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Samsung announces Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1

Updated tablets feature custom version of Android 3.0

Samsung has announced two new Android 3.0 Galaxy Tab tablets, which it claims are the world's thinnest. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 are 8.6mm thick (or 0.34in), which is about 0.2mm thinner than the Apple iPad 2.The tablets will go on sale in the US on June 8.

Previously, Samsung introduced a Galaxy Tab 10.1 for the European market at Mobile World Congress this year and it is thought this will still be made available throughout Europe via Vodafone stores. However, the newer 10.1 model has slightly different specifications and is thicker (10.9mm). Samsung's new Galaxy Tabs blow the Motorola Xoom - the only shipping Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet to date-out of the water, as it's 12.9mm thick (or 0.51in).

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad 2

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (bottom) compared to the Apple iPad 2 (top)

The slim design is what stands out most about the silver-hued chassis of this pair of new Galaxy Tabs. The US Galaxy Tab 10.1 weighs 1.31 pounds (595g, 5g lighter than the Vodafone version), while the Galaxy Tab 8.9 weighs 470g (1.04 pounds). The Tab 10.1 matches well with iPad 2's 1.33 pounds (601g) weight for the comparable Wi-Fi only version, and it's significantly lighter than the Xoom's 1.61 pounds (730g).

Samsung only announced availability of the Wi-Fi-only models, which are coming this summer.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (left) side-by-side with Apple iPad 2

The other specs of Samsung's new tablets are highly competitive - and identical, save for their respective screen sizes and physical dimensions. Inside, the tablets pack a dual-core 1GHz processor (the company doesn't mention whose processor it uses), a high-resolution 1280x800 pixel display, and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. Both models have a microSD card slot for up to 32GB cards. And both will come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions, as well as benefitting from the now-standard accoutrements like a gyroscope, accelerometer, digital compass and ambient light sensor.

They each have a 3Mp rear-facing camera with LED flash; the front-facing camera is a highly respectable 2Mp. The camera specs are a notable boost over what Apple's iPad offers (an unstated resolution for still images, and VGA 640x480 pixel resolution for front-facing camera); by comparison to the Motorola Xoom, though, the rear-facing camera is a bit weaker (Xoom's is rated at 5Mp). The video camera is capable of capturing 720p video at 30 frames per second (fps).

For business users, the new Tabs both include Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support, and Quickoffice HD Editor for managing office documents via Android. The specs don't specify whether the tablets have any additional security or encryption features, though.

As with its Galaxy Tab (7in) and its Galaxy S series of smartphones, Samsung uses its own interface layer on top of Android 3.0. This runs counter to what we saw at MWC, where the trend for Honeycomb tablets appeared to move away from the customised interface design. TouchWiz UX, introduced here, builds on Honeycomb's framework by leaving the app management screen untouched, and the soft navigation buttons intact in location. But that's about all that's untouched: Samsung has, as with the 7in Froyo-based Galaxy Tab before them, completely transformed and optimised the user interface to a pleasing effect.

While no pricing was announced at the event, and availability info remains vague beyond "summer", Samsung's new models appear set to transform the Android tablet landscape in the same way that its 7in Tab did when it was introduced last autumn. The new Galaxy Tabs seem slickly designed, with dimensions and specs that push tablet design ahead-as opposed to many forthcoming tablets, which merely toe the line and have last year's weight and thickness.

See also: Galaxy Tab return rate as high as 16%

New Products blog: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 - now with Honeycomb


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