There are now two quality tablets on the market – the ageing iPad and the new Samsung Galaxy Tablet. The Galaxy is smaller, lighter and faster, but does that make it better? Our hands-on experience left us wanting, but what do other experts around the web say?
PC Advisor warns us from the oft that: “it’s using the very latest Android version 2.2 … it should be noted that even Google has not sanctioned this particular system for tablet use.” Uh-oh. “instead of a half-baked handheld, in the Samsung Galaxy Tab we found a quite usable mobile PC.” Oh, phew.
On top of Android 2.2, Samsung have added its TouchWiz. PC Pro thinks this is “no bad thing… The homage to Apple’s iOS is clearly intended to draw customers away from the iFamily, and the simple, icon-based interface is slick and simple to navigate.”
A detailed run-down of the operating system comes from Slashgear:
Five desktop panes (you can have a maximum of nine) which can be filled with widgets and moved between with a finger-swipe (since there’s no D-pad or optical joystick). A pinch-zoom gesture shows thumbnails of all screens for speedier navigation.
At the bottom of each pane is a three-button shortcut bar, with two user-definable shortcuts (browser and email, by default) and the Applications button in the middle. Unlike on Android phones, each pane supports a 5 x 5 grid of icons and widgets (4 x 4 is the norm); as well as the usual widgets, shortcuts and folders, Samsung has added a few new clocks (including examples with weather or calendar integrated), social updates with the Feeds and Updates widget, and – most usefully – a Program Manager widget.
And don’t forget “full Flash support”. Thanks for the reminder, Endgaget!
T3 quite acutely summed up the difference with the iPad:
The 7-inch plastic-encased tablet is notably smaller … but that also means it’s a comfortable fit for one-handed operation, or a rear jeans pocket, and at 380g it’s roughly half the weight of the iPad.
Size is an issue that reoccurs frequently with The Telegraph pointing out that it’s “almost exactly the same size as the highly praised Amazon Kindle.”
Slashgear had nothing but praise for the unit’s construction. “The chassis is all plastic, unlike Apple’s proclivity toward aluminum and glass, keeping the weight down to 0.8 pounds, but feels solid and creak-free.”
“The 1GHz ARM processor and PowerVR SGX540 graphics chip keep Android feeling spritely, with applications popping into view with nary a delay. Samsung even claims that the PowerVR hardware is capable of Full-HD playback.” It all sounds pretty good so far – especially when you include the 512MB RAM (double the iPad’s). PC Pro continue the praise: “Games looked great on the display and both the first-person-shooter, Nova, and the arcade racing staple, Need for Speed: Shift, kept up a steady frame-rate.”
T3 described the 1024×600 screen as “bright and sharp”, however PC Advisor disagrees. They say that the display, “Unlike Apple’s eye-poppingly bright and colourful glass IPS panel … has a duller, flat-looking plastic LCD. Off-axis viewing of the Tab is not at all great.”
The Telegraph doesn’t offer a strong opinion either way, explaining that “the screen is not AMOLED, but that is not painfully noticeable.”
To throw our opinion into the debate, when we played with one we found it about as good as an average laptop screen, with a sharper finish. Tech Radar agrees: “the WSVGA screen resolution is only slightly lower than that of the 9.7-inch iPad (so that’s 260ppi versus 132ppi) which means that the display on the Galaxy Tab is a lot sharper.”
The battery is also impressing reviewers. CNET noted that, “in the few days we had the Tab in for testing, we didn’t notice the battery draining too quickly, despite Samsung telling us that our particular review sample suffered from an abnormally weak battery.”
Slashgear was keen to remind us that it better be good, because it’s a “non-user-accessible battery, since as with the iPad, the Galaxy Tab is a sealed unit.” Let’s hope the lifespan is good.
“The 3-megapixel camera on the rear partners with a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera – video recording stretching up to 30fps at 720×480 resolution” Thanks, PCPro. But is it any good? TechRadar thinks not:
There’s no HD recording – the resolution of your recordings is fixed at 720×480. The Tab records at 30fps and so the handling of motion isn’t too bad. But like our stills shots, quality isn’t great. Colours are washed out, and contrast is quite poor indeed.
CNET prompts that at least “the software itself is snappy, so you won’t miss the moment waiting for menus to load.” You’ll definitely capture the moment, just in a washed-out way. Hmm.
CNET also explain a minor disappoint with the cameras’ video chat. “You can also make video calls over 3G, thanks to a tiny camera just above the Tab’s display. Sadly, though, video calling is only supported from one Galaxy Tab to another.”
Tech Radar does a great job of summing up why most reviews for the Tablet are coming in at around three out of five: “When sliding through your home screens, the iPad just is slicker, smoother and more responsive. The Galaxy Tab keeps you waiting a split second at a time, and it all adds up. As a result, it’s not a fun device to use.”
We couldn’t agree more. Especially if you’re paying a premium price for it. And when we used a copy, it wouldn’t let us update our Facebook status on it. Ouch.