Android users rejoice! The same excellent operating system and interface you love in your phone is now housed in a stout and sturdy 7-inch case. Is it an iPad replacement? Potentially, but you’re going to have to overlook some glaring problems.
You’ve been waiting for this one, you little devil, haven’t you? Well here it is: Samsung’s long-awaited Android tablet, the first in a salvo of tablets that will flood store shelves from here until next CES.
To begin with, let’s talk about the physical characteristics. This thing is pretty hefty. It’s 7.48 x 4.74 x 0.47 inches and weighs 13 ounces. The iPad weighs 1.5 pounds but the size of the screen makes it seem lighter than it is. This thing is dense and thick and using it makes you think you want something small. I held this over my head in bed one night to watch a movie and my arm started to hurt. That’s kind of bad. [To explain, I usually lay the edge of the iPad on my chest. The screen is big enough for that. This is obviously more Kindle-sized but the Kindle is lighter.]
Samsung’s website says it is pocketable, which is an accurate, if energetic, description. You can stick this in your pocket but you won’t be happy. To wit:
But the Tab is a solid slab of electronics. That’s good. You can’t open it to replace the battery (heaven forefend!) and it has a single microSD slot. That’s it. A single, iPod-esque dock port on the bottom is all the external connectivity on offer.
Battery life is pretty good. I got two days of intermittent use on one charge including a four-hour bout of movies one night. This should last a good three days without heavy network polling, and you can definitely get about 10 hours of movie watching out of this.
In terms of performance the 1GHz Hummingbird processor offers a nice bit of pep when it comes to basic apps. Samsung includes a task manager of their own devising because, as we all know, end users love RAM management. It includes some of Sprint’s standard goofiness but their NASCAR and Football apps are hidden inside of an app called Sprint Zone so you don’t have to stare at them the whole time.
The Tab has a front camera for Qik and Skype video chats as well as a rear camera with flash. Both take acceptable photos and video. Click here to see a sample image.
The touchscreen is very responsive and except for a few jolts during zoom-in and multi-touch, there was no lag in the applications.
The Bad News
Other than a few obvious differences – no phone being the most glaring – this is literally just a big phone with a big battery. The only value-add in this device is the larger screen and it’s not even that much larger than a regular phone. The 7-inch rule – the unwritten code to which tablet manufacturers cleave that says devices can’t be larger than seven inches – is in full force here. Seven inches isn’t that big and if you’ve been using a phone or iPod Touch to watch movies, you’re not getting much more out of this device. Samsung itself basically admits as much when it writes, right on its website, that the four major bullet points are:
Light and Portable
Android Froyo 2.2
Easy Access to eBooks and Documents
Entertainment on the go
They see this as an ebook reader and a media player. They don’t want you to edit video, documents, or render 3D images of the Taj Mahal. First, the screen is too small and second Android doesn’t quite allow it. Google doesn’t allow “With Google” branding on devices over 7-inches simply because they believe Android is still a phone OS.
Other than that, I have little bad to say about the device. Samsung did an admirable job of creating a device that is pleasant to use and portable. It is, as I said, the first of many such devices that will soon be flooding our lives and it is one of the best so far.
Flash fanbois rejoice! You can kind of use Flash under Froyo even though Adobe’s own website didn’t work in the browser. Once you find something that works it is very slow. The less said about Flash the better.
Network connectivity is a bit pricey on the Tab as well. A 2GB data plan with unlimited messaging is $29.99 per month and a 5GB data plan with unlimited messaging is $59.99 per month. You can use this as a wireless access point, which is great if you need to share data on the road, though the 5-gig cap will become inconvenient if you do it frequently. Also note that this device will not work on overseas data networks. T-Mobile’s upcoming version of the Galaxy Tab will.
Is It For You?
iPad readers, please stop reading now. This isn’t a device for you. And if you thought you could give this device to your mom or something, don’t even think about it. Android isn’t for moms.
Good. We got the Mactards out of the room. So: you’re reading this because you’re an anything but iPad kind of person. If you weren’t you’d be busy playing Cut The Rope HD on iOS right now instead of shopping around. So let’s be frank: this is what you’re going to have to buy if you want any modicum of satisfaction when it comes to tablet computing. The HP Slate is a lump and the Dell Streak is even smaller than this. The Nook Color is just weird. The CherryPad is garbage. You’re stuck.
So is this for you? If you’re looking for a media device with Android compatibility, this is the device for you. It is rugged, well-designed, and speedy. My prediction? We will see a whole boatload of devices just like this at smaller price points coming up in the next few months so you could feasibly wait. However, if you want size, performance, and Sprint connectivity, this is the one for you. T-Mobile will have their device in the next few weeks as well, so you could consider that one if you’re looking for more mobility.
Ok, Mactards. Come on back now. Let’s close this thing up. Our esteemed friends at Giz found this to be a train wreck but I don’t agree. This device is what it is: a small, fairly powerful tablet for Android lovers. I’d love to play to my own bias and state that the iPad is unequivocally better but I can’t. This is for a different consumer and based on a different architecture. It is a good product, a little big, and an able device for media playback, e-book reading, and general email productivity.