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Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Review – Available Nationwide June 17th

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a tablet designed to compete with the design and sleek look of the Apple iPad 2. It was redesigned after the announcement of the iPad 2 and the old version is now the Galaxy Tab 10.1v. The newly designed Galaxy Tab 10.1 really does make an impression with how thin and light it is.
Bottom Line

At $499 for the 16GB WiFi version and $599 for the 32GB version, this is definitely a top runner for tablets in the market. It is sleek, stylish, and has the full web experience with Adobe Flash technology. It also runs Android Honeycomb 3.1, which is lacking in the quality app selection of the iPad 2. The differences between the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 come down to what you use them for. I think the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is more of a laptop replacement than the iPad, but neither complete the transition for me.

Specs

10.1” Widescreen (1280×800 WXGA TFT LCD)
Android Honeycomb 3.1 OS
1 GHz Tegra 2 dual-core processor
WiFi 2.4GHz and 5GHz (no cellular modem)
Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR Connectivity
3-Megapixel rear camera with auto-focus and flash
2-Megapixel front camera
7000 mAh battery
A-GPS (Assisted GPS)
10.1” (W) x 6.9” (H) x 0.34” (D)

Review

Software

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 ships without TouchWiz, instead shipping with stock Android Honeycomb 3.1. This means a lot to me just because I am not a fan of manufacturer software customizations on Android. There are some improvements, but the updates usually are slow compared to stock Android devices. The only custom features that I could find were the camera application, the keyboard, and the Samsung Hub.

The camera application looks out of place with the Honeycomb UI but also brings hidden features to the forefront. The camera application swap out seems like a user preference to me. The interface different between stock Honeycomb does not make a difference to me.

The keyboard and Samsung Hub are two “enhancements” that I would prefer being left off. I changed the keyboard to the stock version and liked it much more than the Samsung customization. One thing about Android is customization. You can choose the keyboard that works for you or get another one to install. The Samsung Hub is easily not used as you can use the Android Market or Amazon Appstore.

Games and Apps

This thing plays games like a champ. With a Tegra 2 chip this tablet is designed for gaming and flawless video processing playback. I played Gun Bros, Dungeon Defenders, Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies. All of them seemed to play very well. The only hiccup I saw was Plants vs Zombies. The graphics seemed to be pixelated since the screen is just blown up, whereas the other games played just fine. The Plants vs Zombies app would also need to reload or resume when you would change the volume or tap the notification area in Honeycomb. This is more a critique of the app with use in Honeycomb rather than the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

On the apps side of things, I really enjoyed the News360 app for reading news as well as TweetComb to interact with Twitter. They both used fragments very well to show different panes of content on a larger screen instead of scaling up a phone interface. There are not as many app selections in the Android Market as there are in the Apple App Store. There are plenty of opportunities for Honeycomb optimized apps, utilizing the big touchscreen devices. At the time of this writing though, quality app selection has to go to the iPad 2.

Hardware

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is slightly thinner than the iPad 2, but it is not noticeable without a caliper. It is lighter though, and pretty easy to tell the difference on weight. With the screen being a beautiful HD widescreen, it can be awkward to hold the device in landscape mode while trying to type and hold a conversation as in Google Talk. Typing in portrait mode is slightly easier than the iPad because of the less height on the product, but still felt uncomfortable with longer conversations. The widescreen aspect ratio and vivid screen makes for good viewing experience for movies.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a power button, volume rocker, and a headphone jack that support the earbuds included with the unit. The headphones are of decent quality, and come with three different sized rubber in-ear pieces. The built-in speakers are heard through two small slits on either side of the tablet in landscape mode. They are nothing special as speakers go. You can enjoy the music or movies you play through the speakers, but the true sound quality can be heard through the included headphones.

The cameras on the tablet are about par for tablets. They’re there to video chat and take pictures when no other device is available. You won’t get stunning pictures as you would from a regular camera, or even decent camera phones, but it will allow you to capture life moments when no other devices is there. A note about the quality, they did seem better than the iPad 2 cameras but that does not mean too much.

The tablet also has assisted GPS which helps better locate your devices for all those favorite location tracking services you use. Checking in on Facebook, Google Maps, Twitter, Urban Spoon, and Latitude. All of these services benefit from the GPS even on the WiFi models.

This Honeycomb tablet has integrated flash in the browser. This allows for the complete web experience to be seen, at least on sites that do not block mobile devices such as Hulu. You can view restaurant menus, fashion websites, awesome flash ads, and any other Flash content you like to look at, even the questionable stuff. This is in stark contrast to Apple’s philosophy of withholding flash content from its mobile devices. The reasons behind that can be many, including some performance issues (that can be minimized by hardware acceleration) as well as Apple wanting to control their platform and money stream for apps. If you are looking for a laptop replacement, consider the Tab 10.1 over the iPad 2 because of the Flash aspect.

The notable hardware that are missing from the devices are a USB port and HDMI port for external video viewing. These two major features of the Motorola Xoom are missing from the Galaxy Tab 10.1 mostly because of thickness limitations and cost control. The Tab uses a proprietary cable to charge and connect the device to a computer for file transfer. The cable seems cheap, similar to other Apple iPod devices. The proprietary port also supports extra add-ons similar to the iPad 2. You can currently buy an expansion for a USB port through the connector, which will enable the USB hosting of Honeycomb 3.1. This means you can put a camera in the slot or a flash drive and read the data on the tablet.

Common user recommendation

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is very feasible as a common user device. The interface is slick and pleasant to use. The device itself is thin and light and what I consider fashionable. It’s a great alternative to the iPad 2, but the app selection on the iPad 2 is still far better. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a great way to enjoy the new tablet ease of use while staying out of the Apple walled garden.

Power user recommendation

Power users may want to stay away from this device just because of the USB and HDMI built-in option not there. The Xoom might be a better full featured option. This comes at the cost of size and weight though. Android is definitely the option for operating system if you are a power user. The customization far exceeds anything available for iOS.

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