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Monday, June 27, 2011

2011 Tech News Update: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Review

Samsung are really taking tablets seriously these days. They already have three offerings this year. The other two are more compact, but it's the Galaxy Tab 10.1 that will lead the team ahead in enemy territory. The trio surely has one hard task ahead of them, but let's see how the eldest brother fares now.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Tab 8.9 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Tab 8.9 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Tab 8.9 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Tab 8.9 
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 official photos
The largest of the company's tablets offers more screen estate and larger battery, while at the same time maintaining the impressively slim waistline. There’s a Tegra 2 chipset ticking under the hood so you get the latest and greatest in mobile chipset technology.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 3G at a glance:

  • General: GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz , UMTS 850/900/1900/2100 MHz, HSDPA 21 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
  • Form factor: Tablet
  • Dimensions: 256.6 x 172.9 x 8.6 mm, 565 g
  • Display: 10.1" 16M-color WXGA (1280 x 800 pixels) PLS TFT capacitive touchscreen
  • CPU: Dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, ULP GeForce GPU, Tegra 2 chipset
  • RAM: 1GB
  • OS: Android 3.1 Honeycomb
  • Memory: 16/32/64 GB storage
  • Camera: 3.15 megapixel auto-focus camera with 720p video recording; LED flash, 2 megapixel front facing camera, video-calls
  • Battery: 7000 mAh
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 3.0+HS, standard microUSB port, GPS receiver with A-GPS, 3.5mm audio jack, FM radio, HDMI TV-out (through an adapter), USB host (adapter required)
  • Misc: TouchWiz customization, DivX/XviD codec support, built-in accelerometer, multi-touch input, proximity sensor, gyroscope sensor
As you can see, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is nothing else, but a slightly larger 8.9 so the only question remaining is which one would suit your style better. And while we find the 8.9" size more versatile, it was the the 9.7-inch iPad that made the tablet class mainstream so it’s a good guess the Galaxy Tab 10.1 will probably have a wider reach.
Plus Samsung introduced some last minute touches to its largest slate, which should help it fare even better. At the eleventh hour the company announced that it will come with an even larger battery (7000mAh) and 30 grams lower weight than initially announced and that it will be getting DivX and XviD support. It seems like a good way to give an already competitive device an even bigger edge over its competitors (though in the case of the Tab 10.1 the edge is slimmer).
Samsung Galaxy Tab 101 Samsung Galaxy Tab 101 Samsung Galaxy Tab 101 Samsung Galaxy Tab 101 
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 as seen by our camera
But those are all mostly guesses based on what the specs sheet of the device tells us. It's about time that we checked out its real-life performance and see if it will swing our opinion in another direction.

Design and construction

Designwise, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is nothing but an enlarged copy of its smaller brother, the Galaxy Tab 8.9. Which is mostly good as it shares its marvelously slim waistline and high-tech vibe, but also has a shortcoming or two like the plastic battery cover.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 next to its smaller brother and the Galaxy S II
Yet we’ll repeat our point about having a plastic construction being preferable over a possible increase in the weight. In fact it is even more valid here given that the larger 10.1 Galaxy Tab is good 35 grams below the 600 mark. Its nearest competitor, the Apple iPad 2, is 47 grams heavier, which is a good 10% difference.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 
Sized up against the Apple iPad 2
And mentioning the iPad 2, we have to say that the Apple slate does have a slight edge in terms of design and overall feel. The Galaxy Tab strikes back with its easier handling due to its narrower body and slightly slimmer waistline.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is even slimmer than the Apple latest slate
Just have in mind that even at 565 the Galaxy Tab 10.1 isn’t too portable – you will still need a place to rest your hands against or they will get tired pretty quickly.

A gorgeous display

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is built around a 10.1” PLS LCD screen with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. The image quality and viewing angles of that display lives up to the high expectations for the PLS technology and ranks up with the best slates.
We still like the smaller Galaxy Tab 8.9 screen better, but that is to be expected given the higher pixel density. Plus we were pleasantly surprised to find that both slates are easily usable outside on a bright sunny day, even if colors do get a bit washed out.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 
The image quality and sunlight legibility came as nice surprises to us
Still, at this point, being able to see anything on a tablet screen when outside is considered a great achievement and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is almost as good as it gets.

Controls

The front of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has no hardware controls whatsoever – with the Honeycomb OS based solely on touch controls, the slate just doesn’t need them. All you get is the front-facing camera, embedded in the bezel around the screen.
The two short sides of the slates (left and right) when you hold it in its default landscape orientationare pretty boring too, having nothing but a speaker each. The placement of the stereo speakers on the opposing sides seems like a better solution than what we saw on the Galaxy Tab 8.9, where they were right next to each other.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 
The stereo speakers are on the two sides of the slate
The reason for this is most probably that with the larger body, the Samsung engineers had more room for maneuvers and the freedom to place components optimally.
Moving on to the bottom of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 we find the proprietary 30-pin connector and the microphone pinhole. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 doesn’t have telephony support, but the microphone is still needed for voice and video-chatting. There are a bunch of Android apps that offer that kind of functionality.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 
The 30-pin connector and the microphone pinhole are at the bottom
We feel compelled to reiterate our usual gripes about proprietary ports – if the Galaxy S II can do charging, HD TV-out and computer connectivity all through a single standard microUSB port, then why would Samsung need another type of port for these tablets. It might be a nice way for manufacturers to earn some money by selling accessories, but it’s not the most user-friendly solution.
And mentioning the accessories we got to spend some time with them too. The keyboard dock is pretty convenient packing lost of hardware shortcuts and allowing for comfortable two hand typing.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 
The keyboard dock is a really cool accessory, but was the proprietary port really necessary
We also got to try the USB host adapter, the SD card reader and the HDMI adapter. Have in mind that you will need a power cable to use the HDMI TV-out. Also a microSD card slot would have been much more appreciated than a card reader you need to purchase separately, but alas, we are in no luck.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 
Some of the other Galaxy Tab 10.1 accessories: USB-host and HDMI adapters and SD card reader
We now switch to the top where the 3.5mm audio jack and the SIM card slot are located. The SIM card slot was a bit hard to use on our pre-release unit but we expect this to be fixed in the final version of the device. This is also the only part of the device to feature any kind of hardware controls with the volume rocker and the power key near the left edge.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 
It’s much busier at the top
The journey ends at the back of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which features the 3.15 megapixel camera lens and its low-light friend, the LED flash. Hardly a miracle-maker, the flash unit will probably make better use as a torch than provide serious shooting assistance. Then again serious shooting is not what springs to mind when you see a slate with a camera spec’d circa 2006.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 
There’s nothing but the camera lens and the LED flash at the back

This post is sponsored by:
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