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Editor's note: Thanks to the release of recent, high-quality tablets, the overall score of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (Verizon) has been adjusted down from 7.7 to 7.0.
From a design perspective, no Android 3.0-based tablet has matched the iPad 2's no-nonsense aesthetic. The iPad 2 is sleek, sexy, thin, and light, with a minimalist design that eschews extra ports. Every Honeycomb tablet released so far has struggled to match that appeal.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the first Honeycomb tablet that is not only as thin as the iPad 2, but is actually lighter.
Design and features
The first thing that struck us upon taking the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 out of its box was its slim profile. In fact, when it's lying next to the iPad 2 we honestly can't tell which tablet is thicker and unfortunately we don't have a micrometer handy to get down into the business of microns. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 weighs 1.24 pounds, compared with the iPad 2's 1.32 pounds.
Rather than several paragraphs filled with confusing numbers, I thought a chart would be much more appropriate. Here's a handy chart to illustrate the size differences between the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and other recent tablets.
|Asus Eee Pad Transformer||Acer Iconia Tab A500||Motorola Xoom||Apple iPad 2||T-Mobile G-Slate||Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1|
|Weight in pounds||1.52||1.66||1.62||1.34||1.38||1.24|
|Width in inches (landscape)||10.7||10.2||9.8||9.5||9.6||10.1|
|Height in inches||6.9||6.9||6.6||7.3||5.8||6.9|
|Depth in inches||0.51||0.51||0.5||0.34||0.49||0.34|
|Side bezel width in inches (landscape)||1.1||0.8||0.6||0.8||0.9||0.8|
Taking another page from the iPad 2's school of sexy tablet building, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has one of the cleanest designs we've seen in a tablet. From the front, its 10.1-inch screen is surrounded by its 0.8-inch black bezel and a silver aluminum outline at the edge. In the top middle sits its 2-megapixel front-facing camera.
On the top edge from left to right are the power/sleep button, volume rocker, and headphone jack. A speaker adorns the right and left sides and the universal connection port is found on the bottom edge, right beside a microphone pinhole.
There are no USB or HDMI ports. And, try as we might, we couldn't find ports for either SD cards or SIM cards. We're hoping Samsung's final release version will make finding the ports a lot easier.
The back of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 sports an 8-megapixel camera at the top and a plain white back. It's the feel of the plastic back that is the most disappointing aspect of the Tab 10.1's design. It doesn't feel as solid as the iPad 2, and as a result, doesn't feel as comfortable in our hands. Still, despite its 10.1-inch screen, the tablet never felt the least bit bulky.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a Google Experience tablet, meaning it uses the base version of Honeycomb 3.1, with no customizations to its interface; however, Samsung does include its Samsung Apps, um, app. Samsung Apps gives you access to the company's own application store.
For more information on version 3.1 of Honeycomb, check out the Honeycomb section of our original Xoom review.
This is Samsung's first tablet with a 10.1-inch screen, and it looks fantastic. The Super PLS-based display, with its 1,280x800-pixel resolution, produces a clear, crisp image, with a wide viewing angle that looks great when Web surfing or browsing the app store.
Angry Birds Rio actually looked better on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 than on the iPad 2, with more vibrant and appropriately saturated colors. "Toy Story 3" was vibrant and colorful--as colorful as the movie looks running on the iPad 2--and teemed with more life (yes, even in a cartoon) than on the other Android tablets. The speakers are powerful, and capable of deep, thumping bass.
The 8-megapixel rear camera took high-quality pictures for a tablet camera, with a sharpness and level of color vibrancy that was unmatched. The default camera app isn't the stock Honeycomb one. It has a slightly more streamlined interface and includes a few options like white-balance setting and a timer, but is missing a zoom function. We also noticed that when panning around, before taking a still pic, the video frame rate was noticeably laggy compared with the Acer Iconia Tab A500 or the Xoom.
The tablet includes the Nvidia Tegra 2 Dual Core processor and navigating feels just as zippy here as it did on any previous Honeycomb tablet.
Web site speed was some of the fastest we've seen. Both for low-bandwidth sites like Giantbomb.com and somewhat higher-bandwidth sites like CNET, we saw equal performance from the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the reigning tablet speed champ, the iPad 2. However, the Tab 10.1 provides consistently faster speeds when going to a much busier site like CBSnews.com. Still, that difference only ranged from 1 to 3 seconds. Look for a new video competition featuring the Tab 10.1 fairly soon.
Two apps unique to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 are included on the device: the aforementioned Samsung Apps, and Pulse. With Samsung Apps, essentially all we were able to do was download Rilakkuma pics. While we enjoy cute Japanese cartoon animals as much as the next person, this version of the app seems to still be in its testing phase and will hopefully be working as intended by the official June 8 launch.
Pulse is a news aggregator that organizes news items into small previews, categorized into news, social (with Facebook functionality), entertainment, and so on, usually accompanied with a pic. Tapping on a blurb opens the entire article. The fast performance and straightforward interface made this a welcome default app.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is set to its highest possible brightness by default, measuring 336 candelas per square meter (cd/m2) at its highest and 0.30 cd/m2 at its lowest, delivering a very good contrast ratio of 1,120:1. Here's how it compares with other tablets.
|Tested specs||Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1||Motorola Xoom||Apple iPad 2||Asus Eee Pad Transformer||Acer Iconia Tab A500||T-Mobile G-Slate|
|Maximum brightness||336 cd/m2||312 cd/m2||432 cd/m2||320 cd/m2||337 cd/m2||424 cd/m2|
|Default brightness||336 cd/m2||131 cd/m2||176 cd/m2||85 cd/m2||67 cd/m2||143 cd/m2|
|Maximum black level||0.30 cd/m2||0.26 cd/m2||0.46 cd/m2||0.29 cd/m2||0.24 cd/m2||0.52 cd/m2|
|Default black level||0.30 cd/m2||0.11 cd/m2||0.19 cd/m2||0.08 cd/m2||0.05 cd/m2||0.18 cd/m2|
|Default contrast ratio||1,120:1||1,190:1||926:1||1,063:1||1,340:1||794|
|Contrast ratio (max brightness)||1,120:1||1,200:1||939:1||1,103:1||1,404:1||815:1|
Using the tablet at full brightness with Wi-Fi saw the battery charge drop 20 percent in the span of about 90 minutes. We'll have official battery life results from CNET Labs soon, so check back here later.
The Honeycomb 3.1 experience doesn't change much, whether it's on the Galaxy 10.1 or the Xoom. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer's OS was the most changed, but at the end of the day, it's still Honeycomb. So, honestly, as a reviewer, it's a little difficult to get excited about yet another Wi-Fi-only Honeycomb tablet with no truly unique software or hardware features. I know what to expect from Honeycomb and there are no surprises here. It's still a fast OS, with plenty of customization options.
Given the level of Honeycomb tablet homogenization that has occurred, I'm more interested in the tablet's look and feel than anything else. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 impresses with its lightweight, thin, minimalist design. That, coupled with a huge and beautiful screen, makes for a well-designed tablet.
This is the iPad 2 of Honeycomb tablets. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 was actually publicly shown before the iPad 2 was, so by calling it that we simply mean that from a design standpoint it has more in common with Apple's hardware than other Honeycomb tablets. That's a compliment of the highest order. The iPad 2 still has the sexiest, smoothest form factor of any tablet.
That style isn't for everyone, though, so those looking for a tricked-out Android tablet with all the fixings won't find it here. What you will find is an elegantly designed tablet for users who don't need a ton of connection options.
Apple still has superior support for games, apps, music, and movies. So, if it's down to these two tablets, we still recommend the iPad 2; however, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 would be the Android tablet of choice.