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

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