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

Hardware features
The Tab 2 10.1 houses a 1GHz dual-core OMAP 4430 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. Tablet mainstays like 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi support, Bluetooth 3.0, and GPS are included as well as gyroscope, accelerometer, and digital compass support.

Josh Miller/CNET

The larger speakers deliver louder sound, but unfortunately don't exceed the apparent quality limitations most tablets adhere to.

Performance
The Tab 2 10.1 uses the same PLS-based panel tech the Tab 10.1 does, running at a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels. Its clarity is as high as the original Tab's, but either there are different tiers of quality when it comes to PLS panels, or Samsung really didn't devote much time or effort to calibrating the Tab 2 10.1's color. Like the Tab 2 7.0, the Tab 2 10.1's screen looks noticeably greener and colors appear washed out compared with those of the original 10.1.

Tested spec Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Acer Iconia Tab A510 Asus Transformer Pad TF300
Maximum brightness (Super IPS) 380 cd/m2 336 cd/m2 353 cd/m2 331 cd/m2
Default brightness 213 cd/m2 336 cd/m2 118 cd/m2 135 cd/m2
Maximum black level (Super IPS) 0.39 cd/m2 0.30 cd/m2 0.22 cd/m2 0.22 cd/m2
Default black level 0.22 cd/m2 0.30 cd/m2 0.08 cd/m2 0.09 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 974:1 1,120:1 1,475:1 1,504:1
Maximum contrast ratio (Super IPS) 968:1 1,120:1 1,604:1 1,500:1

When swiping through screens and navigating menus, the screen matches the sensitivity of some the most responsive Android screens out there, like on the Transformer Pad TF300. Also, apps launch without delay and settings menu options appear readily after tapping them.

Web and app download speeds under Wi-Fi matched most other Android tablets when within 5 feet of our test router, and even when up to 20 feet away, the connection retained much of its strength. While scrolling through Web sites was smooth, there was a noticeable degree of clipping as the processor attempted to keep up with its rendering duties. Scrolling through a page once or twice, however, solved the clipping issue.

Josh Miller/CNET

I had the opportunity to test only the Sprint version of the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. The tablet includes the app Sprint Hotspot, which allows you to use the Tab 2 10.1 as a hotspot providing an Internet connection for other devices. At and around the San Francisco CNET building, I could only get a maximum of three bars and as a result, download speeds were much slower other 4G devices under more prolific carriers.

Thanks to its hardware scalability, I used Riptide GP as a games performance benchmark. Depending on the speed of the tablet's CPU, Riptide GP will deliver a noticeable increase or decrease in frame rate. The Tab 2 10.1's TI OMAP 4430 CPU delivers decent, playable frame rates but can't approach the nearly 60fps smoothness we see on something like the Nexus 10. It's not choppy and it's pretty consistent, but it's just not as buttery-smooth.

As mentioned, the Tab 2 10.1 has a front-facing VGA camera and a 3-megapixel back camera. Compared with the Tab 10.1, the difference between images and video recorded on the front camera was quickly apparent. A picture of my face taken with the VGA camera, for example, lacked many embarrassing and detailed blemishes, while a similar pic from the Tab 10.1's 2-megapixel retained many of the facial "features" I'd rather people not see.

Josh Miller/CNET

The 3-megapixel back camera fared better, capturing more details, but the Tab 2 10.1's pictures still looked washed out and lacked detail and contrast. While the Tab 10.1's camera took a longer time to focus, it resulted in higher-quality pictures.

The 720p video playback from outside sources was smooth and crisp; 1080p files that were only a couple hundred megabytes in size, played fine, but files that were larger, say 1GB, looked less like a moving picture and more like a slideshow of images. That's one of the ways that Tegra 3 clearly enhances the Android tablet experience.

Our Tab 2 10.1's battery drained fairly quickly with normal use over the course of several hours. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 6.2

Conclusion
The Tab 2 10.1 is available starting at $499 from T-Mobile and AT&T, and $549 from Sprint. Those are the month-to-month contract prices. Signing a two-year contract gets you $100 off at each carrier. The problem here however is twofold: First, the tablet market is still too young and moves way too fast to commit two full years to one. And two, even when it launched in 2012, I had a difficult time justifying even $400 for the Wi-Fi version of the Tab 2 10.1.

The reality is that 4G tablets are just expensive -- thanks to the hardware, yes, but much more significantly to the licensing fees the manufacturer has to pay in order to use that hardware. That’s what drives up the price and what makes 4G tablets a tough sell.

So while the Wi-Fi version is a fine tablet, especially if you can get it for less than $400, the 4G cellular version isn't worth its high asking price given the state of the rest of its specs.

With that kind of competition, it's difficult to see the Tab 2 10.1 as anything other than an overpriced sequel that comes up short in performance and isn't exactly setting the world afire with unique features. IR blasters are nice, but can't compare with HDMI and quad-core power.

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    Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 (AT&T)

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

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    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
    About The Author

    Eric Franklin is a section editor covering how to and tablets. He's also co-host of CNET's do-it-yourself and how-to show, The Fix and is a 20-year tech industry veteran.