Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 review: A pricey tablet not worth a 2-year contract

 

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.0
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 6.0
  • Performance: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is a well-designed tablet with powerful speakers, a responsive screen, and expandable storage.

The Bad The tablet is overpriced, its dual-core CPU has trouble running large 1080p movies smoothly, and its screen color accuracy isn't as high as the previous Tab 10.1's.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 comes up short in performance, features, and value compared with competing tablets.

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The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 was one of the premier Android tablets when it launched in 2011, with specs that, at the very least, matched top-tier Android tablets at the time.

Unfortunately, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 feels almost like a disappointing prequel, rather than a full-fledged "we've improved everything" sequel. Also, the asking price for the cellular versions -- both on and off contract -- is too high, given its offerings.

Design
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is both slightly heavier and a bit less svelte than its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It still sports the same plastic backside, but now comes in titanium silver as opposed to white.

The tablet feels comfortable in my hands, but it's a bit wide and feels awkward when trying to type and hold at the same time, even if you sport alienlike, Arsenio Hall-length fingers, like me. Also, the bezel isn't completely flush with the outer casing of the tablet, creating a slightly annoying edge.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Asus Transformer Pad TF300 Acer Iconia Tab A510
Weight in pounds 1.28 1.24 1.4 1.48
Width in inches (landscape) 10.1 10.1 10.4 10.3
Height in inches 6.9 6.9 7.1 6.9
Depth in inches 0.38 0.34 0.38 0.46
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.74 0.8 0.9 0.8

When held in landscape, the top edge of the tablet seats five features: from left, there's a power/sleep button, a volume rocker, a 32GB-capacity microSD slot, an IR blaster, and a headphone jack. In addition, two 2-inch-long speakers stretch vertically along the left and right bezel. A dock connector and microphone pinhole sit along the bottom edge.

The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 trades in its predecessor's 2-megapixel front camera for a VGA one, and while it retains a 3-megapixel rear camera, the LED support light has been excised. There's no HDMI option, unfortunately, requiring you to purchase an additional accessory if you have plans to connect the tablet to a TV.

Josh Miller/CNET

Software features
The Tab 2 10.1 is the second Samsung tablet, after the Tab 2 7.0, to ship with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3, to be precise) installed. Although the Wi-Fi version is now upgradeable to Jelly Bean, there are currently no plans to offer the same for the cellular versions.

Samsung's TouchWiz UX skin is of course included and comes with custom Samsung apps like Music Hub, Media Hub, and Game Hub, a built-in screenshot app, and the Mini Apps tray located on the bottom of the screen. Tapping it brings up a tray of apps consisting of a calculator, notes, calendar, music player, and clock. However, the most useful of these is still the task manager, which allows you to quickly kill any app running in the background; this comes in handy when apps become otherwise unresponsive.

Josh Miller/CNET

The basic look and design of ICS are retained, just with a TouchWiz skin and a few extra shortcuts for quickly turning off Wi-Fi, GPS, screen rotation, and so on.

Peel's Smart Remote app
The IR blaster found on the Tab 2 7.0 makes its way to the Tab 2 10.1 and, in conjunction with Peel's included Smart Remote app, helps turn your tablet into a remote control for your TV. Peel can take the place of your cable or satellite channel guide and display a list of shows currently playing locally on your cable or satellite provider's channels. Go to the currently playing tab and click on a show, and your TV switches to the appropriate channel. Peel does a great job of holding your hand initially through a step-by-step set-up wizard. The set-up requires only that you know your TV manufacturer's name, your cable/satellite provider, and your ZIP code. Thankfully, Peel spares us from having to know any more-detailed information; however, be aware that Smart Remote does not work with regular monitors, only TVs or monitor/TV combos.

Once it's set up, you can browse shows by category, mark shows as favorites, or prevent shows you'd rather not see listed from showing up again. Thankfully, Smart Remote now syncs with over-the-air listings, but its accuracy as to which shows and channels were available to me left a bit to be desired.

Navigating the interface took some getting used to, but was easy enough to pick up; however, I took issue with the method by which cable TV screen menus are controlled by the interface. Peel went with a swipe interface that requires you to flick the screen in one of four directions to highlight different menus. While this method works, and after some time could be gotten used to, I would have much preferred more direct directional controls.

As I learned with the Tab 2 10.1, Smart Remote's accuracy is very closely dictated by the information cable and satellite providers choose to release. So, while the Smart Remote guide might have indicated that "Law & Order" was on right now on Channel 12, selecting it didn't always take me to the appropriate channel. In addition, sometimes the channel wasn't available to me or there was a different show on the channel at that time.

While Peel's Smart Remote is still missing some features, it's well-implemented overall. However, I'm still waiting for Hulu and Netflix integration, and an actual search feature would be useful. Also, while I found that the remote reliably functions from 10 to 20 feet away, performance is definitely more reliable within 8 feet. Also, the tablet does not handle obstructions like coffee tables as well as my normal remote does, requiring you to be much more precise when aiming it.

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Where to Buy

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 (AT&T)

Part Number: CNET-Samsung-Galaxy-Tab-2-10.1-AT

Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity IEEE 802.11n
    Bluetooth 3.0
    IrDA
    IEEE 802.11b
    IEEE 802.11g
  • Weight 20.5 oz
  • Service Provider AT&T