Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1v is a Vodafone exclusive variant and includes different features and specifications to the recently announced Galaxy Tab 10.1.
As with the iPhone before it, Apple's iPad shot to instant success when it was released last year, prompting a quick reply from competitors like Samsung. Apple's success defined consumer expectations for what a tablet computer would look and feel like. Samsung has taken Apple's template and added its own flavour to it; keeping the iPad's 10-inch display and glossy black bezel, but covering the rear of the device with a textured plastic and moulded this grip to best fit your fingers when holding the tablet in landscape view.
The curved rear-facing grip on the Galaxy Tab feels fantastic.
The basic shape and size isn't all that's borrowed from the iPad, however; like Apple, Samsung opts for a sealed device with no replaceable battery, no microSD card slot and no HDMI or micro USB ports. In fact, there are only three ports on the 10.1v: a headphone socket, a slot for a SIM card and a 30-pin charging port.
The 10.1-inch LCD display looks brilliant, even though it doesn't share the AMOLED tech of Samsung's Galaxy S phones. Its 1280x800 (WXGA) resolution looks crisp and sharp, and the colours are bold and vibrant. We've even found the screen mostly visible in sunlight, though the ultra glossy glass over the panel can make it difficult not to see yourself reflected along with your email.
Samsung has done a fine job delivering an attractive tablet that is comfortable to use, but the real star of this experience is Google's Honeycomb operating system. Those familiar with Android will see similarities with the software of their phones, but it also feels like a completely new experience, for the better.
The stock Honeycomb experience offers five user-customisable home screens with a persistent notifications bar along the bottom. In the bottom left of the screen, regardless of orientation, you'll find software navigation keys; Back, Home and Multitasking, plus a fourth Menu key within apps that require one.
Unlike the iPad version of iOS, Honeycomb takes full advantage of the screen real estate, with quick access to messages and settings in the bottom right of the screen. Navigating the home screens and app drawer is made even easier, just touch the left and right sides of the screen rather than swiping your finger across it.
The only disappointment we've had with Honeycomb so far is the way that a majority of apps render on the larger screen. When Apple launched the iPad it had the forethought to add an app scaling tool, doubling the size of iPhone apps to fit the iPad's display. Google only goes halfway in this endeavour, with some apps filling up the whole screen, while others look ridiculous boxed into a corner of the viewing area.
But even those that do use the entire screen mostly fail to resize the content in the apps for optimal viewing. Facebook and Twitter, for example, open in full screen mode, but each entry is almost too small to read without squinting. Here's hoping these major apps get a tablet-focused update quick smart.
Many important apps, like Facebook, are yet to receive a tablet makeover.
The pre-installed apps is a good cross-section of tools, however. There is the standard suite of Gmail, Google Maps (with turn-by-turn navigation) and a very sexy-looking new music player. You also get a full copy of Quickoffice HD, allowing you to create office-compatible documents, edit those stored locally or on a number of cloud-storage services, like Dropbox and Google Docs.
With all the possible use cases for a 10-inch tablet, Samsung has whittled it down to focus on two important uses; web browsing and multimedia, and in both cases the 10.1v is a real stand out. With the power of the dual-core processor behind it, the web browser renders even complex pages like grease lightning and it handles HD video superbly. The 16GB of storage on-board will be enough for most users, though the lack of expandable memory will infuriate others.
Surprisingly, the tablet's 8-megapixel camera is also a fantastic feature. With auto-focus and an LED photolight, plus a range of pre-set white balanced settings and photo filters, we managed to take some sharp, colourful pics with the 10.1v.
Our only real concern is the lack of a direct HDMI connection or some sort of wireless media sharing option, like DLNA. This year a majority of the top-shelf smartphones and tablets will ship with these features and we'll expect to see them as we'll use these devices as much for sharing media as for consuming it. Not to have one or both of these options is a real oversight in this product like this.
Our review of the Galaxy Tab 10.1v marked two firsts for our reviews team, it was our first Honeycomb device in the labs and it was also our first device making use of the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor. The results, comparatively speaking, were out of this world. The 10.1v flew past last year's best smartphones for in-browser benchmarks, and added well over 50 per cent to the Android-specific benchmarks we've run. But then, you'd expect this from dual-core 1GHz processors.
In real-world scenarios this resulted in outstanding multitasking performance, with instantaneous transitions between active tasks, and great performance in the 3D games we tested. Battery life was also solid, with about nine or 10 hours of use over two to three days, with a continuous 3G connection and two active push email accounts.
With Google's Honeycomb in place, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v is an outstanding device for personal media and web consumption. There isn't much Samsung can do about the sub-par app support for Android tablet so far (but this is bound to improve), though we do think not including HDMI or DLNA in the out-of-the-box experience is missing a trick, to say the least. On top of this, the lack of micro SD card support and a user-replaceable battery isn't going to win favour from those who refuse to buy an iPad for the same reasons.
But our strongest reservation comes from Samsung's own announcement of updated Galaxy Tab models arriving in Q3 2011. Boasting a thinner profile and the possibility of larger storage, good things may come to those who wait.