We accepted an invite from Samsung to fly out out to IFA to get an early look at the international version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, their new tablet announced today. You know what that means: Hands-On time!
The Tab is one of many 7 inch tablets about to hit the Market (Samsung is expecting a Q4 release) and it's quite well-done. You'll be forgiven for thinking the Galaxy Tab is just a biggie-sized Galaxy S smartphone running Android 2.2 because, well, that's essentially what it is. To our mind, though, that's not such a bad thing. After the break, find our hands-on video of the device along with some first-look impressions.
At 190.09 x 120.45 x 11.98 mm and 380 grams, the Tab is right at the limit of what you could comfortably hold in one hand for an extended period of time. The bezel around the screen is thick enough to mean you could grip it with your thumb on the front, but we were able to hang on to it as you see in the shot at the top of the post with little trouble.
We do find it a little on the thick and heavy side, but we'll forgive both as it means the Tab is accommodating a 4000mAh battery, which Samsung claims will give the Tab around 7 full hours of video playback. The size means that finger-touch-typing in landscape is a little cramped, but gripping the thing in both hands in portrait mode and banging out messages is an absolute joy - they keyboard feels just slightly bigger than a standard portrait slider like the Epic 4G.
Overall the device feels solid, though the plastics have a slick, glossy look and feel that isn't quite as ambitious as we'd like. The device sports only three buttons: two for volume and one for power. You also have two speakers (fairly loud), one microphone, a rear-facing 3mp camera with flash, and a front-facing 1.3mp camera for video conferencing (Samsung doesn't have any specific videoconferencing software preloaded, but we assume Qik should work). You also have the 4 standard Android Back / Menu / Home / Search buttons on the front, capacitive-style.
Yes, you can make calls directly on the Tab, but we're going to recommend that you use speakerphone or Bluetooth lest you look like a complete sidetalker. It should also fit in large pockets - be they in a sportcoat or cargo pants. Otherwise you'll probably want to think about a case. Speaking of accessories, Samsung will be offing an absolute boatload of them - most of which will be designed to turn the 30 pin connector on the bottom into more useful things like HDMI.
The black front and white rear are a nice look, but it's a look that may or may not survive carrier customization. Speaking of carriers - they're definitely going to be involved as Samsung isn't announcing a WiFi-only version of the device at this time. It's 3G with the 900 / 1900 / 2100 bands and supports WiFi B/G/N.
The screen clocks in at 1024x600 pixels on a standard LCD multitouch display and it operates quite responsively. Overall we were slightly concerned about responsiveness since the Tab is rocking the same 1GHz Coretex A8 / PowerVR SGX540 graphics combo as its smartphone siblings- but once we got to using it we detected no discernable lag. The unit we handed wasn't quite final software and admittedly didn't have a ton loaded on there, but we're not feeling worried about speed here. In fact, Samsung says that the Tab can do full 1080p Playback and like other Galaxy phones fully supports DLNA for shooting your content around to other screens.
As you can see in the video above, we loaded up Glyder 2 and after an initial moment of concern, it played just fine with the build-in accelerometers. As for how other 3rd party Android software handles the non-standard resolution (which technically isn't even supported in the official Android SDK just yet), the jury is still out. We suspect most apps will work just fine at that scale and for those that don't, Samsung has built-in a bit of upscaling wizardry.
Speaking of apps, Samsung has modified TouchWiz 3.0 only very slightly to work on the new Tab. The most notable difference is that the excellent power toggles Samsung puts in the notification area are now joined by a 5th toggle - the orientation lock. The Tab can work in all 4 directions and rotates quickly and cleanly. Mercifully, it doesn't seem to have the hair-trigger on rotation that the iPad does.
Samsung has also introduced custom version of Contacts, Calendar, and an unified email client to work at this resolution. All three are quite nice-looking and take full advantage of the Tab's real estate. We especially like the email client,which sports a unified inbox, quick ways to jump between accounts, and a landscape view that mimics the standard iPad way of displaying the email list on the left, the full message on the right.
Samsung also is bringing two new pieces of software to the table: A Reader Hub and a Music Hub. Both do what you might expect - pull in content from partners for display on the Tab. The Reader Hub grabs Newspapers from PressDisplay, and Magazines from Zinio and Books from Kobo. All display nicely. The Music Hub is a combined music store and player - the music store is powered by 7digital - it's nice but if you don't like it you can still use the default music player.
So how does it stack up? It's comfortable to hold and while it's not as expansive as the iPad, it still feels quite large when you're interacting with content. As far as tablets go, this is probably the perfect 'small tablet' screen size. Speed, responsiveness, and overall feel are excellent. If this device were available in a WiFi-only version we'd buy it in a hot minute.
As it is, we can't say for sure just how the Galaxy Tab will fare - its fate is tied to the release date, carrier customization, and most-of-all app support from developers. It's not enough that the Tab has access to the market, it needs Android apps that by hook-or-crook take advantage of this extra screen size and the powerful processor. Samsung's fate isn't entirely out of their hands, though, as we still have yet to hear the full Media Hub story for getting ahold of video content.
Based on our short time we think the Tab should be on your short list, but while Samsung has made a great device here, the devil will be in those carrier/pricing/app details.