Samsung Galaxy Tab Active – the rugged tablet for business types

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Tablet computers are becoming increasingly popular among business users as a means of allowing employees to stay connected wherever they are. But for industrial environments, field service personnel or people who work outdoors, a conventional tablet may not be up to the task.

Step forward Samsung with an answer to the problem in the form of the Galaxy Tab Active. This is a ‘ruggedised’ tablet aimed at business users, so much so that it will only be sold through B2B channels and won’t be available through retailers. Home users may like to click-through to the next story now.

Still here? Good, you’re obviously a serious business type who’s not afraid to take the rough with the smooth. So what makes a tablet rugged? In the Galaxy Tab Active’s case it’s erm… the case. It has an anti-shock covering that Samsung claims will survive a 1.2 metre drop (that’s about 4 feet in old money), it’s also IP67 certified which means it’s dust resistant and won’t be daunted by going out in the rain. There’s also a stylus so you can, for example, use it whilst wearing gloves.

Beneath the rugged exterior – sorry for coming over a bit Mills and Boon there – is not a heart of gold but a pretty standard Galaxy Tab. You get a 1.2 GHz CPU, an 8-inch 1280×800 screen, 16GB of onboard storage expandable by a microSD slot, 3.1 megapixel front and 1.2 megapixel rear cameras. All this is driven by Android KitKat and, in keeping with its business focus, comes with Samsung’s Knox security program.

So what do reviewers think? Engadget notes that,

“The Galaxy Tab Active boasts 10 hours of power from a detachable, 4,450mAh battery, and a UI designed for tough work – the kind of stuff that keeps your fingers off the screen. It’s also got a variant of Samsung’s S Pen in the C Pen, a tougher version of the standard stylus included with various Galaxy devices.”

Reinforcing the Active’s business credentials ZDNet says, “It’s also been certified for Citrix and SAP applications…” and, “…during the design phase of the Galaxy Tab Active, the company talked with Fortune 500 companies spanning 12 industries to find out what business leaders wanted from a mobile device.”

“The tech specs are mid-range at best,” says Rugged PC Review, “but that would not detract from vertical market use where leading-edge tech isn’t as essential as in the cut-throat consumer market.” Which basically means business users are happy to buy lower tech specs as long as they work.

Pocketnow puts it more simply,

“The hardware that powers the Tab Active isn’t too exciting, much closer to a Tab 4 than a Tab S, but that’s not why anyone’s going to be buying this thing; they’re here for the rugged design. That protects the tablet against drops and environmental damage, while features like its stylus (even if it is a capacitive one) and support for quick charging cradles help expand its usefulness out in the field.”

However, Cnet’s reviewer says,

“The Active has definitely been put together with businesses in mind, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a consumer version, as there currently aren’t many options for those who want a rugged tablet for outdoor use. Samsung has a tendency to make plenty of variants of its products, so fingers crossed we see a version of the Tab Active that’s aimed at everyday shoppers before too long.”

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So, if your working life demands a tablet that’s a bit tougher than the norm, tell your IT manager that the Galaxy Tab Active is available in the UK through distributor Exertis though no pricing is has currently been released.

Samsung’s Galaxy A3 and A5 take aim at the Chinese market

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Some smartphones like to offer “credible” USPs such as waterproofing, which genuinely seem like a good idea. Others turn their focus towards things like the “selfie” generation, which like it or not appears to be a burgeoning market. The fact that it’s a big hit in China is guaranteed to make phone manufacturers sit up and take notice, so it’s not really a surprise to see “dedicated” devices being drip-fed into the mix.

It’s also not surprising to see Samsung getting involved – its figures have been hit in recent times by cheap and cheerful smartphones from China so the release of (what certainly should be) budget-priced models in the A3 and A5 seems like a clear strategy to try to counter the threat.

They are essentially quite similar aside from form factor – both have a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, run Android 4.4 (KitKat), offer 4G and have 16GB of storage with microSD. The A5 has a bigger screen at 5” compared to the A3’s 4.5”, though both offer 720p resolutions (1280×720), with the larger device also offering a higher 13MP camera compared to 8MP.

Interestingly Samsung claims that the A3 and A5 are optimised for social networking, though we’re not entirely sure why aside from the presence of “selfie” functionality and the fact that they are 4G phones that can upload your media pretty quick. Perhaps it’s the fact that those who frequent social networks are also quite likely to take quite a lot of these sorts of photos, so to this end both have a 5MP front-facing camera with a range of custom tools like Wide Selfie, Palm Selfie, Animated GIF and Beauty Face features. Your guess is as good as ours.

One thing we are pleased about is that Samsung has also placed a strong focus on design, so if these models are priced well they could offer a serious advantage over the functional but ultimately uninspiring design of many Chinese counterparts. The A3 an A5 are the slimmest Samsung smartphones yet at just 6.9mm and 6.7mm thick respectively (though technically this is a joint record with the 6.7mm Galaxy Alpha) and are importantly based on the Alpha’s design, which is to say they have full metal unibodies and come in a wide range of colours from Midnight Black to Champagne Gold.

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This seems like a strategic move from Samsung but also an entirely sensible one given that the Alpha represented a swanky design change for the company – it’s something we’ve seen before with HTC doing pretty well out of aping the One’s design with lower-priced Desires, so was always really a case of “when” rather than “if”. Whether or not the selfie focus will be a significant factor in driving sales is yet to be seen, but one thing that Samsung will certainly have to get right is the price.

Unfortunately there are no price details available yet, or indeed a release date for the UK. What we do know is that they’ll certainly be doing the rounds in China from November, and will be hitting other markets shortly afterwards.

Pierre Cardin tablet review

In the technology industry, true beauty has always lay beneath the surface. There’s just no point in having something that looks nice if it doesn’t do anything – that’s an ornament, not a gadget. Enter the Pierre Cardin Tablet. Does fashion-consciousness cost the tablet usability? Read on.

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Firstly – it looks nice. Well, it looks like an iPad, with a few more ports in the side and a big ring around the camera. It’s a bit disappointing that the best Pierre Cardin’s designers can do is copy Apple – you’d imagine that being a designer, that’s what the company would bring to the table.

The leather case is also adequately beautiful, adding a touch leathery-class to the glass and aluminium tablet. Personally, it’s our favourite bit.

The slate boasts a 7” multi-touch screen, putting the device (size-wise) in direct competition with the Samsung Galaxy Tablet. The resolution, however, is a humble 800×480 – much worse than Samsung’s 1024×600, and more akin to a modern mobile phone than a tablet computer.

In fact, the Pierre Cardin falls short of the Samsung in most areas. The Galaxy has two cameras (1.3MB on the front, 3MB with autofocus and flash on the back), Pierre just has one, front-mounted. The Galaxy Tab has 592MB RAM, le Cardin? 512MB. Weight-wise, the Galaxy, at 380g looks super-model light in comparison; its rival is 520g. Sadly, the Galaxy is thinner, too.

So where does the designer tablet do better? Well, it has a 4400mAh battery – compared with the Samsung’s 4000mAh, so if you need an extra hour or so (the Galaxy runs for 13 hours), the Cardin device is better. It’s also got that cool leather case that we mentioned earlier. Oh, and you’ll find it for around £15 cheaper.

Both tablets feature the Samsung A8 1.0Ghz processor, so expect no differences there. The Pierre Cardin has 4GB built-in storage – more than the Galaxy’s 2GB – however, the Pierre Cardin microSD slot only supports 16GB cards, while the Galaxy takes up to 32GB. Oh dear.

And both tablets run Android 2.2 (Froyo), which neither should boast about – Android 3.0 Honeycomb (designed for tablets) should really be the de facto OS on all tablets this side of the calendar.
All-in, it’s a little disappointing that a brand new tablet is out-performed by the older Samsung Galaxy price, for around the same price. It looks nice, though. But then so does the Galaxy.

http://www.pierrecardintabletpc.co.uk/

ZTE Light: A 7″ Android tablet. Yes another one.

ZTE have just tried to throw a spanner in the works of the tablet PC world by announcing its 7 inch 3G Android touchscreen, which its hoping will be a bigger success than its somewhat maligned ZTE Racer.

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Currently on display at the Beijing Exhibition there is little information available in the form of user or eyewitness reviews but it has got some reasonably impressive stats; weighing in at only 403 grams, with GPS navigation ability and WiFi. Although its 512 MB of inbuilt RAM isn’t anything to write home about, there is an external SD slot with 32GB of external memory. The ten hours of battery time is also reasonable, and will ensure you’ll be able to take it on long journeys and not run low half way home.

It operates on the 2.1 Android Operating system. Through this you get full access to all that you’d expect from Google- multi E-mail account set-up, online document reading and editing services and the wealth of third party apps that us 21st century consumers have come to rely on and define ourselves by. It’s also got the added boon of offering voice calling on dual band UMTS 2100 MHZ/900 MHZ, so it can lay some claim to being an all round entertainment centre

From looking at the picture, it’ll fit easily into the palm of your hand (exact spec isn’t available at this juncture unfortunately), in which seems to lay its biggest appeal with its capabilities to support a camera, games, music, video and mp4. In fact, on first glance there seems to be an awful lot right about the ZTE Light; time will tell whether it lives up to ZTE’s billing as the preeminent next generation tablet PC.

Blackberry PlayBook: Don’t call it a BlackPad. Do call it an iPad contender.

Darlings of the corporate world, Research in Motion made their first foray into the tablet wars with the Blackberry PlayBook. Tech journalists the world over breathed a sigh of relief that the rumoured name “BlackPad” hadn’t been used. Even more surprising, after a slew of quite disappointing “me too” Android tablets (and the Blackberry Torch) was that it actually looks quite good.

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How so? Well for one thing it won’t be running a poorly modified phone or desktop OS like some of its more rushed rivals (you know who you are) and will instead be powered by Blackberry Tablet OS, which was developed by QNX, a bolt-on acquisition to the Research in Motion team. RIM were keen to mention the multimedia and gaming power this platform provided – amazing when you consider the no-nonsense attitude that drives their phone platform, although they were also keen to describe the PlayBook as “the first professional tablet.”

Fulltime iPad haters will find a lot to like. It handles Flash 10.1 so it will be interesting to see how its performance holds up for gaming and multimedia. Developers will also be able to create apps using Adobe Air.

At 7 inches it is smaller that the iPad, albeit with a pixel dense 1024 x 600 capacitive multitouch display. “Every device I own must have a camera! Does it have a camera?” you cry. Yes, yes it does – two in fact with a front facing 3 megapixel camera and a 5 mega pixel rear one, including video conferencing.

Other conspicuous iPad absentees such as multi-tasking, 1080p support or a built-in HDMI out are all present and correct in the PlayBook, courtesy of the Cortex A9 dual core 1GHz CPU, backed up with 1GB of RAM.

The PlayBook has a symbiotic relationship with its phone-based cousins so smooth synching of data is promised and apparently you can tether your phone’s data connection to the Playbook.

The only thing the PlayBook seems to lack is a firm launch date and any inkling of a price. I’ve played with most of the tablets on offer and I’m writing this on an iPad, but the Playbook (along with the Samsung Galaxy Tab) seems like a definite contender in the tablet wars.

Samsung Galaxy Tab review roundup

Samsung’s first tablet has received a rapturous welcome from the media following its unveiling this week. Largely, the reviewers are suggesting the Galaxy Tab could be a genuine rival for Apple’s iPad, but it’s yet to be seen if it will become the new “apple” of our eyes (sorry).

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First of all, let’s take a quick look at what the Galaxy Tab has to offer. Powered by Android Operating System 2.2, it features a 7” TFT-LCD display and weighs a mere 380g.  The Galaxy Tab supports the latest Adobe Flash Player 10.1, has 3G HSPA connectivity, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 3.0. A Cortex A8 1.0GHz application processor delivers high performance, while the Tab supports HD video content with several multimedia formats and has front and rear-facing cameras. Pretty impressive on paper then.

The Galaxy Tab could be “the iPad killer”, says The Sun; in typically staid style. The newspaper praises the Galaxy Tab’s “pin-sharp graphics” adding, “The Galaxy Tab’s trump card is the built-in phone, which the iPad lacks. It also has a camera, unlike the iPad.”

PC World’s business blog agrees that the Galaxy Tab could be “the first tablet worthy of challenging the Apple iPad”. The Tab “has most – if not all – of the features that many wanted to see on the Apple iPad, like front and rear-facing cameras, expandable memory through an SD memory card slot and a multitasking OS,” it says – but adds that due to the massive variety of Android smartphone hardware available, “some apps may not transition well to a tablet-sized display”, although this is also a problem shared by the iPad.

The Guardian commends the Tab’s unique e-reading application, “Reader’s Hub”, as well as the film and video “Media Hub”. “Allowing access to books, music and films is a major step forward as it ratchets up its competitive positioning against Apple,” it says. “Success will depend on pricing,” it adds.

The Huffington Post was also won over by the Tab.  “I was a little skeptical about the idea of a 7-inch tablet yet I found that there was enough screen real estate to happily browse the web,” said the reviewer, who praised the facility to make video calls via 3G rather than just WiFi. However, like PC World, the Huffington Post points out that the scale of some Android apps could pose problems on the Galaxy Tab display.

All in all, the majority of reviewers suggest the Galaxy Tab could have the edge over the iPad, particularly if it is competitively priced and issues with the size of apps can be ironed out.