The contest of Apple iPad versus Samsung Galaxy Tab may simply come down to: Are you an Apple person or an Android person?
The New York Times' David Pogue and the Wall Street Journal's Walter S. Mossberg have each spent some time with the Galaxy Tab, the first tablet expected to give the iPad-which currently enjoys 95.5 percent of worldwide tablet market share-some competition. The Galaxy Tab will become available over the next few days from Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile, and arrive closer to the holiday season from AT&T.
In short, both tech critics liked the Tab. Pogue is the more smitten-or at least more effusive-while Mossberg, while complimentary, concluded: "On balance ... I still prefer the iPad."
Starting with the positives, the Galaxy Tab-which features a 7-inch touch display (on the diagonal) versus the iPad's 9.7-inch display-is light. Just 13 ounces to the iPad's 1.5 pounds. There's also that display.
"Samsung sweated the details on this thing," wrote Pogue. "The screen is gorgeous. The touch response is immediate and reliable. The whole thing is superfast and a pleasure to use."
He also doesn't take issue with the display's size, which is almost exactly the size of the latest Amazon Kindle. "The Galaxy doesn't feel like a cramped iPad. It feels like an extra-spacious Android phone," he wrote. And while it may be a little awkward to fit in the back pocket of one's jeans, fit it does.
Then there are things Samsung includes that Apple so notably left out: a camera (or rather, cameras); support for Adobe Flash; multitasking capabilities (though Mossberg adds that, in fairness, this is coming to the iPad); and an SD memory card slot.
Other non-iPad features that are "high points" on the Galaxy Tab, wrote Pogue, are the ability to dictate text instead of typing, and the nine home screens one can customize by placing icons and information windows where you'd like them, versus just in a grid.
Pogue also loved using the Galaxy's 7-inch display to take photos. It's a little weird, he concedes, "but it's also awesome."
Both men, however, had rocky experiences using the Galaxy's Qik video conferencing software. And each experienced some issues with Flash, which Mossberg summed up: "While the Tab does play Flash, it needs work on that score." Both also complained of an early issue that the iPad likewise trafficked in: Apps designed for Android-running smartphones either have a big black border or are blown up to the point of forsaking clarity. Pogue also noted that the Galaxy insists on pulling up the mobile versions of some Websites, no matter how hard he encouraged it not to.
Regarding battery life, the Galaxy's might be considered fine-were it not for the iPad, which excels in this area. Mossberg, using a particular test involving WiFi and playing back-to-back videos, eked 6 hours and 50 minutes out of the Galaxy Tab, versus 11 hours and 28 minutes on the iPad.
The overriding topic in both reviews, however, is price. The Galaxy Tab is $600 with cellular capability (like the iPad, you cannot use it to place cellular calls) but no contract, or $400 with a two-year contract. Each carrier has specific pricing details that change things slightly, and Pogue points out that a perk from T-Mobile is that if you go the $600 route, one can get ??Ã la carte cell service of, say, $10 a week or $30 a month and not have to pay extra to use the Galaxy as a WiFi hotspot for other devices.
Still, it's competitively priced against the iPad, which starts at $499 for a 16GB version with WiFi only and runs up to $829 for a 64GB version with WiFi and 3G. (The Galaxy comes with 16GB of internal Flash memory and can support 32GB extra on the SD card; plus, there's no WiFi-only version.)
"I urge Tab buyers to do the math carefully on the overall cost of the device under various carriers and plans," wrote Mossberg, adding, in summary, that the Galaxy is "different enough form the iPad, yet good enough, to give consumers a real choice."
Pogue, again a little more spirited, concluded: "With the Samsung Galaxy Tab, you're also buying delicious speed and highly refined hardware. It's just a shame that you're buying all that for $600."