This holiday season one of the top tech toys on everyone’s list is a tablet. But with the veritable glut of models, manufacturers aren’t making it easy to choose which one to buy. For instance, Samsung has two very similar tablets: the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus.
As their names imply, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a touchscreen whose diameter measures 10.1 inches, and the Tab 7.0 Plus is a smaller, more compact 7-inches. Under the hood, they share much of the same technology –1GB RAM and 16GB or 32GB of built-in memory (the Tab 10.1 also offers a 64GB model), dual-core processors, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, front and back cameras, plus virtually identical-looking interfaces (although the Tab 10.1’s larger screen display has almost twice as many icons).
There are, however, some minor differences – the Tab 7.0 Plus’ CPU is slightly faster (1.2GHz verses 1.0GHz), its smaller screen displays less resolution (1024 x 600 pixels versus 1280 x 800 pixels) but a higher pixel density (170 pixels per inch verses the Tab 10.1’s 161ppi), its stereo speakers are somewhat smaller and tinnier, and its rechargeable lithium-polymer battery has a total capacity of 4000mHa, which lasts just over 8 hours, while the 10.1’s capacity is 7000 mHa, good for about 9 hours of power. The Tab 7.0 boots up from a cold start in 21.7 seconds, while the Tab 10.1 requires 35.3 seconds; both tablets wake up in less than 2 seconds. Like the iPad, the Galaxy 10.1 has no external storage capability, but the Tab 7.0 Plus features a micro-USB slot that allows users to boost storage memory up to 32 gigabytes. Also, the Tab 7.0 Plus comes equipped with a built-in infrared interface (more about this later).
Another initial difference was that our Tab 7.0 Plus shipped with a more up-to-date OS – 3.2 (Honeycomb) as opposed to the Tab 10.1’s 3.1 (also Honeycomb). However, it took us only about 45 minutes to easily update the Tab 10.1 to Honeycomb.
Although it’s slightly thinner and lighter, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a very similar look and feel to Apple’s best-selling iPad. So similar, in fact, that Apple successfully obtained an injunction against Samsung in Australia banning sales of the Tab 10.1 on the grounds of patent infringement (also, in Germany, Apple forced Samsung to make certain hardware and software modifications to the Tab 10.1 before it could be marketed.) Where they differ is screen size and resolution – the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen displays 1024 x 768 pixels resolution, or 132 pixels per inch, while the Tab 10.1 slightly larger 10.1-inch screen is a more detailed 1280 x 800 pixels resolution, or 161 pixels per inch. Another difference is that both the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Tab 7.0 Plus come with a utility called Swype, which allows the user to resize and move the tablet’s virtual keyboard, and allows swiping as well as pressing the keys.
How Do the Tabs Perform?
We found no practical performance differences – opening apps, Web browsing, email downloads, etc. — between the iPad and the Tab 10.1, and by extension, the Tab 7.0 Plus. Though, the 7.0 Plus did outscore the Tab 10.1 in our benchmark tests.
Quadrant measures CPU, 3D, and memory performance. Higher numbers are better.
Our initial assumption was that the Tab 7.0 Plus is simply a smaller, lighter, marginally thicker, slightly more sophisticated version of the Tab 10.1. It’s that, and both a bit more, and less. Technically, the screen should be slightly sharper, able to display a little more detail. But after looking at downloaded and tablet-shot photos, and watching Netflix movies and YouTube videos, our visual evaluation is that the Tab 10.1’s graphics are marginally superior – the colors are more realistic, and the dynamic range (the ability to display detail in the highlights and shadows) greater. And with more than twice the display real estate offsetting the Tab 7 Plus’ higher pixel density, the Tab 10.1’s picture appears sharper and more detailed. While the angle of view seems the same, the Tab 7.0 is easier to view in bright sunlight. Alas, both screens are prone to fingerprints and smears, and are annoyingly reflective if not angled correctly.
As they say in the movies, size matters. The Tab 10.1 is designed primarily for the serious user, and will be perfectly at home in the studio, office or boardroom. It will run software designed for full-sized tablet screens, such as Adobe’s Touch Apps (Adobe Collage, Adobe Kuler, Photoshop Touch, Adobe Debut, Adobe Proto and Adobe Ideas). Viewing and editing videos and images, with or without an optional stylus, are much easier, with a significantly faster workflow than you’ll accomplish on a smaller tablet. It’s also a spectacular platform for presenting and displaying your photo or illustration portfolio to potential clients. And that extra hour of battery power may be important if you’re not near a handy AC outlet.
Although the Tab 10.1 slips easily into a large purse, briefcase or camera bag, unless it’s ensconced in its own custom case, it’s neither easy nor convenient to carry by itself — the plastic backing doesn’t provide a no-slip surface. And like the top-quality DSLR with interchangeable lenses that get left in the hotel room because they’re too large and heavy to lug everywhere, you may be tempted to leave the Tab 10.1 at home.
Where the Tab 7.0 Plus excels is portability – it’s small and light enough to take anywhere. We could quite easily stuff it into a jacket or purse, and even our jeans’ back pocket (although you certainly wouldn’t want to inadvertently sit down on it) and whip it out whenever we wanted to use it. And while it’s slightly larger (but thinner and lighter) than the Kindle Fire or NOOK Tablet, we found it easy to hold and read for long periods without fatigue. However, like the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Tab 7.0 Plus’s back is a plastic meant to look like brushed metal, so there isn’t a no-slip surface to give you a surer and safer grip. But then, no tablet we know of comes equipped with a no-slip back.
Incidentally, one built-in feature that may wow hardcore techies is the Tab 7.0 Plus’ infrared interface. By downloading a free app, Peel (you don’t have to buy Peel’s $100 remote receiver), the tablet becomes a super-remote that allows you to customize and control your HDTV, DVD player, AV system, or any other device that uses a remote. By following easy instructions, we were able to set up and use the Tab 7.0 Plus as a remote in minutes. Customizing and prioritizing the type programs we preferred took longer, but once done, it worked flawlessly.
Unfortunately, the charger that comes with both tablets is AC only, so you must buy an optional adapter to charge it in your car or from an auxiliary battery. You can’t recharge either tablet directly from a PC or laptop USB port either, because even a powered USB hub doesn’t provide enough juice.
Too Large, Too Small?
If the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a little large for your lifestyle, but the Tab 7.0 Plus is just a tad too compact, Samsung also offers the Galaxy Tab 8.9. It’s slightly smaller than its big brother, while sharing most of its hardware advantages. And if even the Tab 7.0 Plus is too big for your on-the-go lifestyle, you may be happy buying a Galaxy Player 5.0 – a 5-inch media player/mini tablet that runs the smartphone version of Android (2.3, Gingerbread).
While some discounts may be available if you do some serious comparison shopping, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi only model with 16GB of memory retails at about $487, the comparable Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus sells for $399, and the Galaxy Tab 8.9’s suggested retail price with the same specs is $449. Of course, they will be somewhat cheaper up front if you buy a 4G model with a contract and data plan from Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile, though you will be tied to a carrier and monthly bill.
Small, medium or large – Samsung makes first-rate, iPad-alternative tablets that will fit your needs and lifestyle.