Samsung Galaxy Tab Review: A Pocketable Train Wreck

This is it. The Galaxy Tab is the first Android tablet meant for humans. But is it actually fit for humans?

Put simply, the Galaxy Tab is the first post-iPad tablet that matters, because it's the first tablet that's trying to be legitimate competition. It aims to break a lot of ground. Powered by iOS's biggest rival, the Tab essentially kicks off the next generation of tablets. And, at the size of a paperback, it's one of the first to seriously test how well a 7-inch tablet really works. There's a lot riding on this thing.

Here's the thing about tablets: size is everything. Size is the whole point. It's what makes browsing, reading, creating and sharing better on a tablet than on a phone, even if they're both running the same software.

If you take iPhone apps and simply scale them up for the iPad, most of them don't feel right. If you take Android apps and scale them up for the Tab, the majority of them - Twitter, Facebook, Angry Birds - work perfectly. (Except for when they don't, like The Weather Channel.) That's because the Galaxy Tab is small enough that apps simply blown up a little bit still fundamentally work. Which means, conversely, that there's almost no added benefit to using the Tab over a phone. It's not big enough. Web browsing doesn't have greater fidelity. I don't get more out of Twitter. A magazine app would be cramped.

Videos do look better than they do on a phone, but a bigger tablet would be even better.

There is no way to not feel like a total dorkface while typing on this thing. In portrait, it's like tapping on a massive, nerdy phone. In landscape, it's just dumb. You still have to thumb type, only you're stretching out further, and text entry swallows up the entire screen. Swype might be dandy on a phone, but on a seven-inch screen it doesn't work so well - you have to travel a lot further to sketch out words. In other words, you get the worst of a phone's input problems - amplified.

In the places where Samsung tries to make the Tab feel more like a tablet than a big phone, it's not afraid to borrow liberally from what Apple's done on the iPad. The music app (a huge improvement over the standard Android player) bears an uncanny resemblance to the iPad's iPod app, while the faux-realness of the Calendar, Contacts and Memo apps feel like Chinatown knockoffs of Cupertino software.

The Tab feels like a grab bag of neglect, good intentions and poor execution. Example: Samsung's built-in task manager, with one-touch kill switches to free up gobs of RAM, is plenty effective at dealing with apps running in the background. But why does it have to be there in the first place. Should you really be actively managing background apps?

Feels dense and sturdy (if surprisingly thick) - probably the best constructed Samsung mobile device ever. Screen is pretty killer. The pixel density - 1024x600 pixels packed into a 7-inch display - makes everything from reading to watching video seriously pleasant. (Put another way: Reading Kindle books feels better than on the iPad.) The viewing angles are vast like the BP oil spill. The colours are nice and saturated - at least when you turn off the "power saving mode", which douses the screen with a sickly yellow hue. Battery life is thoroughly phenomenal: Four hours of constant, heavy usage over 3G - Google Talk, browsing, YouTube - only knocked it down to 40 per cent. Building controls for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS into the Android notification shade makes it convenient to turn stuff off to stretch the battery further.

This thing is just a mess. It's like a tablet drunkenly hooked up with a phone, and then took the foetus swimming in a Superfund cleanup site. The browser is miserable, at least when Flash is enabled. It goes catatonic, scrolling is laggy, and it can get laughably bad. When better browsing is half the reason to go for a larger screen, that's insanity. Not only does it use a stupid proprietary charging/syncing cable, It won't charge when you plug it into a laptop. (Update: It's not a proprietary cable, but good luck borrowing one from a friend.) Neither of the cameras are anything to write home about (sample photos/video here). Costing $999 off-contract is embarrassing when the iPad starts at $629. (Update: Fair point, the iPad 3G starts at $799. But it's got a bigger screen, and this thing still sucks.)

Typically, the point of a compromise is to bring together the best of both sides. The Tab is like a compromise's evil twin, merging the worst of a tablet and the worst of a phone. It has all of the input problems of a tablet, with almost none of the consumption benefits. With more apps geared to its tweener size, it could be a lot better, but it's not clear they're coming anytime soon, if ever. The Tab is an awkward first attempt at this kind of tablet - wait for somebody else to do it better.


Comments

    sounds like someone has sour grapes

    So El Jobso was correct?
    7" isn't big enough for a tablet...

    And the pricepoint is indeed atrocious! How can Samsung charge more than Apple especially given the significantly smaller screen size? The world has turned on it's head!

    Sorry but this review is what sucks. Can't believe the evident bias of the reviewer who obviously has well and truly drunk the iCoolaid!

    "The browser is miserable, at least when Flash is enabled." - At least it HAS flash, but i'm guessing an internet device doesn't need flash right? Right? I mean it's not like anyone on the net still uses that!

    And please, stop with the... "Oh my god it does something remotely like apple and so therefore is a ripoff" You do realise that Apple has borrowed heavily from others too, and they didn't INVENT the idea of a tablet!

    This review is useless, and once again proves that the quality of gizmodo articles is dropping. Fail!

      Glenn, how on earth is it better to have flash that cripples your browser than to not have it? Tablet computing is clearly about the 'experience of consumption' and having to wait while you zoom and scroll seriously destroys that experience. Besides, flash is quickly being made extinct by html5. However much you hate apple, you have to admit they're paving the way for the future, not creating average products for the present.

        Actually Jase, I don't hate Apple at all, I just don't hail them as my saviour. I'm not saying that it's good to have flash crippling your browser, in fact it's disappointing to hear that it isn't working properly. At a guess I'd say that both Samsung and Adobe are working on making flash work better in this context. I can't swallow however the Apple 'paving the way' stuff, as although HTML5 is going to be great (key word is 'Going'), apple aren't the only ones behind it! It isn't revolutionary to have a device that doesn't support the internet that we have NOW, it's stupid.

        I take issue with this review as it fails any objective journalistic test, and falls into the category of fanboyism. So, you might LOVE apple, but you have to admit that this article isn't objective in the least, and is essentially useless.

        Your comment is broken. Some points you may want to know.

        Android lets you one-click/press enable Flash from within the browser page. This is a better solution than always on or always off.

        The iPad is clearly about the 'experience of consumption' and not Tablet computing in general. There are many people who wish to use tablets for content creation.

        Flash is not disappearing any time soon. All major video sites still support Flash as the default video playback container. The Apple site still does not use HTML5 video.

        Apple/iDevices have only made an impact in terms of perception (even then it's mainly to portray Flash negatively rather than HTML5 as superior).

        iOS device browsers constitute approximately 1 percent of all web browser usage. You can throw in Safari as well if you like - that will get you an extra 5 percent.

        The other 94 percent - the majority run Flash.

        If/when Flash becomes extinct it certainly won't be because of Apple.

    Interesting read?? Seems to be getting pretty positive reviews on other sites.. Quite surprised to see such a slap in the face to the Tab. Personally, im going to go hands on before I believe a review like this..

    I really do get the feeling from all this, that Samsung just does not pay enough attention to their software. they seem to go "this will work, and be cool, in theory" then don't look much past that...

      Yes it's the quality standard I've come to expect from anything out of Korea.

      China = fail quality.
      Korea = thanks for trying quality.

    The positive comments about reading on the seven inch 1024x600 display make me want to play with a Nook Color even more.

    Really biased review.. don listen to these guys just wait till you get to try it yourself...

    Not good journalism Gizmodo. Matt Buchanan clearly depised the Tab and he maybe right, alternatively it maybe just an Apple fanboy's rant. There's no way of knowing.
    Rather than objective critism, we get terms "total dorkface" and "foetus swimming in a Superfund cleanup site". Really? Other than schoolyard name calling, pretty meaningless. I find it hard to believe that by being three inches bigger than a phone and three smaller than the iPad, you go from cool kid to 'total dorkface' by typing on it.
    Generally I find the Android browser marginally better than iPhone browser so I'm a bit suspect about calling the browser miserable too. Is this because Samsung is using a different browser or has stuffed up the stock one when translating it to a higher resolution? It may have helped to describe how it's different to the standard Android browser.
    I was considering the Tab simply because I read and find reading from phone is uncomfortable and my iPad and is awkward and heavy for extended periods. I don't find ebook readers versatile enough but other than the insane price tag this may have been about right. After the your review I'm none the wiser.

    Considering every other review I have read about this tablet have been pretty positive, this review is purely bias towards an Apple fanboy! 

    I have both an iPhone 4 and android phone with full flash. And while I agree that with flash loaded a page becomes choppy, but just having the ability to run full flash is a big plus for me for a full Internet experience. You don't even need to load up flash if you didn't need it. I've also ran comparison between loading website without flash on both devices and Froyo beats it everytime. 
    Maybe a good comparison would be to load a few website side by side with an iPad without flash turned on to see the real world comparison.

    Just another review from a true believer of Steve Job being god and him saying that 7" tablet is DOA!

    Yeah agree with most of the comments here, the reviewer seems to be hell-bent on trashing the Tab from the beginning... if it was cheaper I'd still get this, but at $999 its a bit much really

    You guys pretty much did the exact same thing with the Nokia N8, but instead of writing an obviously influenced review you didn't even write one at all. Who is paying you? You are horrible journalists.

    You don't need to look far to see that Gizmodo is Apple biased.

    Just go back through the articles to a week before and a week after an Apple product is released.
    In that period, its hard to find a NON Apple article.

    During these times I tend to ignore Gizmodo until their hyper-reaction to a new Apple product wains.

    Poor poor stuff Gizmodo. Given just about every other review of this product has come out with it being rated quite highly, it seems obvious that you guys have let your pro-Apple bias get in the way yet again.
    Seriously, is this for real? Not only is it a ridiculous review, it's written in a manner a retarded 14 year old would be ashamed of. "In landscape, it's dumb" - how about that for a fascinating analysis!
    Get a clue guys, and at least try to be objective.

    Oh btw, you rip the Tab for not having decent cameras... May I point out that the iPad DOESN'T have A camera?

    Same old Samung , this baby's little bro the Galaxy S phone has all the grunt under the hood to be the best Android phone out there , but the Samsung's software/UI is shite to be honest . Ridiculous price , Gingerbread out soon & they announce the next version ( well , same but with the AMOLED screen ) is out early 2011 ? Who the hell is going to buy this version & why didn't they think of these things . But....in saying that I have read 5-6 other reviews from other sites that are alot more complimentary . I think slight bias , but I would like to see this thing when it runs the tablet dedicated Gingerbread..me thinks ifanboy reviewer will be sad .

    Fair review and all the comments that are complaining about the review must come from the Android Fanboi Crowd (Or Apple Haters). Sorry 7 inches isn't going to cut it. Not that I'm going to get an iPad anytime soon, but it looks like we are still waiting for an iPad killer. I was thinking that this one might come close... Bah-bow...

    "...feel like a total dorkface"
    "...it’s just dumb"
    "...Chinatown knockoffs of Cupertino software"
    "...like a tablet drunkenly hooked up with a phone, and then took the foetus swimming in a Superfund cleanup site" - I have NO idea how to interpret this

    Yes there are some good points raised in this article and iPad comparisons are inevitable, but I was hoping for a more lengthy, in-depth and objective "review" of this device - sans the creative wordsmithing - and this isn't it.

    I picked up my Galaxy Tab yesterday and so far am loving it! I do agree that Samsung has done something weird to the nav bar at the top of the browser (It just doesn't seem to be very sensitive, and the buttons are kind of a weird proportion), but in terms of actually 'consuming' websites it's perfect.

    As for the 'scaling' of apps, for some apps it's perfect and just works (Angry Birds for example) where as other app's I wish they had a specific tablet version (Facebook and Twitter I'm looking at you) that would take more advantage of real estate, but that being said, at least I can use the app if I want to, and I don't just have to look it up in the browser like the iPad.

    I feel that the Samsung Galaxy Tab will really come in to it's own when a few more tablet specific apps are developed that take advantage of the bigger screen, but I don't regret being an early adopter at all, I'm loving it.

    Just like the iPad did, the Tab needs a bit of time to mature, especially in terms of getting people on board with developing for it, but I have no doubt that will happen.

    I feel that the Tab has it's place, just like the iPad does. I hope this had kind of given a bit more information for those interested in buying one.. If you have any questions or want photos of it or anything like that I'm happy to oblige.
    Cheers,
    Mitchell.

    Pretty amazing comments in here...it seems that if it's not an Apple fan commenting on how right Jobs is, it's an Android fan saying Gizmodo edititors are biased.

      Rather than being Android fanboys, it seems most, myself included, are pretty annoyed at the standard of journalism for a supposed review. I like my gadgets, Apple ones included, and would have appreciated something a bit more disiplined than shallow badmouthing.

    I'll only agree with this review on 2 points.

    1: software - the ONLY place samsung generally fails. I <3 Samsung devices, they mostly have the highest end hardware but even in the case of a Galaxy S (ive got one) Samsung Kies which comes with it - JUST isnt as good =(

    2: PRICE! - my god so expensive =( The actual hardware specs of the device (CPU / RAM / fact that you dont have to buy a second ipad just to get 3G) are what kills it. They really couldve shortened the specs in favor of a cheaper price point.

    After extensively using a test device given to me by my samsung rep, I really think this is a very solid attempt at a tablet. I dont agree with most of these points.

    The device when using flash seemed to be very usable, how you had a bad experience with it is unknown. I agree with the swype thing, but as a Galaxy S owner - i really dont use it that much anyway. I found most of the input to be responsive.

    For the record, mine charged via laptop when the drivers where installed -_______-

    Gizmodo loses all objectivity when it comes to any Apple product and its no surprise that any competitive technology is never as good as an Apple product. I suspect the staff get a lot of freebies from Apple.

    To me at least, I think that any Gizmodo review of Apple products is worthless as there is no objectivity, just blind devotion. By the same token,I ignore any Apple reviews on the sites that hate apple (theINQ for example).

    Objectivity should be the key thing for all reporters, something very much missing here. (Reads like a high school student's blog.)

    I was going to say that this review was a load of crap, but it seams that everyone else beat me too it.

    I would cry out "Have some integrity!" but I am not sure that the author would care!

    Are Aussie comments even published on the US site? This segregation is annoying sometimes.

    I'm neither an Apple or Android user, and I agree that the article was pretty poor. Gizmodo seems more like entertainment and less like useful journalism every day.

      No. While we'd love to better integrate comments with the US, it's sadly not technically possible.

    I laffed when I read this article....it's epic.

    Have you considered the possibility that Matt is not Apple biased and that what he is saying may possibly be objective? Probably not because your all seemingly so blinded by YOUR ANDROID fanboyism, so please don't be hypocritical.

    I have an iPad and an iPhone, but don't get me wrong, my next phone will be an android device.

    But I will stick to my iPad, there's just something about it that makes it so great to use.

    And as much as I am an Apple fanboy I am more than happy to admit that there are many things that the iPad doesn't have that I would like.

    *shrugs*

    'dorkface' and 'dumb' are terrible words to use in a review. Are you the same guy that wrote a review a few weeks ago using similarly poor words such as 'idiotic'?

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