Category Archives: Mobility

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – first impressions

So – I’m working on some android ports of some of my popular apps through my company, GeekUtils.  I have a Nexus One for testing with a phone – but I didn’t have a tablet and decided it was time to buy one.

I had some Best Buy gift cards floating around, and I wanted to pick up my new toy in the store on a Friday – so buying my first choice (The Asus Transformer) was out.  I read good things about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and I like the form factor (it’s about the same size as my iPad 2) – so thats what I went with.

Writing an in-depth review at this point is impossible, simply because I have not had that much time to play with it – besides, there are already hundreds of reviews out there.  Instead, I’ll post some categorized “likes and dislikes” from my point of view.

Aesthetics – Likes:

  • Size: Slightly narrower than the iPad2 and slightly taller, it averages out to “about” the same size.  It’s *barely* thinner than the iPad2, but if you’ve installed the smart cover on your iPad2, like most people have, it’s about the thickness of the smart cover itself thinner…. they’re that close.
  • Speakers: This tablet is obviously intended to be used the majority of the time in landscape mode.  Like the iPad, orientation switches automatically – but unlike the iPad, the speakers are on opposite ends on the short sides of the device, the dock connector is on one of the long sides, and the volume/wake switch is on the long side opposite the dock connector.  It’s a bit weird to get used to, because with the iPad2, I use it mostly in portrait orientation – with the galaxy, it spends 90% of it’s time in landscape.  This does, however, create some cool bonuses:
    • The dock connector is on the long side.  If you get a dock with a keyboard, similarly to the Asus Transformer, this thing would look about like a mini laptop.  Many people like to browse webpages on their iPad2’s in landscape mode, but with the dock connector on the bottom – unless you are using a bluetooth keyboard, you don’t have this “convertible” feel.
    • The speakers being on the left and right sides when held in landscape create a great spatial awareness if you’re playing a game or watching a movie that takes advantage of stereo sound.  The iPad2 only has one speaker – on the bottom, so unless you’re using headphones, you don’t get the same quality of audio.
  • The screen is good – resolution is 1280×800, which is slightly higher than the iPad2’s 1024×768 screen.  It’s not so much higher that it makes you ooh and ahh, but it’s definately slightly more crisp.
  • The weight is good – slightly lighter than the iPad – but I believe this is due to the amount of plastic – which, you will see below, is one of my dislikes.
Aesthetics – Dislikes:
  • Plastic:  Ugh.  I was stoked by pictures when it looked like it had a brushed aluminum back.  The problem is, it’s got a PLASTIC faux brushed aluminum back.  It just feels a little cheap.  This may have been done to save cost and weight – but it’s proven that sometimes, a little extra weight adds a subconscious feeling of “quality” to a device.  This device just FEELS cheaper than an iPad2.
Performance – Likes:
  • Feels snappy.  Web browsing is quick and easy, touch sensitivity is good, appears to have plenty of power to run some background tasks without making me kick off ATK every 2 minutes to kill something
Performance – Dislikes:
  • Screen rotation is choppy.  Once the animation starts, it’s fine – but there is a lag between when you tilt the device and when it decides to rotate of almost two seconds sometimes.  Initially I thought that this was done so that you dont have the flipflop of the screen when you hold it at a slight angle (reading while lying down, for example) – but in reality – it just delays that from occuring and pisses you off more when it happens.
OS – Likes:
  • Honeycomb has some cool views of running apps, and some other great features that are remiss in the phone versions of the software.
  • Use of multitouch is worthy of the tablet.
OS – Dislikes
  • Android is simply not as user friendly as iOS.  I’m a geek and love to tinker with things, but I don’t think I could ever recommend an android device to, say, my mom.  She’d go crazy.  Some things that should be second nature just aren’t.
  • Configuration is still as clumsy as it is on the phone
  • Requirement of a google account is just plain silly…  Google integrates a little too much, IMHO.  I’m not sure I want google syncing all of my crap all of the time – I’d rather it just keep certain things separate and restricted to the device.
  • Apps.  Oh…  the apps.  There is more garbage in the android market than there is garbage on the planet.  People give Apple hell for policing what gets posted, but one look at the Android market will show you why they do.  Why in the hell does a screen saver app require full network access and access to my phone book?  This is further complicated because most of the Android devs seem to be completely ignoring the fact that Honeycomb exists.  Nearly every app that has been worthy of a download doesn’t know what Honeycomb is and basically runs as if it’s a big ass phone.  Hopefully this picks up soon, but for now, it’s frustrating.  My contention is that until Google gets a grip on the hardware stream – this will continue – Devs are too busy keeping up with varying phone hardware and now they gotta throw tablets into the mix.  NOW – the big companies – Rovio, EA, etc…  their apps are usually stellar and support Honeycomb – so if you only get apps from big companies, you’re likely to have fun and get the full experience.  But if you like to tinker and try to find that “gem” of an app from an unknown – good luck, bring your shovel, and start digging.
General – Dislikes:
  • Apple is fully justified in their current lawsuit about Samsung copying their devices.  Even the dock connector on this thing is modeled after the iPod/iPad power adaptor.  The plugs and dock connector even look identical (although not interchangeable)
Overall – its a pretty cool device that will spend a lot of time on my shelf unless I’m developing.  The experience of picking up a tablet and quickly surfing the web or checking e-mail just isn’t as good on Android.  It’s evolving, and it’s getting better.  Part of this is just that I’m older now than I used to be – and I have limited patience for finding ways to be productive on new tech, new devices, or new hardware.   The other part is that I am that way because I’ve grown to expect new tech to be intuitive and not even need a manual or constant tinkering to find the good bits.  This is where iOS has an advantage, in my opinion…  I’ve yet to see someone pick up an iPad and not instantly figure out the majority of what’s required to use it.
I’m excited to see what the next versions post honeycomb will bring….  more later, once I’ve had a fair opportunity to use the device.


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