Please note, the following is a review of the European version of the Galaxy Tab. The US version, now available, does not feature voice-call support. For a detailed look at the Galaxy Tab feautres and apps, check out our Galaxy Tab second-look review.
Originally Published 10/18/2010
The Samsung Galaxy Tab, spectacularly unveiled at the IFA consumer electronics show in Europe in September, is a seven-inch tablet running Google Android OS 2.2 (Froyo). It includes the Samsung TouchWiz UI upgrade, which enables applications from the Android Market -- a key feature lacking on other Android tablets -- as well as Samsung's Apps store.
The device has a TFT capacitive screen, an A8 ARM 1 GHz Cortex processor, a PowerVR SGX540 graphic accelerator and 16 GB of internal memory, with additional microSD card slot. It supports all 3G bands and has the HSDPA network connectivity option, along with Wi-Fi b/g/n, GPS and Bluetooth 3.0 support.
At first glance, the Galaxy Tab is most similar to Apple's iPad, but compared to it, the Galaxy Tab has certain advantages, as well as shortcomings. At .84 pounds, it weighs nearly half as much as the iPad, which tips the scales at 1.5 pounds, the Galaxy Tab has voice call capability (though, the feature is disabled on the US Galaxy Tab) and video conferencing over Wi-Fi. This tablet also includes multitasking (a feature coming to the iPad with the iOS 4.2 update in November), and web browsing with Flash support. On the other hand, the Apple iPad has a bigger, more pleasing screen, solid aluminum body, and a hardy battery.
BUILD & DESIGN
The screen aside, Samsung's tablet is completely crafted out of plastic, which makes it light. Its back cover is white in the standard version, with a black front. It looks quite modern, complete with rounded edges (some networks will exclusively offer the device in other colors, as Samsung announced at IFA). The tablet's dimensions ((7.48 x 4.74 x .47 inches) are ideally suited for one hand use, keeping the other hand free for key control and screen manipulation.
Given that the majority of other tablets have to be held with both hands, the Galaxy Tab looks more like a smartphone than other competitors' models. In fact, the only thing (apart from its dimensions) making differentiating it from a smartphone is the fact that users cannot make phone calls by keeping the device next to their ear. They either must use the headphones delivered with it or any other earphone set that uses a standard 3.5mm audio jack, a Bluetooth headset, or through the speaker. In fact, the only way you can't make a call with the Galaxy Tab is the traditional means of holding it up to your ear.
Four capacitive keys are located underneath the screen, which is typical for devices that use the Android OS. The first activates the menu, the second is the home key, the third is a back key, and the last button activates the search engine.
Since the device supports multitasking, a long press of the home key activates the task manager, which enables speedy switching from one active application to another.
The right-hand side includes the power button, volume control keys, as well as microSD memory card and SIM card slots. The left side includes a microphone, while the device's speakers are located on the bottom side, along with the power cord jack and an accessory slot. Accessories include speakers, a physical keyboard, car kit and others.
The seven-inch capacitive screen features WSVGA resolution (1024 x 600 pixels). The imaging is exceptionally sharp, thanks to Samsung's excellent resolution choice for this size, which delivers 192-pixel density per inch. Since this is a TFT screen, the images do not have the same quality as a SuperAMOLED screen used by Samsung's Galaxy S smartphones (which this tablet very much resembles), or the images on the iPad. Still, the imaging is above average with vividly interpreted colors, and it is highly unlikely that the users will have any objections.
When exposed to direct sunlight, the screen significantly loses contrast, but the images are still very visible and the Tab retains its pleasant display. This is why deciding on the TFT screen, compared to the SuperAMOLED was a good choice, given that the latter technology loses much of its luster in the sun.
Still, SuperAMOLED has one advantage over TFT -- it has a wider viewing angle. The Galaxy Tab's viewing angles disappoint, and any view off center will result in reduced display quality. It is plus that the device's dimensions offer one-hand usage, which means this will not be a problem, given that users will usually have the tablet directly in front of them.
The display's touch sensitivity is fantastic. The Galaxy Tab precisely registers everything you want to do, and the display keyboard is especially well realized. I was able to quickly type long messages without any spelling mistakes after a few minutes of use. This is true for using the screen keyboard in a horizontal position, as well as vertically, when the keys are significantly slimmer.
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