In this review I’m specifically covering Verizon’s flavor of the Galaxy Tab, but my experiences are largely applicable to any Galaxy Tab, outside of coverage and cost issues. Of course there are some custom apps and each carrier is attempting to create unique features or content so their Tabs will stand out from the rest, but essentially, a Tab is a Tab.
Up front costs are an issue, specifically for those heading to an AT&T or Verizon Store. Neither are offering contract subsidies (like the $200 savings T-Mobile and Sprint are pushing). But VZW customers will save over AT&T loyalists, who will have to cough up $649 for the device. Big Red is selling theirs for $599; take it or leave it. Of course, all of these numbers don’t take into account Black Friday and other holiday bargains. Monthy data (there is no telephony option) starts at $20 for 1GB.
Samsung Galaxy Tab (site)
Perhaps more important than cost is the issue of whether or not you actually need a tablet computer. I personally own a super phone, a laptop computer, and an e-reader. For me, the Tab is an expensive toy (albeit a powerful one) that I can easily live without. In fact, I rarely used it outside of the context of researching for this review. When I did, it was a great deal of fun but I just don’t have a need for such a thing in my life. If I didn’t have an e-reader I might consider purchasing a Tab, but at these price points, they really are just a fancy and luxurious vehicle for completing tasks and engaging in entertainment that are usually handled by some other gadget in the standard arsenal. If I were looking for an e-reader, I would buy an e-reader. That’s my take on the necessity of these devices, but perhaps your life has a niche mine doesn’t, or maybe you are hopelessly addicted to tech and have the scratch to spare. Alright, let’s continue then.
Samsung has done an excellent job of dressing up Android for the bigger screen, and you’ll find some of the modifications actually carry over from the S series of phones. Mostly, you just have more space, which can be both freeing and excessive.
My favorite carry-over from the S series of phones is Samsung’s Touch Wiz strip of shortcuts, which resides in the drop-down notifications bar. Wi-Fi-Bluetooth, and other shortcuts are implemented so practically that it’s a wonder others haven’t jumped on this idea. Where you can simply slide your finger left and right across the notifications bar for ribbon controller-like brightness adjustment on the Galaxy S phones, a slider substitutes in the drop-down on the Tab. The rest of the UI–aside from from blue app decoration and such–feels like vanilla Android, with a 5X5 unit grid for icon placement on the home screens.
The Tab packs a 7″ display (see it in sunlight here: Galaxy Tab sunlight visibility) and measures in at 190.09 X 120.45 X 11.98 mm and 380 grams. It’s possible to fit this thing inside the pocket that lines a sports coat or even halfway into the back pocket of a pair of jeans, but neither are comfortable or safe places to be carrying such a thing. You’ll find plenty of fan sites that praise the Tab’s portability, but unless you have free room in your purse or laptop/messenger bag, expect the Tab to require your constant attention on a day’s journey. A lot of that time will be spent staring at the screen, but if you take the tablet for a day around town, you’re likely to be caring for it like you would any delicate, precious thing that’s worth a lot of money.
The keyboard is too wide in portrait or landscape modes or me to use thumbs for tapping and is too small to use like a laptop keyboard so it’s a good thing Tab comes with the innovative Swype keyboard installed. Even so, at this scale, talented Swypers will require a bit of adjustment. Jump to the 7 minute point in my hands on video to see what I mean:
Two areas where the Tab really stands out are HD gameplay and video playback. If there’s anything that can justify lugging the Tab around, it’s definitely games and movies. With Samsung’s Media Hub on board, renting movings is just too easy, as is watching them. Other than a case to carry it in, something the Tab demands within a day or two of use is some sort of stand. I have only tested one, but it is functional, light, and affordable (which might be more important to you after dropping a chunk of change on a Tab). I’m using Arkon’s IPM-TAB1, which goes for $17.95. (Dedicated review of the Arkon IPM-TAB1)
I have yet to complete a successful video chat on my Galaxy Tab and this is primarily due to the fact that the version of Qik it downloads from the Market has no option to initiate a video chat. I’m using a review loaner, so I do not have access to the VCast Apps that other VZW Tab owners will have, so my feedback here is not indicative of the average experience. It is important to mention that I tried to get video chat working on several occassions and was not successful. Dustin’s T-Mobile Tab has Qik (powered by T-Mobile), which does provide the option to initiate chats, and it works for him. For my sake, we decided to try out Fring, the new Yahoo! IM with video chat, and I don’t know what else. While he can chat with others, and while we did get audio and shoddy, one-way video operational, I haven’t experienced a full-fledged video chat on my Tab. Again, your experience will probably differ from mine on this front.
If you have the cash to spend on this sexy device, the Galaxy Tab will not disappoint. The hardware is beautiful, the display rocks, and it’s just a barrel of fun to use. But if you simply lust after cool tech and aren’t quite sure where this thing fits into your life, that’s probably because it doesn’t. The Tab won’t replace any other piece of gear (an e-reader being the unlikely exception) and other gadgets (that you probably already have) can match its capabilities. The monthly costs are reasonable but the up front price is hefty. I don’t know very many people who couldn’t spend $600 on things that they genuinely need. But if you grabbed one of these for a gift or couldn’t resist a Black Friday bargain, I think you’ll find very little to regret, at least as far as product satisfaction goes. The sate of your bank account and other financial affairs are another matter.