I first got a taste of the Samsung Galaxy Tab (SGT) at a local telecom operator. Back then my experience surfing the Web on the SGT was disappointing as I found the response time to be slow. Little did I think that the speed may have to do with 3G wireless connectivity around the area.
With a test unit finally arrived I’ve finally set my perception straight: surfing on the Web using the SGT is pleasantly fast. The display of the websites is another issue.
On to the review…
Some of the reviews I’ve seen suggest that the SGT is the iPad-killer. Certainly at the moment, it is the only touch tablet that offers sufficient feature-functionality to be of any consideration in an iPad vs competitor comparison. As it stands, the neither the hardware nor software of the Apple iPad is its redeeming feature but rather the growing basket of third party applications that make for a very enjoyable experience using the device.
Android 2.2 or Froyo is actually not built for devices with a viewing screen larger than 5″ – it was built for mobile phones. As I understand it, Samsung and Google worked on adapting Froyo to run on a 7″ screen. And while has worked, many of the third party applications built for mobile phones will look funny (odd) on the SGT. This is nothing new of course as this happens on the Apple iPad. Because iPhones and iPad share the same OS, you can run iPhone apps on the iPad except that the app will in the default size of the iPhone’s 3.5″ display. There is an option to double the app’s size to more closely fit the iPad but the result is fugly (pun intended).
Still on the Samsung TouchWiz UI, you can set up to nine desktops on this device. The problem here is that there aren’t that many interesting widgets that you might want to be visible to you at a touch of the screen. But the nine desktops does give you the option for future add-on widgets.
When I first started writing this review on the SGT I quickly realized that it was not possible to work fast using the small virtual keyboard. In fact my first thought was that this device (the SGT) was good for content consumption NOT creation. But then I thought I’d give it a fair chance on the creation side. So I took out a bluetooth keyboard I bought at a local computer store, synced the two, and voila… I was in business. Today, in my opinion, the Samsung Galaxy Tab has as mich right to be used in content creation as does the Apple iPad.
WHAT I LIKE
From a hardware perspective, the SGT is everything I would have liked the iPad to be, including dual cameras, memory expansion, and connectivity. I may not necessarily object to a slightly larger screen but the certainly this size makes it easier to surf the web without the annoying finger exercise you need to do on the Dell Streak or every smartphone out in the market that can surf the Net.
You’ve heard Steve Jobs say that there is no market for a 7″ tablet. You can bet he is saying that because the iPad is 9″. If the situation were reversed, he would trash the 9″ tablet as vigorously as he does the 7″ today. Rumors abound that Apple will eventually release a 7″ themselves. I think that the 7″ tablet is almost just the right size in terms of portability and usability. As an iPad user, I can tell you that I find the iPad VERY HEAVY for reading books. Would if there was a way to hold it without my hands. Or maybe a robot arm will become commercially available to hold the iPad for those long hours of reading. The SGT is light, can be comfortably held in one hand, and the quality of the screen is good (you have to expect nothing less from the leader in screen technology).
There is very little not to like about the SGT. The bright screen, feature-rich device, gives the owner more value for money compared to the iPad. Granted that the Google app market doesn’t have the hundreds of apps that exists on the Apple iTunes market but this shouldn’t deter would be owners. Nor should it be a deciding factor in your decison to buy one.
Yes, Flash is important and in this case, the SGT is the tablet we’ve been waiting for.
WHAT I DON’T LIKE
If I have to fork out US$600 for the SGT (without operator contract), I would like the device to look a little bit the price I paid for it – not this plastic back cover that reminds me of my kids’ pencil boxes. Even HTC is evolving its higher-end smartphones to look the price they come in. Afterall, in the competitive market of consumer business, people are more willing to part with their money if the device not only works well and does what it says, but looks the part (even when not doing anything). [Why else would people buy a Macbook Air when the thing is nothing more than a glorified (and expensive) netbook. Am I being picky here? I tapped the back of the SGT lightly and I could like the ‘tok’ sound coming from a hollow back. The SGT deserves more than a cheap plastic back and Samsung can afford it.
Other than this, the only other problem I find with this tablet is the same feature that every touchscreen device lacks – a hard switch to disable to screen from executing a command when I accidentally touch a button or part of the screen.
A FEW MORE THINGS
I was made to understand that the US versions of the SGT cannot be used to make voice calls outside of VoIP applications. But the version in Asia and Europe can make normal voice calls. I wouldn’t want to be seen holding a large slab of plastic next to my face. I didn’t get this test unit in its original box so I can’t be certain if the unit came with a headset. If it doesn’t, then that would be freaking redonculous. Of course the Samsung Hong Kong website list among the SGT’s feature is a speakerphone functionality. http://hk.samsungmobile.com/ENG/mobile-phones/samsung-galaxytab-specification
One of the benefits of a proprietary approach that Apple took with the iPad (and indeed with every product it makes) is that it alone controls the faith or development strategy for any product it creates. What this means is that software upgrades from one version to another (although there is a limit to this) is generally seamless (if not free, sometimes). We’ve already seen this issue crop up time and again with mobile phones that use the Android as its operating system – it takes a long while before a phone gets approved to upgrade its operating system (if at all) by the hardware vendor. It is fair to say, although it is a guess at this time, that the Samsung Galaxy Tab will follow this route. Be prepared that the SGT will take awhile before it gets upgraded to Gingerbread (2.3) and maybe even longer (if at all) before Samsung sees fit to let the over 1 million SGT users to upgrade to Honeycomb (3.0).
Rumors persist that Honeycomb requries a dual core processor. If this is true then the SGT version 1 will have a very short shelf life and customers of the first Samsung tablet will be cursing themselves for buying so soon (I know I am when I got my iPad). I am of the impression that like most consumer electronic devices that we buy, as long as it works and we are happy with what the device does, we shouldn’t care if we can’t avail of future updates to the product. For instance, I have an 8-year old iMac (Jobs called it inspired by the sunflower). And while it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the latest iMac, it still works and does jobs assigned to it.
Would I own a Samsung Galaxy Tab if I didn’t have an iPad? I probably would. Would I recommend it after this review? I probably would with the caveat that you have to think of the things you want to do with this device. If Samsung were to lower the cost of the SGT, I’d recommend it.
One more thing: Samsung categorizes this device as a smartphone. It should not. It is a tablet PC with a phone capability. Treating it as a smartphone is a discredit to either industries. Above anything else, it is a portable device aimed at allowing you to create and consume digital content. The ability to call someone via cellular network service is a bonus.
Network: 2G: GS 850/900/1800/1900; 3G: HSDPA 900/1900/2100
Operating System: Android 2.2
Dimension: 190.1 x 120.5 x 12mm
Display: 7.0″ 16M colors, TFT capacitative touchscreen, Gorilla Glass Display
Interface: TouchWiz UI
Other elements: Accelerometer, Three-aix gyro sensor, Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
Memory: 512MB RAM, 16/32GB storage, microSD supports up to 32GB
CPU: 1GHz, ARM Cortex A8 processor, PowerVR SGX540 graphics
Battery: PiPo 4000 mAh, 490 hours stand-by, 8 hours talk time
Front Camera: 1.3MP
Rear Camera: still @ 2048×1536 pixels, video @ 720×480 pixels, 30 fps
Video CODEC: DivX, MP4, WMV, H.264, H.263
Connectivity: GPRS, A2DP with v3.0 bluetooth, 3G HSUPA @ 5.76Mbps, HSDPA @ 7.2 Mbps, USB 2.0, Edge, WLAN 802.11 b/g/n and A-GPS
Others: Java 2.1, MIDP, social networking integration, digital compass, TV-out
Video Review (warning: over 13 minutes long)