As Cersei said to Ned, "When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground." You can apply this quote to the Tablet Wars, and if King Robert Baratheon was the iPad, and Joffrey Baratheon the iPad 2, then is the Galaxy Tab 10.1 Robb Stark?
Perhaps that doesn’t work because Joffrey isn’t actually Robert’s son and…okay, as you can see I have been watching too much of HBO’s brilliant Game of Thrones TV series. Trying to find suitable analogies in a fantasy epic for the battle for dominance in the emerging tablet market might be a bit of stretch. But it’s true to say that the overwhelming market leader, Apple’s iPad 2, will soon have a real fight on its hands.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is Samsung’s second kick at the tablet can. Actually, technically it’s their third. Their first attempt was the original 7-inch Galaxy Tab released late last year, and while it was well-made and a great device, it suffered from a number of handicaps that prevented it from being a big success, such as only using Android 2.2, and a cheaper Wi-Fi model not initially being available.
Samsung’s second attempt was announced at this year’s Mobile World Congress in February. The original Galaxy Tab 10.1 (now called the 10.1v in Europe) would be Samsung’s first Honeycomb tablet. It was very similar to the Motorola XOOM -- it also ran stock and Android 3.0, but had a better 8MP camera and was lighter. It would have been very successful if it wasn’t for the elephant in the room: The iPad 2.
When Apple announced their next generation faster, thinner, lighter, and better tablet a few weeks later, it sent everyone back to the drawing board, including Samsung. In a rare display of corporate honesty, Samsung’s CEO admitted that the Galaxy Tab was ‘inadequate’ in comparison to the iPad 2. This led to their third attempt at tablet success, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 which you see pictured here.
It is incredibly impressive that in such a short period of time Samsung has now produced what is currently the thinnest and lightest large-screen tablet available today. Not only is the hardware great, it is also the first Honeycomb tablet to ship with Android 3.1 out of the box. Along with the updates found in 3.1 Samsung is also adding their TouchWiz UX overtop that adds some much need functionality to vanilla Honeycomb. Samsung is also not making the same mistake twice – the Wi-Fi only model is shipping first, to be followed by 3G models later in the year.
Having spent some quality time with it recently, I can quite honestly say that it is currently the cream of the Honeycomb crop, and the first Android tablet to give the iPad 2 a real run for its money (though the Asus Eee Transformer comes pretty close…).
The 16GB Galaxy Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi is $499.99 and can be pre-ordered from Future Shop here.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi, as its name suggests, is a 10-inch Honeycomb tablet like the Motorola XOOM, Acer A500, and Asus EEE Transformer. It is only 8.6mm thick and weighs just 565 grams. In comparison, the iPad 2 is 8.8mm thick and weighs 601g. While on paper these differences might not seem like much, they are very noticeable when holding the Tab. The Tab handles great, and the weight shouldn’t make holding it for long periods of time too uncomfortable.
Of course in order to achieve these very svelte dimensions, there had to be some compromises. The first being that the Tab 10.1 is all plastic. While it is very well-engineered plastic, the back cover is somewhat flimsy, and the feel is overall not as solid as other tablets such as the XOOM and iPad 2. The second compromise (which, to be honest, is a weakness of many tablets) is that there is a serious lack of expansion ports. The Tab has none, just a propriety dock connector on the bottom.
While it is disappointing that they couldn’t even add an HDMI out or a miniSD card reader like the XOOM, it probably would have been a challenge to engineer them into such a slim chassis. It is also possibly because Samsung would like you to buy adaptors to add connectivity and functionality. While they have not been announced in Canada yet, Samsung’s US website shows both USB and HDMI adaptors for the dock connector. There is also a keyboard and multi-media dock shown.
Under the hood you will find the same dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor as other Honeycomb tablets, paired with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The Tegra 2 is currently the king of mobile processors and has enough horsepower to run any application you throw at it without a hitch, and pumps out some pretty impressive visuals when playing games, something I am sure many Tab 10.1 users will be doing.
The initial model available will be the white 16GB Wi-Fi model we are talking about today, but there is also a 32GB model available now in the US that might come to Canada, along with future 3G models. The Tab’s Wi-Fi is 802.11 a/b/g/n, and supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
The 1280x800 TFT screen uses Samsung’s new PLS screen technology. PLS screens are even better than the IPS screens found in the iPad and Asus EEE Transformer, with much better viewing angles. While the colours are not as vivid, and the blacks not as deep as those on the Super AMOLED screens found on Samsung’s phones, the Tab 10.1 still has one of the best screens I have seen on a tablet. It is also powerful enough to output 1080p video through the HDMI adaptor.
The Tab 10.1 has both a front-facing and rear camera. While the rear camera is only 3MP it can still record 720p, and it does have a LED flash, unlike many other tablets. The front facing camera for video conferencing is 2MP.
The last part of the hardware puzzle is the battery, probably the most important component of any mobile device, and thankfully Samsung didn’t compromise. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a 7000 mAh battery, the highest capacity of any of the current tablets, which gives it a rated 9hrs of video playback, versus the iPad 2’s 10hrs. However neither of these tablets can compete with the Asus Eee Transformer's 16hrs when attached to the dock – but then again it’s not really a tablet anymore, is it?
While Honeycomb was certainly a huge improvement over using a phone version of Android on a tablet, the first release, 3.0, was definitely a work in progress. Android addressed some of the shortcomings with the Android 3.1 update that was released at the Google I/O conference at the beginning of May, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 will be the first Android tablet to ship with 3.1 out of the box.
Some of the key highlights of 3.1 are resizable widgets on the home screens, which Samsung takes great advantage of with their own custom widgets on the Tab 10.1. The web browser has been improved with updated ‘Quick Controls’ and better handling of HTML 5 content – Flash playback has been improved with updates by Adobe to their Honeycomb Flash player. The search functionality in the tablet’s contacts has been improved to look at the entire record, not just the name. Multi-tasking has been made easier – you can pull up and scroll through your recently opened apps, with the most recently-used ones appearing at the bottom. Under the cover there is full support for USB devices, from USB keys, keyboards, and mice, to game controllers. This feature of 3.1 will perfectly compliment the USB adaptor that will be available for the Tab 10.1. Lastly, Wi-Fi stays connected even when the screen is off, a bizarre quirk of 3.0 that needed to be fixed.
With 3.1, the full potential of Honeycomb has finally been realized, but no matter what Google adds to the OS, another important piece of the story is support from third-party developers. While the situation is nowhere near as dire as it was a few months ago, with more and more Honeycomb-optimized apps showing up in the market every day, the iPad still has a huge advantage in this area (due in part, of course, to the fact that the iPad has had a 10-month head start). Samsung clearly understands the need to provide an enhanced user experience over stock Honeycomb 3.1, so with that in mind, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 comes with their TouchWiz UX, which is a collection of interface tweaks, custom widgets, and pre-installed applications.
TouchWiz improves Honeycomb 3.1’s home screen with the additional of what Samsung calls 'Live Panel', which is basically just a collection of widgets for weather, time, and social network feeds, and can be arranged and re-sized with Android 3.1. Samsung also added what they call 'Mini-Apps'; by swiping up over the lower task bar you can bring up the icons for six commonly-used features that launch as pop-ups over whatever task you are working on at the time. The Mini-Apps include a task manager, calendar, world clock, 'PenMemo', calculator, and music controls.
Some of the pre-installed apps from Samsung include three different 'Hubs', and Polaris Office. The first Samsung Hub is 'Social Hub', which is a social media portal that aggregates updates from sources such as email, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.''Readers Hub' gives you access to books (from Kobo), magazines (from Zinio) and newspapers (from PressDisplay). 'Music Hub' is a music catalogue, powered by 7digital that lets you purchase and download music straight to your Tab. Polaris Office is also pre-installed, which lets you view and edit Work, Excel and Power point. Lastly, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 can share pictures, music, and video to any DLNA-enabled device with the Samsung AllShare application.
Full Tech Specs:
Colour: Pure White
Display: 10.1” 1280x800 (WXGA) TFT
Chipset CP: Nvidia Tegra 2 XMM6260/AP: T20 Dual Core 1GHz
Memory: 1GB (RAM), 16GB (ROM)
Camera / Flash: 3MP AF (Rear) + 2MP FF (Front)
Connectors: Proprietary 30 Pin, 3.5mm earjack
Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi a/b/g/n, 2.4 and 5 GHz Dual Antenna
Dimension, Weight: 256.7 X 175.3 X 8.6mm, 565g
Battery capacity: 7000 mAh
OS: Android Honeycomb 3.1
Messaging & Social Network Services: Social Hub
Services & Applications: Google Applications, Android Ecosystem
PC Applications: Samsung KIES
UI /Web Browser: Touchwiz 4.0 + Honeycomb UI, Android Browser
Audio Codecs supported: MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, RA
Video Codecs supported: WMV9, WMV7, WMV8, H.264, MPEG4, H.263, VP8
Comparison chart with other tablets:
(chart from crackberry.com, please note that this chart was made earlier this year so referrs to the original Tab 10.1v, which has a 8MP camera, is slightly heavier and thicker than the current model. It still does however give you an overall picture of how the Tab it stacks up againt the Ipad 2, Xoom, TouchPad and Playbook)
Galaxy Tab 10.1 WiFi Official Info Clip:
Check-out this great video of the Tab 10.1 that Samsung put up, showing off the Tab's hardware and software, including the Touchwiz UI and Samsung Hubs that have been added to stock Android 3.1
You can learn more about the Tab 10.1 on Samsungs official site here.
You can see the complete range of official Samsung accessories for the Tab 10.1 on the US site here.
The 16GB Galaxy Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi is $499.99 and can be pre-ordered from Future Shop here.
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