I have to rank this stylus in terms of sensitivity, it would be Wacom, Apple Pencil, Surface Pen, and then this pen should rank similarly to the Adonit Pixel (for iOS devices).

Below are the individual performance with apps that I've tested.

Wacom Bamboo Paper
+ No lag
+ Pressure works
- Jitter wavy effect with slow diagonal lines
- Palm rejection works mostly but stray strokes from palm not uncommon

Photoshop (I'm using CS 6)
- Minimal jitter wavy effect with slow diagonal lines
- Small user interface elements, buttons, menu with the 2160 by 1440 resolution
- Pressure works only after Wintab is installed
- Lots of glitches with Wintab. E.g. Broken lines.

Medibang Paint Pro
+ No lag
- Minimal jitter wavy effect with slow diagonal lines
+ Pressure works

Mischief
+ No lag
- Minimal jitter wavy effect with slow diagonal lines
- Does not work with Wintab on

Krita
- Minimal jitter wavy effect with slow diagonal lines
- Initial delay for each stroke to appear
- Pressure sensitivity doesn't work

Artrage Touch
+ No lag
+ No jitter
+ Pressure works

Sketchbook
+ No lag
+ Pressure works
- Minimal jitter wavy effect with slow diagonal lines

Sketchable
+ No lag
+ Pressure works
- Minimal jitter wavy effect with slow diagonal lines

Paint Tool Sai
+ No lag
+ No jitter
- Pressure doesn't work

Squid (Note taking)
+ Works well

Overall, Medibang Paint and Sketchable work quite well. Photoshop, I'm still using CS6, gave me the most problem, as always on such tablets. After installing Wintab, I had problems with the strokes' thickness, broken lines, lag.

For handwriting or note taking apps, Squid works well.

Conclusion

When it comes to the feeling of using the stylus to draw, I would say that it's quite similar to the Adonit Pixel (for iOS devices), but somehow it doesn't seem to be as sensitive and there's more jitter. Maybe that's got to do with the fact that this stylus is actually a rebranded Wacom Creative Stylus 2.

I feel that the active styluses in Surface tablets, Acer Switch Alpha 12 and Lenovo Miix 510.

I've reviewed several Windows tablets and so far, every one has some glitches, and there are also glitches in certain apps. It really comes down to app support. If you happen to be using an app that doesn't have much trouble, such as Medibang Paint Pro or Sketchable, then the Samsung TabPro S is a good tablet to consider getting. If you use other apps, you have to decide whether you can live with those minor inconveniences. Since I still don't want to upgrade to Adobe CC, I won't be able to test the compatibility with the CC apps. Unfortunately for me, Photoshop CS6 with wintab always have some glitches here and there but it's almost unusable here. If you're also using TabPro S and Photoshop, do share with me your experience.

The issue with jittery diagonal lines when drawing slowing happens here as well, as with the other tablets I've mentioned. If you draw at moderate speed, that not an issue.

If you are getting one to take notes, the stylus may be a bit slow because of the rubbery texture on the solid tip, but it does not make those tapping sounds on glass surfaces.

There are many Windows tablets in the market today. It's difficult to find one that's flawless for artists. There's always some sort of compromise.

At the same price point, you can check out the Acer Switch Alpha 12 which offers 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. If you have more budget, the Lenovo Miix 510 is a good performer and provides more value for money compared to Surface Pro 4. You may also want to consider the Lenovo Yoga Book 10.1-inch Android version.

Overall for drawing purposes, I would rate this 3.5 out of 5.

If you find this review helpful, share it with your artist friends.

Pros
+ Sturdy build quality
+ Beautiful design that can compete with Apple iPad
+ 696g weight is relatively light for a tablet this size
+ 2160 by 1440 resolution
+ AMOLED screen is vibrant but does not have excellent viewing angles
+ Able to install desktop and tablet apps
+ Snappy performance
+ Keyboard cover is included
+ Keyboard cover protects the back of the tablet
+ Keyboard cover comes in two useful position
+ The multiport adapter (not included) is cheaper than Apple's by USD $10.

Cons
- Stylus (USD $40) is not included
- Pressure sensitivity of the stylus is not as good as SP4 or Lenovo Miix 510
- Stylus is capacitive instead of active, so palm rejection is iffy
- Stylus tip has more friction and is not conducive for writing fast. Drawing is alright
- One USB 3 Type C port only
- Keyboard has no backlight
- The multiport adapter (USD $35) is required if you want to use USB devices and charge at the same time
- Battery life could be better
- Good speakers but side facing
- No display port included
- No microSD slot included
- Keyboard is lousy to type on
- Wintab driver has to be installed to work with Photoshop

Availability

Check out more reviews of the Samsung TabPro S through the direct Amazon links below:
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es | Amazon.co.jp

As for the pen, just search for "galaxy tabpro pen" on Amazon.

If you make any purchase through the links, I get a little commission at no extra cost to you.

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