Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G: Does Speed Matter?

The Galaxy Tab 8.9 isn't a new tablet, but the internal chipset that allows it to access Telstra's 1800Mhz LTE network certainly is. This week's Mobile Monday ponders whether that's enough to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Why It Matters

We're still in the birthing stages of 4G here in Australia, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G has its place in history; it's the first 4G-enabled Tablet sold in the country. It's a Telstra exclusive — which makes sense, given that Optus' 4G network is still a number of months away.

What We Like

Gizmodo US reviewed the 8.9 Galaxy Tab some months ago,, and I don't particularly want to reinvent the wheel here, especially as most of the points raised in the original review still apply. It's a nippy enough performer for a Honeycomb-based tablet. Its size makes it extremely portable while not leaving it so small as to lose the advantages of a tablet over a smartphone.

Then there's the 4G speed. 4G can deliver much better speed than 3G —under the right conditions, that is. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G can really fly; indeed, I can say that in one respect, it's the fastest tablet I've ever used. I set out to test the Tab 8.9 last week across Sydney's CBD in the same fashion as I'd already tested Telstra and Vividwireless' competing 4G services, and hit one notable snag. I could get the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G to connect over 4G, but for whatever reason, the Telstra 4G USB stick I was using sat resolutely on 3G. It had full 3G signal, but that's still a step behind 4G, making head to head comparison somewhat useless, except to point out that the same kind of glitch could hit the 8.9 Tab — or in other words, even under Telstra's claimed 4G areas, don't always expect to get 4G speeds.

So what kinds of speeds did I see?

Location Average Ping (ms) Average Download (Mbps) Average Upload (Mbps)
Central 39 43.43 13.11
Town Hall 53 28.95 14.99
Martin Place 67.66 24.4 10.02
Circular Quay 55.33 15.8 13.3

I had 4G signal according to the Galaxy Tab 8.9's signal meter the entire time I was testing, and at least in this aspect, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G is very impressive indeed.

What We Don't Like

When the Galaxy Tab 8.9 first emerged, the US review noted it as the "best" Android tablet — and it arguably was, for its time. The problem there is that since then we've seen a bevy of newer, faster tablets hit the market. By comparison there, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G comes off second best.

Specs 8.9 inch 1280x800 screen 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor 1GB RAM 3MP rear-facing camera, 2MP front-facing No expandable storage 4G LTE and Wi-Fi Weight: 0.4kg Price: 16GB/$720 32GB/$840

Ice Cream Sandwich is also a factor here; launching a "new" tablet running Honeycomb feels lazy. This is the same criticism I had of the Motorola Xoom 2, another tablet we waited some months before Australian retail availability.

The plastic back of the 8.9 does, as the original review pointed out, feel a little sturdier than on the 10.1, but I'm still not personally a big fan. It's not quite a deal-breaker in terms of a buy/don't buy decision, but it's certainly something I'd suggest you road test in the store to make sure it doesn't overly annoy you. Likewise, there's no expandable storage, or for that matter ports beyond headphones and Samsung's proprietary docking port. Whether that bothers you on a tablet may well just be a matter of preference and usage.

Should You Buy It?

The Galaxy Tab 4G is light, reasonably nippy in performance and blindingly fast when you can get a 4G connection. That'd make it a definite must-buy, right? Wrong.

The outright pricing Telstra's offering for the 4G Galaxy Tab 8.9 absolutely slaughters any sense of value. When the Tab 8.9 launched in the US in October, it cost $US470. Somehow, waiting six months and adding 4G capability to that sees the price skyrocket up to $720. Even with 4G speeds, that's not enough to make it a must-buy tablet, especially with so many other tablets — including the promise of other 4G capable models — due this year.


Comments

    of course not. better to have an iPad3 on 2G rather than an Android on 4G

    The first 10.1 tab with 4G, I will buy.

      Been out for a while, but only on Verizon. Guess you didn't buy that one.

    I got the 8.9 3G+wifi version about a month ago, then started hearing about the 4G version. I love the size of the 8.9 but at this price, I think this is too much (also no change in hardware other than 4G and no ICS yet).

    Suspect this is targeted at business users (who can afford the plan and device). I'm happy to be on prepaid 3G and use wifi when I can. Maybe if 4G was consistent in speed and 4G was affordable for the average user. Not sure what 4G prices are but expect Telstra won't be cheap.

    Am expecting that 8.9 3G+wifi version will start to come down so I recommend people to be on the look out for that. Try walking around reading with an 8.9 and just feels more comfortable but that is just me.

    Had to laugh at the 2G comment;) I can only imagine the Apple engineers slaving day and night to release the "iPad3 2G" model. Somehow don't think that is going to happen and they will raise the benchmark again (win-win for everyone regardless of which camp you are in).

    The thing that annoys me about Telstra is that they take a typical android device, add a 4G chip and slap an extra $300 on top. They did that with the HTC Velocity and now the Galaxy Tab 8.9. People are stupid to pay for that, regardless of the speeds. The damn thing doesn't even come with ICS!?!?!

    I'd say the $300 jump in price is more typical of the Australian price boost we normally get copped with rather than the 4G. Telstra now just have some small justification without any competition.

    And the retail industry in the country wonders why they are all going broke.. *sigh*

    Im not a computer person at all but upon reading alot of reviews on the Samsung Tablet everyone is commenting on ICS.... Can I ask what ICS is?
    I really want to buy a tablet of some sort but everytime I lean towards Sumsung, my gut is telling me to go with the iPad 4g... Any suggestions???

      ICS = Ice Cream Sandwich aka Android 4.0. The latest version. (Google likes to give Android revisions cute little sweet bread names).

    i got this thing on the day it became available. What a mistake. Slow as all hell, clunky, bug ridden and an operating system that is a year old with no upgrade in sight. My wife's 1st gen ipad performs better in every way except heft and connection speeds in the middle of the CBD (sometimes). To think that for a little extra i could have got the new ipad -i feel embarassed.

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