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Samsung Galaxy TAB. Review
In the box:
The tablet from Samsung was not a secret for some time. Its images, video and technical specifications became available before the official unveiling at iFa. The price of the gadget remained unknown and this characteristic often turns technical deficiencies into minor trifles. I remember that during the announcement of Apple iPad everybody tried to guess the price of the cheapest iPad. Many fans were ready to pay as much as $1000. The recommended price of $500 led to the rapturous delight. Unfortunately, there will be no pleasant surprises for Galaxy TAB. It is a controversial product, which on one hand reflects attempts to create an original device in Samsung style, but on the other hand tries to please those who like iPad, but somehow failed to buy it.
We’ll start with the positioning. What is the target audience for this tablet? I have a feeling that Samsung followed Apple in this market segment. They needed their own product, which was readily created. To avoid the head to head competition with iPad the Korean manufacturer decided to offer an intermediate solution – a crossbreed between iPad and a mobile phone. The name Galaxy refers to the continuation of Galaxy S ideas. Presumably, if you have a phone you may need a tablet, but the time to launch this product was poorly chosen in all respects.
Samsung suffers from the lack of Super AMOLED screens for Wave and Galaxy S. The demand is so high that it will be matched by supply no sooner than by the summer of 2011, even taking into account the opening of a plant to manufacture screens in the final quarter of this year. It is quite a drag for Samsung, because all future flagships are expected to be equipped with Super AMOLED screens, which are not available in necessary quantities. That is why there is no Super AMOLED in the tablet. Characteristics of future flagships are up in the air. Will they get this screen and which model (Wave or Galaxy S) will be sacrificed? I hope this paragraph vividly explains why Samsung TAB features an ordinary TFT screen.
Another reason of my doubts around the bright future for Galaxy TAB is a number of announcements at iFa. In particular, Viewsonic Viewpad 7 for €400-420 resembles the tablet from Samsung both in design and characteristics. It is followed by an array of tablets from Archos and other manufacturers. Consumers get numerous similar models with different prices, which is a weak point of Samsung tablet. Positioning plays its role, because the company regards it as the continuation of Galaxy S, which hints at high price. The tablet cannot be cheaper than the flagship model from Samsung. It becomes very expensive with the price gap of 100% compared to its closest analogues. The difference in platforms, memory and screen is significant, but ordinary buyers will not notice them. Only meticulous consumers will appreciate the difference. To my mind it is an image product devoid of the image load of iPad. Subsequently, we cannot expect hordes of customers queuing in shops, because there are many substitutes available. There will be heavy advertising and promotion from Samsung, but it will not emulate the success of Galaxy S or reach sales figures of iPad for a reason. The positioning of the gadget above the phone is a mistake, though it should be just a companion to it. Samsung took Galaxy S added a bigger battery, another screen and here we have a tablet. Unfortunately, this strategy does not work. First, let’s analyze the model in detail.
The body of Samsung TAB is made of a solid piece of plastic. The front is black, while the back side is white and glossy. This pattern has already become traditional. Unlike iPad TAB does not have a feeling of a cold and heavy tablet. It weighs 380 g (12 oz) instead of 680 g (21 oz) for iPad. Samsung model is smaller and you can hold it with one hand near your ear (I will mention the reason for it below). Dimensions are 190х120.5х11.8 mm (7.48″x4.74″x0.46″) (iPad – 242.8x189.7x13.4 mm (9.55″x7.46″x0.52″). The tablet is too big for a pocket, but it does not require much space in the bag.
The front panel does not have the oleophobic finish. It gets easily soiled with fingerprints all over. It must be said, that iPad is no better in this respect.
The front panel hosts four sensor buttons, which easily exceeds iPad record of one key. It is hardware though. Choosing between sensor and hardware options I favor the latter. Both of them work well, but sensor buttons are not so comfortable. I do not know why people from Samsung did not think about it.
Above the screen there is a light sensor and the frontal camera for video calls. The top features a 3.5 mm jack for headphones or headset, while the bottom is dedicated to loudspeakers and the interface connector. When I saw the synchronization cable and charger for Samsung TAB I thought somebody left it from iPad. The form and color are the same and only the Samsung logo shows it is not an Apple product. Developers responsible for such an accidental coincidence must be fired. I do not believe that a product can look like its rival unless you intentionally make a copy.
On the right side we see hardware on/off button, volume control button and slots for microSD and SIM cards.
We have already explained the absence of Super AMOLED screen, but a traditional 7″ TFT screen (1024х600) is also good. It is quite bright and I recommend using the manual adjustment of this feature. To my mind the automatic control does not always work well as I always wanted to add brightness.
As opposed to iPad the screen is protected by plastic and has no special anti soiling finish. It does get dirty to the same extent as iPad, though on a smaller surface fingerprints are more visible. The screen is capacitive with multitouch support for all applications where appropriate.
I would like to remind you that iPad has a 9.7″ screen with 1024x768 resolution. There must be parity, but the larger screen of iPad impresses more at all times. It applies to watching movies and working with apps as well. In this case bigger means better despite the similar resolution.
Samsung TAB beats other Android products with its higher resolution screen, because the majority of tablets are confined to standard 800х480 resolution, which does not look nice. Besides, this nonstandard Android resolution is not a problem for additional software. Everything works well or at least we have not come across any malfunctioning app.
The rotation sensor performs not bad at all and the screen rotates smoothly. This feature differs from iPad, because you cannot move the screen in a circle, which must be connected with buttons below. It moves to one side and back to the other. You cannot hold it upside down. Unfortunately, there is no hardware button to block the screen rotation, but in the quick menu of the status bar there is a designated button. You can block the rotation with one touch.
Viewing angles are not the best and from the side the screen fades away, but it does not influence the general impression from the tablet. It is difficult to imagine situations when you look from the side.
The proximity sensor was borrowed from the phone. When you move the device closer to your ear the screen is blocked and the backlight switches off. Why do you need that? If you left a headset and do not use wireless headsets the tablet can work as a big phone. People with Samsung TAB pressed against an ear look funny, but it is better than nothing.
Another funny thing is that if you want to speak comfortably the tab has to be turned upside down. The loudspeakers will be near the top and the microphone on the side in the middle. Anyway, it is the measure of last resort.
Since the tablet uses the same hardware as Galaxy S you can ask how extra space in the body was used. The answer is quite obvious, because it was dedicated to 4000 mAh Li-Ion battery (you cannot take it out and replace independently). The manufacturer claims up to 7-8 hours of HD video playback, but in my tests heavy HD files (1080 p) could be played for 6-7 hours. This is a good result, but iPad is still out in front.
In real life I did not see any difference from iPad. The device works long hours and when the battery is dead you just charge it for around 3 hours. Similarly to iPad it cannot charge from a PC regardless of the modes you select. I was gutted when tried to charge it from the laptop in my country house, but nothing could be done.
Bluetooth. This is one of the first models with Bluetooth 3.0 labeled High Speed. File transfer to other devices uses WiFi 802.11 n with the hypothetical speed of up to 24 Mbps. In our test a 1 GB file was sent at the maximum speed of 12 Mbps with the distance of 3 meters between devices.
The model supports different profiles, in particular Headset, Handsfree, Serial Port, Dial Up Networking, File Transfer, Object Push, Basic Printing, SIM Access and A2DP. Work with headsets is standard. No complaints here.
USB connection. In the menu three modes are available: Media, Mass Storage and Samsung KIES. There is no modem option here, but you can still do it via PC Studio or with the help of necessary drivers.
In USB Mass Storage the device is easily connected without additional drivers and you can copy any data you wish. USB 2.0 gives the speed of 4.5 Mbps.
During the PC connection you cannot use Bluetooth and USB simultaneously. The device asks you to switch off Bluetooth regardless of the current status (whether you are connected and transfer data or not), which is very inconvenient.
During USB connection the device does not start charging.
GSM networks may utilize EDGE of class 12.
WiFi. 802.11 b/g/n is supported and the wizard resembles the one for Bluetooth. Selected networks can be remembered with automatic connection.
There is a one touch set up option for a router. Press a button on the router and activate the same key (WPA SecureEasySetup) in the device menu.
16 GB of internal memory is available now (32 GB version is in plans). The memory card is accessible separately and you can display all folders (memory card and internal memory). The file manager helps to copy files to and from the card. Memory cards are hot swappable. We tested microSD cards of up to 32 GB and everything worked well.
512 MB of RAM is enough for all applications and the device is fast. Luckily, there are no delays anywhere. For network connections and work extra 1 GB cash is available. The browser uses this memory only and other apps cannot access it. This unusual solution neutralizes standard Android problems and makes the tablet easy and stable to use. In the settings there is a separate utility, which can empty the cash of network connections and RAM.
The back side of the tablet has a 3 MP camera with autofocus. The resulting pictures are decent and you can also access different settings. The video is recorded in 720p, which is also typical of such products. In general, it is nice to have a camera here, though it is not so necessary. Some will find it handy.
Due to the screen size the device looks futuristic and you can walk the streets with a large screen. Pictures are decent on the model itself, but on a PC they are not so impressive. Look for yourself though.
In fact we have Galaxy S with different memory distribution and bigger battery. It boasts 1 GHz ARM8 Cortex processor. Graphic coprocessor is PowerVR SGX540. The tablet excellently plays HD video (with the in-built support of DivX/Xvid codecs) without conversion. This solution is fast and does not have any performance issues.
When we insert the SIM card the tablet detects it and reloads. Do not forget about this feature. 3G networks are supported. You can use WiFi and 3G/EDGE connections (but not at a time).
The phone mode has two applications – Phone (dialer, contacts, contacts groups and favorites) and Messages. In the Messages you have the chat mode.
Applications are convenient and are similar to their counterparts in Galaxy S. There is nothing special here.
We are familiar with the interface from Samsung S. Similar changes in the menu, status bar and home screen are available here. The shell from Samsung is used with all its advantages and deficiencies. There is no point in detailed descriptions. Samsung screen with Swype support is used for the text input. It is convenient.
Adobe Flash 10.1. is supported out of the box.
Nevertheless, there is some difference from Galaxy S. In particular, we receive four Hubs. One of them is Social Hub dedicated to all social activities (various accounts, etc.). Similarly, we have Reader’s Hub, which gives access to several million books in 25 languages, 1600 newspapers in 42 languages and 3000 magazines in 20 languages. The service will not be available in all countries, but it will be supported in Russia. At the moment it is not active.
Music Hub is an application which not only brings together all music files from the memory, but also shows the latest charts, tips and is connected with Samsung music store. It is quite helpful, but is currently inactive in Russia.
Media Hub enjoys the same features, but they work for movies. So far it works only in the USA, but other countries are also in line.
The calendar was thoroughly reworked, which is especially clear in the interface. It is a joy to work with now. This feature is really excellent here.
Daily Briefing is an application with weather forecasts, AP news and notes for the day.
AllShare is a proprietary utility from Samsung, which employs uPnP standard to send multimedia files to a PC and back.
ThinkFree Office is a word processor for viewing and editing files.
Music player offers the sound quality identical to Galaxy S. To my taste it works well. Equalizers and filters are supported. I doubt that people will use the tablet as a player very often. It is not very convenient for any Tablet PC.
Video player supports Mosaic Search when the movie is divided into equal stretches and you see icons to them. DivX/Xvid can be used and the file size is not important.
Samsung tablet is released after Apple iPad and many will view it as an attempt to compete with this reference device. There is no smoke without fire, especially when you look at Messages app, charger and so on. Minor details create an overall impression. Samsung TAB launch is planned for mid October or November, but the most interesting issue is the price. It will be definitely more expensive than Galaxy S, which translates into €650-700 for a 16 GB version. With the subsidies it will be around €300 plus the contract. In Russia the initial price is $1300 and $1200 one month after, which is hardly an accessible price. With such a price in mind Samsung TAB loses out to all rival products on the market. Look at iPad, which costs less in its cheapest version (no video calls or 3G, but bigger screen, metal in the body, protective glass for screen and the power of Apple brand). Various 7″ Android products cost €300 and more, which is two times less. Samsung tablet has technical advantages (camera, processor, memory, additional memory and 3G HSUPA), but who will think about it in shops? I think Samsung TAB will easily acquire the reputation of a very expensive model. It is likely to sell well in the segment of Android fans and rich consumers looking for a tablet. We should not expect high mass demand similar to Samsung Galaxy S. First Samsung tablet is not iconic, but merely one of many. It is not the first on the market and lacks the charisma of Apple iPad. High price makes it less competitive outright. The first step was not completely successful.
I like this product and I think it had good chances for success at the right price. The only issue is an excessive price. In other respects the device is interesting and if the rumors about the update to Google Chrome OS in the first part of 2011 are correct, it will have a potentially long life cycle. There will be several similar products in 2011, some cheaper and others more expensive than Galaxy TAB. But these are still plans.
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Published 11 October 2010
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