Hands On With The Galaxy Tab

Sure, you've read the specs of all the little wheels inside the Samsung Galaxy Tab that make it work, but what does it feel like? How does it perform? What does it taste like? I've just had a hands on at IFA, and here are the answers to those questions and more. Except the taste one.

Hardware

Small. Compact. Stylish. Fingerprint magnet. Versatile... These are all words I'd use to describe handling the Galaxy Tab in the flesh. The 7-inch tablet easily fit into the width of one of my man-hands, and despite the security cable continuously hoping to drag the device back down to its docking station, I could easily use it with a single hand.

For anyone who's used either the Galaxy S or the Wave smartphones, you'll instantly recognise the familiar TouchWiz user interface. The good news is that it's not as cluttered or choppy as the smartphone version, which could have something to do with the Cortex A8 1.0GHz processor or the fact it runs Android 2.2 rather than 2.1.

It's also evident that the UI has been tweaked a bit to make use of the extra screen real estate. Rather than having four locked shortcut buttons at the bottom of the home screen there are only three – Browser, Applications and Email. The rest of the five home screens are customisable, but those three are constant, even though the Galaxy Tab is capable of acting as a mobile phone with speakerphone, Bluetooth or wired headphones. Below the three shortcut buttons on the bottom of all the home pages are four soft keys which are common to most Android devices.

Applications

But there's another side to the device that separates it from the iPad: Software.

The Readers Hub is a combination application powering a trio of ereading software - Kobo for eBooks, PressDisplay for international newspapers and Zinio for magazines. All three worked exactly as you'd expect, and were quick to launch and turn pages.

Email is almost a carbon copy of the iPad's email app - when vertical, you get to see one email in depth, horizontal you get to see your inbox down a side panel. Swype is also included in the Galaxy Tab, but it isn't as effective an input tool on the larger screen – I immediately preferred typing with two thumbs.

Maps incorporates Google's beta turn-by-turn navigation software (or it will in regions that support it, or not Australia), and although I was inside and unable to get a GPS lock, it was certainly easy to choose a destination and ask the device to navigate there. It was also very quick to respond to the request.

Need For Speed Shift kept telling me it was a "Work in Progress". It looked fantastic though, despite the fact I kept crashing into the wall as I tried to take a photo without spotlights reflecting off the screen.

The camera and photo applications are just like any touchscreen smartphone app. The pics and video looked fine on the Tab's screen, but that's no way to truly test quality.

But there were a few things I wasn't a fan of. I was the first person to get my hands on the particular demo unit I played with, yet within seconds it was a smudgy blur of fingerprint stains. The screen itself was also very reflective, which is likely to mean that using the Tab on the beach is never ever going to happen, and even outside you're likely to struggle.

Plus, there's the invariable fact that when it launches in Australia, things like Google Maps navigation, the Music Hub and possibly the reader hub will be either gimped or omitted from the device thanks to a lack of international content agreements.

But that shouldn't dissuade you. It's still a hot little tablet that's going to serve as an offering for the growing market of people wanting a tablet that isn't an iPad.

[Galaxy Tab on Giz] Nick's at IFA courtesy of Sony


Comments

    nice.
    effectively the same specs as the galaxy s, which in turn is the same specs as the ipad with maybe a more powerful gpu.

    I love the size. and with it being more or less the same res as the ipad, it should function much the same. more suitable widescreen for video... what is it weight wise next to the ipad (which I thought was light, but still heavier than I was expecting, and a little 'too heavy' in my opinion)

    good to hear you weren't totally put off by the UI too.

    Because of the size, I don't see this as necessarily a direct alternative to the iPad. I'm not saying that in an intrinsically negative way - for a lot of people this will be a more practical size - but personally I think the larger screen on the iPad would make a positive difference in how - and for what - I would use a tablet and would be a deciding factor were I choosing between the two (and I suppose you could say I tentatively am). I'm in no rush however, so hopefully Samsung (or someone else) will release a solid Android tablet in the iPad's size range in the meantime.

    Is this just normally reflective, or is it like more reflective than the ipad?

    I ask this question in absolute ignorance, because I don't own a smartphone or an iPad, but would I use this machine for watching movies or TV from files or the web? Would I be able to plug in a portable hard drive, a DVD drive or a USB stick?

      You can watch media files of course, but they will need to be uploaded to the device's storage. These aren't PCs, they don't have USB ports (or at least, standard size) so USB sticks/external hard drives are a no-go. Web-based streaming eg Youtube etc all work fine (though iPad has no Flash support)

      Some more sophisticated solutions eg placeshifting etc are available, but not for everyone.

      Round up: These are perfect for viewing streaming videos, or uploaded files but are not compatible with things like USB sticks/hard drives. The iPad is even worse in this regard, as everything has to be synced via iTunes (including documents), no drag and drop.

        Thanks for that - good explanation of what a pad is and isn't. Cheers!

    I'm neutral to the size. Personally somewhere a bit closer to the iPad would have made it more attractive to me. 7 inches is a bit small and is approaching slate smartphone (especially with the larger ones hitting 4.3 inches) form factor.

    I would like to get one, to have lots of devices in a mobile package. Slightly bigger than a iPhone.
    Apple for all its innovation and style is a very controlling intusive company. Example is QuickTime on PC and how it takes over your system with auto updates and iTunes/i Pod can only be up loaded on one pc. Also they always come out with wish lists...it would be perfect if only it had a camera etc. Samsung makes some good gear and their galaxy pad is smaller than the Ipad which is so big you may as well have a notebook with a protective lid.
    Apple needs competition they have a culture of monopoly, like Microsoft and too many things from the USA,they have lost their democracy.

    HEy I really want to get it i live in Perth Australia and I would like to get one where do I get one any idea.
    WHere I get one?

    While the galaxy pad is also a phone it is a bit big to carry in all circumstances. Can you transfer the sim card between phone and pad to suit needs? Also the specs talk about usb tethering and include a cable which differs from some of the earlier comments?

    Google Maps navigation works on the Desire HD in Australia, so why not on the Galaxy Tab?

    Harvey Norman's website says Google turn-by-Turn Nav is supported by the Gal Tab.

    Have one, love it, size a + fits in handbag, goes with me, beach, wine, shopping. Replaced kindle, have mattscreen protector, ok in sun.
    Daughter leaves her Ipad in office too big to fit h,bag.
    Fast, does all I need & I would be considered a high user.
    Email,s news, investment checking, it has reduced the time in office, sitting outside with wine & typing this with Swype, once learned quick, & learns words quickly. Get one ......

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