Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 inch Android Tablet Review
According to Reuters Samsung Electronics Co Ltd will become the world’s largest smartphone maker this quarter, overtaking struggling Nokia which has led the market since 1996. Samsung, the global leader in mobile company, released its first ever tablet device the Samsung Galaxy Tab powered by Google’s Android version 2.2 just 10 months after the announcement of Apple’s iPad first generation, January last year.
Launched back in mid November 2010, Samsung Galaxy Tab qualifies to be the most capable competitor to Apple’s iPad in the surge of tablets despite varying radically from the iPad in feature and design. Where iPad measures about 10 inch as they compare it to be almost nearly size of the magazine, Galaxy Tab is just about 7 inch (diagonally). Now no matter if they opted for the size to make it look more like a refreshed PDA, or they knew that Android 2.2 would be imperfect for a larger than a 7 inch screen size or for the matter of portability, Galaxy Tab has a perfect size in my point of view!
Samsung Galaxy Tab is for anyone who is either an Apple antagonist or a faithful Google friend, or for those enterprises who seek to built custom business app with the open Android development platform, for those people who want a device more portable and easy to be held than Apple’s iPad, for IT professionals that have long been loyal to PDAs or for those who want a more capable device than smartphones. By far, Samsung Galaxy Tab is the most viable Android tablet to showcase in the tablet world.
Yet, Samsung Galaxy Tab expected to be formidable the iPad foe didn’t really come out to be a ground breaking tablet dethroning the iPad and at last failed to meet the hype it had created. Nevertheless, Galaxy Tab boosts features that will be awe-inspiring for iPad owners. In the review we shall investigate the tablet features, its short comings and the features that make the tablet rather prominent in the mass of tablets!
As stated previously, Samsung Galaxy Tab differs substantially from iPad yet being the viable rival of iPad.
This is one feature that iPad owners would miss most. At the time of release the then iPad first generation, did not have any cameras, at all. Samsung Galaxy Tab has two cameras! And unlike iPad 2, released early this year, Samsung Galaxy Tab does not cheap out at cameras! The Tab comes with 1.3 Mega-Pixel front facing camera (compared to iPad 2′s VGA camera) and a 3 Mega-pixel rear facing camera with flash (compared to iPad 2′s less than 1 MP camera). The front facing camera is capable of video chat with Qik app already included or with Fring. However the integration with Skype is reportedly faulty, Fring app too is not perfectly suited for the tablet.
Video-calls will only be available on Wi-Fi. Though, the cameras give the device an edge over iPad, but the quality of pictures and videos taken particularly by the front-facing camera produces grainy and unclear pictures and somewhat low quality video chat. Nevertheless the rear-end camera does a considerably fair job. You can use your device’s built-in Camcorder to record high-definition video in 720p resolution. You will also be able to take Panorama pictures via Panorama mode. Other options include tagging pictures with GPS location and auto-focus (Smile Shot feature) etc.
Processor, Performance & RAM
The Samsung Tab comes with 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird Cortex A8 with PowerVR SGX540, battery power comparable to Apple’s iPad. The powerful processor makes the device responsive and particularly well-suited for video playback, gaming and for reading ebooks. The performance of Galaxy Tab was not found sluggish at any instant. The touch screen is super responsive and the OS runs smooth and fast. When it comes to performance, you won’t find the over-all Tab experience to lag behind the one with Apple’s iPad.
Tab comes with 512 MB of RAM and 16 GB integrated memory that is extendible via microSD card upto 32 GB. Once again comparing it to Apple’s iPad, even the iPad 2 does not offer extendible memory- a feature long awaited by the iPad owners.
The Tab houses 4000mAh rechargeable standard Li-Ion battery. Samsung claims the 7 hours battery while viewing movies (dependent on other factors, of course). The battery life however was not found satisfactory and especially when compared to iPad (battery life up to 10 hrs) – a device with a larger screen owing to more power drainage, the battery life below par. The device will be unstable on battery level lower than 15 % and may even power off even having a not-so-low battery. Nevertheless you can help battery life by reducing the screen-brightness, disabling the background applications etc.
The tablet comes with Wall/USB Charger (Outlet Connector, Charging Head and USB cable) to charge your device from any standard AC power outlet. The battery will only charge using the supplied proprietary charger and wont charger using USB port on your computer. Many have claimed that charging using USB cable via computer is very slow-all most unnoticeable yet no solid proof was found in favor of this fact. Limitation of having to use the proprietary charger just as in Apple’s iPad is annoying!
Samsung Galaxy Tab supports Wireless connectivity 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi Protocol. You can also connect to internet and to other devices via VPN or Dial-up-Networking. Also your Tab supports 3G networks. None of the models support 4G connectivity- a somewhat expected feature.
Making calls & SMS!
Okay that’s a twist! Your Galaxy Tab is actually a hybrid device that can serve as a tablet and a smartphone! Yes a smartphone with which you can make voice calls! But unfortunately the capability was removed by major US carriers namely AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile. The voice calling feature (I do regard it as a feature) would have been deal-breaking for masses. But luckily you will be able to use the feature in European models.
Though you don’t really expect to use a 7 inch massive device as a phone but you can make or answer calls with the supplied headset or an optional Bluetooth headset. So if you wish to make calls use a European model. Just recently, however, some developers at XDA managed to hack T-Mobile Galaxy Tab to enable the feature of telephone calls. The process is very intricate and advised not to try at home!
Messaging (sending and receiving SMS) will be available on your Galaxy Tab in USA as well.
Size, Appearance & Weight! Is it good?
The perfect size of a tablet is yet undetermined and more about personal preferences. If you are replacing your PDA or wish to extend the functionality of smartphone you might be looking for a device that is easy to carry without any extra bag and something that fits in big pockets. If so then 7 inch tablets are just the perfect size for you. On the contrary if you want a tablet for web-surfing, watching movies or gaming then definitely a bigger screen gives a far better experience. Galaxy Tab fits in the first category of devices having a perfect portable size.
Samsung Galaxy Tab is 7.5 inch in length when held diagonally with a black bezel all around and a screen, typical to all devices. The WSVGA TFT screen measures about 7 inches and has a resolution of 1024×600 pixel density which is higher than both iPad and iPad 2 (both having 132ppi) that is 169ppi making the images and display of the tablet more crisp and detailed. This simply means you will have a better experience when reading eBooks or viewing pictures or websites on the Tab’s screen.
Another benefit of the screen size is that Android 2.2 does a fair job on the screen, even though the OS is not well-suited for Tablets. Incase Samsung opted for a larger screen size the OS would surely have been exploited.
The height of the Galaxy Tab is 4.7 inch. If it’s the era of thinner devices then Galaxy Tab beats iPad with a slight margin! The tablet is hair-thinner than iPad!! The Samsung Galaxy Tab is just 0.5 inch thick, compared to 0.53 inch depth of Galaxy Tab! Nevertheless, iPad 2 is yet thinner than iPad and the Galaxy Tab at just about 0.346 inches.
Weighing just about 13.04 oz (of course lighter than iPad as it is a heighted device) and having a perfect portable size Samsung Galaxy Tab is handy and more manageable device! You will find the device much easier to hold with one hand even for extended sessions of work, posing reduced arm strain. The size has another advantage! You can even type on the on-screen keyboard using your thumb just like you would do on a phone. Nevertheless, many have found it just a magnified version of Samsung Galaxy S smartphone running the same OS (well, iPad too is just a magnified version of ipod touch? Isn’t it?).
Basic specs and dimensions are common to all the Galaxy Tab irrespective of carrier except for the back. The back cover incase of Sprint is all white while in case of others it is black checkered. Despite the plastic back the device looks solid and gives a nice feel to hold.
On the side of the device you will find Power Key, Volume Key, Memory Card Slot and volume keys. The Headset Jack is located on the top-left side of the device. On the front façade lies the 4 buttons common to Android devices, Home, Back, Menu and Search on the bottom along with Front-facing camera and Mouth piece located on the top. Just below the front façade lies the Speaker.
Audio, Video & Flash
Your Samsung Galaxy Tab will support lot more file formats including WMA, AAC, WAV, OGG, FLAC, AMR, MP3 and MIDI. You can access the online music store, and search for and buy your favorite songs as well. The sound quality is really superior with stereo speakers. You will be exhilarated with the top-quality audio the small device produces. Unfortunately the galaxy Tab does not support multi channel audio.
The video file formats supported are H.263, MPEG-4, XviD, H.264, DivX. The video player is good and will run smooth videos without jitters and will also offer you to adjust the screen brightness, contrast and saturation.
Your device supports Flash! This means you can access a large resource of videos, games etc. on the web easily. Nevertheless the flash is buggy. When viewing flash content on the web your over all browsing becomes sluggish and may also freeze for a short time. Video playing with in the browser may also give an error of not loading as being not optimized for mobile version. Therefore even having Flash support the best thing is to watch videos on the YouTube app if possible and avoid frustration caused by unsteady playback. Additionally flash apps on the web that require peripherals like mouse and keyboard might not be able to run in the absence. Therefore full flash support does have loop holes!
Google clearly indicated that Android 2.2 is not for tablets but Samsung opted for Android 2.2 for the Galaxy Tab declining the option for Honeycomb. But undeniably Honeycomb too isn’t polished flawlessly and need some efforts to stand out as the only OS for Tablet. The Android 2.2 even looks good enhanced by TouchWiz making the apps and text more crisp and appealing.
You might not feel the difference in the UI or most of the apps that will simply scale to occupy the whole screen, nevertheless some apps may display with a black border around. This is certainly not an issue, as most iPad apps too scale (sometimes awkwardly) to fill space.
For a matter of fact, Android 2.2 at the moment is good choice, at least from my view point. Samsung can definitely upgrade later in the second generation to Honeycomb, when it is actually ready for tablets. Definitely Android lets you multi-task applications and the switching between the apps is smooth (unless you are running flash in the background). The tablet will switch on instantly.
The Android browser is reformed for the 7-inch screen. The browser is optimized to display the mobile version of most of the website that can be bothersome. Overall browsing experience is comparable to that iPad (for most of the actions). Flash support can slower the over-all browsing experience and you might need to turn-off flash for taking the full advantage of browsing nonetheless, there is no obvious way to turn off the flash directly. The 4-way accelerometer may also be sluggish with the browser.
You can select a keyboard type for inputting text either to be Swype or Samsung Keyboard. Swype is a new text input method that allows you to enter words by gliding your finger over the virtual QWERTY keyboard, lifting your finger between words.
Apps & the built in Apps
As pointed out earlier that most of the apps in the android market will scale up to fill the 7 inch screen, to become a potential rival to iPad it is important that the market showcases apps optimized for tablets. Your device comes with a handful of built in apps that include the following notable apps.
ThinkFree Office- an app for productivity to create and view files on your device. This application supports the following file formats like txt, doc, docx, xls, xlsx, ppt, pptx, pdf. You will require an account on ThinkFree web service.
My files- allows access to your images, videos, music, sound clips, and other types of files stored on your device and memory card with My files.
Digital Frame- makes your device look like a digital frame and view the clock or slideshow, or play music files.
Other apps include Task manager, World Clock, Voice search, Alarm clock and eBooks.
As they say Samsung Galaxy Tab represents a new category of mobile products for Samsung. If you want a device for productivity and a device to do jobs more than just web surfing and video playing then Samsung is definitely for you! I am not Anti-Apple yet I strongly think despite all the flaws Samsung Galaxy Tab is the device that can be regarded as a tough rival to Apple and for sure Apple’s iPad 3 would fear the 2nd generation Samsung Tab.