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Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

01 Dec 2011

There’s little wonder why Apple’s made such an effort to shut down Samsung’s recent tablet efforts. Yes, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 does bear one or two striking similarities to the iPad. But more importantly, it’s the first real contender to Apple’s tablet, even outpacing it in one or two areas.

One of the big ones is given away by the name – the Galaxy Tab 10.1 sports, unsurprisingly, a 10.1-inch display (as opposed to the 9.7-inch display of the iPad 2). It’s an LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 768 x 1024. It’s extremely vivid and clear, and viewing all manner of media – from pictures to web pages to videos – is an absolute joy. Better still, the device’s battery life is fairly impressive; chances are that, even with excessive use, it’ll survive the better part of a 12-hour plane flight. With non-excessive use, you’ll likely get a good two days’ standby time, maybe three, from a single charge.

Not only does the Galaxy Tab 10.1 offer more screen real estate, but the general proportions are far more to my liking than any other tablet that I’ve experienced. This thing is extraordinarily thin, at only 8.8mm thick, and weighs a mere 607g. It means that holding it in one hand is a surprisingly comfortable and pleasant experience.

There are two cameras on offer: one rear-facing 3.15MP camera with autofocus, an LED flash and a resolution of 2048 x 1536; and a front-facing 2MP camera. It’s one department where the Galaxy Tab seriously outperforms the iPad 2. Of course, the front-facing camera enables not only self-taken photographs but also Skype video calls.

Running Android OS v3.1 (aka Honeycomb), a variant of Google’s mobile operating system that’s custom built for tablets, the Galaxy Tab features one slick and powerful interface. Rather than simply presenting  the user with column after column of app icons, each page can also be customised with a range of widgets, some of which run in the background. A Windows-style taskbar runs along the display’s bottom edge, from which much of the interface can be accessed and unobtrusive alerts will pop up to notify you of new emails, tweets and so forth. Driving the interface takes just a little getting used to, but it’s a cleverly designed UI that enables powerful device-wide navigation with a minimum of steps. The onboard Web browser is based on Google’s Chrome and, as such, it features many functions that an increasing number of Chrome users have come to love. And it’s all as fast as you like owing to its dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor.

If there’s one small problem with the Galaxy Tab, it’s that it’s missing any kind of external storage option. This display is just screaming out for you to watch (and record, for that matter) a wealth of video content at 720p, and so you’ll fill these units up quick smart. Most Android-based mobiles feature a microSD slot, so it seems like a missed opportunity here.

Pros: Comfortable to use. Excellent display. Slick, powerful and zippy interface.

Cons: No microSD slot.

VERDICT: The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is easily the best Android-based tablet out there and, at a pinch, perhaps the device to finally unseat the mighty iPad 2. Of course, your take on the usual Android vs. iOS preferential debate will likely tip the balance. Personally, I’d go with Galaxy.

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