Samsung’s Galaxy Tab line is arguably one of the most successful series of Android tablets out on the market today. There are definitely others, but they simply haven’t taken off like the Galaxy Tab. That might be, at least in part, due to the massive range of sizes that the line encompasses: 5.3-, 7-, 7.7-, 8.9-, and 10.1-inches are the models that are currently being produced by Samsung.
Of course, since Samsung couldn’t just stop there, it also has different models under the same size. For instance, there are WiFi-only Tabs, and ones, like this one, that are connected to a carrier’s 3G/4G network. My carrier of choice is Verizon, and because of that, I was able to utilize Verizon’s crazy-fast 4G LTE network. Keep reading to find out what I thought of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Hardware & Design
There’s no two ways about it: the Galaxy Tab 10.1’s design is basically a complete ripoff of the iPad 2’s, save for the aspect ratio and materials. I’m not complaining, since both of these devices look great. However, it would be nice to have something a little different looking than the current king of the hill. One of the things I hate about my job is being asked the same two questions over and over again about smartphones and tablets: “Is that an iPhone?” and “Is that an iPad?” respectively. It’s an annoyance that seems to stay right in the tech world; you never hear somebody mixing up a Taurus for an Impala.
Anyway, the Tab is very thin, and it looks great. The bad part is that, while the perimeter is made of a nice, durable metal, the backing is an easily-scratchable plastic. It doesn’t feel good on a smartphone, and it certainly is no different on a tablet. Shiny plastic like this picks up fingerprints and finger grease like crazy, and it always makes me feel like the device is a little less high-quality, no matter how well it performs.
In case you didn’t know, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 runs Android Honeycomb 3.1. It looks really great on the 10-inch, 1280 x 800 display, and it runs very smoothly, thanks to the NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor that runs the show on the device. Unfortunately for Google, Honeycomb doesn’t have many native apps, and the ones that are there are usually not the greatest apps in the world. I hope to see some more innovation from Google and its partners on both the software and the hardware side to make Honeycomb more appealing to consumers, which, in turn, should help the Honeycomb marketplace out in terms of number of apps and the quality of them, as well.
But the apps that are included with Honeycomb run very well. Let’s take the YouTube app, for instance. When launched, it gives you a large, cinema-style view of the hottest videos that you can easily select and start watching. It’s decidedly simple, which is one of the best things I can say about any tablet OS.
There are a few quirks, though, such as some apps not being able to run very well (or at all) and often lock-ups, but other than that, Honeycomb seems to be a really good alternative to iOS on the iPad; Ice Cream Sandwich should improve on the few issues it does have.
Even better than the YouTube app on Honeycomb is the browser. It includes Flash, tabbed browsing, and overall snappy performance that makes it, in my mind, better than Safari on the iPad. I was even able to play Flash games on the tablet, without taking a significant drop in battery life. Of course, without a mouse or a physical keyboard, games were hard to play; however, the point is that I could play Parasite Strike if I really wanted to.
Like I previously stated, the Honeycomb marketplace is in a dark, sad place. It’s not so apparent how sad it is right from the get go; it is filled with a ton of apps. . . they’re just useless ones. And then, once you start to search for things that matter, they’re just not there. Do you like to use Facebook? Browser. Want to watch TV shows and movies from your Netflix subscription? Too bad for you.
Being Android, Honeycomb surprises me in a lot of disappointing ways, but none of those ways is more disappointing than not having the apps that matter to people. There aren’t even any really good Twitter clients! Even Gingerbread, which is fairly new and not on too many devices, has more apps than Honeycomb is. Granted, it isn’t exactly as old as dirt yet, but there should definitely be some more apps here.
Verizon is one of my favorite carriers. Its 4G network may not be everywhere, but it’s so fast. I live about an hour away from a 4G LTE area, and there, I consistently got about 10Mbps down and 4Mbps up. That’s only with about 3 bars, by the way. I’m sure if I was closer to the tower, it would be even quicker.
It doesn’t really need to be quicker, though. 720p video from YouTube streamed wonderfully and smoothly. Apps downloaded very quickly, as well, and casual browsing was instantaneous. I can’t stress how amazing Verizon’s 4G network is when you can connect to it, but I can say that it’s the fastest network I’ve used. Ever. It’s even faster than my home connection, which tops out at 1.5Mbps down.
Despite its minor kvetches, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a very great tablet. Honeycomb still has a little ways to go to be better than iOS, but there are plenty of things that I prefer here over what Apple’s offering has right now, including the keyboard and the higher-resolution display. I also prefer the 16:9 aspect ratio versus the iPad’s 4:3, but that’s just personal preference. At $529 with a two-year contract, it’s a bit more expensive than the competition, but it still is a viable tablet for you, especially if having 4G connectivity is a major thing for you.
- Thin, light, portable
- High-resolution, bright, beautiful display
- Honeycomb is smooth and very easy to use
- Included apps are very polished and run well
- Shiny plastic backing
- Poor app selection
- Honeycomb is a little buggy