I've been using the Motorola Xoom for some time now, and I have to say I do love it. The combination of the form factor and Android platform make the Xoom an outstanding tablet. When I was handed the Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G, I was doubtful another piece of hardware could usurp the Xoom as my tablet of choice. And this proved to be especially hard, because both the hardware and software were quite comparable. However, after some use, there were enough subtle differences to bring the Galaxy ahead of the Xoom for me as the better tablet for power users.
I want to start out with the size and feel of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. One of the aspects I really liked about the Xoom was the almost rubberized back that made the tablet easy to hold. With that nice sticky surface, the chance of the tablet slipping from your grip was far less than it would be with a standard external cover. The Galaxy? No such luck. The surface of the Galaxy is pretty standard issue and could slip right from your fingertips. That, of course, is no deal breaker, especially when the size and weight of the Galaxy is ideal for a tablet. In fact, of all the tablets I've held, the Galaxy is, by far, the most comfortable of the lot. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Galaxy is perfect for anyone who plans on using a tablet for long periods of time.
The size of the device is also very conducive to tapping and sliding all around the screen. Even with my smallish hands, I was able to easily and quickly navigate the interface. I didn't experience any fatigue after extended usage like one might expect from using a tablet. Of course, I can't say the same thing for the virtual keypad -- but that goes for any tablet, regardless of the platform.
One small touch the Galaxy has that trumps the Xoom is this: On the Xoom, the on/off task is handled by a button on the back of the tablet. However, the button is perfectly situated so that it's very easy to accidentally turn the tablet off while holding it in your hands. This has happened to me at a number of inopportune moments (such as video chatting with a colleague). On the Galaxy, the on/off switch is on the upper left side, above the volume controls. I have yet to inadvertently switch the Galaxy on or off while holding the hardware.
How can you argue with a tablet powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM? These are the same specs found in the Xoom, so the transition was not even noticeable. The speed of this tablet is amazing. With the combination of the Android platform and the hardware, the Galaxy offers users a lighting fast experience that won't bog down, even with numerous applications running. This Android is certainly not your smartphone's Android!
As for the screen -- a crucial factor in the selection of any device -- the Xoom does offer a bit higher ppi than the Galaxy (160 ppi vs 149 ppi), but that downgrade is imperceptible, even when viewing video or documents for long periods. The display is incredibly crisp (even more so than any flat-panel monitor I have access to) and easy to read in ANY light.
The Galaxy contains a 7000 mAh battery with the following claimed battery life:
- Video: Up to 9 hours
- Music: Up to 72 hours
Surprisingly enough, I found those claims to be fairly accurate. However, the real test for the business user will be standard usage (email, web use, Google Doc editing). I found, even under heavy usage, I was able to squeeze out a full days work with the Galaxy. This was pretty shocking, considering I can't do that with my Android smartphone.
There is one caveat. Avoid draining the battery completely, because it takes forever to get a full recharge. While plugged into a PC, a completely drained Galaxy took five hours to charge back up to 26%. Yes, the charging process is sped up if it's plugged directly into a wall, but the typical method of charging these devices is through a PC. That, my friends, is a slow charge. For some reason, it doesn't take nearly as much time if the Galaxy still has some battery life when you begin the charging process.
What can I say? The Android platform has, for the most part, become immune to the extraneous additions that have plagued the Android smartphone. Even though this is a branded Samsung device, it does not include the atrocious Samsung Galaxy interface found on their phones. In fact, other than the stock Android software, the only additional title you will find is the Media Hub.
Of course, in typical fashion, the Media Hub software is flaky at best. This software is supposed to allow you to view various media titles (even purchasing or renting titles). It requires either a Wi-Fi or 4G connection (for previewing or downloading content), but it often fails when the 4G connection isn't full strength. Granted, I'm in Louisville, Kentucky, where 4G coverage is spotty at best.
Other than that, the Galaxy has all of the standard Android apps, and a multitude of applications can be found on the Android Market.
The cost is often a deal breaker for some users, especially when it comes to tablets that offer more networking solutions than Wi-Fi. Although the Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G is around $100.00 less than the equivalent iPad 3G, the monthly cost of the data plan is about $5.00 more per month than the equivalent iPad plan. Of course, everyone knows these things change constantly and will probably have changed by the time this post is published. Suffice it to say, the cost is roughly equivalent to that of the iPad.
Drawing a conclusion
Is the Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G the ideal tab for the power/business user? Here's my answer: If a tablet in general will meet your business needs, you will be hard-pressed to find a better tablet than the Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G. This baby is fast, easy to handle, has solid battery life, a wealth of applications to choose from, and (from my perspective) relies on a superior platform to that of the iPad.
For every day use, I still like my Xoom. But for power use (and a far more portable experience -- thanks only to the 4G) the Galaxy can't be beat. Just remember to not let that battery drain completely, and you'll have just as incredible an experience as I've with this piece of hardware.
Editor's note: When Jack submitted this post, he included the following quote, which sums up his experience quite nicely... "This tablet (Galaxy 10.1 Tab) will have to be pulled from my cold, dead hands. Love it!"
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 teardown: Daintiest of the Android tablets
- CNET: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 - Verizon 4G review
- CNET: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs. Sony Tablet S
- ZDNet: Hands-on review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
- ZDNet: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Honeycomb tablet (photos)
- Galaxy Tab 10.1 TouchWiz update (photos)
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.