Yesterday, I was in line at my local Best Buy waiting to pay for my just-activated Samsung Galaxy Tab when my mother walked up from behind and said, “Oh, look! It's like a mini iPad.” It was then when I realized that reviewing this device would essentially mean stacking it up against its one true competitor, the iPad, but I will do my best to mention the iPad as little as possible.
Many people feel that tablets are pointless, especially if they already have a smartphone, and I agree, sort of. However, laboring tasks that would take time and frustration can be taken care of much faster and with less aggravation with the extra 3-inches of display real estate. Replying to large amounts of email, browsing the Internet, and watching videos is easier and more enjoyable with at 7-inch display. That is enough to give this device a niche in many people's lives. I think once the prices of tablets go down (if they ever do) people will begin to adopt them more openly.
Design & Features
The Galaxy Tab is much like a larger version of the Samsung Fascinate, a Galaxy S series device on Verizon. Inside the box, you're not going find a whole lot. There is the tablet itself, a USB wall adapter that comes with a removable 120 V plug, a Samsung proprietary charging/data transfer cable, and the user manual. Pre-installed in the Tab is a 16 GB microSD card, which should be plenty for a tablet, but is expandable up to 32 GB.
The design is very simple with only a volume rocker, power button, and microSD card slot on the right side; the speakers and charging port on the bottom; a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top; and a microphone on the upper left edge. On the front is the 7-inch display with 1024 by 600 pixel resolution, a 1.3 megapixel camera, and a menu, home, back, and search button as per the norm. On the back of the device is the 3.2 megapixel camera with an LED flash. The battery is not replaceable but packs a whopping 4000 mAh capacity that should last anyone through the majority of the day. The build of the Galaxy Tab is very nice, even if the body is all plastic with a gorilla glass screen, it feels sturdy with just enough heft to it to not feel cheap.
Usability & Performance
The first thing you will notice when you turn on the screen of the Galaxy Tab is the brilliant, bright display. A lot of people were worried about the display being Super LCD as opposed to the coveted Super AMOLED. When you see it in person, the display will be the least of your worries. As it stands, the Super LCD is cheaper technology that consumes less power, has whiter whites, and about the same contrast as the Super AMOLED. The one negative I've noticed from the display is that it either feels too bright or not bright enough. If you enable auto brightness settings, no matter what lighting the room your in has, the display will dim way down. You can still adjust it manually, but one setting for all environments doesn't seem to work well. On another note, I'm on my second device. The first one had a white blot in the upper right-side corner when displaying a black screen and two dead pixels near the upper left corner. Thankfully, the second one is flawless.
The Tab is equipped with 1 GB internal memory and a 16 GB removable flash memory. This should be ample storage space for excess applications and a couple fart apps for your pleasure. If not, since it runs Android 2.2, you have the ability to store part of your applications on your SD card. I haven't found myself wanting nearly as many applications on my tablet as I want on my phone, just mainly news apps, an RSS feed, and lots of widgets. Oh, don't forget Touiteur, my favorite Twitter client.
You cannot make 3G calls via Skype with the Galaxy Tab from Verizon, but you can make voice calls over Wi-Fi through Skype. You can also send text messages from the Tab (pay per use or messaging feature). Since I already have two phones with messaging plans, having text messaging on a tablet would be a little excessive, but I wouldn't mind the feature. Dropping it off of one of my other lines and texting from my tablet.
The camera on the back of the Tab is only 3.2 megapixels, but I found it takes pretty good pictures for such a low-rated camera. Don't expect gallery quality pictures to be taken from it, but the auto-focus works very and the colors aren't too saturated. Above is the comparison of a picture of the same flower. One picture was taken with my Droid X (8 MP camera) versus the Galaxy Tab camera. As you can see, the quality is par. It isn't excellent, but it serves its purpose. Comparing it to another 3.2 MP camera, I say it performs very well.
The battery on the Galaxy Tab is a 4000 mAh battery. It's rated at 7 hours of video playback. Yesterday, right after I bought it, the battery was at about 60% out-of-box. I used it nearly nonstop (Twitter, navigation, web browsing, downloading all of my apps, etc.) for about 6 hours and the battery was at 20%. It quite as good as my iPad, but it is definitely better than what I expected. The major difference in battery life between the two tablets is standby time. I can leave my iPad sitting for a week and the battery may drop 1-2%. The Galaxy Tab drops off at a slow but steady rate, just sitting. It isn't a major issue as the depletion is very slow, but different from what I'm used to. Android is known for poor battery life, and if Samsung went with anything short of a 4000 mAh battery, there would have been a lot of disappointment.
Browsing the Internet on the Tab is good. It isn't as smooth as the iPad, but like I said in my First Impressions article, I blame this on Flash support. The Flash components take forever to load and even after they load slow things down. Most of the Flash you will see is ads in web pages, which is more annoying than anything. I understand people's craving for the support, embedded videos and such, but it's more trouble than its worth, to be honest. It greatly takes away from the mobile browsing experience. Flash isn't optimal for mobile devices. Although the negative initial impressions due to the Flash support, browsing is pleasingly easier on my Tab than any phone I've used to date. The screen size is big enough to enjoy mobile browsing, but not too big to make it a burden.
One thing I've never been fond of on the iPad is typing. It's always been hard to type in portrait mode since the keyboard is too wide to use your thumbs to type and hit all letters unless you have very long thumbs. Typing on the Galaxy Tab comes with ease. Whether you're tapping or using the beloved Swype keyboard, both I've found to be easy to get used to. Holding the Tab like you would your phone and typing with two thumbs is very easy. It's the perfect width and perfect key sizes to accommodate for my fat thumbs. As for Swype, typing like you normally would isn't so easy. You have to drag your finger a lot further, so I found it easier to hold the Tab with one hand while using the index finger of the other hand and using it to Swype. Landscape typing is a tiny bit awkward since the keys resize to short, very wide keys so you can still see what you're typing at the top of the page.
Android is a very accommodating OS for the tablet form factor. You can fill your homescreen with widgets rather than it just being composed of icons. Being mobile, you will want access to all of your information as fast as possible. Widgets provide that information without having to launch applications, making it easier to find what you're looking for and making your life more simple. The Galaxy Tab sports Samsung's TouchWiz custom UI, which I didn't like on their handsets. It looks and feels much better on the tablet, but it may just be because it's less invasive and running 2.2 instead of 2.1. The pull-down notification bar is probably my favorite feature in TouchWiz. It has quick access options within the pull-down menu like Wi-Fi toggle, GPS toggle, orientation lock, brightness adjustment, and more.
Having a higher resolution display than all other Android devices, you can expect some applications to either become slightly pixellated or to leave blank space around the remaining area of the screen. I've only come across two apps that didn't fill the screen (there's a fix for that), and two apps that were ever-so-slightly pixellated: Angry Birds and Hyper Jump.
Being the first true competitor to the iPad, I think the Galaxy Tab is a success. The application support isn't quite as refined as it is for the iPad, but that's to be expected. This is the first higher-end Android tablet that has received publicity and the iPad has been around for 7 months now. When it comes to size, the Galaxy Tab is perfect. It fits the hand well and makes for easy text entry. It isn't heavy, but has enough weight to it that it doesn't feel too cheap and plasticy. The two true negatives of the Tab are the price tag and lackluster camera. Even though it performs well, the camera standard for high-end devices as of late is 5 megapixels. A 3.2 megapixel camera just takes away from the prestige of the device. I don't see myself taking a ton of pictures with a tablet anyway, since it looks funny to walk up to something trying to take a snapshot with a 7-inch device. For $600, it will be hard for a lot of people to justify a novelty item, but for those that do, they should be pleased. It isn't absolutely necessary, but it makes for a fun toy and a very useful tool if it is utilized in the right way.
What's Good: Lightweight and easy to pick up on the way out of the door; still big enough to not feel constrained; good battery life, (very) bright screen; TouchWiz works and looks well on tablet form; easy to type on; very nice build quality; expandable memory; very loud speaker; great for navigation.
What's Bad: Proprietary Samsung port for charging; mediocre camera on back; flash-enabled, slows browsing speeds; no Netflix Instant Watch; fingerprint magnet; heavy price tag at $599 requires data plan activation; eats up data quickly.
The Verdict: Let me start this by saying the Galaxy Tab is not a necessity, it's a luxury item that can be very useful. I've tried three or four different tablets now and the Tab is the perfect one for me. Is it for everyone? Definitely not. It hits the sweet spot when it comes to size, weight, portability, and usability. Great battery life combined with a beautiful screen and a Hummingbird processor are just some things that set it apart from its Android counterparts, along with its much higher price tag. It's, without a doubt, the quality of the product that you're paying extra for.
If you're thirsty for more Galaxy Tab goodness, check out Aaron's Samsung Galaxy Tab review video!