Samsung Galaxy Tab Review

Reviews Gary Krakow 13:59, Nov 12 2010

The iPad now has big competition. Samsung's Galaxy Tab tablet computer is hitting the marketplace with a big bang.

Just like the iPad is an oversized iPhone, the Galaxy Tab is an oversized Galaxy S Android smartphone.  Except the Tab has a 7-inch screen (diagonally measured) compared to the nearly 10-inch model on the iPad.  And, the Tab is easily held in one hand while you navigate and type on the screen with your other hand.  Don't you dare try that on an iPad.

The Tab runs on Froyo - the most current version, 2.2, of Google's Android OS.  That means it is able to run Adobe Flash applications with ease.  Buried inside the nicely shaped enclosure is a 1 GHz Cortex A8 “Hummingbird” processor, a great-looking 1024 by 600-pixel TFT multi-touch screen, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, a 3 MP camera on back and a 1.3 MP on the front, the terrific Swype keyboard, 16GB of onboard memory -- expandable via a microSD card -- and just about everything else you might expect from a modern-day Android device.

For the record, the Galaxy Tab measures 7.48 by 4.74 by 0.47 inches and weighs in at 13.4 ounces.  That's slightly smaller and nearly half the weight of the competition – even though the Tab feels strangely heavy for it's overall size.

Our first test Tab came from Sprint.  That means it connects to the Internet with Sprint's 3G wireless network in addition to Wi-Fi.  (It’s unfortunate that it's not Sprint's 4G network, but 3G speeds are pretty great as you'll soon read.)  The other US carriers have their own versions of the Tab too. 

We can tell you that on Sprint's network, the Tab is amazingly fast.  In our informal testing in the New York City metropolitan area, the Tab was the fastest Android device we have ever tested, especially when it comes to loading web pages and switching between tasks.

The Galaxy Tab comes loaded with dozens of great programs as well.  Samsung's new Media Hub store, Daily Briefing (a combination of AccuWeather, Yahoo Finance and AP Mobile), Facebook, Amazon's Kindle book reader, Google Talk, Latitude, News & Weather, Qik (video chat, and video mail), Sprint Hotspot (share your Tab's 3G connection with other devices), Think Free Office (handles Microsoft Office documents), Voice Search, YouTube and more.  And if that's not enough, there’s always the Android Marketplace and the tens of thousands of apps available for download there.

We should also mention battery life.  It seems better than any other Android device we've ever tried.  We came close to getting 2 days of use on a single charge.  For the record, Apple's tablet claims even better battery life.

The screen, while not Samsung's famous AMOLED design, is terrific.  E-reading, e-writing and e-watching has been a wonderful experience so far.  Sound quality from the stereo speakers on the back is very good for a portable device.

Sprint is asking $399.99 for their Galaxy Tab with a new line or eligible upgrade and two-year service agreement... a 2GB data plan with unlimited messaging for $29.99 per month or a 5GB data plan with unlimited messaging for $59.99 per month. 

T-Mobile is also selling their Galaxy Tab for $400 with a 2-year contract (or $600 without a contract).  Verizon is charging $600 without contract and AT&T is rumored to be asking either $599 or $649 when their Tab is released later this month.
As much as I like the Galaxy Tab, I still question its existence.  I understand since Apple has such great success selling its oversized iPhone that Samsung (and a slew of others that we'll be hearing about in the next few months) wants a piece of the action.  I understand that having more than one device run on your mobile OS is a terrific business plan.

But, aside from the coolness factor (and believe me – they ARE cool) I'm not sure I actually get the sudden appeal of tablet computing as a whole.  In previous decades, tablets have been utter failures.  Very, very, very few customers bought them despite supposed breakthroughs every few years.  Now, all of a sudden, they're all the rage.  Why?  Not much has changed.

I wonder what would happen if Amazon decides to offer real Web browsing and a few other more highly-evolved applications onto its Kindle book reader platform -- especially if it sells that new device for, say, $150-$200.  I think it would have a popularly-priced hit on its hands.  I could understand tablet devices in that price range.

But at $400-$900 tablets are expensive toys.  As good as these on screen keyboard are, typing on them can be an exercise in frustration and futility.  That's somewhat tolerable in a large smartphone.  But, why do I need to spend even more money per month for a contract on a second cellular device? (I know Apple has a Wi-Fi only iPad but it's the cheapest model at “only” $500) 

For now, netbooks and notebooks are still better for people who need to work on their computers.   I believe tablets have their place as an extra computing platform – something in addition to your smartphone and laptop, or for those who don't need to use a laptop. For instance, tablets are great for personal gaming, since their screens are so much larger than regular phone screens.

But, in these somewhat shaky economic times, computer toys that cost $600 should be thought of as luxury items and purchased accordingly.

You may feel differently.  That's exactly what these hardware and software companies are hoping for and planning to bank on.

Samsung Galaxy Tab info

Typical price: $399.99 to $599.99

Pros:
More portable than previous competitors
Great screen

Cons:
Identity issues

Verdict:The Galaxy Tab is really the first viable competitor to Apple's iPad that offers many advantages of its own, even if in a still foggy market

Rating:

More info: Samsung Galaxy Tab website

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