Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is an excellent little Android 2.2-based Web surfing device that also delivers a great experience for most Web applications.
But I sure wish it was larger, closer to the 9.7-inch screen offered by Apple’s iPad. I’ll circle back to that.
I tested a Tab from Verizon Wireless, which is selling it now at a serious price: $599 sans contract. Users may also choose to buy an access plan for $20 a month for 1GB of data.
The device is equipped with a 3G radio, so it picked up the Verizon network from the start. There is also a WiFi radio, which I used at home for an app. More on that later.
Powered by a 1 GHz processor, the device sports an enhanced TFT display with 1,024-by-600 resolution that measures 7 inches on the diagonal; The gadget weighs a delightful 13.5 ounces and is about a half-inch thick.
Storage capacity is 512MB of ROM, 592MB of RAM, 2GB of user memory, accompanied by a preinstalled 16GB microSD card, which supports up to 32GB microSD card.
Shortly after powering it on, I was pleased by the crispness of the screen and familiar icons and the virtual keyboard, a much larger version of the ones I tested on the Motorola- and HTC-built Android handsets I’ve tested in the last 12 months.
The Tab feels like an oversized Samsung Galaxy S handset, such as the Fascinate, Captivate, Vibrant or Mesmerize, those Android smartphones with 4-inch screens and only a virtual keyboard as the access point.
But this was no 4-inch screen; typing anything on this keyboard was fast and I could use two thumbs to type e-mails and text messages.
While I was concerned about this platform from the outset because Android 2.2 is not optimal for tablets the way Android 2.3 reportedly is, my fears were quickly allayed.
I easily accessed YouTube (the sound on the Tab is fine), Facebook for Android, Twitter for Android, Gmail, Google Search, Google Maps, Google Latitide, Google Places, the Flash-laden ESPN.com, and a multitude of other Websites.
Samsung offers the Media Hub app preloaded for instant access to movies and TV shows, as well as the Amazon Kindle e-Reader app for books and ThinkFree Office, which lets users easily access with Microsoft Office applications.
I was able to call up one app or Website, then open up to three more browser windows to run multiple apps at the same time like I can on a desktop or netbook. This is huge for me.
Anything running Flash worked well for me, though I note that if you leave the Tab untouched for just a few seconds, the screen goes dark, which is somewhat annoying. This is meant for saving the strong, 4000 mAh battery, which lasted a whole day with moderate-to-heavy use.
Reasons to Buy/Not Buy the Tab
Fantastic battery life, no matter what I surfed or what app I accessed. I got more bang out of the Tab than my Lenovo ThinkPad or Eee PC netbook.
One of the strong selling points of the Tab over the iPad, aside from Flash support, is the 1.3 megapixel front camera and 3 megapixel rear cameras.
Shooting pictures, editing them and uploading them to Facebook was fine, as long as you can get over how silly it looks to hold a tablet in front of your face to snap a photo.
Also, as to the video capabilities, people require something more powerful for shooting video or video chat than 1.3 and 3 megapixel cameras. The Motorola Droid X and HTC Evo 4G have 8 megapixel cameras that are great for video.
If you’re going to put cameras on a tablet and single them out as differentiators, they need to be able to let people make great video calls. Video quality for chats via Skype was grainy and pixelated. Very roughshod. I preferred using Skype Mobile on my Droid X to using it on the Tab.
Now here’s where the WiFi radio came in handy. I downloaded Logitech’s Harmony for Android app from the Android Market and used it to control my Google TV, powered by the Logitech Revue.
Within seconds, the app located my Google TV-connected Revue box, my AT&T U-Verse set-top box and my Sony A/V receiver. I was then able to control my entire home entertainment system with the Tab through the Harmony app.
Once I got used to the app’s controls, which aped those on my Logitech Harmony keyboard, surfing Google TV was a breeze and didn’t drop me much, always one of the fears of using a WiFi network to bridge the gap between an app and connected hardware. I had fun freaking out the wife by turning on the TV from upstairs, 30 feet away.
I liked the Tab enough that I wish it would come in a 10-inch size for me to test. A few months back, Fuze Box lent me an iPad with which to test out a live demonstration of its Fuze Box Web conferencing application for the iPad.
I spent a week playing with the iPad extensively and came away impressed. The iPad was like the iPhone 4, only far bigger, and much more screen real estate than the Tab when you consider at width and length. Of course, the iPad has no cameras so video conferencing is a no go.
So, yes, size does matter. As great as the Tab was for me and all of its Androidy nuances and application goodness, I still felt cheated.
If Samsung makes a Tab that comes close to the iPad size–make it an even 10 inches–I might be persuaded to buy one for $600 from Verizon. But for now, I’d rather get a top-of-the-line netbook from Asus, or a WiFi iPad for $499 or $629 with WiFi+3G.
To wit, I’m sticking with surfing the Web via my work laptop, my personal Asus Eee PC netbook and my Google TV at home, and my Droid X on-the-go.
If you’re a salesperson or some other corporate road warrior who wants a tablet for serious video conferencing, wait for the iPad 2 or a larger Galaxy Tab. The current Tab is not that solution.