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Samsung Galaxy Tab Review
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Date: Dec 02, 2010
Section:Mobile
Author: Jennifer Johnson
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Introduction and Specifications

There's no doubt the Apple iPad has taken the market by storm. Although tablets have been around for some time, no other manufacturer has managed to create the same level of demand for a tablet like Apple has created for the iPad. These days, it seems everyone wants an iPad—kids included. Of course, other manufacturers aren't going to let Apple be the only competitor in this hot market. There are a number of tablets in the works, many of which will run on Android, the first solid competitor it seems, to Apple's iOS.

Today, we're going to take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab. This 7-inch tablet is doesn't have the same amount of screen real estate as Apple's iPad, but its smaller screen also makes it more portable. Running Android 2.2 (Froyo), the Galaxy Tab also offers support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1, which Apple's iPad lacks. Another key feature the Galaxy Tab offers is storage expansion by means of a microSD card slot, USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Galaxy Tab is based on Samsung's 1GHz Hummingbird ARM core driven processor with a 3D graphics engine on board as well. The device comes equipped with front and rear-facing cameras for video chat and shares many of the characteristics of the successful Galaxy S smartphone line such as Samsung’s Media Hub which provides access to premium movies and TV episodes.

At the time of this publication, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is available from Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and AT&T. We have evaluation units from both Sprint and Verizon Wireless in house and we'll address the slight differences between the two units. Prices for the Galaxy Tab vary by carrier; the Verizon Wireless variant is available for $599.99 under a month-to-month contract. Sprint offers the Galaxy Tab for $599.99 without a contract and $399.99 with an eligible two-year contract. Verizon Wireless' monthly service plans for the Galaxy Tab start at $20 for 1GB of access. Sprint's monthly service plans start at $29.99 for 2GB of access.

Apple's App Store has certainly helped drive the success of the iPad. Without a viable app store, it's doubtful that any competing tablet could really make a dent in Apple's market share. This is where the Android platform comes in. Android has been taking market share away from iOS for some time, and it's more open to manufacturers for customization. All in all, Android seems like the perfect OS for a tablet device–it's touch-friendly, offers many of today's popular features, and it has an app store that is growing quickly.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Specifications

Network
CDMA 800/1900; Wi-Fi
Operating System
Android 2.2 (Froyo)
Form Factor
Tablet - Portrait Primary
Dimensions (H x W x D)
7.48 x 4.74 x 0.47 inches (HxWxD)
Weight
13.58 ounces
CPU
Cortex A8, 1GHz CPU, Hummingbird
Display Type
7.0" WSVGA TFT (w x h: 600 x 1024 px)         
Memory Capacity
Verizon Wireless: 512MB(ROM) + 592MB(RAM) + 2GB (User Memory) + 16GB microSD card preinstalled (supports up to 32GB microSD card)

Sprint: 512MB(ROM) + 512MB(RAM) + 128MB(One D-RAM) + 2GB (User Memory) + 16GB microSD card preinstalled (supports up to 32GB microSD card)

Connectivity
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; USB; Bluetooth; 3.5mm Headphone Input
Sensor Type
Accelerometer, Geomagnetic, Luminance, Gyro
Battery
4000mAh lithium ion battery for up to 13 hours active use time
Camera (Front)
1.3MP
Camera (Rear)
3MP Auto Focus

Certainly the Galaxy Tab has a lot of high-demand features and the right combination of specs to appear to be a worthy competitor to the Apple iPad.  Read on as we take a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab in our hands-on review to see if it's a worthy competitor to Apple's popular iPad.
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Design and Build Quality

One of the first things you're likely to notice when you pick up the Galaxy Tab is its size – it's not much larger than a paperback novel. Also, unlike the iPad, it's easy to hold the Galaxy Tab in one hand. The device itself feels pretty sturdy. The glossy plastic rear battery cover doesn't feel as high-end as the brush aluminum rear of the iPad, but at the same time, it doesn't feel overly cheap, either. On the back of the Galaxy Tab, you'll also notice the 3 megapixel Auto Focus camera and flash. As you can see from pictures, Sprint's Galaxy Tab has a white cover whereas the Verizon Wireless version has a black cover.

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The Galaxy Tab weighs 13.58 ounces, or approximately 0.85 pounds. The weight is spread pretty evenly over the entire device. To put the weight in perspective, the Galaxy Tab weighs almost half what the iPad weighs. Although the iPad is still a mere 1.5 pounds, when held side-by-side, you'll definitely notice the Galaxy Tab is the lighter of the two tablets.

On the top edge of the Galaxy Tab, you'll find a 3.5mm headset jack. Moving around to the left side, you'll see a microphone. The base of the Galaxy Tab contains two openings for the external speakers as well as the charger/accessory jack. On the right edge of the Galaxy Tab, you'll find the power button, volume rocker, and microSD card slot. Both of our review units came preloaded with a 16GB microSD card.

The front of the Galaxy Tab is largely consumed by the 7-inch WSVGA display which supports a resolution of 600 x 1024. There is a small black bezel around the edge of the display which comes in handy for holding the device between your thumb and palm without accidentally pressing an on-screen button or blocking your view of the screen. The bezel measures about a half inch on the sides and approximately 5/8-inches on the top and bottom of the screen. Overall, it provides just enough space for your thumbs without any wasted space.

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Above the display, you'll find a light sensor and front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera. Similar to other Android devices, there are four touch-sensitive backlit keys (Menu, Home, Back, and Search) located below the display which provide haptic feedback when pressed. At the base of each home screen, you'll also find three application buttons for quick access to the browser, applications, and email.

We were very pleased with the clarity of the display found on the Galaxy Tab. Although the screen is considerably smaller than the iPad's screen, it's still very usable for browsing the web, watching videos, playing games, and other everyday activities. Viewing angles are superb as well, which is especially important considering you're likely to use a tablet to show a neighbor a video clip or gather a few friends to show off some photos. We also had no problem viewing the screen outside in daylight settings, especially when we cranked the brightness. The internal speaker found on the Galaxy Tab is also excellent with solid tonal quality for a device this size.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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Software and Accessories

The Samsung Galaxy Tab ships with Android 2.2 (Froyo) installed. This OS has built-in support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1, which adds to the browsing experience on the Galaxy Tab. The OS is the same OS you'll find on many of today's hottest smartphones.  Really, if you have an Android-powered smartphone, you should feel immediately at home using the Galaxy Tab.  The OS is very easy to use, so even if you haven't toyed around with an Android-powered device before, you should be able to get around fairly easily within a matter of minutes.

On the software side, there are a few differences between the Sprint and Verizon Wireless versions of the Galaxy Tab. For starters, the Sprint version offers three home screens to start while the Verizon Wireless version features five home screens. You can add and remove home screens with both devices. The Verizon Wireless Galaxy Tab also lets you select any of the screens as the main home screen. Additionally, with both devices, you can pinch to view thumbnail versions of all of the home screens.

         

Sprint Galaxy Tab & Verizon Wireless Galaxy Tab Home Screens,
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The Sprint Galaxy Tab comes with a few Sprint-specific apps, including Sprint Hotspot and Sprint Zone. Likewise, the Verizon Wireless Galaxy Tab comes with the Verizon Wireless Backup Assistant, My Verizon Mobile, V CAST apps, V CAST Music, V CAST Song ID, and VZ Navigator. You'll also find Samsung's Media Hub on both devices.  Media Hub provides access to various movies and TV shows on demand. According to Samsung, many movies are available on the day of their release and most TV shows are available the day after they premiere. Movies generally run about $3 and you'll have up to 30 days to start watching your rental and between 24 and 48 hours to finish it once you start. You can also opt to purchase a full-length movie for your library for viewing as often as you like. TV shows are available for as little as $1.99. Before you rent or buy, you can stream a trailer to your Galaxy Tab.

Samsung includes the popular SWYPE keyboard with the Galaxy Tab, which is a nice addition. We found ourselves typing very quickly and accurately on the Galaxy Tab using SWYPE. There's also a standard Samsung keyboard available, though SWYPE is selected by default.

    

Applications on the Sprint Galaxy Tab
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The Galaxy Tab boasts of its multitasking capabilities. In other words, you'll be able to stream music from Slacker while also browsing the web or using another app. Thanks to the Galaxy Tab's 1GHz processor, it can handle these tasks with ease.

Most smartphone and notebook manufacturers have cut back on the number of accessories they include with devices. Samsung is no exception with the Galaxy Tab. In the box, you'll find the Galaxy Tab preloaded with a 16GB microSD card, a USB/Wall charger, and various guides and documentation. The Sprint Galaxy Tab also came with a microSD card adapter. Although the Galaxy Tab doesn't come with many accessories, there are a number of cases and other accessories available from various retailers.

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User Experience and Interface

Certainly one of the key reasons most people are interested in a tablet PC is for the multimedia capabilities—browsing the Web, watching movies, playing games, etc. Tablets will most certainly be used for other key tasks such as checking and responding to emails, viewing pictures, and organizing your life as well.

Browsing the Web on the Galaxy Tab is a joy, particularly since you get a lot more screen real estate to work with in comparison to a smartphone. We found ourselves surfing from site to site without even missing our mouse. When entering text while surfing, the keyboard does consume a fair amount of the screen, particularly in landscape mode, but the overall experience is still very enjoyable. We also appreciated SWYPE while browsing—it makes entering search terms and other text so much faster than with a traditional keyboard.

         

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While browsing the Web, we often used pinch controls to zoom in and out. We also switched between landscape and portrait modes regularly. The Galaxy Tab was responsive overall, but we did notice that the pinch controls as well as the responsiveness of the accelerometer weren't quite as fluid as we've seen on the iPad. The overall experience was still very usable and even quite enjoyable, but we did notice a very slight hesitation from time to time.

Keep in mind that the Galaxy Tab offers support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1. This means you'll get a desktop-like experience while browsing the web on this tablet. It's a feature that the Apple iPad sorely lacks, and a place where the Galaxy Tab really shines.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab's video player offers multi-codec support without re-encoding. As a result, you'll be able to watch MPEG4, H.263, H.264, and Divx/Xvid files without conversion. Many of the videos we watched automatically switched the screen to landscape mode and locked in this view so even if you accidentally rotate the screen slightly, the video won't rotate. Should you need it, an orientation lock option is available by dragging your finger from the top of the screen downward.

The Galaxy Tab also supports a variety of music formats including FLAC without needing to convert them. You can access your favorite tunes by artist, album, genre, playlist, or all songs. Music can be played through the Galaxy Tab's internal speakers or through the 3.5mm headset jack.

    

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There are a number of games available for the Android platform, including N.O.V.A., Dungeon Hunter HD, Asphalt 5, and many more. Simply put, we were impressed with the gaming experience on the Galaxy Tab.  When gaming, it's certainly nice to have a 7-inch screen compared to the smaller screens found on most of today's smartphones. Thanks to the responsiveness of the Galaxy Tab combined with the 7-inch screen, gaming on the Galaxy Tab is much more enjoyable than playing the same titles on your smartphone. As with the Apple iPad, gaming on the Galaxy Tab is different than the experience you'll get from a standalone gaming device with static buttons such as the PSP or DSi. With a tablet, you'll get more of an interactive experience similar to the Wii. This experience is definitely one that will keep you coming back for more.

Of course, if you invest in a tablet, you'll most likely use it to help organize your life, be productive, and get some work done. The Galaxy Tab comes with your standard set of organizational apps including Contacts, Messaging, Email, Calendar, and more. Thanks in part to the larger screen of the Galaxy Tab in comparison to a smartphone, viewing appointments, reading email, sending messages, and looking up phone numbers was a joy. The Calendar app provides a view that's much like a day planner with Day, Week, Month, and List views. You'll also find many other handy features available on the Galaxy Tab such as an Alarm Clock, Digital Frame, Google Maps, Latitude, a Memo app, Google Talk, and more.

You can check Microsoft Exchange, AOL, Gmail, Windows Live, Yahoo, and other email accounts directly from the Email app found on the Galaxy Tab. The Email app will offer a consolidated view of all email accounts as well as individual views for each account. You can opt to sort by date, sender, read/unread messages, and favorites.

    

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Samsung claims you'll get up to 13 hours of active use time from the Galaxy Tab's 4,000 mAh lithium ion battery. Of course, the longevity of the battery is sure to vary depending on your use of the tablet's wireless capabilities, screen brightness, and many other factors. Overall, we were very impressed with the battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The tablet lasted for days with moderate use and still had juice to spare.

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Performance Testing

In addition to using the Samsung Galaxy Tab in a variety of everyday usage scenarios, we also conducted some formal performance testing to see how well the Galaxy Tab compares to some of today's hottest smartphones.

CPU Testing
Android CPU Testing

Graphics Testing
Android Graphics Testing

 
JavaScript Testing
JavaScript Android testing

The Samsung Galaxy Tab performed very well in the CPU, graphics, and JavaScript test. Overall, the Galaxy Tab came in first or second in all three tests.

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Performance Testing, Web Browsing

Browsing the Web is certainly a key feature of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, so we also conducted some formal speed tests to see how well the Galaxy Tab compares to some of today's hottest smartphones.

Browsing speeds were good, though we were a bit surprised that the Sprint Galaxy Tab consistently outscored the Verizon Wireless model in 3G speeds. This is likely to vary depending on your particular connection. Even though the Sprint model was faster during our tests, we noticed little difference during real-world usage.

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Conclusion

The tablet market is hot right now obviously, and Samsung is ready to capture its share of the market with its Galaxy Tab. This tablet is widely available from all of the top four U.S. cellular providers at a competitive price. Powered by Android 2.2 (Froyo) and a 1GHz Hummingbird processor with 3D graphics, the Galaxy Tab is very responsive to any task you throw at it. The Galaxy Tab's battery life is also impressive and will surely get you through the day.

The Galaxy Tab comes with many of the key software features you'd want in a tablet such as a full-featured Web browser, powerful email client, calendar, media player, navigation, and much more. In addition, you can customize the Galaxy Tab with thousands of apps from the Android Market. The tablet also supports Flash, which helps provide a true desktop-like browsing experience on the tablet.

We appreciate the fact that the Galaxy Tab has a microSD expansion slot that's easily accessible from the side of the tablet. The included 16GB microSD card provides plenty of space for movies, music, and more.

We've heard people make the argument that a 7-inch tablet doesn't provide enough additional screen real estate to make a tablet such as the Galaxy Tab more compelling than a smartphone. We didn't feel this was the case. During our tests, we felt the Galaxy Tab's 7-inch display provided a much more enjoyable experience browsing the Web, playing games, and watching movies, than you'll get on a smartphone.

 

There's no secret the Samsung Galaxy Tab aims to compete with the Apple iPad. Which device is better? It's hard to say. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Some users feel a 7-inch screen doesn't provide enough additional space beyond a smartphone. Other users may prefer the added portability a 7-inch tablet provides over the iPad's larger footprint. At the end of the day, it really comes down to personal preference. There are certainly die-hard iOS users as well as true Android fans. Weight and footprint are also key factors to consider.

All in all, the Samsung Galaxy Tab met and exceeded expectations during our evaluation process. We thoroughly enjoyed surfing the Web, watching movies, checking email, and playing games on this tablet. The screen is bright and crisp and all in all, the unit felt very responsive.  If you're in the market for a tablet PC this holiday shopping season, the Galaxy Tab is definitely one to consider.

 

 

     
  • Fast 1GHz Hummingbird processor
  • Thin & lightweight
  • Bright, beautiful display
  • microSD slot
  • Dual cameras
  • No USB port
  • Screen will attract fingerprints
  • No user-replaceable battery

 



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