Samsung Galaxy Tab: Is the Android Tablet an iPad Competitor?
Let's be frank here. We're hardly the first site to review the Galaxy Tab, and, in an effort not to waste your time, let's begin with a few basic givens about the device. Yes, the screen is gorgeous, the tablet itself is fast, and TouchWiz is atrocious. But those simple judgments don't answer the big question: Can the first serious Android tablet really keep pace with the iPad? Does it even offer any serious benefits over a high-end smartphone?
Another major flaw is that many apps don't scale up to fill the Tab's entire 1024x600 screen. (This includes major ones, such as the New York Times, that would be perfectly paired with the larger screen.) It should be said that there is a fix that forces all apps to fill the entire screen. (Install 'Spare Parts' from the Marketplace, turn off compatibility mode, and reboot.) However, the fact that this is an issue straight out of the box is a serious problem. Even if an app scales up, chances are it's not making particularly good use of the screen real estate. The only apps we've found that take advantage of the extra room afforded by the seven-inch screen are the custom Samsung e-mail, notes, contacts and calendar apps, all of which are a bit disappointing and seem like pale imitations of those found on the iPad -- especially in their virtual wood and paper textures. The messaging app, which lists conversations on the left and displays messages on the right, was great, though.
Weighing in at under a pound, and able to survive two days on a single charge, the Tab is plenty mobile. And, despite what you might have heard, typing on the Tab is not an unpleasant experience, as long as you don't switch to landscape mode. We had no trouble banging out messages in portrait, and some will certainly appreciate the inclusion of the Swype typing app. We're glad that the custom Samsung launcher allows for an extra row of icons, and flips the home screen to landscape mode when the Tab is turned on its side. Still, we really wish the app drawer allowed you to quickly sort apps by alphabetical order, instead of defaulting to list them in the order in which they were installed. You can rearrange the icons in the app drawer, but you can't move them to different pages, limiting how much you can actually organize them. Unfortunately, U.S. carriers don't let the Tab make phone calls over their networks. Text messages and data transfers work as advertised, but, if the Tab were able to communicate with a Bluetooth for voice calls, it would be a truly killer device.
We hope that 'Evernote,' our other favorite Tab app, needs no introduction. The universal capture tool just received a major update for Android, and we'd permanently install a Galaxy Tab in our kitchens, if it weren't so expensive. It came in handy for adding items to a shopping list as we ran out, and reading saved online recipes while cooking was perfectly simple.
If you consume a lot of media that could benefit from the Galaxy Tab's gorgeous screen -- such as magazines, movies and comics -- then it's certainly worth a look. At $600, it's priced competitively with the iPad (which starts at $629 for the 3G-enabled models). We found that its smaller size and higher pixel density made it a better e-reader than the iPad, but it does lack a catalog of apps that really take advantage of the larger screen. The Galaxy Tab is an attractive device; it's fast as hell, has a gorgeous screen and is actually capable of true multitasking (unlike some other tablets... ahem). But, at the moment, the lack of developer support really limits its flexibility, making it more of an oversized phone than a tablet.