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Galaxy Tab. One Week Review and Coverage Round-Up

Posted on 25 October 2010 By Steve Chippy Paine


It only seems fair to write this post on the Galaxy Tab so for the record, it is now 1943hrs and I’m sitting up in bed with a cup of tea and a packet of shortbread. I am using the device in portrait mode with the Samsung keyboard enabled along with XT9′s error correction and auto-substitution enabled. Word prediction is turned off. I’m using the WordPress application to write the post which means it will need some post processing (spell check, image inserts) on a ‘real’ PC with a ‘real’ browser later. I don’t intend to spend more than a couple of hours on this so am expecting something like 1000 words. I’ll put in some timing checkpoint as I go.

Firstly, a big thanks to Techdepot in Germany who reached out with a request for advertising space in return for one of the first retail packages to go out of the door in the world. Done deal!

Now, before I go into details let me say a word about value for money. Value is in the eye of the beholder and it’s very difficult to predict how much of the Galaxy Tab will appeal to each user. A user without an Mp3 player, portable video player, no gaming devices or navigation device will find a lot in the Tab. Someone with all the latest gadgets won’t but there’s a lot in the Tab that works very well indeed and the idea of total convergence is a powerful one. Over the last week I haven’t used my normal mobile phone and have been away on holiday without a laptop. Gaming, navigation, music, email, twitter, photo and video slideshows and e-reading have all been used successfully. Again, there’s a lot here to use as justification for buying a Tab but it will depend on your current status as to whether €650 euro (current low street-price in Europe) is worth it.

The Tab didn’t come with a big bundle of accessories which was an early disappointment with the Tab. No soft case. No TV-out cable. No stand. The soft case is a must-have and really should be in the box. Apart from that though you’re looking at the usual easy and standalone setup that you expect from the latest Android phones. If you’re a Google user, everything sync up nicely and you’re away in no time. The UI is smooth and there’s a good range of extra apps to explore and  keep you excited.

Our Galaxy Tab content so far…

The Tab is nicely weighted for its size,  just as the eye expects it to be. At 12mm its amazingly thin and the screen covers a big percentage of the frame area. It slots into most jeans back-pockets easily for transportation around the house. In portrait mode there really isn’t any weight issue when using it to thumb text as I am now but due to the highly slippery surface, its difficult to hold in one hand. I’m employing a ‘loser’ L-shaped grip with first finger and thumb a lot of the time.

Screen sharpness, colour and brightness is very impressive and gets a boost if you turn the power save feature off. Screen viewing angles are excellent all round.

Galaxy Pad Viewing Angles _1_.JPG Galaxy Pad Viewing Angles _2_.JPG

Galaxy Pad Viewing Angles _3_.JPG Galaxy Pad Viewing Angles _4_.JPG

Galaxy Pad Viewing Angles.JPG

All in all you’re looking at a very happy and exciting  first few hours with the device. I doubt anyone will be unhappy with it although I will say that if you’re expecting the top quality UI physics of the iPad, you might be disappointed. A quick test of some finger-drumming apps shows that, like all Android devices I’ve tried, there seems to be inherent latency issues that will always prevent an Android UI from being ‘amazing.’  Maybe that will change in the future.

[Checkpoint : 20:14]

After a week of using the Tab I feel confident in calling it a stable, quality product that performs most of its key functions to a high level comparable with many dedicated devices.

Key Functions of the Galaxy Tab

In detail then, what are the ‘key functions’ of the Galaxy Tab?

MP3 player. Good storage, sound quality (stereo speakers, headphone port, A2DP over Bluetooth) and player features. No Album art retrieval or other advanced features like auto-playlists, Good EQ features. Battery life in this mode, with screen off, is estimated to be near 1 day.

Video player. Up to 1080p and handling xvid, divx, h.264, wmv and other formats and containers such as MKV. No support for multi-channel audio such as AC3. Good player, fast search, good background handling of files added via micro-sd card. Battery life in this mode is estimated to be 5-7 hours due to screen power requirements.

Navigation. Google navigation works well although re-routing when in offline mode won’t work as no maps are held locally. Screen size excellent for safe use in car. No other solutions tested yet.

Galaxy Tab Xperia X10i Show Google Maps.JPG

Web. With Flash being supported and a good, fast built-in browser on the 1024×600 screen 99% of anyone’s requirements will be met. The browser fails at many web applications though with Google docs being a notable example. Internet access is fast through Wifi or HSPA. Portrait mode with 600 pixels wide is good. Browser is locked as a ‘mobile’ browser and can not be changed.

Galaxy Tab Photo _10_.JPGE-book reading. PDFs are handled speedily (tested with Adobe Reader) and there are good choices for E-book applications and stores. The weight and size work well for reading in 1hr chunks. Glossy LCD screen limits use in certain scenarios though and the slippery surfaces means a case or rubber grips-strips will need to be employed.

Emails. Good.  The built in app has been re-worked for the bigger screen and provides an efficient way to handle and respond to email from multiple sources. On-screen keyboard option are good and work well in portrait mode. Landscape mode keyboard usage is not ideal due to the size of the device. No cut-and-paste in email is annoying.

Phone. As a speakerphone it works very well and if you have a headset to hand and can keep the Tab close, you can use it as a normal phone. I don’t make or receive many calls on my mobile phone so it is working out very well for me. For SMS usage, the Tab is a killer device.

Gaming. The Android ecosystem is still lagging the Apple ‘i’ ecosystem but there are some gems out there. Angry Birds just works beautifully on the Tab for example but beware, there are many games out there that don’t scale up to the non-standard screen resolution of the Tab.

Storage. With 12GB of storage available on the 16GB version and micro-sd card support up to 32, there’s enough here for most people. USB OTG support would have been a nice addition.

Stability / Memory handling. I have experienced one lock-up while using the Tab during the last 8 days. It occurred when I was messing with sounds settings. In general though, the device seems very stable. 512MB of RAM helps to ensure that the user doesn’t need to worry about managing background apps. (Although there’s a nice little widget that shows number of apps running in g/b which turns red when high mem or CPU usage is detected.)

Battery life. With a huge 15wh battery (3x the capacity of a normal smartphone battery) you can expect a minimum of 24hrs usage out of the device in general use. In use as a navigation device with 3G enabled, you might be able to run the Tab flat in 6-7hrs. That’s an extreme example though. Right now I’m into the 36th hour of using the Tab after a full charge and I have 30% battery life left.

Camera and video. The quality is surprisingly good here although don’t expect it to provide results that challenge the best phones. Samsungss camera application is quick, easy and feature rich although there’s the issue of using a tablet as a camera to get over. No dedicated camera button.

Others.

  • Gallery: Smooth and easy to use.
  • YouTube playback: Smooth and easy to use. Even better with the new YouTube app.
  • GPS : Fast to lock. Retains lock indoors (tested up to 2 meters from a window)
  • Music store (uses 7 Digital platform) works well.
  • DNLA application – Can’t handle my 150GB collection on a Vista-based server.
  • Samsung text selection pointers are a very nice touch. They appear when touching text in an input box and allow easier selection of text.
  • Wifi Reception: Above average
  • 3G reception: Above average
  • Looks: Slim, light and stylish. Size retains a nice level of discreetness. Classy. Quality feel from plastics and buttons.
  • No scratches on screen after one week. A few scratches on the rear.

Issues so far

  • No micro USB charging
  • Slippery surface sometimes feels insecure.
  • Glossy screen doesn’t help outdoor use
  • No FM receiver / transmitter
  • No notification LEDs
  • No included case
  • Browser agent-id can not be changed.
  • Contacts app seems a bit slow to respond to scrolling actions

[Checkpoint : 2109]

As I mentioned above, there are many ways to justify buying a Galaxy Tab and none of the ‘feature’ use-cases will disappoint unless you’ve experienced the best-in-class before using the Galaxy Tab. It is without a doubt, one of the first true competitors to the iPad and with flexible connectivity, storage, camera, video support and phone features, it offers unique advantages. Lets not forget the mobility aspect too.
The Galaxy Tab still needs to mature, or rather, the Android application ecosystem needs to mature before you’ll see apps that are written with a 7″ 1024×600 screen in mind and before games, music, art and productivity apps reach today standard of iPad apps and in those respects, the iPad wins. It also wins in terms of UI physics which is an important part of the feel of the device.

For mobile workers, the Galaxy Tab doesn’t quite provide the mobile desktop that you get with a Windows-based tablets and UMPCs so if you’re looking for that sort of a mobile PC I would advise to stay clear of the Tab right now but do keep an eye on developments in 2011 because newer versions of Android could open up the market for productive applications on bigger screens.

Ill be working on a full review of the Tab over the next few weeks and there’s a lot more to test. Think Free Office will need some work for a start and there’s also some accessories to think about along with some more tests with third party applications and synthetic performance tests. Between now and then though, I think you’ve got enough enough to go on. At this point you can either add it or take it away from your wish list and if you’re keen on converged devices, this will be close to being a ‘must-buy’ for you. The next step for many though will be to see how the mi700 / Viewpad 7 compares. At under 400 euros it provides nearly all of the specifications of the Tab. Then there’s the Archos 70 which is even cheaper.
The launch price of 799 was quite the shocker when we heard about it but in the time between launch and availability the price has already dropped by 200 euros (today price at Amazon.co.uk.) making it much more accessible and, when compared to the iPad and many high-end mobile computing devices, about right if you ask me.

[Checkpoint 2132 - finished editing on the Tab - 1550 words]

[Checkpoint 1003 - started post processing on PC. Added gallery, links and more text. Spelling corrections - 35 minutes]

Total:1932 words.

Our Galaxy Tab tracking page

17 Responses to “Galaxy Tab. One Week Review and Coverage Round-Up”

  1. Chris says:

    Lots to think about here, thanks Steve. Am still looking forward to getting my hands on a long-term review unit; I’m drawn to the Tab far more than I ever was to the iPad.

  2. MarcG says:

    Nice summary. Thanks.

    So price now down to £529 at Amazon UK.

    Getting better, but still not good enough based on having no actual need, just desire, for this.

    I guess you can’t test the BBC embedded video streams to see if the flash handles these?

    Looking forward to the Viewpad etc comparisons.

  3. billbo says:

    Nice review! Thanks.

    “Browser is locked as a ‘mobile’ browser and can not be changed.”

    Did you try the following little trick?

    1. type About:debug in the address bar and hit enter (you won’t see anything happen)

    2. go to Menu > Settings > scroll down to UAString and select Desktop.

  4. hlx says:

    great job and a nice review!!!

    thanks a lot!

    what is the lowest price we can expect in the future?

    hlx

  5. Ian Blyth says:

    Galaxy tab pre-ordered from Amazon 529 pounds sterling.. wanted an ipad when it came out.. decided too big.. and would have little to no use for it.. however with the tab’s added voice and sms support and form factor it’s a perfect device/travel companion/pmp/gps and to have a video player I can hook up to any tv wherever I go is a big plus.. must order the tv out cable..

  6. Jim says:

    Thanks for your comments. I really want to pick up one of these, but the burning question is: Will the Tab be user-upgradable to Gingerbread when it’s released? If not, I’ll wait. Also, will it be user-upgradable to Honeycomb – the little I’ve found says no – but that’s not a deal breaker.
    If anyone knows anything about this, please reply… Thanks again.

  7. tscotsman says:

    cannot believe they didnt put support in for AC3 when playing video. What a waste, cant see me getting this as downloads would need converting, most if not all are at least AC3.

    Im assuming the Galaxy S has the same problem.

  8. tscotsman says:

    yeah Charbax looks like Ill be sticking with Archos, now will it be the 70 or the 101??

  9. Alslayer says:

    Great post Chippy. Your coverage has made me confident that I will enjoy getting the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Keep up the good work.

  10. Iain says:

    No voice option on Sprint. That kills it for me. I don’t see the point of carrying a smartphone and a Tab at the same time (especially when you factor in the no contract pricing on the Tab).

    The lack of Skype is disappointing.

    • LeeN says:

      It will most likely have the Skype app which does calls through wifi. What was posted on Engadget was that at launch it would not have Skype Mobile, which is a Verizon specific app that allows voice calls outside of wifi.

  11. Caveman says:

    PLEASE ELABORATE “…fails at many web applications though with Google docs being a notable example”. Do you mean no access to Google Docs via the Tab?

    I was serious about purchasing the Tab until I saw your review that Google docs doesn’t work. One of the most important task for me is to be able to access Google Docs often. Please help clarify.

    Also, is it possible to turn the Tab into a WIFI Hotspot if the carrier allows it?

    BTW, great review!

    • chippy says:

      Google Docs is actually blocked from the standard browser because its not supported. If you are looking to use high end web apps, think very carefully about an Android device because its one of the limitations. I would recommend something built on x86 for that. Watch out for Meego stuff on X86 soon.

  12. iassen says:

    Great review! Thank you!

    Which tablet PC would you recommend for a windows based user?

  13. DeviousDog says:

    The main problem with this device is the lack of Core Media Formats which are supported for Multimedia. See http://developer.android.com/guide/appendix/media-formats.html#core

    In a nutshell it supports all the latiest video (x264) and audio codec’s (AAC-LC). However it fails to support anything more that 2 channels, for a device which is being marketed as ‘Multimedia on the Go’ it only supports 2 channels where all Television and Movies are released with 6 channels, as a result I returned mine. I think the developers have really lost the plot with the Audio support, what is even more crazy is that you can buy a dock which supports HDMI so you can watch on a HD screen… but then only listen to it with 2 channel support WTF..

    As for the container support, not really a problem. As you can put x264 and AAC/AC3 into a MP4 container and have the result as a MKV contain, of course with out Multi-Audio/Subtitles.

    What a real shame, but it seems that the failure is with the Android OS and not the device. However, Honeycomb (OS3) which is ment for Tablets will not fix or upgrade and container or core media formats. So unless you like to transcode all your collection specifically for this device, avoid it or wait.

    This is surpose to be better than the iPad, however the iPad, iTouch, iPhone all support Multi-Channel support. Shame I disslike Apple.

    Also, the eBook reading experience is far from perfect. Page turning is rather slow and cumbersome. If you need to resize the page for reading, you will find it a painfull process. As you will have to resize, read, reduce page size, turn page, then resize again. It seems no though has gone into this device for eBook reading. If you compare too an iPad, all you need to do is double tap the screen and it will resize calculating on the white space, turning pages is then as simple as a finger flick on the screen. The Galaxy tab does not do this.

    Lets hope Androids new OS overcomes some of these limitations.