Samsung's got a hot new tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. But does it have what it takes to topple Apple's iPad 2?
Luke WestawaySenior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Undoubtedly the hottest gadget to emerge from the IFA tech conference in Berlin, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 sprang out at us like a monkey hiding in a kitchen cupboard, clawing at our eyes with its gorgeous Super AMOLED Plus screen.
It has the monumentally popular iPad in its sights, but does Samsung have the chops to flummox Apple? Grab some popcorn, because we're throwing the two coolest tablets ever devised into the ring for a right old barney.
When it launched earlier in the year, we declared the iPad 2 the pinnacle of gadget loveliness. Thinner and lighter than its predecessor, it offers the classy metal construction we've come to associate with Apple, and a beautiful minimalist design to boot. We were never really sold on the flappy Smart Cover thing that folds over the front of the tablet, though.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 meanwhile wallops us round the chops with its astonishing, physics-defying dimensions. While the iPad 2 is a slender 8.8mm thick, the Tab 7.7 kicks Apple into touch, measuring just 7.9mm deep.
It's thin enough that it could probably double as an Oddjob-style throwing weapon, but that's not all -- the Tab 7.7 is also insanely light, tipping the scales at just 335g, and making the iPad 2 look decidedly hefty at 601g.
Admittedly the Tab 7.7 is cheating by being smaller to start with, but we don't care. The Tab is thinner, lighter and therefore way more portable than Apple's effort. It's not as elegant as the iPad, but with a new brushed metal look on the back, it comes close.
Design winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
The iPad 2 has a brilliant screen. 9.7 diagonal inches of LED backlit multi-touch deliciousness, this is one panel not to be sniffed at, unless you're sniffing the actual iPad itself, which we'd understand because it even smells good. With a resolution of 1,024x768 pixels at 132 pixels per inch, just about everything looks good on the iPad 2, including photos, ebooks, Angry Birds and hi-res video.
But we're still smarting slightly -- before the iPad 2 was launched, rumours were circulating that it would pack the same incredible retina display seen on the iPhone 4 and iPod touch. It never materialised though, and while the iPad 2's screen is absolutely fantastic, we can't help but wonder at what could have been...
The Tab 7.7 packs a Super AMOLED Plus display, the same type you find on the excellent Samsung Galaxy S2 smart phone. Seeing it in person is like standing inches from the sun itself -- this 7.7-inch 1,280x800 panel is hugely bright and colourful, and liable to set your eyes on fire.
It's a little more brash than the natural hues that adorn the iPad, but for now we're completely enamoured with the Tab 7.7's display.
Screen winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
The iPad 2 is running Apple's iOS software, which you probably knew already, because the distinctive grid of tiled apps that covers the iPad's homescreens has become seriously iconic.
Forget iconic though, and forget hardware too. The reason the iPad 2 is so good is because iOS is so delightfully simple to use. With just about every button, switch and menu intuitively placed, sweeping around the iPad's interface is like moving through a blissful dream.
All of that is bolstered by the fact that iOS is about to get a serious overhaul in the shape of iOS 5, which will make the operating system more cloud-based, putting your photos and music up in Apple's Web storage where you can't lose it. You'll also finally be freed from the horrible desktop iTunes software, thanks to wireless syncing and over-the-air updates.
The Tab 7.7 is running on Honeycomb, the tablet-specific version of Google's Android operating system, which has already had many of the features that are coming in iOS 5 for donkeys' years.
But Android is still geeky, and it's too easy to get lost in labyrinthine menus, or overwhelmed by lists of options. It's getting better all the time, and the 1.4GHz processor inside the Tab 7.7 means it should have the grunt to feel just as slick as the iPad, but in terms of ease-of-use, iOS wins out.
Software winner: iPad 2
Apps are probably the single most important thing for a tablet or smart phone to get right, because it's what gives the device longevity, propelling it far beyond its usefulness as a small rectangle with a touchscreen.
Apple also does a solid job of organising apps, and whether you're casually browsing the App Store from your iPad, or searching for something specific, you're likely to be pleased with what you find.
That's something Android hasn't mastered yet. The Tab 7.7's app selection comes via the Android Market, which is positively bristling with apps, but doesn't make it easy to search through them. Pricing on downloads is a bit confusing too, and it's hard to know which apps are worth bothering with.
More damaging is the fact that there are relatively few Android apps built for Honeycomb, while the App Store is overflowing with apps made for the iPad.
The Android Market doesn't have the same draconian restrictions or approval processes that Apple enforces, so sometimes you'll find a cool app on Android that Apple won't allow for some reason. But it's a double-edged sword -- that approval process means the quality of iPad apps is generally higher. Sorry Galaxy Tab 7.7, we're throwing this one to the iPad.
Apps winner: iPad 2
We're not going to call a winner until we've had a chance to give the Galaxy Tab 7.7 the exhaustive review treatment, but our impressions so far are that the Tab 7.7 is set to win out in terms of hardware, but is unlikely to trump the iPad 2's brilliant software.
It's up to you to decide whether hardware or software is more important -- do you want a powerhouse of a machine, portable, with a monster processor and ready to get geeky? Then the Tab 7.7 will likely satisfy. If you just want something simple to use and good for apps, then the iPad 2 is probably best.
What do you think? Which of these tablet titans deserves to wear the crown? Let us know in the comments section below, or on our Facebook page.