The Pansentient League’s Guide to the Galaxy Tab

I bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab at the weekend and have now had a couple of days playing around with it. I wanted a tablet mostly to replace my Eee PC netbook, which I’d use for browsing and tweeting while watching TV or lounging about in bed.

I bought an unlocked Galaxy Tab for £499 from my local Phones 4U store. It doesn’t need a SIM card so I didn’t have to take out any kind of contract: this makes it essentially a wi-fi only tablet, but if necessary I can easily pop in my T-Mobile SIM card from my HTC Desire to enable 3G while roaming.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab is a georgeous slab of portable technology. Its lines are smooth, slick and sexy and it feels suitably expensive in your hand. A 7″ tablet is the goldilocks size: not too small, not too large. About the size of a paperback book, this tablet is portable and can easily fit into a jacket pocket.

The Galaxy Tab makes a lot of dedicated hardware devices redundant. It can replace your:

  • Laptop and netbook
  • ebook reader
  • MP3 player
  • Digital camera
  • Webcam
  • Media streamer
  • Sat nav
  • Wi-Fi mobile hotspot
  • Handheld gaming console
  • Portable TV/DVD player
  • Digital photo frame (thanks KUDOS 555 for pointing this one out!)

And of course it can also replace your smartphone/mobile phone/cell phone. With the right sofware (all available for free from the Android Market), the Galaxy Tab is also the ideal couch device for web browsing, reading the papers, social media updates, checking what’s on TV and reading comicbooks (if you’re into that kinda thing).

First Impressions

Coming from an HTC Desire the Samsung-tweaked Android 2.2 interface was instantly familiar, with all its multitasking, widget-friendly goodness. There’s a great little Samsung task-manager widget to keep track of what’s running and using resources, and the Hummingbird processor zips along. 802.11n Wi-Fi gives it a bit more range and download speed compared to most smartphones, and Flash support opens up sites like the BBC iPlayer.

The screen is fabulous, I can’t see how a Super AMOLED version would be much better. Text looks extremely clear and crisp, and the high pixel density makes reading large amounts of text less of an eye strain.

I’m mostly surrounded by wi-fi 24 hours a day, which is why I didn’t want a contract version of the Galaxy Tab. Without a SIM card there are a few minor inconveniences though:

  • The lock screen tells me to put in a SIM card and that I can only make emergency calls
  • A “No SIM card” icon is permanently displayed on the task bar
  • The Samsung app store app doesn’t work
  • Can’t make or receive SMS messages or phone calls (unless I install Fring or Skype)

None of these is really an issue for me: I still have a smartphone for calls and text messaging, and the Samsung app store is laughably bare anyway.

HTC Desire vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab

Niggles

  • The Galaxy Tab is a slippery sucker and can easily slide off your lap. I don’t really want to hide those beautiful curves with a bumper/grip thing so will just need to get used to this.
  • The browser is a little bit laggy when viewing media-rich webpages, and there’s a slight (but noticible) delay as it “re-focuses” the text when you zoom in. So I installed the Dolphin HD browser which doesn’t have the re-focus problem, handles rich pages better, and lets you set the browser agent to desktop (the standard browser is hard-coded as mobile).
  • The pre-installed DNLA app leaves a lot to be desired. In theory it should easily stream media to and from any other device (PC, net-enabled TV etc.) but in practice it’s very flakey. When sharing from my desktop PC to the Tab the app takes forever building a list of files and frequently hangs. I don’t have that many shared items (gigabytes not terabytes) but un-sharing my music seemed to help a bit. If you’re lucky and it connects OK there’s only one way to view your shared media: alphabetically. There’s no navigate by folder option and unlike internal playback the file formats it can play is very limited (WMVs, regular AVIs, that’s about it). My Sony Bravia can play MKVs re-containerised as MPG files (using the excellent mkv2vob) but the Tab’s streaming app is having none of it.
  • You can’t charge the Galaxy Tab from regular USB – you need to use the proprietary cable instead. There’s no micro-USB socket and no HDMI (unless you buy the Samsung desk accessory thing). The plug for the wall socket is also a bit wierd and chunky.
  • The camera’s good but not great. But then there’s also a front-facing camera as well.
  • Some apps don’t scale up to fit the full 7″ screen size yet. Not many though (and there are workarounds).

And that’s about it for problems. The battery life seems fine and the screen size is perfect for just about anything you’d want to do with a tablet.

So price aside, I’m very happy with my Samsung Galaxy Tab so far. It’s very Star Trek, but if The Original Series gave us the communicator (as cell phones), the Galaxy Tab is tablet computing from The Next Generation: they made it so! 

  © 2014 Jer White / Pansentient League.
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