I?ve been wanting to get my hands on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 since first reading about it last winter. At that time, I wanted to get a tablet and the iPad was clearly the best option. Since the camera aspects of the iPad 2 weren?t all that important to me and the delivery of the new model wasn?t all that predictable before it was official, I went with a 16GB iPad.
For a start, the Tab and iPad are more alike than different: both have similar touch-oriented interfaces, both are cool, versatile, highly capable devices.
BUILD & DESIGN
The Tab is a sleek device. Samsung has set the new standard, for the moment, with the same thinness but slightly lighter weight than the Apple iPad 2. Like its rival, it is generally fast and feels responsive. Controls are unobtrusive. A small on/off button protrudes from the upper left bezel, with a larger loud/soft button next to it. Just right of center on the top bezel is a headphone jack. Speaker openings are on the left and right sides, near the top, and the USB connector is bottom center. Like the iPad, you can charge the Tab from your computer as well as with the included wall charger (iPad uses an adapter for wall charging).
The Galaxy Tab is set up for landscape use with optional docks to hold it upright in the landscape position, thanks to the position of the proprietary pin connector. The on/off button similarly orients you toward landscape use. Of course, the display rotates as you rotate the device (or can be locked in any position), but landscape is the default. The tablet is slightly wider and less high than the iPad 2 in landscape mode (10.1 x 6.9-inch vs. 9.5 x 7.3-inch).
It's also flatter, so you can incline the tablet on a book or similar object when typing on the softkeys to give a decent typing angle. The curvier back of the iPad can rock side to side. My add-on rigid cover for the iPad solves that, but adds more weight and bulk.
One of the bigger challenges you?re likely to face with the Tab is what to do after you press the ?on? button and the screen saver comes up. The default view includes what Samsung calls a pattern to unlock the screen saver. Let?s just say it?s not exactly intuitive and is not covered until page 9 of the manual. You can switch to a password or pin for unlocking the screen. Small potatoes, but annoying.
Once you?ve unlocked it, the Tab gives you a very attractive, readable screen. When it comes to horizontal scrolling, the Tab goes for the wraparound look that?s even extended to some of it's app interfaces, notably YouTube, that have large numbers of tiles to choose from. I don?t see any big advantage either way.
The Tab requires an external HDMI adapter to connect via the loan proprietary input to a TV or monitor. And it also lacks an SD card. For any device that you might want to occasionally do something storage-intensive with (like watch a full-HD rented movie), removable storage would be better than having to buy extra RAM for an occasional need. Also, with no standard USB input, it?s impossible to take advantage of Honeycomb 3.1?s USB hosting feature that enables external keyboard, mice, and gamepads. Of course, Samsung is happy to sell you a pin-connector-to-USB adapter (similar to the iPad Camera Connection Kit) for an extra $20.
On the networking front, I was not impressed with the Wi-Fi performance of the Tab. It was acceptable, but even under good but not great signal strength, I got more interruptions than I would have expected. It's always tricky to assess network performance, but I got that consistent impression. And, as this is a Wi-Fi only device, there?s no alternative to use 4G when Wi-Fi is weak.
Bluetooth, however, worked well in my limited test of using my Apple wireless keyboard. The Tab had no trouble recognizing and connecting, and performance was fine.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 specs:
Screen and Speakers
Screen display is excellent at 1280 x 800 resolution, which outdoes the iPad 2?s 1024 x 768. I wasn?t able to compare it forbrightness to the iPad 2, but it seems brighter to me than the original iPad. For example, I was able to read the Kindle app in sunlight on the Tab more readily than the iPad (neither were as good as reading off of an actual Kindle itself, of course). Color balance seemed natural enough, actually pretty amazing for a device of this size and weight when you consider where full-size TVs were only a few years ago.
Touch sensitivity was good. If you?ve used an Apple device, this will feel very similar. Swiping is here to stay, let?s hope.
The built-in speakers along the side won?t impress anyone with their bass extension, but they are clear and loud enough for a small room. Prolonged music listening at more than background level would probably be irritatingly trebly, but sufficient for at least short videos or podcasts.
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