This week I have been lucky enough to have my hands on a Samsung Galaxy Tab to review. Thanks so much to MobiCity for providing me with the review unit, as it has enabled me to have a good play with it and decide if I would want to buy one myself. The short answer is No, not right now, but I will most likely get one eventually.
If you follow this blog, my twitter, or know me, you will know that I’m a bit of a gadget freak. I love to try out new gadgets and change my gadgets over frequently. (Last year I had 6 phones, including the iPhone, until I fell in love with my HTC Desire, which I’ve had for a few months now). I now know that I will never buy a gadget on a 2 year plan because I will never keep a gadget for more than a year at most.
There are many technical reviews of the Samsung Galaxy Tab out there on the Interwebz, so this review won’t be one of them. This is more about the look and feel of the device.
I really really wanted to love this device, I have high hopes for the slew of Android tablets that are on the horizon over the coming months. Since I love my HTC Desire so much, I thought that I would definitely love the Android in the tablet form factor.
Hardware and Form Factor
The 7″ screen size is interesting – smaller than an iPad and larger than a Phone. For a large male hand it would sit in the hand quite nicely, but I find it is a little big to hold in one hand, and it would be easy to mishandle and drop.
The screen, like most other gadgets of this sort, is a fingerprint magnet, and on a larger screen it is so much more noticeable, so keep your screen wipes handy. The smooth white plastic back of the device is just as much of a fingerprint magnet as the glass front. As soon as a few greasy fingers have been near this device it is a very slippery sucker, and it will slip out of your hands and smash on the ground before you know it. (I was very careful with the review unit). Therefore a case will be necessary, but there are not a lot of accessories out there yet for this device.
One of the things I love about my HTC Desire is the hardware buttons. The Galaxy Tab, like the Galaxy phone and even the new HTC Desire HD all have “software buttons” or buttons that are integrated into the glass. Whilst the buttons on this device are backlit, they are not backlit all of the time, so in a dimly lit room, you have to fumble around to find a button to light up the buttons and find the right one. This is very annoying, especially when the home and menu buttons are in a different order on the Galaxy and the HTC devices.
Charging this device is a bit of a challenge. The new style PDMI cable is kinda cool, but difficult to get a hold of right now, so buy up a few when you buy the device. The device can not be charged via the PC or laptop, only when plugged in to the wall. Also, there is no LED on the device to tell you it is charging – surely this would be a useful thing to have. Once it is charged the battery life is pretty good and lasts longer than the phone.
No microphone input is a bit of a let down, as talking over Skype into the tiny Mic on the side of the device is strange. The call quality on the other end was not good. (I did try to get the front facing camera working with Skype but it did not work straight away so I did not bother trying to work out why).
I’m sorry to say, but the kiddy-like ROM on this device is just yuk compared to the beautiful lines and finesse of the HTC”s Sense UI. If I purchased this device, I would be putting a different ROM on there straight away (do this with caution though, if you are on a 2 year telco contract and want support on the device). At the moment, with no tablet specific Android ROM, this device is just a huge telephone.
Samsung, what were you thinking when you decided to put that ugly ugly home screen on what could be a beautiful device? If you want this thing to be compared to the iPad, it has to be at least as beautiful as the iPad. The hardware comes close, but the ROM, and specifically the default home screen lets it down, and it’s all about first impressions.
Another comparison to the iPad is the concept of “Instant On”. Yes, it’s instant on, if it’s already on, but booting up from scratch is quite slow, and slower than my Phone. So it’s not a device I will be taking out of my handbag to google something in a hurry. (Oh, and yes, it can fit in my handbag, where an iPad would not – my handbag is not that big).
I installed and set up the basic apps like Twitter, Gmail, Skype etc, plus some apps that I thought might work well for the larger form factor of the tablet like Tweetdeck.
The built in apps like Mail (which I would not use, as I would use Gmail) and Calendar take up the large screen nicely, but the Calendar is an ugly shade of brown, which makes it very difficult to enjoy using.
I connected to my Dropbox account and used the inbuilt Think Free office to edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. This is something that I would not bother to do on my Phone as the screen is too small, and I’ve got my laptop with me most days. That worked kinda smoothly and would be something that I think I would use – for quick on the go edits before sending a document off via email (as long as it was not a heavily formatted document, as I would be worried that it would loose the formatting).
YouTube and Maps work very well on this size screen, and it is a beautiful screen, so the device is made for these types of apps. The browser is nice to use, and many sites benefit from the larger screen real estate. Some apps, like Tweetdeck and twitter, are actually harder to use on this size screen as there is much scrolling needed to get through the larger sized tweets. When someone comes up with a twitter app similar to the iPad app, that will be really cool.
It comes with a built in e-book reader, and of course, you can download the kindle app. Having a lovely screen means that the e-books look great, but there is just something nice about the e-ink display on my kindle that would bring me back to the kindle for long term reading. It’s also a lot heavier than the kindle, so harder to read whilst lying on the couch.
It is a great lounge room or kitchen device, something that just hangs around the house, plugged in and connected to the Wifi, ready for casual browsing, recipes and tweeting whilst watching TV. Whilst I’m out and about, I would probably not use it that much. I did take it car shopping with me, and did get it out to look up some documents on PDF that I needed for the finance figures, so that was useful. Some people are using their iPad as device to take to conferences, and / or on short trips instead of their laptops. I’m not sure that this device would work for that purpose just yet, but it could grow on me.
So, would I buy a Samsung Galaxy right now. No, not for $999 – not when it is more expensive than the iPad. MobiCity has them outright for cheaper than the RRP at $989, and I’m sure the price will drop a bit more in the coming weeks. If it was pitched at the $599 mark then yes, I would definitely buy it. Then I would not worry so much about dropping it, scratching it, or modding the ROM.
If you are going to buy this device, I would strongly recommend buying it outright from MobiCity rather than on a Telco’s 2 year plan, because it is not a gadget that will last you 2 years – you will want to upgrade it to something new and better within the year, and give the old one to your Mum or something (well, that’s what I tend to do, anyway).
It’s interesting that I showed this device to at least 10 people in the week that I had it, and not one of them was enamoured with the device enough to even think about wanting to purchase one. If you had shown an iPad in the first few weeks of release to 10 people, I’m sure that at least half of them would be convinced that they needed or at least wanted one.
I personally will wait, until either a cheap enough generic android tablet is readily available, or I can get one of these for a few hundred dollars less in a few months time. As I’ve just spent all my money buying a new car, there are no more dollars for Xmas gadgets for me this year. So, for the ability to play with the device for a week, I am so grateful to MobiCity – they has allowed me to have my gadget fix, without the post-purchase regret.