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The introduction of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has been the most dramatic of any consumer electronics device in recent memory, with Apple dragging Samsung through court and blocking the sale of the Tab, only to have the injunction lifted a few weeks later. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the tablet that Apple didn't want you to see, let alone buy. But does this automatically mean that the 10.1 is the tab you've been waiting for?
Full marks to Samsung's design and engineering teams; the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is seductively thin and wonderfully lightweight. Android tablets this year have suffered from being exactly the opposite, with Motorola's Xoom weighing in at nearly 50 per cent heavier, for example. With the core purpose of a tablet computer centring on its portability, the weight of a tablet is central to its success, and the 10.1 passes this test with flying colours.
Speaking of colour, Samsung's 10.1-inch display is a treat for the eyes, with great viewing angles and enough pixels in its 800x1280-pixel resolution to render sharp, clear pictures and text onscreen. Owners of Samsung's Galaxy S II might be slightly disappointed with the difference in contrast between the AMOLED screen on the phone and the PLS LCD panel used in the tablet, but the black levels and clarity are really very good for a screen of this size at this price.
The Galaxy Tab is as thin and light as this picture suggests.
Android fans following the progress of Honeycomb tablets throughout 2011 will notice a distinct absence of ports and sockets around the edge of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. To keep its svelte waistline to 8.6mm, we didn't expect Samsung to include a full-sized USB port, but it is more disappointing that there is no micro-USB port — which is the industry connectivity standard. There's also no expandable memory (several other Android tablets feature an SD card slot) and no TV-out port, like micro HDMI.
Samsung takes the Apple approach to connectivity in the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and will disappoint anyone who has been avoiding the iPad for exactly this reason. Like the iPad, the Galaxy Tab ships without these extra connectivity options, and, like the iPad, users can choose to add these features with expensive adapters. A quick browse of the Samsung US website shows individual adapters ranging in price between US$20 and US$40, which is a lot to pay when the other tablets offer this functionality for free.
User experience and performance
Although Samsung has added a custom layer to the basic Android Honeycomb user experience, the feel of using the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is mostly identical to using any other Honeycomb tablet. Samsung's refinements extend to the system fonts, a collection of widgets and a user-customisable shortcuts panel on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. These adjustments do add to the user experience, but not as much as we'd like. The Honeycomb user experience is far from perfect, and Samsung's TouchWiz makes only a minor contribution in rectifying this.
Touchwiz adds a few nice tweaks, like the shortcuts taskbar.
(Credit: Screenshot CBSi)
Using the tablet is a pleasant experience, with Samsung's capacitive touchscreen working well, and the onscreen keyboard presenting large enough virtual keys to make typing a fairly painless experience.
Powering the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is Nvidia's dual-core Tegra 2 processor and 1GB of RAM. This is the default configuration for Android Honeycomb tablets this year, with the same hardware found in the Motorola Xoom, the Acer Iconia A500 and the Sony Tablet S. Performance for the 10.1 then matches its competition, but fails to better it. For most of the time, the system performance is fine, but you'll notice regular stutters in animations and a noticeable pause when you exit an application and return to the home screen.
We experience two-day battery life using the Galaxy Tab reasonably frequently for web browsing and playing 3D games, like Shadowgun. To push the battery further, we set the brightness to full, switched off wireless connectivity and looped a 720p HD video file. Under these conditions, the Tab lasted for about 5.5 hours before requiring a recharge. In comparison, the iPad 2 will play the same video file for 7.5 hours with its brightness ramped up to maximum.
No one will be choosing a tablet computer based on the quality of its camera, but, for what it's worth, here are a couple of examples of photos taken on the Galaxy Tab 10.1.