Samsung Galaxy Tab became our tablet of choice

At the right price, the Samsung Galaxy Tab really is a front-runner for your tablet dollars.
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor

When I started my shopping this holiday season I'll admit that a tablet computer wasn't really on my radar. My immediate family are all iPhone users, and while there had been some discussion of the iPad, no one had really expressed any interest in them, other than my college-age daughter, who, after playing with one at the local Best Buy for about 20 minutes, told me she liked it, but couldn't figure out a practical way for her to carry it around that fit her schedule and lifestyle.

But as I cycled through ideas for a big gift for my fiancée, the thought of a smaller tablet than the iPad began to emerge.  There were two things that she had a real need/want for; a new, large screen GPS, and an eBook reader. She's the marketing director for an Internet-based industrial equipment supplier, and over the last few years has built up a trade show schedule that sees her on the road for at least one week a month, very often to places that make a lot of sense if you're selling to farmers and other agricultural equipment consumers, but seem like the back-end of nowhere to city people.

A large screen GPS desire came from her experience with rental vehicles; some windshield designs just ended up putting the smaller GPS screen too far away for easy, at a glance, use; a newer GPS, like the Garmin 1400 series I use, was something she felt would be helpful to her.  And an eBook reader just made sense for all the plane flights she takes, especially since I've been using eReaders for a quite a while and have over 500 eBooks in my collection, many of which were of interest to her.

Given how difficult she is to buy gifts for, I was glad to have some concrete, practical gift ideas for her for the holiday. But as I started to shop for these gifts it dawned on me that tablet computers were back in the running. With her eBook reader of choice, the Nook Color, running about $250, and the Garmin 1490, with lifetime maps, running about the same, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, at a non-contract price of $600-$650 suddenly seemed more practical.

The practicality was reinforced by a little research; the fully -capable version of the device, from T-Mobile was available online for only $349, with their unlimited data plan (actually 5Gb, then slower throttled speed, but no overcharge, if exceeded) an additional $40 per month. While many reviewers and bloggers have complained that the device should be available with an on-demand data plan (and it is, for example, from AT&T, if you pay $649 for the device) I couldn't picture a scenario where the data plan wouldn't be used by my fiancée, as she currently does so much email on her iPhone while traveling it makes it problematical that the battery survives the full day of the trade show.

The larger screen of the Galaxy Tab would make it a far more useful email tool than her iPhone, and with the included ThinkFree Office application, which can read Microsoft Office documents, make it much easier for her to review and do minor edits on documents sent to her while she traveled, without having to break out her full size notebook. In fact, her last few years of experience led me to believe that the Samsung tablet could actually replace her notebook computer while traveling, given what she actually used her notebook for while on the road.

So while we were out for dinner one night last week, I broached the subject of a tablet computer as a holiday gift, explaining why I thought it would work for her. She wasn't really aware of the Galaxy Tab, and was very skeptical about getting an iPad. I explained how the Galaxy Tab differed from the iPhone, and on our way home, we stopped at a corporate T-Mobile store so she could get a hands-on feel for the device.

The store had a nice display setup with the Tab connected to a set of portable speakers and playing a movie, but they had no issue with us disconnecting the speakers and picking up the device to use. The manager demonstrated a bunch of the phone features for her, included the vide calling with an Android-based phone on the other end, and I walked her through the Kindle eReader software, the Google-based navigation app, and showed her the ThinkFree Office apps.

As we stood there discussing the merits of the tab for what she would do with it the store manager came over to us and let us know that there were a lot of holiday promotions going on and he could take $100 off the price of the Galaxy Tab. This meant that the price of the unit, after the mail-in rebate, would be $250; the same cost as either the color Nook or our preferred GPS. It's also my personal sweet spot for impulse buys for electronic gadgets, though the choice was really my fiancé's. At that price, any arguments against the Tab we had went right out the door, and so did we, with the Galaxy in our possession.

And frankly, I think  if the initial announcement of the Galaxy Tab had been with a contract price of $250, the online headlines would have screamed "iPad Killer!" rather than the lukewarm response the Tab initially received.

When we got home I configured the Tab with her email accounts, showed her how to use the navigation, downloaded a few apps for things that she would regularly use, from the Android Facebook app, so she can monitor her company's facebook page, to additional navigation software, to a wedding planner app she can use to help with our nuptials next July, and just had her play around with it for an hour or two.

In the last few days she's used it for hundreds of emails, successfully navigated to previously unknown locations, and made good use of its 3G connectivity to do some research and get a little work done. Her initial experience has been excellent, and while the most stringent test will be while she's at a trade show in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of data connectivity, it really looks like the Samsung Galaxy Tab is a real winner. A practical business tool, in an excellent form factor, that replaces a number of other devices she would have to be lugging around with her on her travels.

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