Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Samsung gearing up to do battle with Apple using new Galaxy Tab models and pricing

24

March

At the CTIA Wireless show in Orlando this week even more tablets were announced, adding to the more than 80 that debuted at CES in Las Vegas in January. Throughout all those new tablet introductions, the original iPad remained the leader and with the introduction of the iPad 2, Apple really shored-up their tablet dominance. It doesn't seem likely that any other tablet manufacturer is going to knock the iPad off its pedestal anytime soon but it's obvious many want to try. Samsung seems ready to try the hardest.

Late last year Samsung launched the Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch Android tablet that had mostly positive reviews but lackluster sales, at least when you compare it to the iPad. I had a Galaxy Tab for a short while and really liked it. The 7-inch size is really nice and it was well-made with an excellent display. A bug in the WiFi interface, however, caused me to take it back. When I first got it I thought it would give the iPad a run for it's money, but I was wrong. The price-point was good but it didn't have the same luster that Apple consistently delivers. It was like ice cream without the toppings. Good but not great. So far Samsung has sold more 2 million units.

8.9.jpg

At CTIA in Orlando this week, Samsung introduced the 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab, joining the 10.1-inch version announced at the Mobile World Congress last month in Barcelona. The 8.9-inch version will be just 8.6mm thick and weigh just 470 grams with a 1280 x 800 screen, front and rear-facing cameras and a 1 GHz dual-core processor. Other goodies will include a gyroscope, accelerometer, digital compass, ambient light sensor and GPS. With a starting price of $499 it will be in a position to compete with the iPad like no other tablet on the market so far. The 10.1-inch version, with similar specs and a weight of 595 grams, will start at $599. Both will run Android 3.0 Honeycomb packaged with Samsung's new TouchWiz UX user interface enhancements.

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I spent some time with both the 8.9 and 10.1-inch Galaxy Tabs on Wednesday and they were very thin and light with excellent displays. There were noticeable improvements to the user interface from the 7-inch Galaxy Tab and the rounded edges and textured back made the 7-inch version seem pretty clunky in comparison. The one thing I did notice, however, is that they felt kind of cheap in my hands. Tablets get handled a lot and need to have some durability. Maybe it was the lightness, but they both felt like they would disintegrate after one hard drop.

The part I don't get is having three tablets that are sized in such small increments. I like the 7-inch size and the 8.9-inch doesn't feel much different. The jump to 10.1-inches from either of the other two feels significant. But why have three, especially when you get Honeycomb and the new UI on the other two? My guess is we'll see a fire sale on the 7-inch version at some point and Samsung will move forward with the other two. It's a shame for them they weren't able to move more quickly. With demand high for the iPad 2 and supplies still low, anything close has a shot at winning customers who are looking for their first tablet. Samsung looks to be on the right track now.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 6:51pm]

    

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