By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
The much awaited Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which is expected to sell in Canada in both WiFi only and WiFi + 4G models in a few weeks, represents Samsung’s very serious attempt to dominate the Android tablet space and even challenge the current tablet leader, Apple’s iPad 2.
We had a chance to spend time with a pre-production 16GB Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 device that also featured 4G connectivity on Telus. We were delighted to find out the device was way lighter and thinner than we had expected.
The design is a departure from Samsung's first 7-inch Galaxy Tab which shipped last year. The Tab 7 took a lot of its design and functionality from their smartphones.
With the Tab 10.1, Samsung is clearly playing to the slate form factor and as a result we get a very thin and light device that's easy to carry and ideal for on-the-go use specially the 4G version.
As far as the right weight and feel, Samsung got it right with the Tab 10.1 as it clearly leapfrogs most of the designs of its current competitors running the Google Android OS but at the expense of expansion ports.
Samsung has really outdone itself with the Tab 10.1 in terms of how thin and light it is. At .33 inches thin and at 1.24 lbs. it is a wisp thinner and lighter than the iPad 2’s 0.34-inch thinness and 1.33 lbs. but it is a difference one can easily feel. The rounded edges, the thickness of the bezel and the silver plastic painted to look like aluminum do remind us of the iPad 2.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is light and easy to hold. The all-plastic back of the device is less slippery than the aluminum used in the iPad 2 and the Motorola XOOM, so it is slightly easier to hold with one hand which makes it more ideal for reading eBooks, websites and PDF's.
In terms of materials, plastic seems to work well for a tablet that's loaded with radios for WiFi, Bluetooth and in the case of our demo unit, 4G data. The white plastic glossy finish seems to be quite resilient to scratches and smudges can rarely be seen.
It would have been nice to see Samsung employ Duralumin alloy, the same type of material typically used for advanced aircrafts, and used in Samsung's Series 9 notebooks, in the tablet family as well but this would have brought up price as well as made the Tab 10.1 heavier.
The Tab 10.1's size is also perfect for comic books and graphic novels and with the right .CBR (Comic Book Reader) software, enthusiasts will be able to carry thousands of issues in a slim device.
Video playback was also quite good on the Galaxy Tab; even non-HD YouTube videos looked pleasant. The stereo speakers, which are neatly hidden in the edges of the device, are surprisingly loud and clear. The 1280 x 800 pixel TFT screen is one of the better ones in the market today and feature a wide videwing angle, great colour depth and clarity even when using the lowest brightness settings.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 may seem to lack I/O ports for HDMI-out and microUSB, but it does have a proprietary 30-pin port that can be used to attach any variety of connectors (which need to be purchased separately). This is reminiscent of how Apple allows devices to connect to the iPad by using an optional and regulated proprietary connector.
We're not fans of this approach but there may be a good reason for it in terms of design. In order for Samsung to ensure the thinnest possible profile for the device, they had to choose to use a proprietary connector.
The requisite Samsung Social, Music and Reader Hubs, along with Samsung's own app store, make up the curated content specific to this device. Samsung has also enabled a neat gesture based zoom feature for when users are reading content.
When activated, simply tilt the Tab 10.1 back and forth to zoom in and out of any website or document before you. It's a gimmicky feature but one that will be convenient in specific situations when users want to check out detail on a document without having to press on any buttons.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has all the features of what could be the most successful Honeycomb tablet yet. Its size and weight make it one of the more mobile yet feature-packed 10-inch tablets in the market today; and quite possibly the best equipped to take on Apple's iPad juggernaut.
One thing where it might need some adjustment is the price. There are a number of similarly specced 10.1 inch tablets in the market now staring at $399 and many of these may be chunkier but do everything the Tab 10.1 can do and some have even more ports and connectivity out of the box. Consumers will need to decided if they will pay an extra $100 for a slimmer and ligther tablet that's 80 per cent identical in functionality to the competition.
We found the Tab 10.1 to be reasonably fast on the TELUS network and were pleased with the performance while accessing email and the web in a moving vehicle. The speed of accessing websites was much faster than what we experienced on the Tab 7 inch on Rogers 3G network and a sign of how our data networks have evolved in a year.
In terms of performance, our pre-production demo model was slightly slower than our 32GB Motorola XOOM in accessing websites but on some ocassions it was just a fast.
The difference is hardly noticeable. We're expecting the shipping version to be updated and possibly faster than existing Android tablets since it will likely run a newer version of the Honeycomb OS.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is an impressive, highly portable and fun to use device that blends the best of Google's emerging Android OS with Samsung's own functionality and innovation.
Rating 4.5 out of 5