OS Android 2.2
Dimensions 190 x 120 x 12mm
Display size 7” (1024 x 600)
Networking Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, HSDPA 7.2Mbps
Camera 1.3MP front-facing, 3MP rear-facing with LED flash
Expansion slots microSD card (32GB), standard SIM card`
Price: £552 / $599
Where to buy:
Pros: Beautifully crisp screen with excellent viewing angles, excellent form factor, world-class build quality
Cons: Expensive retail price, proprietary connector, slippery curved back, lack of UI tweaks and dedicated software
It’s the oldest cliché in the book, but size matters, and in no place is this more contentious right now than in tablet computing. Without wishing to wade headlong into the tablet form factor debate, we’ve never been entirely convinced that 9.7 inches is really the sweet spot for tablet design Cupertino would have us believe. After spending the last week with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab – the first true contender to the iPad’s crown – we’re more confident than ever that our hunch was sound.
Although the Tab’s diagonal screen size is only 2.7 inches smaller than that of the iPad’s, the device itself is nearly half the size and weight – in short, it’s a much tidier little package. Though not as slim as perhaps we’d have liked, the ability to operate the Tab single-handed and drop it in our back pocket is a massive advantage in terms of overall usability.
We immediately felt the benefit of the smaller and lighter design and ultimately found ourselves much more inclined to have it with us on the train or in our bag as a result. If nothing else, it reflects the all-important technology manufacturing mantra ‘the best device is the one you use’.
The front of the Tab features edge-to-edge toughened Gorilla Glass with a thumbnail-width bezel separating its capacitive touch-screen 1024×600 TFT on all four edges. Like the vast majority of Android devices, the bottom of the device is dominated by four backlit touch buttons catering for Android’s core functions. A volume rocker and power button sit towards the top-right edge, above microSD and (full-size) SIM card slots. A solitary headphone port sits on the top bezel, with twin speakers and charger at the bottom.
There are only really two real downsides to this otherwise excellent chassis design. Firstly, the rear of the Tab is ever so slightly curved and finished in an ultra-smooth white plastic which could lead to disaster – we found it almost effortlessly slipping through our fingers on a number of occasions. At least you can save your pitiful mobile broadband allowance on downloading a spirit level app from the Android market – the slightest inclination will send it sliding.
Secondly, we’re saddened to see Samsung adding to the proprietary problem with the decision to go for an Apple-esque sync and charge connector. Simon Brew vented spleen on our behalf in his excellent column on the subject here, but suffice it to say that we would have been much happier with a standardised USB solution. That and a cleverly hinged kick-stand – it’s a niche that only Archos is taking seriously at the moment.
Moving on, Samsung has lightly sprinkled Android 2.2 with a small selection of TouchWiz UI tweaks. While it doesn’t alter the vanilla Android interface anywhere near as much as HTC’s excellent Sense, it does smooth over a few rough edges. The few major changes include a larger pull-down notification area which allows quick and convenient control of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. Samsung has also tweaked quite a few of the option panels within settings and added greatly to the display setting, including the addition of saturation and white and black colour density sliders.
We were also shocked to see no inclusion of a toggle to switch the browser to a full desktop browsing mode – it seemed to flip-flop between mobile optimised sites (say Amazon) and the full browsing experience on a site-by-site basis. Besides this though, the browsing experience was pretty stellar with fast page loading and streamlined interface.