Tablets

Samsung Galaxy Tab review: Everything you need to know

After testing three different versions of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, I found some pleasant surprises and one big drawback.

Next to the Apple iPad, it may be the most anticipated tech product of 2010. You could even claim that a big part of its anticipation is actually due to the iPad. Of course, I'm talking about the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the first major Android slate to give the iPad a run for its money in the touchscreen tablet market.

I've gotten my hands on three different versions of the Galaxy Tab, put them through their paces doing many of the same tasks as the iPad, and looked for some of the unique value that this 7-inch tablet has to offer from a business perspective. I found some pleasant surprises and one big problem.

Rather than a long narrative, TechRepublic product reviews use a concise format that provides IT and business professionals with exactly the information they need to evaluate a product. You can find more reviews like this one on our Product Spotlight page.

Photo gallery

Samsung Galaxy Tab: The ultimate slide show of photos and screenshots

Specifications

  • Carrier: Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and others
  • OS: Android 2.2 (Froyo)
  • Processor: 1.0GHz Samsung Hummingbird Cortex A8 with PowerVR SGX540
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Storage: 2GB, 16GB, or 32GB + MicroSD slot (up to 32GB)
  • Display: 7-inch WSVGA TFT, 169ppi, 1024x600 resolution
  • Battery: 4000mAh
  • Ports: Headphone jack, MicroSD
  • Weight: 13.6 ounces (385g)
  • Dimensions: 7.48(h) x 4.74(w) x 0.47(d) inches
  • Camera: 3.0MP with autofocus and LED flash; 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, A-GPS, geomagnetic, luminance, gyro
  • Keyboard: On-screen keyboard; Swype
  • Networks: CDMA 800/1900Mhz, EVDO Rev.A; or GSM (HSUPA 5.76Mbps/HSDPA 7.2Mbps at 800/1900/2100MHz; GSM/EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1900/1900MHz)
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n); Bluetooth 3.0, DLNA
  • Tethering: USB and mobile hotspot
  • Price: $499-$649

Who is it for?

The Galaxy Tab feels like a big smartphone, without the phone. The 7-inch size makes it feels more similar to a PDA or an iPod Touch than the iPad. As a result, it has the potential to be a PDA replacement for many businesses and workers who have stuck with old school PDAs and never moved to smartphones. And, the open Android development platform will allow businesses to easily build custom software and line-of-business apps that could be used on the Galaxy Tab.

I don't think the 7-inch Galaxy Tab will have as much appeal to executives as the 10-inch iPad has. But, a natural target market for the Galaxy Tab will be those professionals who have been attracted to the iPad but don't want to buy into the Apple ecosystem. They have been waiting for a usable Android tablet to show up, and the Galaxy Tab will appeal to many of them.

What problems does it solve?

The biggest problem the Galaxy Tab solves is being the first viable Android tablet to make it to market from a mainstream technology company. We've been hearing Android tablet promises all year from nearly every big player in the computer industry, but Samsung is the only major vendor that has delivered a viable product (I don't count the 5-inch Dell Streak as viable). While its adaptation of the Android OS to the tablet form factor is imperfect at times, the Samsung Galaxy Tab has broken through the barrier and will likely pave the way for a lot more Android tablets in the months ahead.

Standout features

  • Hardware package - The hardware profile of the Galaxy Tab is one of its strongest attributes. It has a a high-quality WSVGA display, a 1.0 GHz processor and 512MB of RAM, built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi and cellular radios, and all of the latest environmental sensors. It has built-in flash storage plus an easily-accessible microSD slot for expansion (and swapping cards in and out). Unlike the iPad, it has a camera. In fact, it has two cameras, both a rear camera with LED flash and a front-facing camera for video calls. Although the rear camera is only 3.0 megapixels, it takes solid photos and has several advanced software options including a built-in panorama mode that works great.
  • Battery life - The Galaxy Tab kept a charge longer than I expected. Since it's a lot smaller than the iPad I knew it would have a much smaller battery (of course, it also doesn't have to power as large of a display). At any rate, I easily made it through a full day of moderate-to-heavy use on the Galaxy Tab. In fact, I didn't charge it for an entire weekend so it also doesn't pull much power when it's on standby. Of course, since it's Android, you'll need to make sure that there isn't anything running in the background that is drawing power.
  • 7-inch form factor - One of the main complaints that I've seen from others who have tried both the Galaxy Tab and the iPad is that the Galaxy Tab is so much smaller (see my comparison photos). While the difference in screen size is a drawback for web browsing, I found that the 7-inch form factor does have its advantages. It's much more portable and fits into smaller bags, organizers, and padfolios. It's also lighter and less awkward to hold for longer periods of time than the 10-inch iPad. Again, the 7-inch tablet feels like the rebirth of the PDA, and since many businesses still have plenty of uses for PDAs I think they'll welcome this form factor.

What's wrong?

  • Software incompleteness - Even Google has admitted that Android 2.2 is not optimized for tablets, but since it's an open platform vendors have been able to move ahead with Android tablets without Google's official blessing. That's one of the primary reasons why Samsung built a 7-inch tablet rather than a 10-inch tablet like the iPad. The Android OS and apps simply aren't ready to handle a big jump in resolution to 10-inches. The 7-inch tablet isn't that big of a jump from the current Android handsets. Some apps such as Amazon Kindle, Twitter, and Google Maps have already made the slight modifications needed to optimize for the 1024x600 resolution on the Galaxy Tab, but many smartphone apps will have black bars around the edges if they haven't been optimized (here's an example).
  • Samsung missed the price point - The biggest problem with the Samsung Galaxy Tab is the price. At $500 to $650, it costs the same as the iPad but doesn't offer as much screen space, as many apps, or the same kind of polished user experience. On the other hand, it does feature the greater flexibility and customization that you get with Android, but that won't be enough to balance the equation for most potential buyers. If the Galaxy Tab was $299 (and the wireless plan was pay-as-you-go) then it would make a lot more sense for businesses and professionals to experiment with it.

Bottom line for business

As much as I was pleasantly surprised by the Galaxy Tab and found a number of things to like about it, I still have a hard time recommending it. The price is basically on par with the iPad and you just don't get as much. So, unless you specifically want an Android tablet or a smaller form factor, then the iPad will be a better choice for most professionals and organizations that are interested in a touch-screen tablet.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the next version of Android (codenamed "Gingerbread") will officially support tablets and promote tablet-optimized apps and it will arrive before the end of 2010. As a result, we should expect a deluge of Android tablets from vendors such as ASUS, Acer, Dell, and many more during the first half of 2011. So, if you've got the Android tablet itch, the Galaxy Tab is an intriguing first look at what's possible, but before you pull the trigger you may want to wait until you see what the Gingerbread-powered Android tablets will have to offer. There will be plenty of news on that front during the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in the first week of January.

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About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

16 comments
sandeepupsbit
sandeepupsbit

loose talks as i am a user of samsung galaxy tab p1000 since last 1.5 years it is giving me ultimate performance.

TranquileUncle
TranquileUncle

First, how on earth do you compare an oversized touch screen smartphone to an IPad? They are two different devices. Second, the IPad is made for reading IBooks, surfing the net, and working the Apps. Keep it simple. Finally, Don't hate the player hate the game, can someone else please stand up (instead of Apple) and come out with something that will change the game. I'll give Samsung credit for one thing, the galaxy tab gives you an option.......would you like your android phone regular or super size?

DropZite
DropZite

"The other thing to keep in mind is that the next version of Android (codenamed ?Gingerbread?) will officially support tablets and promote tablet-optimized apps and it will arrive before the end of 2010." Are you sure about Gingerbread officially supporting tablets? Source for this info?

OPorto
OPorto

Is not an amrican brand!

work
work

Will anybody comment about the "Phone" function of it? Its form factor makes it less-like of a phone, but having one-device-for-all should be a much better feeling. Any comment?

philip.arnold
philip.arnold

It's the US carriers that are stopping it being used as a phone, not the Tab itself. Yes, the Tab is a phone, but not when bought in the US - Samsung have confirmed that in the US market that they're cutting out the voice compatability. http://www.engadget.com/2010/09/16/samsung-galaxy-tab-loses-voice-capabilities-in-the-us/ In other words, if you live in the US, the Tab sucks, but everywhere else in the world, it's a big SmartPhone, and thus can't be compared to anything else on the market at this point...

shoreha1
shoreha1

One thing I don't get - why don't these things have a phone ?

eco733
eco733

Nook Color has been picked as the editors choice by PC Magazine. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2371554,00.asp Pro reviewers on other sites (CNET, Engadget, AllThingsDigital, etc.) mentioned that it tested to be pretty fast for apps and PDF?s, has a beautiful screen, and is a great value for the holiday season. Nook Color specs: - $249 with free shipping - 7 inch Color LG Touchscreen 16 million colors with anti-glare coating 1024 x 600 delivering 169 pixels per inch. - 8GB built in memory expandable to 32 GB with microSD card. - 512 MB RAM - Formats supported: EPUB, PDF, XLS, DOC, PPT, PPS, TXT, DOCM, XLSM, PPTM, PPSX, PPSM, DOCX, XLX, PPTX, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3, AAC, MP4. - Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), USB port - OS: Android 2.1 - Processor: TI 800 Mhz ARM Cortex A8-based, 45nm OMAP3621 Nook Color is better for reading than iPad and better for everything else than Kindle. Nook Color is better for $249. Nook Color screen is supposed to be better (less reflective) for reading than iPad thanks to new LG screen with anti-reflection coating. It allows to watch videos, listen to the music, view Office documents and PDF?s. Porting Android apps is not difficult. B&N says it is more like optimising them for Nook than porting them.

philip.arnold
philip.arnold

You're saying that it can't "beat" the iPad? Well, I can find several ways that it beats the iPad hands down: Is the iPad a phone? No - Tab wins Can the iPad send text messages? No - Tab wins Can the iPad take photos? No - Tab wins Can the iPad do video conferencing? No - Tab wins Can the iPad play DivX and XVid videos natively? No - Tab wins Does the iPad have removable memory? No - Tab wins Can the iPad view Flash websites? No - Tab wins Can the iPad fit into a jacket pocket? No - Tab wins Will the Tab out-sell the iPad? No, because iPhans will buy just about anything from Apple, even an over-grown iPod Touch (which is what the iPad basically is)...

philip.arnold
philip.arnold

It's actually impossible to hold up to your face to use as a phone, but since I rarely do that with my normal phone, I don't find that a problem. The solution is to use a bluetooth headset - with that, you dial using the on-screen dialer (like a normal Android phone) and then you can put it away in your pocket. It's a phone by definition that you can make a phone call (unless you're in the US, because the carriers suck), but it's not a traditional "hold up to your face to make a call" phone.

pi3k14
pi3k14

But it has, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is also a phone. I don't understand why that wasn't mentioned in comparison to the iPad.

ShockMe
ShockMe

...this should be a nice unit for those willing to usable interaction surface for greater portability. The Nook color has more potential given it's lower price and specialization, and access to content from B&N. Some of the features of the Galaxy tab are puzzling but it is a decent first effort.

cma1032
cma1032

Some of the other benefits not mentioned is file management and ability to be a thumdrive. Way more flexible than the iPad.

ShockMe
ShockMe

...but the same is also true for an Android phone. So the question is why 7 inches instead of the more portable 3.5, 4, or 5 inches? I presume for easier targets and less squinting. But why remove storage? Don't you mean replaceable?

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