Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 initial impressions

Four years ago, I wrote a short blog post about the Nokia N800 “Internet Tablet”. Like its 2005 predecessor, the N770, it was a small, expensive device that let you use the internet everywhere you went. I probably would have gotten one if the whole netbook hype hadn’t happened. But as cool as netbooks were (and sometimes still are), they’re still “small laptops”. And while I was playing with Eee-PCs, tablets were getting increasingly alluring.



There are many devices that paved the way for the ultra-slick devices that tablets are nowaday. They all contributed ideas like using a mobile OS (The N770 ran Maemo), going with a bigger screen (CrunchPad, MS TabletPC) and using touch input (iPod Touch?). The result is that tablets are starting to become more uniform products. Pretty much all the devices released in the last year have screens ranging from 7″ to 10″, are light and thin, run a “phone OS” and have a camera on both their front and back.

The first device to really tie all of these “optimum specs” together was Apple’s iPad. They’ve pretty much created and subsequently dominated the tablet market, but viable alternatives are starting to emerge. Like the Asus Transformer and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. I’ve been using the latter for little over a week now, and I love it.

Hardware

There are two versions of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. There’s an older, thicker model that you can with a Vodafone plan (10.1v), and there’s the newer, thinner 10.1. Mine is the 8.6mm “non-v”, and in terms of hardware, it’s excellent. It has the same Tegra2 CPU that all the other Android tablets have, and its screen is wonderful. Excellent image quality and snappy touch response.

The Tab doesn’t have a USB port or and SD card slot. There’s an Apple-style all-in-one connector on the bottom. You can get an adapter from Samsung that plugs in there if you really need to plug in your USB stick. Instead, I use an app called “AndSMB” to simply copy files onto the tablet from Samba shares. Besides, “uPnPlay” lets me watch movies without copying them at all. Right from my server.

Weight is an important factor in how you use your tablet. You can hold the Samsung with one hand. You wouldn’t want to watch an entire movie like that, but it works for things like text input. The back is glossy plastic, and it does get a little slippery sometimes. The plastic back allows the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to be one of the lightest tablets out there, notably lighter and thinner than the Acer Iconia for instance.

Honeycomb

But no matter how small, light and sexy a device is, it’s useless without good software. And after playing with my Tab for a week it’s very clear that Honeycomb (Android 3.x) is still in its infancy. It works, but it doesn’t always make good use of the large screen. The browser crashed on me a couple of times, but admittedly with very complex websites.

The real downside to getting an Android tablet right now is that there aren’t many true “tablet apps”. Besides the excellent Gmail app that comes with Android, I found a good Twitter client (TweetComb), a nifty Facebook app (Friend Me), a remarkable feed reader (Feedly) and a couple of games. Most other apps run fine, but they simply stretch to fit the screen, resulting in unnaturally long lines of text and other awkward usability issues.

This situation is almost certain to resolve itself over the coming months. Given Android’s quick rise to dominance in the mobile OS market, developers are very likely to get on board. Existing apps will be updated, or get special “HD” versions, and new developers will try to get part of the Honeycomb app market. And meanwhile, I’m pretty sure Google’s hard at work on the next version of Android too.

Conclusion

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 (non-v) is the current champion of Android tablets. It’s thinner and lighter than the iPad 2 and its screen is excellent. For the moment, it’s held back by its software platform. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad device. If you’re into Android, I’d recommend the Samsung over the iPad. If you’re not, I’d encourage you to tryi both before making up your mind.

14 Comments

  1. Android has become the largest Threaten of Apple. I predict that there are more and more Pad based on Android would beat iPad. Apple Need to be Openned

    Comment by Christ Paul — July 12, 2011 @ 2:34 am

  2. I would not worry too much about the slim amount of APPs available that make use of the Android tablets larger screen.
    I was one of the early adapters for the iPad, and Apple had the same problem – very few worth while APPs for the larger screen. It was many months before we saw software appear.

    I also read that Google is releasing new code to fix the scaling of existing software to allow it to fill the screen without dithering..

    Comment by Dennis — July 12, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    • Yesterday saw the release of two new major HoneyComb apps (IMDb and Ustream), so things are starting to move in the right direction already.

      Comment by Roy — July 13, 2011 @ 10:49 am

  3. It’s actually surprising that a lot of consumers are not considering other tablet computers as an option. Even some experts have vouched to the quality of Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab but still, their sales can’t catch up. I think it’s in the way Apple market their devices and it’s truly an advantage to be the pioneering product.

    Comment by BoB — July 12, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

  4. Who can blame them? The Xoom was an epic fail even now people who bought it complain, that in lacks in so many parts..

    And I am not really excited about any android tab which should come out in the future. So far, they don’t even come close to the iPad. Even if you often here statements like: “it has got a better processor”, “higher screen resolution” and more.. What does that matter? nothing to be true. If the whole thing just doesn’t work out and Googles Android is still having all those usability/security/update/content problems we won’t be seeing any product which comes close to the apple ones in the near future. So far, if you wan’t a real tablet which just works then you still have to buy an iPad and get the full experience.

    Comment by Freesky — July 23, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

  5. This looks good!

    I like the Ipad.

    I have one and a Iphone!
    I love them!

    Comment by Petter — July 24, 2011 @ 10:30 pm

  6. Great comparison.

    I’m still a little torn . . . I mean . . . how many different types of mini computers do I really need?

    I haven’t bought any sort of tablet yet, but this adds more to consider.

    Comment by Grace T — August 3, 2011 @ 1:27 am

    • Well, I don’t think anyone actually needs a tablet. But I guess there are a lot of people who, like me, spend their evenings playing iOS or Android games, tweeting, etc. For me, my tablet is the in-home replacement for my phone. It makes up for the lack of portability by offering a large screen. Plus, playing games on my tablet doesn’t drain my phone’s battery :).

      Comment by Roy — August 17, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

  7. samsung galaxy tab 10.1 is superb…I personally own one…slim and great performance …truly a wonder android tablet ..

    Comment by Ravan — August 3, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  8. I agree it’s the champion. I believe it’s also cheaper than the Ipad 2

    Comment by Cameron — August 17, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  9. Real threat for Apple’s iPad 2.

    Comment by Tahir — August 24, 2011 @ 12:22 am

  10. I’m agree, my opinion, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 as well as the latest tablet Apple (iPad 2)

    Comment by Berita Gadget — August 28, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

  11. Link: My personal top 10 Android tablet apps - Roy Tanck's weblog
  12. The tab 10.1 is outstanding, and yes I actually need a tablet. I use the tablet in my SUV so that I can display listings to real estate clients when I am mobile. While I do not use it on every trip I do use it and nothing else can replace it for this purpose. If we see a listing that we did not plan to view I can access the info quickly and display it on a screen that you can actually read (as opposed to the one on my smartphone)

    Comment by Brett Cairns — November 18, 2011 @ 2:03 am