Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 (4G, 32GB) review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 (4G, 32GB)

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Great lightweight design. 4G network ready. Good LCD display. OGG, DivX and Xvid playback.

The Bad No TV-out. No expandable memory. 4G hampered by slow browser. Slow battery charging.

The Bottom Line Despite a more portable size and weight, and 4G network radios, the Tab 8.9 does little that surpasses previous Galaxy Tabs or other products in this category as a whole.

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Samsung's Galaxy Tab 8.9 has a lot going for it. It packs the popular Galaxy Tab 10.1 into a smaller, more portable package and it has the honour of being Australia's first 4G tablet . This all seems to add up, and yet, we're still not sold on Samsung's latest slate.

Design

At risk of attracting a vulgar image in the minds of our more tender readers, the phrase "if you've seen one, you've seen them all" is most apt here. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 appears exactly as you might expect, just like a slightly smaller Galaxy Tab 10.1. Its 8.9-inch LCD screen is set within an inch-thick bezel, with stainless steel trim and an attractive white plastic cover on the underside. Along the top you'll find buttons for power and volume alongside a 3.5mm headphone socket, and a proprietary charging socket on the bottom bookended by small external speakers.

You'll notice this description makes no mention of an HDMI port for TV out, a microSD card slot or a USB port of any size. If you're looking for this sort of connectivity and interested in the Tab 8.9, Samsung does sell a range of accessories that attach to the proprietary port. Each single-purpose attachment will set you back between AU$40 and AU$50 each, though.

At 455 grams, the 8.9-inch version of the Galaxy Tab is a fair bit lighter than the 10-inch model, which is always a good thing when you're speaking about portable electronics. The tablet's PLS TFT display is bright and colourful, and offers excellent off-axis viewing angles.

User experience

If you've spent any time with the Galaxy Tab 10.1, you'll know exactly what to expect here. The 8.9 shares the same Android Honeycomb base with Samsung's TouchWiz UI on top. TouchWiz for tablets isn't a particularly aggressive user interface overlay, offering only minor adjustments to the default Android experience, including a number of unique widgets and a handy quick launch taskbar, which is visible at the bottom of the home screen.

Performance-wise, the 8.9 seems to be a couple of steps behind the 10.1, and so behind much of its direct competition as a result. In BrowserMark benchmarks, the 8.9 manages a result nearly half of what the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and iPad 2 score, and on the Android-specific Vellamo benchmark, it is also a fair bit off the pace. Interestingly, the 8.9 outperforms a number of its competitors in a straight OpenGL 3D rendering benchmark, suggesting an issue relating directly with the way it browses the web, and not a slow CPU.

BrowserMark Benchmark

  • 96,288
    Asus Transformer Prime
  • 90,748
    Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
  • 76,354
    Motorola Xoom 2
  • 57,254
    Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

What's disappointing is that both BrowserMark and Vellamo test web-based functionality, like JavaScript execution, and this tablet's below par results surprise us given that this is also Australia's first tablet with 4G connectivity. Shouldn't the fastest download speeds be matched with the best web experience? Why should the 8.9 be so far behind its fellow Galaxy Tab brethren in this regard? 4G speeds are definitely present here, and you can see that by running speed tests, but without blazing fast speeds in the browser, the 4G factor will go mostly unnoticed.

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Where to Buy

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 (4G, 32GB)

Part Number: CNETSamsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 (4G, 32GB)

Typical Price: $840.00

See manufacturer website for availability.