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Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch

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

Andrew Williams
6 min read

This review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is based on the irreproachably authoritative opinions of Eric Franklin, from our estimable sister site CNET.com, who awarded it 3 stars. We'll be streaking the pristine glass of the Tab 2 with our Krispy Kreme-tainted digits soon enough. When we do, the score will be updated to reflect our own views.

6.5

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch

The Good

well designed; powerful speakers; responsive screen; comes with Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Bad

overpriced; other tablets offer better features for same price; 1080p movies stutter; colour accuracy could be better.

The Bottom Line

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

CNET UK's Luke Westaway got hands-on with the Tab 2 at Mobile World Congress in February, so his and Eric's views have been woven together here to give you an idea of what to expect when it lands in Blighty.

The Tab 2 10.1 joins a lengthening line-up of Samsung tablets, following in the footsteps of the 7-inch Galaxy Tab, Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9 and Tab 7.7. While the original 10.1-inch Tab was a premier Android device, joining the firmament of top Google-powered tablets, does its slender successor do enough to challenge the dominance of the new iPad?

You can preorder the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 from the likes of Expansys for around £420.

Design and build

The awkwardly named Tab 2 10.1 keeps the basic design of Samsung's previous tablets. The plastic backside is the same, but it now comes in a titanium silver finish rather than white. Luke thought those strips down the side looked rather classy, but added the plain silvery colour was hardly inspiring.

The Tab 2 10.1 is neither as lean nor slight as its predecessor, being both heavier and thicker. Still, it measures just 9.7mm thick and weighs in at just 588g. While it's very portable -- you could easily slip this slate into a satchel and cart it around all day -- Eric found it to be a little wide, making it tricky to type and hold simultaneously (even with freakishly long fingers). Even so, it feels comfortable enough in hand.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch speaker
The speakers are louder than previously, but they're hardly high fidelity.

Hold it in landscape and along the top you'll find a power/sleep button, a volume rocker, a 32GB capacity microSD slot, an infrared blaster and a headphone jack. A pair of 2-inch speakers is situated up the left and right side of the bezel. While these larger speakers offer louder sound, they're no better quality than you'd expect from a tablet.

Rounding things off is a dock connector and a microphone pinhole along the bottom edge. There's no HDMI socket, which means you'll have to buy an accessory to hook up the tablet to a TV.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch ports
You can bung in up to 32GB of extra storage with this handy microSD slot.

Screen

Leaving nothing to the imagination, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 has -- you guessed it -- a 10.1-inch screen. This is a 1,280x800-pixel display, which happily leaves text and icons looking lovely and crisp. Clarity is equal to the original Tab, but Eric noted that the screen appears noticeably greener than the first Tab 10.1, while colours appeared washed out in comparison.

Slightly unfortunate is the reflective nature of the Tab 2 10.1's screen. Under bright trade show lights at Mobile World Congress, Luke found it difficult to make out what was on the display.

Eric's benchmark tests confirmed that the screen was very responsive when swiping through screens and navigating menus -- it's up there with the likes of the Asus Transformer Pad TF300 on that score.

It's worth noting that the bezel around the screen isn't completely flush with the outer casing of the tablet, leaving a somewhat irksome edge.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch versus
Some Tabs are bigger than others...

Software

The best thing about the Tab 2 10.1 is that it will arrive running Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android. ICS was created to unify the Android phone and tablet operating systems. It does that with a host of graphical refinements, turning everything a glowing blue hue, and adding useful features like improved multi-tasking. You'll naturally also have access to the Google Play store and the thousands of Android apps it offers.

Samsung's TouchWiz UX skin is overlaid onto ICS, featuring 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.

There's every chance you'll want to delete some of these apps on the first day though, as not many of them are that useful. But the task manager, which allows you to quickly kill any app running in the background, comes in handy when apps become unresponsive. And you might want to keep ChatON -- that's Samsung's instant messaging app that will let you blather for free with other Android phones.

Eric noted that apps launched without delay and settings menu options appeared readily after tapping them.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch side
Have hours of fun twirling your Tab on your fingertips like a Harlem Globetrotter.

Hardware and performance

The processor in play here is a 1GHz TI OMAP 4430 dual-core chip. There are tablets and smart phones with more powerful processors out there. While Eric found scrolling through websites to be smooth, there was a noticeable amount of clipping as the processor stuggled to keep up with rendering pages. But scrolling through a page once or twice solved this issue.

Playback of 720p-resolution video was smooth and crisp, while 1080p files that were only a couple of hundred megabytes in size played fine. However, Eric said that larger files of around 1GB looked less like a moving picture and more like a slideshow. This is one area where the Tegra 3-powered Android tablets improve the user experience. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch top
Samsung urges you to unleash your creativity with this inspirational grey.

In the US test, the Riptide GP benchmark was used to gauge how the Tab 2 10.1 performs with games. Eric found the Tab delivered decent, playable frame rates but couldn't touch the nearly 60 frames per second smoothness of Tegra 3-based tablets. It's not choppy and it's pretty consistent, but it's just not as buttery smooth. Simple games like Angry Birds Space showed no signs of performance issues though.

As far as storage goes, the Tab 2 10.1 comes in 16 or 32GB options, though if that's not enough you can bump up the virtual real estate using a microSD card. That's quite unusual -- normally when smart phones or tablets offer expansion via a microSD card, the built-in storage isn't that big.

The battery drained fairly quickly on Eric's review model with normal use over several hours, lasting 6.2 two hours while continuously playing video.

Meanwhile, download speeds matched most other Android tablets.

Camera

The rear snapper is cause for a little concern as its resolution is a rather paltry 3 megapixels. While the camera is hardly the most important part of a tablet, that lowly count isn't encouraging. Indeed, compared with the Tab 10.1, Eric found images looked washed out and lacked detail and contrast. While the original Tab 10.1's camera took a longer time to focus, it resulted in higher-quality pictures. Also, the LED light on the back has been banished.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch camera
With a measly 3 megapixels, the camera is nothing to write home about.

There's another 640x480-pixel resolution camera on the front for video calling and taking attractive snaps of your face, which is about all it's good for. That's actually a drop in resolution from its predecessor's 2-megapixel front-facing cam.

Conclusion

Even if you're a huge fan of Samsung's TouchWiz skin, the Tab 2 10.1 with its dual-core tablet and 16GB of built-in storage is going to find it tough pitted against the quad-core competition like the 32GB Asus Transformer Pad TF300. UK pricing for the Tab 2 has yet to be confirmed, but the £400 TF300 also offers micro-HDMI output and a better camera.

Without any unique features to shout about, Eric felt the Tab 2 10.1 was like a disappointing prequel rather than an all-guns-blazing sequel to the original Tab.