Look and feel
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 is both thin and light, with a glossy feel that is reminiscent of Apple’s iPad (although the faux-metallic rim sets it apart). It’s comfortable to hold and use on lengthy journeys
Ease of use
A smart, intuitive update of the already-excellent Android Ice Cream Sandwich makes the Galaxy Tab 2 a breeze to use. The 10.1-inch touch-screen is both spacious and responsive
The screen isn’t going to blow anyone away but it’s fine for watching movies or browsing the web, while the three-megapixel camera takes decent daytime shots
The dual-core processor handles apps and games fine, although we did notice the occasional little stutter and pause when performing everyday tasks
Six hours of video streaming or games is a decent result and what we’d expect of a tablet this size
When Samsung and Apple aren’t suing the pants off each other, they actually make fantastic tablets. Apple’s iPad might be the original, but Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 was the best Android tablet of its time, melding slick design with a satisfying user interface. Now we have the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, in two sizes – the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (a strokeable seven-incher) and the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 (no prizes for guessing how large that one is). But can this sequel prove as successful as the original Galaxy Tab?
We've just reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, but if that seems a tad teeny, you may be more excited by the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. Our immediate impression was of a skinny iPad, thanks to the glossy front and rear and the crisp white border surrounding the 10.1-inch screen. However, there are a number of notable differences between the Galaxy Tab 2 and Apple’s baby.
For a start, there’s no ‘Home’ button – or indeed any front-facing button. The Galaxy Tab 2 uses Android Ice Cream Sandwich, so a virtual 'Home' button appears on the ever-present task bar at the base of the screen, along with ‘Back’ and ‘Recent Apps’ buttons. Samsung has also added a 'Screenshot' button, perfect for capturing interesting articles online. The notifications tab is accessed by tapping the clock in the bottom right corner, gathering all new emails and giving you fast access to your Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, power settings and more.
The Galaxy Tab 2 also has a faux-metallic rim, which helps to further differentiate it from the iPad. Housing two narrow speaker strips, this silver edging does look a little strange beside the white gloss, but start using the tablet and you’ll barely notice it. Build quality is strong – this tablet feels tough enough to take a few knocks on the road, with no noticeable weak spots. It’s slim enough to slide into a bag without issue and light enough to comfortably handle on long journeys, although our white model was a magnet for fingerprints and scuff marks.
You have to use Samsung’s proprietary charger thanks to the elongated port on the bottom of the tablet, but it’s a minor quibble. The two sides are port-free, while the top of the Galaxy Tab 2 houses a microSD slot (for storage expansion up to 32GB), a power button and a long, thin volume control. It’s all very neat and we never had any issues with accidentally hitting the buttons while wielding the device.
The Galaxy Tab 2 runs the latest version of Android, tastily dubbed ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’. This gives you up to seven desktops to populate with a huge number of apps, folders and widgets – with Samsung adding a few widgets of its own to the standard Android efforts. These include a handy task list (S Planner) and the S Suggest panel which recommends apps based on your interests.
A dual-core processor runs the show, and does a solid job. We noticed the occasional stutter while browsing the Google Play app store, or skimming through our calendar, but nothing more severe. Intensive racing and action games loaded quickly and ran smoothly, so you’ll have no trouble running all of your apps, and the Galaxy Tab 2 shouldn’t be out of date for the foreseeable future. If you’re after a tablet to see you through long, dull commutes, the Galaxy Tab 2 won’t die on you immediately and leave you twiddling your thumbs. We managed six hours of video streaming from a full charge before the battery was completely drained, and even longer when emailing or playing with simple apps.
Browsing the web is also a smooth experience, thanks to the responsive touch-screen. Every flick and pinch registers perfectly, and you can happily stream your favourite TV shows from the likes of BBC iPlayer (after downloading the free Adobe Flash plugin). The Android Ice Cream Sandwich browser allows you to open up multiple tabs as usual, and can save your bookmarks into handy folders. Browsing your history is also a cinch.
So the Galaxy Tab 2’s screen is responsive, but is it a joy for watching movies? Sadly it isn’t a match for the new iPad’s retina display, proving neither as crisp nor as bright, but the 10.1-inch display is still a great way to take in a film on the move, thanks to good vibrancy levels. Movie fans will also appreciate the AllShare Play feature, which allows you to throw your songs and videos to your TV, phone and more.
As is obligatory with modern tablets, the Galaxy Tab 2 comes with a camera built into the rear, so you can take snaps on the go. There’s no flash but it takes decent daytime shots. You get either 16GB or 32GB of storage depending on which model you go for, so you can store a huge number of photos.
The Android tablet wars are hotting up, with excellent devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 hitting stores. The Galaxy Tab 2 boasts slick design, dual-core performance and the excellent Android Ice Cream Sandwich, and while the 10.1-inch screen didn’t blow us away like the new iPad’s, the Tab 2 is still a great way to enjoy and share your media.