The Samsung Galaxy Tab is a 7in-screen Google Android slate PC. While we've been hearing about the rush of Android tablets for some time now, the Galaxy Tab is the first high-end Android tablet to hit the market and thus the first real contender to the Apple iPad

It’s early November 2010, and the Apple iPad has 95% market share of a category that Apple itself created – the instant-on touchscreen tablet PC.

Trailing the breakthrough are some of the biggest names in consumer electronics, hungry for a slice of the tablet pie graph. And Samsung is the first to market with its tribute to the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

In essence, the Samsung Galaxy Tab offers the same features as the iPad – wireless internet connectivity (only with 3G as standard alongside ), a multi-touch controlled screen, and a host of apps to run on it.

But where Apple has its own iOS touch-based operating system, Samsung has taken Google’s mobile phone OS, Android. And while it’s using the very latest Android version 2.2 - codenamed Froyo; not a Tolkien reference but a name more familiar to Americans as a portmanteau of ‘frozen yogurt’ - it should be noted that even Google has not sanctioned this particular system for tablet use.

For tablet PCs, Google has Android 3 lined up, for release early next year.

Samsung was obviously keen to get its tablet out into the world in time sooner rather than later. Yet instead of a half-baked handheld, in the Samsung Galaxy Tab we found a quite usable mobile PC.

As it should be, given that the Samsung Galaxy Tab's price of £499 is £70 more than the starting price of the Apple iPad. And that is has a smaller, poorer quality screen. And that the Tab is made out of plastic against the iPad’s über-smooth satin aluminium. Or that the iPad runs a lightning fast and responsive operating system against the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s jerkier Android.

So let’s first focus on the key hardware points of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Sat alongside the iPad, the Tab could be the new iPad nano. The iPad has a 9.7in screen of 4:3 aspect ratio, with conspicuous black frame border. The Galaxy Tab has a 7in screen with similar borders but has a widescreen 16:9 ratio.

At 385g, the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s more comfortably to hold in the hand than the iPad’s 680g. In fact, at just 12cm across, it can be gripped quite easily in one hand.

Both tablets offer a similar pixel resolution: 1024x768 for iPad, and 1024x600 for Samsung Galaxy Tab. The tighter pixel pitch ought to make the latter look sharper, but to our eyes the Samsung looks a little grainer overall.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab is also the underdog in simple screen quality. Unlike Apple’s eye-poppingly bright and colourful glass IPS panel, the Tab has a duller, flat-looking plastic LCD. Off-axis viewing of the Tab is not at all great.

NEXT PAGE: The Samsung Galaxy Tab user experience >>

See also: Samsung Galaxy S review

Responsiveness of the Samsung Galaxy Tab in core navigation tasks like swiping sideways in the home screen is relatively smooth, even if your fingertips drag across the plastic surface of this capacitive panel, compared to the near-frictionless glide over iPad's glass.

There was also some annoying latency issues in simple text typing via the on-screen touch keyboard. Fast typing seems to put the characters (with associated ‘clok’ sounds) some fraction of a second behind your finger work.

If you’re used to an iPad, using key apps such as Browser for internet browsing also makes the Samsung Galaxy Tab feel clunky in comparison. Pages load relatively quickly over a quick WiFi link, and we also saw good download speeds with a Three SIM card inserted for 3G connectivity.

But pinch-to-zoom in Android is still a juttering experience, if anything magnified here to 7in proportions where it could hide better under a 3.5in smartphone lens.

Android is a less sophisticated animal than iOS overall, and for browsing we couldn’t find essential features on the Samsung Galaxy Tab to speed our surfing.

You’re at the bottom of a page and want to jump back to the top. In fact, to find the address bar it seems you have to return to the top first as the navigation bar remains there. In iOS, you tap the menu bar, but on the Samsung Galaxy Tab we had to manually scroll, which takes plenty of time and effort on longer web pages.

When you open a new page on the Samsung Galaxy Tab, you’re forced to open the device’s homepage (unsurprisingly, Google by default). We prefer to open a blank page, especially when we realised that our choice of homepage for the Tab,, wastes us time while the site's slow-loading pages appear. Flash is partly to blame.

Flash on Android

Android-toting tablet vendors such as Samsung can smugly list Adobe Flash support as a plus-point over the Apple iPad – yet support is far from satisfactory. Aside from the way it slows page-loading when you land on a Flash-heavy site, we saw some comedy lip-sync issues with YouTube videos.

And while you’re there, don’t expect to be able to enjoy much HD video. You’re better off leaving the Flash site and viewing video in the YouTube app’s H.264 player.

Two speakers at the base of the Samsung Galaxy Tab echo the iPad’s layout, as does a dock connector that Samsung has shamelessly copied from Apple, without actually making it compatible with that used to charge and sync every iPod/Phone/Pad since 2001.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab's speakers give reasonably clear sound, and combined with a mic built into the left of the case, it’s quite straightforward to use the Tab as a hands-free mobile phone.

With our review sample equipped with the Three voice-and-data SIM card (starting at £10/month for 100 mins talktime and 1GB data), we found the Tab could serve good duty as a mobile phone.

Video calling capabilities are unknown as yet. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has two cameras, pointing fore and aft, so has the potential for internet video calling. We downloaded the free Skype app from the Android Market, but this appears - like the iPhone counterpart - to lack video support.

A headset is included in the box for more personal chatting, for plugging into the top of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. On the right of the case is a standby/sleep button (difficult to engage without fingernails), volume up/down rocker switch and two be-flapped slots for regular SIM card and microSD memory card.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with 16GB of built-in flash storage, expandable with an extra card. So the connectivity-comparable Apple iPad with 16GB storage and 3G support is just £30 more.

NEXT PAGE: First-look review from PC World US

See also: Samsung Galaxy S review

The Samsung Galaxy Tab is a 7-inch Google Android slate PC. While we've been hearing about the rush of Android tablets for some time now, the Galaxy Tab is the first high-end Android tablet to hit the market and thus the first real contender to the Apple iPad.

The Apple iPad may have had a healthy head start in the realm of tablets, but it won't be left alone with the likes of the Fusion Garage JooJoo for long - and if Android's attack on the smartphone market is any indication, Apple could have a tough fight ahead seeing off the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is set to be unveiled at IFA tomorrow.

Samsung Galaxy Tab: What We Know

The info on Samsung's Galaxy Tab is trickling in slowly but surely. Aside from its 7-inch display, we now know that the Galaxy Tab will feature a front-facing camera for video chatting and will run Android 2.2, the most recent edition of Google's Mobile operating system.

Unofficially, reports suggest the Galaxy Tab will sport a 1GHz processor and a 3.2-megapixel camera. Alleged leaks point to the tablet's display being AMOLED with 1024-by-600 resolution. The Galaxy Tab is also widely expected to have a built-in GPS system.

In terms of connectivity, Samsung's Galaxy Tab is believed to feature both 3G and Wi-Fi data along with regular phone calling functionality (thankfully, various leaks point to the calls being conducted via Bluetooth, not an in-device earpiece).

The iPad, in comparison to those specs, has a 9.7-inch screen with 1024-by-768 resolution. It has no cameras and no GPS. It runs on a 1GHz processor.

Android Tablets vs the Apple iPad

Some of the largest differences between the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the iPad, of course, will come down to software: Google Android and Apple iOS 4 are worlds apart in both style and function. The style side of the equation is a matter of personal taste, but there are some clear comparisons we can make when it comes to the platforms' functions and how they'll affect the tablet-using experience.

While Apple's operating system has its strengths, there are numerous areas where an Android-based tablet such as the Galaxy Tab could have an advantage:

• App support. Apple's App Store may have a larger selection than the Android Market, but Android's open ecosystem allows you to install anything you want - no Jobsian approval required. That means there's no censorship of things like political satire, celebrity cartoons, or even porn (remember, by Steve's definition, "porn" can include images of women in swimsuits). And no, that doesn't mean you're suddenly at risk for all sorts of unthinkable viruses.

• Tethering. Android's open approach to apps opens up the potential to use a tablet for fee-free tethering. In other words, you could get your laptop online via your tablet's 3G connection without having to pay anything extra.

• Flash. Look, the idea that there's no need for Flash on a mobile device is simply wrong. Love it or hate it, Flash is still a big part of the web, and omitting support for it restricts what you can do. Especially for a tablet device, being able to access any material you need is going to be a big selling point. (Contrary to what you may have heard, by the way, Android's support of Flash does not cause devices to crash, burn, or be drained of all battery life.)

• Full access. Android devices can be used like hard drives: You can drag and drop files from your PC, and you can browse your device as if it were a computer. On a mobile phone, this is convenient. On a tablet, it's invaluable.

• Full multitasking. Android allows you to run multiple programs at the same time. Apple's newest edition of iOS allows for only limited and carefully defined types of multitasking. Particularly on a tablet, the former approach has some obvious advantages.

Android devices also tend to have removable batteries, something Apple's mobile hardware does not support. One would imagine this trend will be carried over into the tablet realm.

And finally, there's the issue of USB support - namely the fact that Apple's iPad doesn't have it. If Samsung is smart, it'll offer full USB connectivity on its Galaxy Tab to further set the device apart.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab is just the beginning of Android's entry into the tablet battle. Motorola is expected to have a high-end Android tablet on the market sometime in the coming months; the latest rumours point to it being a 10-inch device with Google's as-of-yet unreleased Android 3.0 operating system. Samsung itself is believed to have additional Android tablets in the works, too, including 8- and 10-inch versions of the Galaxy Tab described above. Even Google may be unveiling its own tablet before long, though it could very well end up running Chrome OS instead of Android. Ultimately, it's all good news for us: Just like we're seeing with smartphones right now, the more competition there is, the more each manufacturer is forced to fight for our attention. As our options expand, innovation improves and products get increasingly better. Android will no doubt be a fierce contender in the tablet war, but Apple isn't about to lie down and disappear. No matter how you look at it, this battle will benefit us all.

JR Raphael,

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

See also: Samsung Galaxy S review

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs

  • 7in tablet PC
  • 7in capacitative touchscreen
  • Google Android 2.2
  • GPS receiver
  • Microsoft Exchange support, email
  • voice recorder, video/audio playback
  • Alarm, Calculator, Calendar, Notes, Stopwatch
  • 802.11n, 3G, Bluetooth
  • phone-calling capability
  • rechargeable battery
  • 7in tablet PC
  • 7in capacitative touchscreen
  • Google Android 2.2
  • GPS receiver
  • Microsoft Exchange support, email
  • voice recorder, video/audio playback
  • Alarm, Calculator, Calendar, Notes, Stopwatch
  • 802.11n, 3G, Bluetooth
  • phone-calling capability
  • rechargeable battery


Samsung has set itself an nearly impossible task, to divert some attention from the highly refined Apple iPad, and has certainly succeeded. Whether coldly scanning the bare spec sheet, or after weighing up the pros and cons after spending some time actually playing with both devices, we can’t help conclude that the iPad is the more intuitive, easy to use and sense-exciting product. In the Tab’s favour, the smaller slate will slip into a handbag a little easier, and it includes better telecoms, at least for voice chatting over a GSM network.

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