Samsung Galaxy Tab review: Samsung Galaxy Tab

Most Android apps, unfortunately, aren't yet designed for the larger screens of tablets. It's a complaint you'll hear echoed in all of our Android tablet reviews so far. With all the extra room, some apps stretch unnaturally to fill the space (Pandora), whereas others appear like large-print versions of their original smartphone incarnations. Until Google commits to the tablet form and offers developers and consumers a way to distinguish tablet-optimized apps from smartphone apps, this is going to be a recurring headache for everyone.

In spite of some frustrations, there are quite a few things the Galaxy Tab nails dead-on that will get Apple fanboys flustered. Because the Tab includes GPS, the included navigation app does an excellent job as an in-car navigation device, offering turn-by-turn directions, points of interest, and voice search (via the integrated microphone).

Another little advantage the Tab has over the iPad is Adobe Flash 10.1 compatibility, allowing all of the Web's Flash video content to play natively in the browser. The results are a little choppy in some cases, but it's nice to have the option.

Performance
Predictably, when you add up the Flash video playback, GPS, and 3G (not to mention Bluetooth and 720p video decoding), battery life can go downhill quickly. By pulling down on the home screen you can access a menu for quickly activating or killing off GPS, Bluetooth, and 3G, helping to squeeze the most from your battery life. Keeping yourself to core features such as Web browsing, music, and e-mail, Samsung expects you'll get around 7 hours of battery life with Wi-Fi active.

As far as media playback performance is concerned, audio, video, and photos all work beautifully. Transferred content--whether by USB or microSD card--is immediately scanned by the device and accessible in the appropriate app. Samsung's years creating highly rated portable media players is evident in little extras, such as audio enhancement settings, video bookmarking, and a mosaic view of video stills for quickly skipping to the perfect spot in a movie.

The movie and video content available through Samsung's Media Hub is priced competitively with Apple's iTunes offerings. Most movies are available to buy for between $9.99 and $17.99, or rent for between $1.99 and $3.99. A decent selection of TV shows is also available for download, with content from NBC, MTV, Warner Bros., Comedy Central, and others, all priced at $1.99. All of the videos in the Media Hub have been optimized for playback on the Galaxy Tab.

As an e-book reader, the Tab has plenty going for it. The included Kindle app grants you access to one of the most popular e-book retailers in the world. Through the Android Market, e-book software from Barnes & Noble and dozens of other sources can be installed. As an alternative to a dedicated e-book reader, such as the Kindle, Nook, or Sony Reader, the Tab's paperback-like dimensions make it a natural fit. On the downside, the Tab's battery life is relatively low; it's considerably heavier than most e-readers; and its highly reflective backlit LCD isn't as revered by book lovers as e-ink screens.

If productivity is your thing, you'll be happy to know that the Tab's calendar and e-mail apps readily took to our Gmail and Exchange accounts. We're also happy to see the ThinkFree Office app preinstalled, which allows you to view and edit any Microsoft Office documents. That said, for serious document editing, it makes more sense to spend the same amount on a Netbook with a larger screen and peripheral support.

Here are our official CNET Labs tested results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours) Web site load time (in seconds; lower is better) Maximum brightness (in cd/m2) Default brightness (in cd/m2) Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.8 8 364 123 674:1

Tabs versus iPads
Now for the big question: iPad or Galaxy Tab? The short answer, in our opinion, is the iPad. It's offered at a better range of pricing options--none of which requires any form of carrier contract. Apple's catalog of apps optimized for tablet-size screens number in the thousands, whereas the Tab has just a handful--and they're not terribly exciting. If you feel that a tablet computer should be more than just a supersize smartphone, the iPad is still the best game in town.

In fairness, what we enjoy most about the Galaxy Tab is that it's not trying to exactly copy the iPad's blueprint for success. Sure, Samsung's notepad, calendar, and photo apps look like pixel-for-pixel reproductions of the iPad's, but let's not overlook the fact that the Tab is half the size of the iPad. It's a different type of product that presents a different use case, one geared more for portability. That said, the Android smartphone market seems to cover a lot of this territory already.

The Tab is also reaching out to all of the people who winced at the iPad's lack of Adobe Flash support, video camera, memory expansion, and drag-and-drop file support. If these are the features that have been holding you back from purchasing a tablet, then the Tab should be a perfect match.

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

MSRP: $499.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov. 14, 2010
  • Wireless Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
    Bluetooth
  • Weight 13.4 oz
  • Type Android 2.2 Froyo OS
  • Service Provider Verizon Wireless
About The Author

Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.