Since the release of Apple’s iPad in April, the fruity one has single handedly dominated the tablet scene and has set the bar for the competition. While there have been half-hearted attempts to compete with the Cupertino juggernaut’s latest product, there hasn’t been a clear competitor to the iPad. Until now that is. Samsung is putting all its weight to bear on the tablet scene, and the result is the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch tablet that’s powered by the latest version of Android, Froyo 2.2.
The Galaxy Tab’s design is an exercise in minimalism. Aside from the volume rocker and the camera shortcut key on the right side, the body of the Galaxy Tab is completely flat. There are also two cameras in the Tab—a 3-megapixel camera with LED flash on the back and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls. Navigation is done via the 7-inch touchscreen LCD and through the four touch- sensitive controls located right below the screen. Charging and data go through the proprietary slot on the bottom.
There’s also a microSD and SIM card slot. No cutting SIMs here; you’ll be able to use your regular SIM with the Tab. Powering the device is an ARM Cortex A8 processor, 1 GHz processor with PowerVR SGXS4O graphics. Looking at the processor you know that the Galaxy Tab isn’t messing around; it has the horsepower to drive all of the newest Android applications that you want to throw at it and more. Samsung has seen fit to layer its own GUI, TouchWiz 3.0, on top of the existing Android software If you’ve managed to get a hold of the Galaxy S or the Bada-powered Wave, it’s a similar experience.
Of course, the whole tablet experience is still anchored to the underlying operating system which is Android. Unfortunately, Hugo Barra, director of products for mobile at Google has expressed that Android, specifically Froyo 2.2, is not optimized for tablets. It’s not that the whole experience isn’t enjoyable, because it is—it’s more the fact that the OS is being tasked to do a job it wasn’t designed for, and the device suffers because of it. The device refers to itself as a phone in most of the menu selections, and can even send SMS messages and make phone calls.
While the former is convenient, the latter is a bit out of place, especially for such a large device. It would have been better if Samsung restricted the device to data only, like what Apple did for the iPad. But in spite of that, Samsung has done a good job working with what it had. The experience is pretty slick, and device is extremely responsive. You’ll still be able to enjoy the Android marketplace, though some of the applications and games won’t run full screen and essentially run windowed.
The Galaxy Tab also has its own ebook reader in the form of the reader’s hub. Three separate services allow you to read the latest news, books and magazines and are powered by PressDisplay, Kobo and Zinio, respectively. As of writing, only Kobo is up and running in our demo unit.
Using the Galaxy Tab as an ebook reader is nice, and the unit’s overall weight isn’t a burden, especially when lying down. One of the upsides of using Froyo as an OS becomes apparent when you start browsing websites, as the Galaxy Tab is able to display Flash content, meaning you can watch embedded videos right on the website you’re currently browsing without being redirected to the YouTube app. Battery life is about a day of typical use.
At the end of the day, the Galaxy Tab is a solid tablet alternative to Apple’s iPad. While the platform it’s built on isn’t the best. Samsung has done what it can and the result is a slick, responsive device that’s easy to use.
Operating System: Android 2.2, Froyo
CPU: ARM Cortex A8 processor, 1 GHz processor; PowerVR SGX54O graphics
LCD SIZE: 7-inch capacitive TFT Touchscreen
Physical Dimensions: 190.1 x 120.5 x 12mm
BAND GSM: 850/900/1800 / 1900, HSDPA 900/1900/2100
Internal Memory: (Including Expandable Memory Capacity) 16/32GB internal storage, can be expanded through microSD cards
7-inch screen is bright and clear
Takes regular SIMs
Easy to use
Works as an excellent e-reader
Taking calls with it feels strange