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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 hands-on review

27

September

thin.jpgThe first time I touched the Samsung Galaxy Pad 10.1 I couldn't believe how thin it was. It actually feels thinner than an iPad 2, even though their specs say both are 0.34 inches thick. The Galaxy Tab is lighter than the iPad 2 by 1.4 ounces, however, so perhaps that difference translates into an overall feeling of increased sleekness. Despite being so thin and light the build quality is very solid it doesn't feel fragile at all. In the photo at right, the Galaxy Tab is on top and the iPad 2 on the bottom.

One of the thing I dislike about my Motorola Xoom is the long, startup sequence when booting into Android Honeycomb. The animated purple and blue honeycomb design was cool the first time but now it's just irritating. screen_shot_2011-09-27_at_3.57.10_pm.pngThe Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a long boot sequence too and it made me sigh when I saw it. In fairness, the iPad 2 can take awhile to boot from shutdown as well, but all you get is a stationary, white apple so it's not annoying. The animated sequences just prolong the wait with meaningless animation. OK, rant complete.

The screen on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is excellent with good color and sharpness. The color seemed a little blue to me at times and not quite as sharp as the iPad 2 screen, but it's pretty close. Compared to the iPad 2, the biggest differences in the screen are the size and aspect ratio. The Galaxy Tab is a 10.1-inch screen with a maximum resolution of 1280 X 800. The iPad 2 is 9.7 inches with a maximum resolution of 1024 X 768. This makes the Galaxy Tab more of a cinema display, and you'll notice this the most when viewing movies or other 16:9 content. In the photo below you can see that when watching the same 16:9 video you lose a lot of screen real estate on the iPad 2 but the Galaxy Tab is bigger with less wasted screen. The Galaxy Tab is on the left, iPad 2 on the right.

galaxy_ipad.jpg

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is equipped with a 1Ghz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor that provides for excellent performance running Android Honeycomb 3.1. For the most part it worked flawlessly although it struggled a bit when trying to stream HD video over both a 4G LTE and a fast WiFi connection.

It has two cameras; a front-facing 2MP camera for stills and video conferencing and a rear-facing 3MP camera with HD 720p video recording. Still image quality from both cameras was excellent (better than the iPad 2), although I still don't understand why anyone would want to use a large tablet to make pictures. Video quality was very good too and on a par with the iPad 2. (Photo below taken with the Galaxy Tab)

galaxy_dog.jpgAudio sound quality is not as loud as the iPad 2 but it's in stereo, so it's more pleasing than the sound from the single speaker on the iPad.

A huge advantage the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has over the iPad 2 is the 4G LTE access on Verizon's network, which is smoking fast. I use my iPad 2 over WiFi only so I wasn't able to make a direct comparison to 3G, but I did some speed tests that consistently showed download speeds of 5 Mbps.

Apps included were the normal things without too much bloatware. I did notice a video editing app called Android Video Studio that provides for basic slicing and dicing of video clips. It's very basic and nowhere close to Apple's iMovie for iPad, but as included app it's a welcome addition.

And that brings us to the app situation which is always a sticking point for me with the Honeycomb tablets. Apple currently has more than 200,000 apps that are optimized for the iPad. Many iOS apps are now universal apps, meaning they are optimized to run on both the iPhone and iPad with just one purchase. Plus, the iPad will run most (if not all) iPhone apps even if they look a little pixelated when you enlarge them on the screen.

For Honeycomb tablets we have a completely different story. It's hard to get an actual count but I'd say, based on my searches in the Android Market, less than 1000 optimized Honeycomb apps are available. To make matters worse, many of the Android Froyo and Gingerbread apps won't run in Honeycomb. This really limits what you can do on any Honeycomb tablet. Android Ice Cream Sandwich is supposed to unify the Android phones and tablets and recently Google warned Android developers that they need to start adapting their apps so they will run on both large and small screens. With so few developers releasing new apps for Honeycomb is Ice Cream Sandwich going to be any better?

So for now, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and other Honeycomb tablets can only function at a fraction of their creative capacity because of the lack of apps. That's really a shame, because with a greater selection of apps the Galaxy Tab would have an excellent chance at giving the iPad 2 some real competition. It's a sleek and well-built tablet with better cameras, better sound and the added bonus of 4G speed on Verizon's fast network. For me, however, that's not enough to recommend it over an iPad because with the tablets, it's all about the apps. 

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 4:22pm]

    

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