Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Review and Test Report

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USER INTERFACE AND HONEYCOMB

Samsung has added its TouchWiz interface on top of Android 3.1 Honeycomb.  Honeycomb is the first version of Android optimized for tablets, and it looks and feels the part.  Users of Android phones will be familiar with the layout of the multiple home screens, with widgets and applications grouped on each one.  Samsung has overdone it a bit with the widgets, the home screens felt incredibly cluttered, and the first thing I did was to remove almost every widget.

The TouchWiz interface is not all bad though, there are several nice features included in the control bar that always rests at the bottom of the display.  On the right side, the Quick Panel is accessible by tapping the time and battery display in the lower right hand corner.  The Quick Panel gives the user access to controls for Wi-Fi, notifications, GPS, auto rotation, Bluetooth, flight mode, and brightness settings, all without having to exit any application that is being used.

Also quite handy is the set of on screen controls on the lower left side of the display.  Here you find a back button (which works in all applications I tested it on), and a home button to return to the main home screen.  The TouchWiz interface also adds a very useful “recent apps” button that allows you to pull up a list of every app that you have open, and go right to it.  This allows for juggling between applications almost as quickly as on a PC.  Not as key, but still a nice touch, is a button for taking a full screenshot, which is saved to the photo gallery.

In the middle of the black control bar, is a button that pulls up a mini-apps tray with task manager, calendar, clock, note taking, calculator, and music playing mini-apps.  The mini-apps run on top of whatever app you were using without disturbing it, allowing you to jot down a note while reading a Web page, close running applications and monitor memory usage, or to check your calendar and add an appointment while in a video chat.  The ability to run these mini-apps on top of normal apps is the closest thing to true multitasking in a tablet that I have seen.

APPS AND STUFF

Mobile devices and platforms live and die by the strength of their respective app markets.  Apple and the iPad have a clear advantage because of the wide selection of iPad optimized apps.  By contrast, when looking for high-quality apps for the Galaxy Tab, you have to consider the wide range of devices and versions of Android that the apps were developed for.  Even apps that were designed for tablets, as opposed to Android phones, many not have been optimized for Honeycomb.  The selection of Honeycomb specific apps is growing, but it is nowhere near as large as what Apple offers, and is highly unlikely to get there anytime soon, if ever.

The basic set of apps that the Galaxy Tab ships with are all solid, and major apps, such as Evernote, Dropbox, CNN, New York Times, Quick Office Pro, Citrix Receiver, and LogMeIn, are available.

For the business traveler, some useful apps include Flight Track for keeping tabs on flights and flight information; TripAdvisor for finding reviews and information on hotels, attractions, and restaurants; and TripIt for organizing travel information.  One of the best looking travel apps that really takes advantage of the Galaxy Tab 10.1’s large screen and sharp display is WebPort HD, which allows the user to search for flights, hotels, rental cars, and contact information for airlines and hotels.  It also features travel document storage and links to online sites for currency conversion and weather and travel advisories.

BOTTOM LINE

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a good tablet, and certainly rivals, if not beats the iPad 2 in hardware specifications and size.  Unfortunately, for many users, it will all come down to app selection, which Android devices in general, and Honeycomb tablets in particular fall short on.  This is a real shame, because the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a worthy and capable player.  $472 at www.amazon.com at the time of publication.

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