Under the hood, the Galaxy Tab 2 sports a dual-core, 1 GHz processor. It may not be a total powerhouse, and in this day and age where tablet manufacturers are migrating toward quad-core processors, this may seem disappointing to some. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a budget tablet, and for the price, a dual-core, 1 GHz processor is not too shabby. And to be frank, there isn’t much that the casual user (the very audience that budget tablets seek to target) will feel compelled to do on their tablet that would require much more processing power than that.
Probably one of the most unbelievable parts about the Galaxy Tab 2 is that despite being incredibly cheap, you still get a top-of-the-line OS, since the tablet runs the (currently) most polished version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0). It does feature Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, but in my opinion, it doesn’t interfere with the experience too much.
Aside from the UI’s flip-up app toolbar — which is accessible by tapping the bottom edge of the screen at any time and features quick-use apps like a calculator or a task manager — it really doesn’t change much else. Certain icons are different and menus like the settings page are modified aesthetically, but that’s it; for the most part, using TouchWiz is relatively close to a pure Android experience. When you first boot up the tablet, certain pre-loaded bits like the widgets that litter your homescreens might cause a little bit of stuttering, but with a little bit of clean up, you’ll find that performance doesn’t suffer on account of the overlay.
As a side note, we are unable to provide comparisons between the performance of the Galaxy Tab 2 and previously reviewed devices due to the fact that the benchmarking software we usually use, Quadrant, has been updated to a new version. As a result of the update, its developers have stated that the new benchmarks Quadrant now provides are not comparable to numbers acquired from older versions of the software.
And the battery life of the Galaxy Tab 2 is outstanding. With the Wi-Fi radio on and brightness cranked up to the maximum setting, I was able to get over a week’s worth of light usage out of a single charge. When I upped the usage by doing more of the same things (mostly web browsing, video streaming, app downloading, and playing said apps) for at least half an hour or more every day, I was still able to get through the work week, with the battery dying on the fifth day.
The pre-loaded app selection on the Galaxy Tab 2 is relatively standard fare, including YouTube, Peel Smart Remote, Kindle, Netflix, and Samsung’s various “hubs” — for games, music, media, and apps — which are all just aggregators. In terms of productivity, there are a few decent options, including Polaris Office, a photo editor, and a video editing app.
Some of the more intriguing offerings include AllShare, which is an app that enables DNLA sharing with other DLNA-enabled devices. I’ve always found that Samsung’s DLNA sharing is always very well-implemented in its products (especially via AllShare), and it’s surprisingly easy to set up multiple connections between my PCs, tablet, and even my TV through DLNA.
Also included is a DropBox app for you cloud storage/sharing types, as well as a Samsung chat app called ChatON. ChatON is essentially a universal chat app that lets you message with other users regardless of their mobile OS or platform, and also allows for group chats.
Connectivity and Cameras
The Galaxy Tab 2 is a Wi-Fi only device; no carriers offer it with a 3G or 4G data connection. But that’s probably for the best because it helps keep the price point down and it’s one less thing to drain the battery. Establishing Wi-Fi connections with existing networks (and Bluetooth) through Android is a snap, so don’t worry about running into any roadblocks here. And connections were always well-maintained, as I never experienced an abrupt disconnect or switching between multiple networks that are in range (an issue that I’ve had with other Android tablets before).
And, as is quickly becoming the norm for Samsung tablets, the Galaxy Tab 2 also has an IR blaster, located on the right edge of the device. While I personally don’t see the point (why not just use the remote next to you to change the channel rather than launch an app and navigate through its menus?) I imagine some people will appreciate its inclusion, as well as the pre-loaded Peel universal remote app.
Neither of the cameras on the Galaxy Tab 2 are of very good quality. The VGA resolution front-facing camera — so 0.3 megapixels — is one of the lowest-res webcams featured on tablets, and it shows. Graininess and noise abound even in decently-lit situations, and while that may not make too much of a difference for uses like video chatting, it’s worth noting that the picture looks very rough compared to something even marginally better, like a 1.3 megapixel webcam.
The rear-facing camera isn’t much better, as it’s only 3-megapixels and suffers from similar issues (and colors look as bland as ever). But that wasn’t a huge issue for me, as I’ve always maintained that taking pictures with your tablet is kind of a silly practice, and the need to do so rarely ever arises.
And besides, for all my criticism, you should still keep in mind that the Galaxy Tab 2 has two more cameras than its competitor, the Kindle Fire. In my opinion, two poor quality cameras are better than none.