Slenderer than the iPad 2 at just 8.6mm thick, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is sleek but solid, with a high-res 10.1-inch display covered in sturdy Gorilla Glass. If you draw the comparison though, the iPad's aluminium body is sexier
The Honeycomb 3.1 OS feels fluid and natural to navigate. Customising the five home screen setup is a fast, intuitive process, with a handy toolbar at the base of every screen for Back, Home, and Recent Programs. You can have up to 13 programs open here for easy multitasking
Jam-packed: HTML browser, full-bodied video player, front and back cameras, video recording, social integration with calendar, contacts and news feeds, as well as many preloaded Samsung widgets for live information. Unfortunately, the understocked tablet section of the Android Market keeps this from being the perfect tablet
The Galaxy Tab 10.1's dual-core 1GHz chip and 1GB of RAM keeps it running smoothly with nary a lag, and we experienced no glitches in any of its apps. The Tegra 2 graphics chip means it is privy to high-intensity gaming – and in our tests, handled them with aplomb. The PLS screen displays images in phenomenal brightness and colour
We got over a day's moderate use of our Wi-Fi-only tablet - but the 3G version is likely to lose more battery over the course of a day
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,8/3/2011 3:47:15 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Solid but very sleek build quality, gorgeous display with new PLS screen tech, Honeycomb 3.1 OS is customisable and fluid, excellent in-built social, email and media features, support for lots of online video, ideal for anyone who uses Google services
Lack of apps in stark contrast to its main competitor, the iPad, which has a growing raft of innovative media apps
The gauntlet has been well and truly hurled to the ground. Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 is slimmer than the iPad 2, lighter than the iPad 2, and if Samsung has its way – totally more awesome than the iPad 2. So determined was the Korean manufacturer to pull one over Apple, that it actually yanked its original, fatter Galaxy Tab 10.1 - now dubbed the 10.1v - off the shelves when the second iPad launched with its size zero waist. It just remains to be seen if this hyper-hyped Android Honeycomb tablet has actually delivered the goods....
On the looks front, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is already the best looking Honeycomb tab on the block. Its 256.7 x 175.3 x 8.6 mm frame is far sleeker, and it manages to out-skinny the iPad 2 by a crucial 0.2mm. Gorilla glass covers the 10.1-inch 800 x 1280 pixel display to keep the screen scuff-free and protect it from impact too. The screen is the brightest on any tablet yet, packing new PLS display tech that we'll delve into a bit later. A 3.15-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash sits on the back, while the two-megapixel front-facer lets you make video calls or take self-portraits.
It weighs 565g to the iPad 2's 600g - not really noticeable even if you've got them both in hand, but it does feel feather light. Especially when you consider that Android-wise, it's up against the likes of the Motorola Xoom, a hulking 10.1-inch slate that would be a bouncer if it could, and the admittedly excellent Asus Eee Pad Transformer that turns into a bit of a bruiser when connected to its USP, a full-size keyboard dock.
Still, compare the Tab 10.1 to the iPad 2's cool aluminium chassis and its velvety plastic build suddenly seems a bit pedestrian.
Interestingly, Samsung has taken on the minimalist manifesto of Apple design and gone the port-free route. There are no physical buttons on the front face, and unlike other Android tabs which feature microUSB connection and microSD memory expansion, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has neither. Any accessories connect via its proprietary slot, used also for charging. You're stuck with whatever memory is onboard - 16GB, 32GB or 64GB depending on the version you buy. Don't worry, there is a 3.5mm audio jack as well as a pair of speaker vents on either side. The power button sits at the top of the tab next to the volume rocker, which we generally prefer on the side when holding tablets in landscape orientation.
In terms of its actual UI, Samsung has one-upped most of its competition by launching the Tab with Honeycomb 3.1, an upgraded version of the tablet OS that includes resizeable widgets and better power management. This update is currently available to the Eee Pad only.
Looks-wise, it's mostly standard Android with Samsung's TouchWiz 4.0 interface lightly skinning things. Icons are Samsung style as are the many preloaded widgets.
To wake the tablet, a fluid unlock mechanism involves dragging a small lock out in a circular motion. It feels all futuristic, innit. Once in, you're greeted by the usual five-screen setup, each screen customisable with your choice of shortcuts, contacts and widgets. The base toolbar houses the back button, home, recent-programs, and in a Honeycomb first, a dedicated screen-cap button. Recent-programs shows the last 13 programs you used, all kept open. As the toolbar runs across the base of any program you're in, navigation is simple and fluid whether you want to return to the homescreens, or switch between programs. The 1GHz dual-core chip and 1GB RAM kept multitasking smooth, and we barely noticed any lag in performance.
A small arrow in the center of the screen brings on the Mini app tray, six apps which can be opened on top of any other screen, giving you a real desktop-like experience where you can actually view two screens (or programs) at once. This means you can, for example, have an email open and open up of the apps - Task Manager, Calendar, Music Player, World Clock, Pen Mode and Calculator - to check your agenda, make a note or change the music playing without actually having to switch apps.
As with all things Android, you'll need a Gmail account to activate many of the tablet's features. Once you do that, all things Google are synced to the tablet, including your Picasa web albums and Android apps you've downloaded. Our old friend email is as ever divided into the Gmail app for your main account and an all-others Samsung Mail app. Alerts of new mail - and other notifications - show up in the bottom left until you click to delete them or read your alert. Samsung's Swype app lets you write faster with a single finger, by dragging the digit from letter to letter. Though we've loved Swype in the past, we found it slightly less accurate - and our speed slower - on this than on the original seven-inch Galaxy Tab. Still, it's a better alternative to the hunt'n'peck style on most tablets.
The Social Hub will be familiar to anybody who's used Samsung's Galaxy range - this nifty app syncs your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to create a master contacts book, calendar and news feed. You can then choose to view just one feed at a time, or befuddle yourself with friends', geeks' and colleagues' updates all at once. From the app you can also post updates and photos.
Our only beef is that though the Tab will merge contacts you have on more than one account - say Facebook as well as Google and Twitter - you have to do this one by one manually. HTC's Android phones do it automatically and in fact, as you add new contacts, will suggest that these be merged when appropriate too.
We love the universal calendar though, which pulls birthdays and events from Facebook with appointments from your Google and Microsoft Exchange calendars. A converged calendar is a helpful calendar.
Glory be, a tablet that supports online video. The preloaded video player here can play tons of video formats, including the crucial DivX and Xvid codecs in which most online video - particularly those one might find on torrent sites - is now coded. It also supports the older MP4 and H.264 formats that the iPad 2 supports. Meanwhile, its new PLS screen tech offers spectacular viewing angles and colours, far better than the iPad 2's standard display. In fact, for TV and movies, the Tab kicks sand all over the iPad, and in its face, and probably down its pants, too.
File transfer is as simple as plug, drag and drop, using the bundled USB cable. Once the computer detects the tablet, you can simply move video, music and pictures from your computer to the handily labelled folders on the Tab. Or, the preloaded Kies via Wi-Fi lets you connect wirelessly to computers on the same network to stream or transfer files. With the right cable, sold separately, you can also hook it up to a HDTV.
You can stream video too, as it supports HSDPA internet as well as the latest, faster Wi-Fi 802.11n protocol. The Tegra 2 graphics chip means imagery is rendered beautifully and quickly - and in fact, makes this an ideal candidate for some serious (if oxymoronic) casual gaming with high-intensity games such as first person shooter N.O.V.A. 2 HD or the stunning RPG, Samurai II: Vengeance THD.
If there was a tablet that could convince you taking pictures with a 25cm long slate is a good idea, the Tab 10.1 is it. Though its 3.15-megapixel snapper is still nowhere near the quality of Samsung's higher-end smartphones, its images are some of the best we've seen on a tablet and there are a ton of scene modes and other settings you can play with. Blown on a computer monitor, our image of cakes and brownies looked pretty good with warm, true colouring and decent clarity even when zoomed in. Even more compelling is the photo editor app, which adds a ton more fun things to do with your amateur artwork.
Like many mobile devices, it can add effects, resize and crop - but this app takes it to the next level with the ability to draw specific sections to enhance and colour. Effects you can add include the very cool 'motion blur' which you can smudge to give the impression of great speed to a moving object. It ain't Photoshop for your tab, but it's a full-bodied go at one.
The camera can record what Samsung claims is 720p video but done on a 3.15-megapixel lens, it is expectedly grainy and a tad dull. The mic picks up a lot of background noise and hum, but we were impressed with the frame rate. Even when panning, the camera kept up quite well with no blur or jerkiness.
The Honeycomb tablet market has only been around since May, and so the Android Market remains a bit of a desert for tablet-optimised apps. In fact, the estimated number of apps is around 100 - a poor show compared to the App Store's 100,000 iPad apps, neatly organised into their own section. It's still nigh on impossible to find Honeycomb-optimised apps in the Market. Android apps for phones work, but have to be scaled up to fit the larger display and look grainy and blurry as a result. Skype for example supports video calling on both iPhone and iPad and recently began to support video calls on a greater number of Android Gingerbread phones, but still eschews Android tablets. So unless you and your friends are on some little-known app for video calls, the Tab - and any Android tablet - remains off-limits for video calling. Which is a pity, because a tablet is far more suited for face to face internet chat than a phone.
Compared to iOS, Android Honeycomb is busy - but it's powerful, and the Tab 10.1 is a resounding response to Apple's stonkingly popular iPad 2. Packed to the hilt with features, the newest Honeycomb tablet is a better, more powerful media device, and it offers far more customisability. Its plastic design isn't quite as alluring as the iPad's futuristic good looks but the Tab's real shortcoming is one that's out of Samsung's hands - the sadly understocked and unorganised tablet section of the Android Market. Still, with its excellent video player and browser and the slick, intuitive Honeycomb OS, this is a tablet you'll easily get on with - as long as you're not too envious of the increasingly innovative new media available as an iPad app.