Smaller, neater and just as smart – can Samsung’s Galaxy Tab sneak under the radar to deal the iPad a low blow?
The iPad has been the tablet of choice for media types for barely six months, and already Samsung has come up with a credible Android challenger. And yes, people, it’s a phone, too.
One Tab in my pocket
With its 7-inch screen, The Tab is far more portable than the iPad. It's light enough to be held in one hand for long periods and small enough to fit into a large inside pocket, so you'll be much more inclined to take it out of the house.
Simply using a non-Apple tablet feels a tad rebellious and quite exciting, and Android has never looked so good. It’s just the standard 2.2 interface, but stacked with the right apps it’s beautifully smooth and simple to use. Android Market is still way behind the App Store, though.
Browsing, with the benefit of Flash support, works just as it should – although in landscape you will need to use those pinch-zoom actions as text is generally rendered too small to read. Switch to landscape for better legibility at the expense of more scrolling.
Tickled by the touchscreen
A zesty colour palette brings the Tab’s touchscreen to life. Keeping the brightness set to maximum will hammer the battery life, but it’s worth it. The 1GHz processor has no problem in translating your multi-touch swipes into slick, on-screen transitions.
7 inches is not a bad size for a personal video screen. In the hand or on a table it’s big enough without being overpowering, and small enough to be sympathetic to compressed footage such as on-demand TV. And while the 1024x600 can’t play hi-def video at its original resolution, if you weren’t counting the pixels you’d never know.
Gaming is limited but well realised. There’s a small selection of console-baiting 3D games, such as Nova, which look amazing, and the more simple Android Market fare generally translates well to the bigger screen.
For book worms, there’s a pre-installed e-reader giving quick and easy access to copyright-free classics. The standard music player is no iTunes but covers the basics. It'll play enhanced podcasts, for example, but ignores chapters. Output could be louder the bundled sound-isolators are better than expected.
3G is a must
While you can use the Tab purely as a Wi-Fi device, it really wants a 3G connection. After all, it’s a phone as well, but more to the point, 3G will give it freedom to roam, enabling the likes of the free Google Nav sat-nav app, which downloads maps and satellite images on the fly. An unlimited data plan is ideal but you won’t want to use this as your main phone, so brace yourself for the expense of a second SIM.
PC users get a dedicated client for file management, but Mac users are limited to drag-and-drop transfer. There’s also a microSD slot, which sits alongside the equally accessible SIM card slot. Other extremities include surprisingly good speakers, a 3MP camera with LED flash, a front-facing VGA cam and volume controls.
As a gambit, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is certainly a statement of intent – but the OS still has work to do if it is to catch up with its much-vaunted Apple rival.
Samsung Galaxy Tab review
The first serious challenge to the iPad puts up a good fight, but holes in Android’s armour counter its technical prowess