Last month we received a Samsung Galaxy Tab to play around for a few weeks, offered as a test unit to hold us over while we wait around for review units of the freshly minted Galaxy Tab 10.1v. Now available at $199.99 from Sprint and Verizon with a 2-year contract, the Tab is obviously a better deal than before, but is it a good deal when compared to the iPad despite its age?This was our first long term experience with an Android device (the first Android company to reach out to us, so kudos to Samsung for allowing us to step over to the other side), giving us the opportunity to feel out what a 1st generation Android tablet does right and misses the first time around the block, notably in comparison to the 1st gen iPad we use every day. When the Tab was released in October last year, it appeared and felt like the only credible consumer-friendly (read: aimed at men, women, non-geeks who could are less about specs...move along spec-trolls) Android tablet out there. With dimensions and weight much like a hefty paperback book,we were excited to spend some quality time outside of a CES show display and see how well it traveled specific to our lifestyle.
It's this inbetween size, positioned between smart phones and a full size tablet, that presented us with both the blessing and bane during everyday use. At home, the Tab felt awkward, not necessarily due to the width and height, but the Tab's girth felt uncomfortable with such a compact form factor...like an iPhone 4 stretched out without reducing its thickness. Where the iPad's larger overall size spreads out the weight to a more comfortable in-hand feeling, the Tab gave the impression of two tablets stacked onto of together.
Out and about, the Tab's 7" size was much more liberating compared to the full-size iPad, a device we normally don't dare travel with unless it can safely be tucked away in a messenger bag. We took the Tab on photo shoots, to the laundromat, on road trips…nearly everywhere, since it literally fit in our pockets (albeit barely)…and its appeal and utility became more apparent when not stifled by the expectations of use at home where my iPad rules the roost.
Don't get me wrong, the Tab has ample deficiencies, mostly due to a sluggish and convoluted interface (the separation/organization of apps) and the Android OS's yet evolving tablet strategy addressed incrementally with the Honeycomb update. But there were plenty of moments where I thought, "This is so close to being a really great device." Impressive screen, good fit and finish overall, decent battery life, and notably great wi-fi and T-Mobile 3G reception (we live in an AT&T deadzone, so this was a welcome surprise). Not a game changer as the iPad, but definitely useable in a way where the technology became secondary to the normal day to day utility it offers. And ultimately, that's what tablets should be in my opinion, not a geek's measuring tool, but a tool to take on both the mundane and entertaining tasks in an easy to carry form factor. When your mom, dad, grandparents, little kiddie siblings and everywhere inbetween can pick up and use a device, then it was well designed.
Would I recommend this late model, Galaxy Tab? No, not unless the price drops down to $199 without any contract. There's too much you compromise in function with the late model OS and form factor, and more importantly, the overall lifetime cost when tied down to a 3G contract. It's definitely yesterday's technology offered today, especially since Samsung's 10.1 and 8.9 Tab models come with more responsive 1GHz Dual core processors (okay, we dipped into specs lust for a moment, but it's related to user experience) and a much slimmer form factor. But adopting the Galaxy Tab during this time gives me hope for a more mature Android tablet experience which will widen the options beyond iPad 1 and iPad 2. We're not yet committed to adopting a Tab life, as Samsung is advertising their Android 3.0 experience, but we're certainly willing to give it a try the next time around.
Pros: Solid construction, bright and clear 7" screen, portability factor, battery life and charge, fantastic 3G and wi-fi reception, haptic feedback buttons.
Cons: Geriatric 1st gen Android OS, too thick, price vs. iPad, lack of auto focus for so-so backside camera.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.