First to market, Apple's tablet has now been joined by the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy Tab. Here's how they stack up.
Apple iPad The iPad is elegant, natural and easy to use, while its 9.7-inch screen is ideal for movies and games. Navigation is as fluid as can be on the incredibly intuitive interface, and though it lacks the feature set of the Tab - no video calling for instance - its ease of use make its one for the everyman. Samsung Galaxy Tab Lots of features here, with support for voice calls as well as 3G internet and Wi-Fi, and a front and back camera for regular photos and video calling - whether over voice network or VOIP-style like Skype. Its seven-inch touch-screen sits in front of a white plastic back, funky rather than elegant. Like all Android devices, it's very customisable - but it's also less intuitive to set up than the iPad (see our Samsung Galaxy Tab review for full details).
WIN: Apple iPad
Video and music
Apple iPad With its large format screen and perfectly honed music and movie interfaces, the iPad a great media player. Syncing to iTunes allows you to buy and download movies and music, or sync your iPad with your existing media collection. You can preview movies before you buy.At 1024x768 pixels in a 9.7-inch screen, the iPad of a very slightly lower resolution than the Galaxy Tab, but even with the two devices side by side, it's difficult to see any difference, and we certainly didn't feel let down by the viewing experience. The preloaded YouTube app displays video in standard and high definition, as well as full-screen mode. Unfortunately, there is no memory card slot for expansion - dismal for a dedicated media device.
Samsung Galaxy Tab One major coup is its support for a huge range of video formats, including DivX and H.264, two common ways to compress high-quality video on the web. There's very little difference in quality with the iPad's screen, though naturally its smaller size is a little less comfortable for viewing. Colours are very slightly warmer in the iPad, but it's not something you'd notice without two devices side by side. You can get movies onto the device either by using Samsung Kies (which needs to be downloaded for your PC) to sync files between Tab and computer, or by paying for a download from Samsung Movies. There's no app for it like iTunes though, and it's very fiddly to navigate on the device, with too-small tabs that are hard to hit, and an annoying Flash-animated interface. Music can be synced, dragged and dropped from your computer, or bought from Samsung's Music Hub store which boasts about eight million track. Unfortunately, its Music Hub and movie player just aren't as smooth to navigate
Apple iPad The iPad is far less portable, heavier, and it's difficult to hold in one hand and navigate with the other, so you'll need both hands, or something to prop it up
Samsung Galaxy Tab At 190.1 x 120.5 x 12 mm, the Galaxy Tab is about the size of a book, and fits easily in a small bag, or some of our male colleagues' suit pockets too. It's easily gripped in one hand, leaving the other free to navigate, swipe and type.
WIN: Samsung Galaxy Tab
Apps and games
Apple iPad As the first real hub for apps, the App Store is way ahead of Android Market, with tons of tablet-friendly apps available right now. There is a dedicated iPad section in the App Store on desktop, though on the iPad itself, it only shows a '+' next to apps that work on both iPhone and iPad. There are also more iPad games, while its motion sensor and multitouch features makes gaming feel particularly natural.
Samsung Galaxy Tab Tablet-specific apps are only just starting to land in the Market is but that will change, if its smartphone app explosion was any indication. As for games, if we go by the selection for smartphones, it might be similarly stunted for tablets. Preloaded on the Tab though, is two high-quality action games that take advantage of its acceleromenter for motion-sensitive gaming.
Apple iPad iBooks is an excellent - and free - extension to iTunes. Its virtual wooden bookcase displays downloaded books, many available for free or a few pounds. There's a cute page-turning animation and you can view the book in one- or two-page view, with two-page closer to regular book size. Several papers including the Guardian and New York Times have their own iPad apps. It's also the default opener for PDFs, rendered in better detail, and saveable to the iBookshelf.
Samsung Galaxy Tab There's no dedicated ebook store for Android yet, but Samsung's Readers Hub is an incredible addition that lets you subscribe to hundreds of international magazines and newspapers, as well as choose from two million ebooks, 200,000 of which are free. As it's book-sized, it's best viewed in portrait, one-page format.
Apple iPad Email gets desktop-like on the iPad, with a two-column interface showing the inbox one side, and the currently selected message on the other. It supports instant push notifications on Microsoft Exchange, but is only able to deliver email every five minutes on webmail, such as Gmail and Hotmail. On the larger screen, the touch-screen keyboard is accurate but slightly unwieldy to use, and we're not fans of the four-finger typing style.
Samsung Galaxy Tab Like the iPad, the Galaxy Tab features a desktop-like two column interface for email (and texts), though for some reason Gmail is displayed only in the standard one-column style. What really makes it a messaging star is Swype, a cool new predictive writing style that lets you write with a single finger dragged from letter to letter. It's incredibly fast and accurate, and makes texting an unprecedented joy on a device this size.
Apple iPad The Safari browser is as fast and full featured, with pinch-to-zoom, responsive scrolling and excellent picture rendering. Thanks to its slightly lower resolution, text edges look more ragged than Galaxy Tab - but you'd have to look quite closely. The lack of Flash is troublesome - though there is a preloaded YouTube app that automatically loads if you click on YouTube-hosted vids in a website, other embedded video such as those on news sites are a no go. It'll autoload full versions of websites no matter if you're on a 3G or Wi-Fi connection, which makes sense as mobile sites would look low rent on a screen that size - but could run up the data charges over 3G. Tethering support turns it into a Wi-Fi hotspot that you can connect your laptop or another phone too, for example.
Samsung Galaxy Tab It may be smaller but the Tab takes web functionality hands down for a full HTML browser with pinch to zoom, copy and paste and great rendering. When using 3G, it will automatically load mobile-optimised versions - in fact, you can't even choose the desktop version - but over Wi-Fi, it'll auto-load full sites. Scrolling was occasionally jerky, but we can forgive that for the Flash support allowing viewing of any embedded video on the web. Like the iPad, its Android 2.2 OS means it can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices.
OVERALL WINNER: Samsung Galaxy TabWith its web features, video calling ability and support for high-quality video formats like H.264 and DivX, the Galaxy Tab is a well-rounded media device. While its software may not be as fluid as elegant as the iPad, being able to drag and drop media files is a godsend. Samsung only loses out on its services in media and syncing - and that's something Apple has been perfecting since the iPod launched. The Galaxy Tab trounces the iPad on the feature front but the easy elegance of iOS is unbeatable. We're waiting for Apple to release a next-gen iPad with the same level of gaming changing evolution as the iPhone 4 - but until then, we just might stick with our Galaxy Tabs. Just.