Thursday, June 30, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tablet

Over the past couple of days I got the chance to play with a 7" Samsung Galaxy tablet with WiFi and 3G from T-Mobile at work. We haven't activated the 3G so I only got to use the WiFi.  This isn't a full review, just some first impressions.

The overall feel of the Galaxy is much like a large Droid phone.  The OS is Android 2.2 "Froyo."  I mainly used the Android browser, Firefox, Opera Mini, and Facebook.

Size of the Galaxy is almost the same as my Kindle, but it's heavier because of the glass touchscreen.  Workmanship is solid and the device feels well made.   The screen looks very good and the device feels pretty speedy in most applications.  With a 7" screen it's larger than the big Android phones like the HTC Thunderbolt but it can still fit into a back pocket of one's jeans.  However, this is small enough that you'll often want to zoom in on web pages to read what displays as fine print.

AIUI, the WiFi-only version of the Galaxy has a slower processor than the 3G/WiFi version.  Something to consider if you're in the market for a tablet and considering the Samsung.

I did a little bit of reading using the Kindle app.  Text displays nicely but for reading a Kindle device is still better due to the lack of a backlit screen.  The Kindle's e-ink technology provides a non-glare screen that doesn't cause eyestrain like an LCD display. I found that when using the Kindle app on the Galaxy I preferred it set to have a black background and white text, since this was easier on my eyes.

The Galaxy comes with a USB charger but uses a proprietary connector on the device itself. The connector looks much like an Apple Dock connector but they are not compatible. IMO it would have been better for Samsung to have used a regular Micro-USB connection.

Other ports on the Galaxy are a microSD card slot which supports up to a 32 GB card, and a SIM card slot.  The microSD card slot is the biggest advantage devices like the Galaxy has over an iPad, IMO.

The stock Android browser sucks. I didn't realize how badly it sucks until I changed my cell phone from an original Droid to an iPhone 4 back in April.  In my experience, the Android browser doesn't render pages as nicely as Safari on the iPhone, or Firefox or Opera Mini on Android. It's also slower than the other browsers and scrolling on a page is frequently choppy, especially on pages with many objects, e.g.,

The included YouTube app works well.

The stock Gmail application works as well on the Galaxy as it does on a Droid phone.  Compared with the unified mail app on iPhones I like the Gmail app better.  For example, I like being able to delete a message with one tap vs. two or more on the iPhone.

One advantage that Android tablets, including the Galaxy, have over iPads is that you do not need a specific application on your computer to manage the device.  IPads need iTunes for device activation and management, although it's my understanding that this will change in iOS5.  In contrast, an Android device can be activated by itself and if you do connect it to a computer, it mounts just like a USB drive, allowing you to drag and drop files right onto it.

Overall, my initial impression is that the Samsung Galaxy is a good tablet computing device.  How it'll hold up over the long haul I can't say. Both my wife and I have experienced increasing device flakiness with our Droid phones after about a year of use. How much of that is due to hardware and how much due to software I don't know.  Also, were I purchasing a tablet I'd want a 10" screen.

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