Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 Hands On

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9Samsung must have put the Galaxy Tab 8.9 on Nutrisystem, because the prototype the company showed off at CTIA is a thin tablet – a very thin tablet.

I say prototype because the demo unit Samsung showed off at CTIA was behind glass and not powered up. Functional units, sporting a much thicker build were on hand. This suggests Samsung VP Lee Don-joo wasn’t exaggerating when he said, “We [Samsung] will have to improve the parts that are inadequate,” later adding that “Apple made it [the iPad 2] very thin.”

It seems Samsung was all set to roll out the fatter tablet, before hastily redesigning the Tab 8.9 and whipping up a thinner prototype for CTIA in Orlando. This is fine by me, assuming Samsung crams all the features and Honeycomb goodness we saw in the fatter units onto the thin prototype, because it matches the Apple iPad 2 in design and betters it on the spec sheet in some important areas, including display resolution.

Not Just Honeycomb
The Galaxy Tab 8.9 will run Android Honeycomb 3.0. Maybe Samsung read my Xoom review and noted my issues with Honeycomb, or maybe the brains at Samsung and I just think alike, because the company included a TouchWiz UX layer that adds some convenient features to Google’s tablet OS that improve the experience. For starters, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 will feature haptic feedback, which is especially helpful for the keyboard and navigation by offering slight vibration. I was told Samsung hoped to include Swype technology as well, but that detail has yet to be finalized.

Other Honeycomb tweaks include a task bar at the bottom of the screen that pulls up the five most commonly run apps (no word on whether or not users can manually program the apps featured), a settings popup on the Home screen, and the ability to resize widgets, though it’s not clear if that feature extends to all widgets or just Samsung widgets.

iPad 2 Leapfrogged
iPad 2 (right), Galaxy Tab 8.9 (left)The Galaxy Tab 8.9 exemplifies the reasons I claimed Jobs fears Android. Just weeks after the iPad 2 release, an upcoming tablet is unveiled that beats Apple’s tablet in terms of design, as you can see in the image on the right. The Galaxy Tab (right) is clearly thinner than the iPad 2 (left).

The Galaxy Tab 8.9 will also have a superior display resolution and cameras, while matching Apple in processor speed. Perhaps best of all, Samsung will beat Apple in pricing, with the 16GB Galaxy Tab 8.9 launching at $469 and the 32GB unit launching at $569. The iPad 2 currently costs $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi unit and $599 for the 32GB Wi-Fi device.

Still, Samsung has its work cut out for it if it wants to beat Apple’s 10-hour-plus battery life. And of course, Apple still has Android well beat in terms of apps to the tune of approximately 65,000 and growing. I’m sure Samsung is hoping the Android Market tablet section takes nothing from Tab’s rapid thinning and fattens up fast.

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