After a long, arduous journey veiled in secrecy, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is finally upon us. Merging its popular Android Galaxy S phones with the tablet computer format that is currently exploding amongst the tech world, the Galaxy’s specs have long left tech lovers salivating- things like the Android 2.2 OS, potential storage capacity of 32GB as well as WiFi/3G capabilities. These specs, alongside availability from the four premiere American cellular providers for Tabs of their own, has just added to the hype surrounding the device. But anticipation aside, the real question for Samsung with the release of the Galaxy Tab is whether Samsung can successfully find a niche in the market to compete against Apple’s imposing and widely-recognized iPad, as well as others.
While the ever-crowded market for tablet computers has made it difficult for newcomers to differentiate themselves with appearance, Samsung’s Yin and Yang-type black and white outer design gives it an individual, sleek look. While the screen and finish are comparable if not slightly inferior to the iPad, they are still susceptible to smudging, but that’s to be expected. The rest of the layout is nothing special if not practical. Four buttons line the front side. The microSD input, power control, and volume control are located on the right side, and the headphone input is located on the top of the device. One thing the Galaxy significantly lacks is a micro USB port, as it makes the process of uploading content and media significantly more tedious. In contrast to the iPad or other larger tablet computers, the Galaxy Tab’s 7-inch size is easily usable with one hand, making it easy to hold and type with your thumb similar to a phone. The screen is one of the high points of the Galaxy Tab.
The LCD, featuring 1024 x 600 resolution, allows for a bright and sharp display, one that also remains visible and useful even with profuse sunlight. Again, while the resolution is a bit lower than the competitor iPad, it still performs more than adequately when browsing a web page or reading an e-book. The screen’s touch sensitivity is more than adequate, in this sense rivaling the iPad for functionality. While it would not be prudent to do any sort of aggressive physical activity with the Galaxy Tab, it does appear to be fairly durable, but as with any tablet computer, the amount invested in owning one suggests that a case would still be a good idea. Finally, the speakers are certainly more adequate than a smartphone, but like many tablet computers still necessitate speakers if you’re looking to use the Galaxy Tab as a DJ for your next dorm party.
WiFi is fairly smooth and the loading/browsing of web sites is well-supported by the Galaxy Tab. Screen brightness can be changed and adapted to preference in the browser, but naturally the most important aspect of the device is its universal support of Flash. While the Galaxy Tab does surpass other Android gadgets with the help of a processor to the tune of 1GHz, many videos are still ideally compatible with the tablet. The browser is certainly affected for the worse by Flash usage, and some sites, like Hulu, are simply not compatible, which can be frustrating given how ideal the screen quality is for video viewing. In short, while the Galaxy Tab does provide the Flash functionality it has trumpeted when compared to its competitors, the device is still not anything groundbreaking, and will continue to have gadget lovers left feeling unsatisfied.
The OS is the same as Samsung’s popular Galaxy phones, using the TouchWiz 3.0 Android system. While the design of the OS is a bit lacking in sleekness, it is certainly functional for the Galaxy Tab’s size and functions. It is very similar to the OS common on the Google smartphone, but as it is there is nothing wrong to be said of that. However, there are a number of apps available from Samsung that help enhance the Galaxy Tab experience, taking advantage of the real estate and resources of the tab. These include e-mail, fairly similar to Outlook and superior to the smartphone-style GMail app. Also included are a calendar, messaging capabilities, and a contacts function similar to any standard tab or smartphone. The Galaxy Tab also seems primed for use with Samsung’s recently released TV/movie store, with a fairly solid variety of media. As can be expected, DRM protections prevent you from removing media to other outlets, but you can view media accessed by the Galaxy Tab on other Samsung devices (five to be exact). While the store is a welcome new addition to Samsung’s spectrum, it may frustrate some users at its lack of variety and ability to transfer media. Also available are third-party applications, including stalwarts like Kindle or Facebook. Others that also work fairly well with the Galaxy Tab include Pandora, Twitter, and YouTube, the basic necessities for your run-of-the-mill tablet PC owner. However, the Galaxy Tab does have some drawbacks, as many apps that fit Google design and coding formats are not as functional as Samsung claims they should be. However, some apps will still have the same out-of-the-norm feel as they would on a smartphone.
One of the Galaxy Tab’s other advantages over its nemesis the iPad is its dual cameras. While still not a substitute for your standard digital camera, the quality of the Galaxy Tab’s do allow you to take some pretty quality pictures. Panoramic view is available for wide-angle usage, as well as a continuous picture mode useful for things like athletic events (simply hold down the button and it will fire off up to nine shots). One important thing to note is that a microSD card must be present for camera usage, although some providers do include cards with the tablet, as the internal memory is apparently unavailable for use in saving captured media. Video capture is also of fairly good quality, although HD video recording is conspicuously absent. The forward-oriented camera also is more than practical for video chatting or taking a self-portrait.
One significant issue with the Galaxy Tab is its lack of ability to be charged using your desktop PC, or laptop for that matter. The battery life itself is solid, lasting for well over 24 hours with the periodic web browsing usage common to the tablet PC user, and comparable to other Android gadgets when using video (although again, a bit lacking in comparison to the iPad). Until 4G models of the Tab are revealed, users are stuck with the 3G experience, which is just as serviceable and limited as any other 3G gadget. As was mentioned before, differing contract-free and two year contract-oriented plans are available across all of the major American service providers.
In conclusion, the Galaxy Tab is a welcome benchmark to the Android device market, but cannot quite challenge the iPad for the mantle of most functional tablet PC. Its sleek looks, brilliant video screen, and (supposed) universal Flash support make it superior to its Android competitors and certainly the best alternative to an iPad. However, one thing that does beg hesitation is the lack of the developer network which has made the iPad so formidable as a market competitor. Until Google can compete with Apple for the flurry of third-party developers or Galaxy-specific app development, the Galaxy Tab will remain just that- the best of the rest.