Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

Summary: After testing three different versions of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, I found some pleasant surprises and one big drawback.

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Next to the Apple iPad, it may be the most anticipated tech product of 2010. You could even claim that a big part of its anticipation is actually due to the iPad. Of course, I'm talking about the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the first major Android slate to give the iPad a run for its money in the touchscreen tablet market.

I've gotten my hands on three different versions of the Galaxy Tab, put them through their paces doing many of the same tasks as the iPad, and looked for some of the unique value that this 7-inch tablet has to offer from a business perspective. I found some pleasant surprises and one big problem.

Photo gallery

Samsung Galaxy Tab: The ultimate slide show of photos and screenshots

Specifications

  • Carrier: Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and others
  • OS: Android 2.2 (Froyo)
  • Processor: 1.0GHz Samsung Hummingbird Cortex A8 with PowerVR SGX540
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Storage: 2GB, 16GB, or 32GB + MicroSD slot (up to 32GB)
  • Display: 7-inch WSVGA TFT, 169ppi, 1024x600 resolution
  • Battery: 4000mAh
  • Ports: Headphone jack, MicroSD
  • Weight: 13.6 ounces (385g)
  • Dimensions: 7.48(h) x 4.74(w) x 0.47(d) inches
  • Camera: 3.0MP with autofocus and LED flash; 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, A-GPS, geomagnetic, luminance, gyro
  • Keyboard: On-screen keyboard; Swype
  • Networks: CDMA 800/1900Mhz, EVDO Rev.A; or GSM (HSUPA 5.76Mbps/HSDPA 7.2Mbps at 800/1900/2100MHz; GSM/EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1900/1900MHz)
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n); Bluetooth 3.0, DLNA
  • Tethering: USB and mobile hotspot
  • Price: $499-$649

Who is it for?

The Galaxy Tab feels like a big smartphone, without the phone. The 7-inch size makes it feels more similar to a PDA or an iPod Touch than the iPad. As a result, it has the potential to be a PDA replacement for many businesses and workers who have stuck with old school PDAs and never moved to smartphones. And, the open Android development platform will allow businesses to easily build custom software and line-of-business apps that could be used on the Galaxy Tab.

I don't think the 7-inch Galaxy Tab will have as much appeal to executives as the 10-inch iPad has. But, a natural target market for the Galaxy Tab will be those professionals who have been attracted to the iPad but don't want to buy into the Apple ecosystem. They have been waiting for a usable Android tablet to show up, and the Galaxy Tab will appeal to many of them.

What problems does it solve?

The biggest problem the Galaxy Tab solves is being the first viable Android tablet to make it to market from a mainstream technology company. We've been hearing Android tablet promises all year from nearly every big player in the computer industry, but Samsung is the only major vendor that has delivered a viable product (I don't count the 5-inch Dell Streak as viable). While its adaptation of the Android OS to the tablet form factor is imperfect at times, the Samsung Galaxy Tab has broken through the barrier and will likely pave the way for a lot more Android tablets in the months ahead.

Standout features

  • Hardware package - The hardware profile of the Galaxy Tab is one of its strongest attributes. It has a a high-quality WSVGA display, a 1.0 GHz processor and 512MB of RAM, built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi and cellular radios, and all of the latest environmental sensors. It has built-in flash storage plus an easily-accessible microSD slot for expansion (and swapping cards in and out). Unlike the iPad, it has a camera. In fact, it has two cameras, both a rear camera with LED flash and a front-facing camera for video calls. Although the rear camera is only 3.0 megapixels, it takes solid photos and has several advanced software options including a built-in panorama mode that works great.
  • Battery life - The Galaxy Tab kept a charge longer than I expected. Since it's a lot smaller than the iPad I knew it would have a much smaller battery (of course, it also doesn't have to power as large of a display). At any rate, I easily made it through a full day of moderate-to-heavy use on the Galaxy Tab. In fact, I didn't charge it for an entire weekend so it also doesn't pull much power when it's on standby. Of course, since it's Android, you'll need to make sure that there isn't anything running in the background that is drawing power.
  • 7-inch form factor - One of the main complaints that I've seen from others who have tried both the Galaxy Tab and the iPad is that the Galaxy Tab is so much smaller (see my comparison photos). While the difference in screen size is a drawback for web browsing, I found that the 7-inch form factor does have its advantages. It's much more portable and fits into smaller bags, organizers, and padfolios. It's also lighter and less awkward to hold for longer periods of time than the 10-inch iPad. Again, the 7-inch tablet feels like the rebirth of the PDA, and since many businesses still have plenty of uses for PDAs I think they'll welcome this form factor.

What's wrong?

  • Software incompleteness - Even Google has admitted that Android 2.2 is not optimized for tablets, but since it's an open platform vendors have been able to move ahead with Android tablets without Google's official blessing. That's one of the primary reasons why Samsung built a 7-inch tablet rather than a 10-inch tablet like the iPad. The Android OS and apps simply aren't ready to handle a big jump in resolution to 10-inches. The 7-inch tablet isn't that big of a jump from the current Android handsets. Some apps such as Amazon Kindle, Twitter, and Google Maps have already made the slight modifications needed to optimize for the 1024x600 resolution on the Galaxy Tab, but many smartphone apps will have black bars around the edges if they haven't been optimized (here's an example).
  • Samsung missed the price point - The biggest problem with the Samsung Galaxy Tab is the price. At $500 to $650, it costs the same as the iPad but doesn't offer as much screen space, as many apps, or the same kind of polished user experience. On the other hand, it does feature the greater flexibility and customization that you get with Android, but that won't be enough to balance the equation for most potential buyers. If the Galaxy Tab was $299 (and the wireless plan was pay-as-you-go) then it would make a lot more sense for businesses and professionals to experiment with it.

Bottom line for business

As much as I was pleasantly surprised by the Galaxy Tab and found a number of things to like about it, I still have a hard time recommending it. The price is basically on par with the iPad and you just don't get as much. So, unless you specifically want an Android tablet or a smaller form factor, then the iPad will be a better choice for most professionals and organizations that are interested in a touch-screen tablet.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the next version of Android (codenamed "Gingerbread") will officially support tablets and promote tablet-optimized apps and it will arrive before the end of 2010. As a result, we should expect a deluge of Android tablets from vendors such as ASUS, Acer, Dell, and many more during the first half of 2011. So, if you've got the Android tablet itch, the Galaxy Tab is an intriguing first look at what's possible, but before you pull the trigger you may want to wait until you see what the Gingerbread-powered Android tablets will have to offer. There will be plenty of news on that front during the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in the first week of January.

Competitive products

Where to get more info

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Laptops, Android, Hardware, iPad, Mobility, Samsung, Tablets

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78 comments
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  • Very excited for an Android Tablet, but ...

    ... this isn't it. I'll wait for a ~9"+ model, running the next version of Android ... and with phone capabilities - even if 'just' Skype and G-Chat (bluetooth or headset, don't want to hold it to ear!).

    Until then, my Droid2(R2D2) will do me just fine! (except for the battery life, that is).
    /TJ
    trejrco_z
    • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

      @trejrco_z
      if you have not learned to manage your battery life on the droid2 at this late stage, I'm afraid you are too incompetent to qualify for a tablet system. Go get an Ipad and join the faceless mob.....
      xrpb11a
      • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

        @xrpb11a Relax it's only a toy.
        eboraks
      • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

        @xrpb11a
        The faceless mob that has better things to do than to babysit their phone and manage their battery life.
        DeusXMachina
      • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

        @xrpb11a
        That is one of the reasons that for my next phone will be buying a iPhone. I shouldn't have to baby sit the OS, like I do on my Android One rouge app and your battery is drain before you know it, ridiculous. Did it ever occur to you why the faceless mob uses iPads....because they deliver the user experience one expects. Welcome to the real world.
        Kabcock
  • Very fair review.

    I like AT&T's pay as you go/no contract pricing for iPads. I also like Verizon's MiFi. I think you hit the nail on the head. The current Tab will be snatched up by people that don't like Apple. I personally think there will then be a drop off in sales (just like i believe WinMo7 will drop off once the Apple and Google haters buy the initial shipments. MS might end up with maybe 5% of the market. That's a rounding error to Apple!)

    But what will happen when the market becomes fragmented with hundreds of Android tablets, each with their own customized interfaces, by their manufacturers to distinguish themselves? The iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch standards makes it easy to make Apps will be uniform. I think that's why you're seeing major businesses standardize on the iPad now; it's a real product, it's shipping, the interface is smooth, and its a mature OS, and it has 126 million users, and growing exponentially every day.

    Apple was late to the mp3 player market and they now own it. Even though Microsoft threw a ton of money at it with PlayForSure, then the Zune and they are/were massive failures.

    Apple could own, like they currently do, the tablet market for years to come; they'll probably hover around 70% of the market. And once they start selling the iPhone on Verizon, you'll see a huge drop in Android phone sales. Probably a 33% drop.

    So Apple will be the major market leader in smartphones, tablets, and media players. Relegating MS to the desktop. But then, as all the young people that crave Apple products start working in corporations, they will fight tooth and nail not to use a PC, then they'll be in charge of IT, and MS will slowly slide down to irrelevance! Love it!

    But, of course, only time will tell.
    ShazAmerica
    • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

      @ShazAmerica Won't the young people rebel against the Apple establishment? What's wrong with them? I think the international community is looking for something other than an iPad, but until the price comes down, the Galaxy Tab isn't it either.

      The iPad and Galaxy tab both seem chunky to me. I think they should slim way down - like an ipod touch or at least a Kindle 3. And slim those prices down to match the utility of the device.
      Schoolboy Bob
      • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

        @Schoolboy Bob While I'm not going to say I agree with ShazAmerica's prediction I have seen numerous reports how a higher percentage of college freshman are using Macs these days versus PCs. If that trend continues each year Macs will get huge gains in usage by college student which will continue at least to a certain degree into their life after college. Do I think MS will slide into irrelevance, no but I do expect to see Apple gain in the overall market share. There is room for more than one quality player in the market and having more than one helps everyone no matter what platform they prefer. Only time will tell.
        non-biased
    • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

      @ShazAmerica That's what they said about desktop Linux... I think you're reaching there, but as you say, time will tell. Personally I doubt that scenario will happen in the near future. You're looking at it only from an individual user's perspective. In corporations, that's just one side of the equation. The others are: Global TCO for desktop infrastructure, support, centralized/automated systems management, application compatibility, integration with back-end systems, etc. As of now, there are little to no enterprise-level tools or practices in place for Mac platform. And don't forget the costs. Mac computers are horribly more expensive than PC's and Apple just doesn't have a support organization or a specific roadmap that enterprises will look for. So...no, I don't see it happening just because some Apple enthusiasts go into IT.
      fer.paredesb@...
      • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

        @fer.paredesb@...

        Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but an iPad is not a Mac. Pretty near every criticism you have against Macs does not apply.
        jimfrost
      • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

        @fer.paredesb@...
        Nor are mac "horribly more expensive than PC's[sic]"
        Macs have always been cost competitive with similarly speced PCs. (Please note the lack of apostrophe.)
        DeusXMachina
    • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

      @ShazAmerica Don't count MS out of the desktop market. Remember Apple desktops, laptops are basically overpriced PC's, good quality PC's, but overpriced none-the-less. If Apple continues with this insane love with iOS for ALL it's products then MS will remain dominant. iOS is not meant for the desktop/laptop and should stay with the iDevices. Windows 7 is a mighty fine OS and 8 and up are very promising. Yeah MS has had their share of epic failures with Zune, Vista, Windows ME, but they still own the desktop OS market.

      As for the Android tablets, as of now, there are no other tablets out there that can compete at the same level as the iPad i.e. product + user experience + apps. The iPad is just too complete, too polished for the other tablets to compare to it. Yes there are Android tablets that seem to have more features, but the user experience and the apps don't compare. Once all Android tablets get streamlined with a central app store, then we'll see an iPad rival, but that's wishful thinking as the different manufacturers will undoubtedly try to outdo each other.

      As for those that love to criticize Apple and their products just for the hell of it, why is it that you're probably the same people that worship MS yet don't call Windows users as being part of the "faceless mob" since they control what 90% of the desktop OS market? BTW aren't there more Android users than iOS users so shouldn't Android users be the "faceless mob" rather than iOS users?
      jm001
  • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

    Looks nice - love the size! Much more friendly than the iPad.
    Drawback and reason I am waiting is I want to see with 3.0.
    This way I can decide if I want the 7" with Android or go bigger with Win7 like the ASUS.....
    rhonin
    • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

      @zenwalker How is it more friendlier than an iPad? At most it's at the same level as ease of use with the iPad. iOS and Android basically operate the same way it's just Android is more open and can be heavily modified, but basic controls for both are quite similar. iOS can be modified if "jail brokened".
      jm001
  • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

    They REALLY need to get their AMOLED screen onto the tablets, the screen on my galaxy-s phone is simply amazing.
    zardo
  • How is that "one big drawback"? ***There are plenty***, all big:

    <b>1. iPad has 50% better battery life.<br>2. iPad has 122% bigger screen.<br>3. iPad has much better, IPS screen with all three layers glued closely (Only non-existent SuperAMOLED could compete.)<br>4. Only iPad has OS that fits to tablet form factor.<br>5. No tablet besides iPad actually has apps to fit tablet form factor (except very few apps).
    6. iPad made of metal, not cheapo plastic as Galaxy Tab.
    7. Last but not least important, price.</b><br><br>"Pleasant surprises" for Galaxy Tab (which are not really surprises):<br>1. Much lesser weight -- if you are going mainly use the tablet in while standing in the line, then this may mean something.<br>2. Additional physical ports -- yes, whole few people really need that.<br>3. Twice more physical memory: 512 MB against 256 MB. Not that really matters much since both tablets use fast flash memory for swapping between running multitasking apps, but still.
    DDERSSS
    • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

      @denisrs
      1. Is a flat out lie, period.
      2. True, but people don't want to lug around the huge iPad, that's why this is a viable OPTION.
      3. The fuck are you babbling about?
      4. Android OS fits it just fine. Websites look great. And load much, much faster than the iPad I might add.
      5. You just contradicted yourself, go home.
      Droid101
      • Short battery life

        @denisrs
        1. I don't think that it is a flat-out lie. I've only read one report from a tech magazine and the author claimed to only get 3-4 hours of constant use from a Tab. This is about half that of an iPad.
        4. Google have admitted that Android is NOT ideal for tablet devices and will not be so until v3.0
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • I was KIND to Galaxy Tab

        @Droid101:

        1. I took the best for Galaxy Tabn estimation with iPad being measured between 50-120% better than Galaxy Tab in battery life.
        DDERSSS
    • RE: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

      @denisrs
      5. For apps to properly fit the iPad, just like Android apps, they are having to be rewritten specifically for these devices. The majority of the apps I have on my iPad unless zoomed in (2x) have the exact same border gap around them. Now in the iTunes store I have apps that are iPad only, are iphone/itouch but will work on the iPad, or will not work on the iPad.
      rhonin