Before the specs of the iPad had been announced in January of this year, Dave Rees and I posted a wish list for the features we wanted the ‘iTablet’ to possess. Both of us hoped for an 8 x 4″ sized device. When I learned that the iPad would be closer to 8 x 10″, I was really disappointed. I didn’t want something that HUGE. But then I got my hands on one and it was love at first swipe. That was months ago though… the landscape for non-Windows tablet devices is shifting. Where the iPad was the only gun in town, we now have choices. Once such choice is an Android tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Sprint recently sent me a loaner device to try. Let’s take a look.
Carriers: Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, Tmobile, US Cellular
Operating System: Android 2.2 (Froyo)
CPU: Cortex A8, 1GHz CPU, Hummingbird
Memory Capacity: 512MB(ROM) + 512MB(RAM) + 128MB(One D-RAM) + 2GB (User Memory) + 16GB microSD™ card preinstalled (supports up to 32GB microSD card)
Display Type: 7.0″ WSVGA TFT (w x h: 600 x 1024 px)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0
Camera (Front): 1.3MP
Camera (Rear): 3MP Auto Focus
Sensor Type: Accelerometer, Geomagnetic, Luminance, Gyro
Form Factor: Tablet -Portrait Primary
Dimensions (Wx H x D): 7.48 x 4.74 x 0.47 inches (HxWxD)
Weight: 13.58 ounces
Like the Galaxy S phones also from Samsung, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is available from the major US carriers including Sprint, Verizion, AT&T, T-moble and US Cellular. Each one has mobile (3G/4G) data coverage in addition to WiFi. That means they require a 2yr data plan.
You knew I was going to compare the Galaxy Tab to the iPad… Side by side, this is what we have. When I first pulled the Tab out of the box, I thought “this is exactly what I had wished that the iPad would look and feel like” back in January.
It’s pretty much half the size of an iPad.
My first impression of the Galaxy Tab was that it looked like an oversized Samsung Fascinate. The front has a 7 inch display with a half inch bezel on the sides. There are no physical buttons on the face of the device, but below the display are the same 4 soft touch buttons that we find on most Android phones. They are mapped to Menu, Home, Back and Search.
Above the display is an ambient light sensor and a front facing camera.
The display is very nice. It’s no AMOLED like the Fascinate, but it’s still very nice. Bright, crisp and clear.
The back of the tablet is slightly curved and made of glossy white plastic. The 3MP camera and LED flash are located in the upper corner.
Even though the camera is only 3mp, it does a pretty good job. And it’s definitely cool to have a 7 inch viewfinder! The macro capability is not so good though…
Along the top edge is a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack.
On the opposite end is a surprisingly iPad/iPhone shaped charging connector and speakers.
The left edge has a microphone.
And the right edge has the power button, volume buttons and microSD card slot.
In hand, the Galaxy Tab feels very solid. It easily passes my standard Gadgeteer squeeze test. No creaking, cracking or rattles to be found. As far as size, the Tab probably almost perfect for some people, but feels a little small screen-wise to me because I’m so used to the iPad.
Happily, Sprint doesn’t add a bunch of ‘junk’ apps to the Tab that you will wish that you could delete. The few things they do add are a Hotspot app, Qik video chat app that uses the front facing camera, Sprint Zone and a Gameloft link for game demos.
One of the main things I love most about Android is the customization options.
The Galaxy Tab interface is just like other Android devices. You have a home screen that you can add widgets and application icons. This is where Android shines.
The icon view is just like I remembered with the Fascinate, including horizontal scrolling.
The pull down status screen has a handy collection of toggle icons for Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sound and orientation lock. There’s also a useful brightness adjuster.
The advantage of a tablet is that some of the stock apps have additional information available on the display. One example is the different calendar views like the one shown above.
The same can be said of the Contacts app.
The Tab makes a very nice device for reading your email. The screen size is just right and not too small for that task.
One of the things I tested right away with the browser was going to the WordPress admin page for this site and checking out the dashboard and content editor. I was happy that I could see the web page stats in the browser. They are flash based and don’t show up on the iPad. Unfortunately, just like with Safari on the iPad, the editor doesn’t work in visual mode on the Tab either… Not sure why that is. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can explain why.
I also tried various Flash game sites and was able to play games. This is something I don’t normally do, but it works just fine for those who were wondering.
I enjoyed playing games on this device too. Although the app market isn’t flooded with really high quality games like the ones we see on the iPad, there are still a lot of good games that are fun to play on a larger display. Angry Birds is great as is Dungeon Hunter.
Using the Tab to do real work through a web browser can be done, but the screen size is a bit limiting for sites that don’t have a mobile version. I would often find myself squinting and/or constantly zooming in and out to see all the info.
That said, I’d rather carry the Tab in my gear bag everyday than the iPad because it’s more portable. But to further confuse you, I’d rather take the iPad on a vacation with me instead of the Tab if it were going to be my only device. An iPad is more comfortable to use as a websurfing and email device since it has a larger display. The iPad is also easier to type on using both hands in landscape mode with the on-screen touch keyboard. You can actually connect a Bluetooth keyboard to the iPad which allows it to almost become a laptop replacement.
Apparently Galaxy Tabs can also be paired with a Bluetooth keyboard and even a mouse – but, I tried 2 different keyboards and 2 different mice with my Sprint Galaxy Tab review unit and was not able to get either one to work with the Tab even after successfully pairing them.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab is fast. It feels faster than my Droid X even though they both have the same speed processor. I have no complaints at all when it comes to how the Tab performs as far as launching apps, scrolling pages, etc. It’s very impressive.
I can’t comment a lot on battery life, but from the time I’ve had with this device, I’m really impressed. I’ve gone a couple days between charges. I definitely can’t do that with my Droid!
The best thing about the Samsung Galaxy Tab is its portability, speed and the customization features of the Android OS. The worst thing about it is that it is expensive if you buy it without a contract. And if you do opt for a contract, that saddles you with another monthly data bill. I’d really like to see a WiFi only version like the iPad. I don’t believe that’s an option yet.
I think the Galaxy Tab excels as a PDA, email, casual web surfing, ebook reading and game play device. But for real work on non-mobile style web sites, it feels confining. I want to see/try an iPad sized Android tablet. Then, I think I could definitely use one as a desktop replacement. If this is just a taste of things to come though, I’m excited.