Samsung Galaxy Tab, hands-on and first impressions

So, is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Android tablet an iPad killer? No, because I suspect each tablet will attract two different types of buyers. iPad is a large device, more portable than mobile. It’s copious screen real estate make it more appropriate for content creation, longer text input – email, word processing, spreadsheets and other ur-office productivity activities, better for lap usage, and much better for movie watching.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab’s slimmer, trimmer dimensions and weight (7.48 x 4.74 x .47 inches, .08 pounds) makes it a truly mobile device. It fits in a suit breast pocket, a critical non-technical aspect to who might be attracted to it. Rather than cased and packed like the iPad, Tab can be pocketed and used as a camera, it can be pocketed and held as an ebook reader, it can be pocketed and listened to like an iPod, pocketed and played like a PSP, all advantages over iPad. It also can be operated with one hand for many functions, and thumb typing in portrait mode is luxurious compared to tightly-packed smartphone touch QWERTYs and easier for quick messaging than iPad, which really requires a lap for text input.

Samsung Galaxy Tab
The Samsung Galaxy Tab doesn't look cheap

Samsung Galaxy Tab
Left: galaxy smartphone, middle: galaxy tab, right: iPad

Bottom line, their physical differences make Tab and iPad radically different devices. It’s more likely Tab and its other smaller Android tablets such as the 5-inch Dell Streak will battle intramurally than challenge iPad.

We got a chance to drag our fingers across the Tab screen last night at its grand unveiling at the Samsung Experience showroom in the Time Warner Center on New York’s Columbus Circle. One caveat about these first impressions: the Tab test units at the event were load with the “international” version of the OS, not the final software iteration.


Samsung Galaxy Tab
A mere 2.7" of difference translates into a huge total surface area difference

At .08 pounds, Tab is feather light yet doesn’t feel cheap – it feels similar to a Kindle or a Nook, which are only a couple of ounces lighter. While Tab lacks the brilliant Super AMOLED display of the Galaxy S smartphones, the Tab TFT LCD well withstood the glare of the overhead lights in the showroom.

What’s really shocking is how iPad’s 9.7-inch screen overwhelms, dominates Tab’s 7-inch display – the difference seems much more than a mere 2.7 inches. In practical terms, you need to hold Tab no more than a foot from your face to fill your field of vision while iPad can be tabled at arms length to maintain an analogous middle-of-the-theater seating perspective and enjoyable multiple-person viewing.

Like iPad, Tab offers a 360-degree accelerometer. While iPad has an external orientation lock switch, Tab’s is stored in software, an icon behind Android’s pull-down shade. My gut tells me the easily-accessible iPad switch is the more practical solution, but that may simply be because I’m used to it – ironically, I’m writing this review on an iPad.


Which leads me to typing. If you like Swype-ing, Tab offers this swift text input choice with a smartphone-like compact keypad. For traditionalists, the portrait mode keyboard has well-space keys that is easily thumbable thanks to an IBM Selectric-like haptic feedback (for those old enough to remember that venerable, memorable analog text input device).

Tab’s landscape keyboard is a problem. You can’t thumb type unless you’re double-jointed – the middle keys are just too distant. You can two-finger hunt and peck, but the keys are fun house mirror elongated and somewhat disorienting. And its 7.48-inch landscape width makes Tab a bit difficult to balance on your lap.

Jack Pack

One of the advantages non-iPad tablets are supposed to have is handy jacks. Yes, there’s a microSD card slot, and I assume the carriers will pre-install some memory in addition the Tab’s built-in 16 GB; all the Galaxy S smartphone include a pre-installed 16 GB card, for instance.

Samsung Galaxy Tab
This looks like Apple's IO port but will the accessories royalties be as good?

But instead of a handy USB jack, Samsung has instead built-in an Apple-like proprietary jack. This lack of USB for sideloading content is more of a handicap on Tab since there is no Android version of iTunes with which to easily sync your own content to the device.

Video Chatting

Samsung Galaxy Tab
This is no FaceTime quality… Also, this works on Wi-Fi only

A Tab-optimized version of the Qik video chat software is preloaded, but the 1.3 MP video is herky-jerky compared to FaceTime on the iPhone 4. Like FaceTime you can switch between front and rear views, and you can chat in portrait or landscape mode. And, like the iPhone 4, you can chat only in WiFi. One assumes you’ll be able to Qik call with other Qik-enabled devices, such as Sprint’s EVO phone in WiFi – the Sprint version of the Tab will be 3G only, not 4G like the Galaxy S Epic.


Considering all the folderol about Tab having a camera and iPad not, it’s baffling that Tab has only a suddenly anachronistic and downright low tech 3 MP still imager and only 720 x 480 video recording – all the Galaxy S phones offer 5 MP still and HD video recording. How could Samsung take this giant imaging step backward with Tab? You can bet if Apple upgrades the iPad this holiday season, as it is rumored to do, it’ll have at least iPhone 4’s 5 MP HDR still snapper and HD video recorder.

Shot with the Galaxy Tab
Samsung Galaxy Tab
This is a photo taken by the Tab. It has been rezised to fit the page.
Full picture on Flickr

Not that Tab’s still and video images are bad – the few snaps and video snippet I was able to shoot and share with myself aren’t bad. But I’ll reserve judgment until I get my hands on one.

In addition, Tab has a weird file hierarchy – you have to choose the folder where the pictures are, and the folders are not clearly labeled as such – rather than the software knowing where the pictures are. This makes attaching emails to photos unnecessarily complicated, although this might be changed in the final software version.


< center>Samsung Galaxy Tab
Web browser in action

Tab has many other software and multimedia shopping attributes that make it an attractive package. But the whole app situation may present a problem. Samsung says Tab “provides access” to the 80,000-plus apps in the Android Market. What that means is, apps not yet scaled to Tab’s larger screen are float in original size in the middle of Tab’s screen. By comparison, non-iPad-optimized iPhone apps can be zoomed to 2X on iPad – and all this assumes all those Android apps will run on the Tab, an open question given the varying Android OS developers have to write for.

But a lot of Tab’s chances for success will be based on its price, especially when matched up against other Android tablets and, of course, iPad. But Samsung declined to even hint at a price, so we’ll speculate. Dell’s 5-inch Streak is $300 with a two-year plan, $550 without, so, one has to assume the larger Tab will be priced higher.

Samsung Galaxy Tab

Two things. First, Samsung is forcing consumers to buy a second device with a monthly cellphone contract – I’m assuming any potential Tab buyer is already a cellphone (and likely smartphone) buyer. This second cell subscription is going to give a lot of otherwise interested buyers pause, if not make them curse under their breath. And, for the record, I wouldn’t blame them. Apple sells a lot more WiFi-only versions of iPad than the 3G version, so it’s obvious most consumers prefer their tablets sans cell signal.

Second, if Tab is priced at, say, $600 unsubsidized, that makes it the same price as the WiFi 32 GB iPad (assuming carriers add in a 16 GB card as they do with the Galaxy S smartphones). Hmm, let’s see – $600 for either a 7-inch tablet or a 10-inch tablet?

Time will tell.

Links: don't miss ouriPad Review, Samsung Galaxy Tab home page,

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