I don't know why Samsung decided to call its new 10.1-inch Android tablet the Galaxy Tab 2. That moniker should have been reserved for a true next-generation Galaxy Tab, one with a quad-core chip and high-resolution or Super AMOLED Plus display. As it stands, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is only a modest update from the original Galaxy Tab 10.1, which was one of the better Android tablets released in 2011.
That said, I understand why Samsung would want to release a device like the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. At $400, it's a modestly priced tablet, and TabletPCReview gave the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, itself a small update from the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, a great review based largely on the fact it launched priced at $250. In addition, Apple dropped the price of the iPad 2 to $400, and this 10.1-inch Android Ice Cream Sandwich tablet gives Samsung a large-screen alternative to better compete with Apple.
So let's find out if the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch can compete, and is in fact, a great tablet value.
Build & Design
Samsung has some of the best-looking Android tablets on the market, and the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch is no exception. It's sleek, thin, and light. Samsung has once again turned to an all-plastic build, which I've lamented in the past, but am starting to appreciate having recently dropped my iPad 2. The iPad's aluminum body dented, whereas I think the plastic Galaxy Tab would have shrugged it off. Overall, I still prefer the rubberized build of the BlackBerry PlayBook, or at least rubberized accents or edges like the Droid Xyboard 8.2.
Whatever the case, the plastic is not flimsy and the Tab 2 10.1 is very well built. In what is perhaps my favorite design tweak of 2012, the Tab 2 10.1 is slightly longer than its predecessor to make room for two front-facing speakers on each side. I've long complained about rear- or side-firing speakers, which direct sound away from the user, so I have nothing but praise for Samsung's new design. In fact, it's very reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1N that launched in Germany following an Apple injunction against the original Tab 10.1, and I can't help but think the change has something to do with avoiding future legal hassles over tablet design between Apple and Samsung.
Sans the front-facing speakers, the tablet design is otherwise standard. The display dominates the front, with the VGA front-facing camera centered on the top long side, and Samsung branding underneath. Opposite, on the titanium-colored back, the 3-megapixel rear camera also sits centered.
Both short sides are bare, with no buttons or inputs.
The top long side houses the 3.5mm headphone jack/audio input next to an infrared blaster, microSD card slot, volume button, and power button.
A proprietary pin connector sits centered on the bottom, next to a tiny microphone pin hole.
Missing are both HDMI and USB output, micro or otherwise. I'll give Samsung a pass for the lack of an HDMI output as the Tab 2 10.1 has the excellent All Share media streaming app (it's regrettably limited to Samsung home entertainment devices, however), but all Android tablets should support USB. The tablet ships with a USB mail to pin connector adapter to connect the Tab 2 to a PC.
Display & Speakers
Unfortunately, Samsung's well-placed speakers are mediocre at best. Thanks to the placement, they are loud enough that a user will be able to enjoy and understand streaming video dialogue without headphones. But tablet speakers are near universally lousy, and this tablet's two meet the same low standard as many others in terms of sound fidelity and fullness.
Plug in headphones, and that all that changes. The audio output is superb, and especially excellent with the Google Music app, complete with simple equalizer, 3D effect, and music genre presets. The sound can also get plenty loud, and Android helpfully delivers an on-screen message warning of the horrible things loud music does to one's ears.
Beginning with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Samsung tablets have sported superb displays, recently culminating with the Super AMOLED Plus screen featured on the Galaxy Tab 7.7. While the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 doesn't have an advanced screen technology, and actually has display specs in line with the 2011 crop of Android slates (1280 x 800 resolution), it still holds up very well.
It can't compete with the new iPad's stunning Retina Display, or even the aforementioned Super AMOLED tech, but the Tab 2 10.1 still features a crisp image with colors that tend toward the cooler tones. It gets plenty bright at the highest setting, though still not bright enough to effectively cut through glare from the sun (a problem common to every iPad and Android tablet to date). Users should have no complaints watching HD videos or reading text, so long as they don't do it side by side next to a new iPad.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 specs:
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