The tablet market may be a one-horse race at the moment, but Samsung has taken the fight directly to Apple's door with the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The tablet is smaller and thinner than the iPad 2, and has a higher resolution screen and better cameras.
This review is based on a pre-production model issued at Google's I/O conference, and the production version goes on sale next month. Pricing has yet to be confirmed but is widely expected to match the iPad.
Samsung claims that the Galaxy Tab is the world's thinnest tablet, and this model is 0.2mm slimmer than the iPad 2, and slightly lighter at 589g. For day-to-day use these reductions make little odds beyond marketing, but the Tab is certainly light enough to carry and use for extended periods.
The 10.1in 1,280x800 TFT screen is crisp and bright, with a wide viewing angle and excellent playback of movies and games, although touch control seems to require more pressure than the iPad 2. Operation is poor in bright sunlight, however, in part due to the highly reflective screen cover.
The rest of the unit is encased in a matt silver frame and there are no removable storage or standard USB ports, although the tablet comes with a USB cable using Samsung's proprietary connector in the base of the unit. This is useful for connecting to a PC but means there is no way of connecting external drives to the unit, which will be possible with Android upgrades.
The top of the casing has the power button, volume rocker and a headphone port, while the unit is charged from a port in the base. The Tab comes with excellent dual speakers on the side of the casing, but the microphone is very poorly positioned on the base of the unit. If the tablet is used on your lap, applications like voice search will struggle.
This tablet comes with 32GB of storage, of which around 28GB is available to the user. The 1GB of RAM is capable of handling most tasks, although fast scrolling down long web pages can cause areas of the screen to struggle to render in time.
The cameras on this tablet really shine. The front-facing 2-megapixel unit is good enough for basic videoconferencing but the 8-megapixel rear camera, which is capable of 1080p video recording and comes with flash, is excellent quality. The camera and video settings are adjustable and the only complaint is the relatively poor shooting speed.
For connectivity the Galaxy Tab comes with full 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi support and Bluetooth, as well as GPS and a gyroscope and accelerometer for use with applications. Samsung has included a good quality set of in-ear headphones with a variety of ear buds, which is a very welcome touch.
The 6860mAh battery gives around 10 hours of battery life performing normal tasks and the company claims standby time of over a month. Having such a large battery, however, does mean slow recharging, and it took nearly three hours to get the tablet from flat to full charge.
On final release Samsung will sell 16GB and 32GB versions of the Tab with Wi-Fi or HSPA+ options. An 8.9in version will also be available.