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Samsung Galaxy Tab review

by Russell Barnes

The Samsung Galaxy Tab is the first true contender to Apple’s tablet crown, but has Samsung bitten off more than it can chew? Russell Barnes spends a week with the Tab to find out…

Specs:Samsung Galaxy Tab review
OS Android 2.2
Processor 1GHz
Memory 512MB
Storage 16GB
Dimensions 190 x 120 x 12mm
Weight 380g
Display size 7” (1024 x 600)
Networking Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, HSDPA 7.2Mbps
Camera 1.3MP front-facing, 3MP rear-facing with LED flash
Expansion slots microSD card (32GB), standard SIM card`
Price: £552 / $599
Where to buy:
Samsung Galaxy Tab review

Pros: Beautifully crisp screen with excellent viewing angles, excellent form factor, world-class build quality
Cons: Expensive retail price, proprietary connector, slippery curved back, lack of UI tweaks and dedicated software

It’s the oldest cliché in the book, but size matters, and in no place is this more contentious right now than in tablet computing. Without wishing to wade headlong into the tablet form factor debate, we’ve never been entirely convinced that 9.7 inches is really the sweet spot for tablet design Cupertino would have us believe. After spending the last week with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab – the first true contender to the iPad’s crown – we’re more confident than ever that our hunch was sound.

Although the Tab’s diagonal screen size is only 2.7 inches smaller than that of the iPad’s, the device itself is nearly half the size and weight – in short, it’s a much tidier little package. Though not as slim as perhaps we’d have liked, the ability to operate the Tab single-handed and drop it in our back pocket is a massive advantage in terms of overall usability.

We immediately felt the benefit of the smaller and lighter design and ultimately found ourselves much more inclined to have it with us on the train or in our bag as a result. If nothing else, it reflects the all-important technology manufacturing mantra ‘the best device is the one you use’.

Samsung Galaxy Tab review
Battery life didn’t quite live up to Samsung’s promise of 7 hours video playback, but it was better than some early reports led us to believe

The front of the Tab features edge-to-edge toughened Gorilla Glass with a thumbnail-width bezel separating its capacitive touch-screen 1024×600 TFT on all four edges. Like the vast majority of Android devices, the bottom of the device is dominated by four backlit touch buttons catering for Android’s core functions. A volume rocker and power button sit towards the top-right edge, above microSD and (full-size) SIM card slots. A solitary headphone port sits on the top bezel, with twin speakers and charger at the bottom.

There are only really two real downsides to this otherwise excellent chassis design. Firstly, the rear of the Tab is ever so slightly curved and finished in an ultra-smooth white plastic which could lead to disaster – we found it almost effortlessly slipping through our fingers on a number of occasions. At least you can save your pitiful mobile broadband allowance on downloading a spirit level app from the Android market – the slightest inclination will send it sliding.

Secondly, we’re saddened to see Samsung adding to the proprietary problem with the decision to go for an Apple-esque sync and charge connector. Simon Brew vented spleen on our behalf in his excellent column on the subject here, but suffice it to say that we would have been much happier with a standardised USB solution. That and a cleverly hinged kick-stand  – it’s a niche that only Archos is taking seriously at the moment.

Moving on, Samsung has lightly sprinkled Android 2.2 with a small selection of TouchWiz UI tweaks. While it doesn’t alter the vanilla Android interface anywhere near as much as HTC’s excellent Sense, it does smooth over a few rough edges. The few major changes include a larger pull-down notification area which allows quick and convenient control of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. Samsung has also tweaked quite a few of the option panels within settings and added greatly to the display setting, including the addition of saturation and white and black colour density sliders.

We were also shocked to see no inclusion of a toggle to switch the browser to a full desktop browsing mode – it seemed to flip-flop between mobile optimised sites (say Amazon) and the full browsing experience on a site-by-site basis. Besides this though, the browsing experience was pretty stellar with fast page loading and streamlined interface.

Page 2 – Verdict

You might also like:
iPad Killers – the Android tablet invasion
Android Tablets – a developers view
Samsung Galaxy Tab vs Apple iPad

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    • slumbergod

      It’s a very attractive, though overly expensive product. Thought it definitely improves on some of the significant limitations of the iPad, it’s clear they’ve introduced some issues of their own. As with the iPad, perhaps generation 2 will get it right.

      Personally, I think it is too small in terms of screen size. The iPad seems ideal. I’ve never wanted a netbook but something the size of the iPad but without all its limitations is something I would buy. Alas, not the Galaxy.

    • ugh

      I really want to like this unit but $599?!?! You must be joking…. Proprietary connectors? Oh no…never again. Sorry Samsung – no matter how much awesomeness you crammed in you failed on 2 of the biggest points! Learn your lesson, bring the price down and use some standard connectors then we’ll talk.

    • me

      Not proprietary but open standard the dell and most upcoming tablets will use it

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    • unix_dude

      I’ve owned one for going on 2 weeks and it is the best mobile internet device / mobile media device you can get at the moment. The battery life is fine for day to day use i.e. :

      phone calls

      I average around about 10 to 12 hours which for a device like this is fine. I’ve had no problems browsing sites I use on a day to day basis which are flash heavy. I’ve had none of the problems alot of reviews have reported so far thats probably because I spent 2 days tweaking the settings, rooting the device and installing apps I needed and not using the default apps.

      The only down sides are that the price is high if samsung could bring this down to £350 then it would appeal to more people and the other is the kies software they use for the tablet to sync and update via a computer. That being said technically the device is better then the ipad and any other android based tablet out at the moment.

      Video support and playback is very good as it supports alot of formats out of the box.

    • The price of £552 versus $599 is another UK rip off too. No way I’d pay that but I’d consider a more reasonable price based on supposed currency rates (ie less than £400).

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    • Jesus

      I know that there are a lot of people that don’t like the Galaxy Tab, but I love mine. I bought it mostly for media and is it perfect for my purposes. I have and work at DISH Network and recently got the Sling adapter so that I can watch TV on the Tab. Now that I downloaded the DISH Remote Access app, I can stream live and recorded TV to my Galaxy Tab wherever I have 3G coverage or WiFi. It’s really cool because it also works with my other devices like my Android phone or laptop.