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Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Review - Is It Better than the iPad 2?

by on June 13, 2011
in Computers and Software, Tablets & eReaders, Guides & Reviews

As soon as it came out of the box, it was clear to me that the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the best Android tablet on the market. It's far thinner and lighter than any of its Android competitors, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the first Android tablet to give the iPad 2 a real run for its money. If you needed proof that Android will be competitive with Apple's iOS, this is it.

But for all the beauty of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 hardware, Android's Honeycomb is still hit and miss. Features such as live widgets on the homepage and a tabbed browser running Flash put Apple's iOS to shame. Yet with a limited app selection and laggy performance in browser text entry, investing in a Galaxy Tab requires a small leap of faith in what the future will bring.

 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

How it feels in the hand

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is simply a beautiful device and, in my humble opinion, is every bit as appealing as an iPad 2. It is as thin as the iPad 2 at .34 inches and even lighter at 1.25 pounds (vs 1.33 pounds for the iPad 2). The Motorola Xoom at 1.56 pounds doesn't even come close.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Around the side of the Galaxy Tab is an aluminum strip, while the back is white plastic. The plastic may be more prone to scratching than the iPad 2's aluminum back, but also offers a more secure grip. The power and volume rocker buttons along the top feel solid, though their close proximity to each other and similar shape make it too easy to turn off the tablet when you are just trying to change the volume—I wish Samsung would have gone with the power button on the front like the iPad 2.

Display & sound

Like many other 10.1-inch Android tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab has a 1280 x 800 TFT LCD display, beating out the iPad 2's 1024 x 768 display. The display was bright and colors were noticeably more vibrant than on the Motorola Xoom, though were slightly oversaturated—an issue we've seen on other Samsung devices.

Unfortunately, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 does not have a standard HDMI output jack, but can output HDMI through an optional cable and will support DLNA with a future software upgrade.

The sound quality from the Tab 10.1's dual speakers was surprisingly good. Not only was sound clear, but the Tab 10.1 was able to deliver a true stereo effect in games and movies.

Web browsing

Web browsing is a much better experience with Android Honeycomb than Apple iOS. The browser supports tabbed browsing and true multitasking, so pages continue to load in the background when you switch tabs. That makes a big difference if you're constantly browsing multiple pages at once, like I do. Apple will finally gain tabbed browsing when iOS 5 launches in the fall.

Of course, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 supports Adobe Flash, providing access to many web page features the iPad 2 can't.

The Tab 10.1 has the same Nvidia dual-core processor as the Motorola Xoom and Acer Iconia Tab A500, which makes for a speedy browsing experience. Page rendering, scrolling and zooming were all quick. Though I had annoying lag issues when using the virtual keypad to enter in urls or other text while in the browser. I had similar problems with the Motorola Xoom, so this seems to be a Honeycomb issue.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is currently Wi-Fi only, though a Tab 10.1 4G LTE version for Verizon should be available in July.

Camera & video recording

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 only has a 3MP rear-facing camera and a 2MP front-facing camera. Image quality was decent from the rear-facing camera when there was plenty of light, but suffered noticeably from graininess and poor color accuracy in low-light conditions. I wish Samsung had gone with a 5MP.

The front-facing 2MP camera was fine for video chat.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 can shoot 720p video, and quality wasn't bad. There were no major issues with jiggles and stutters, though image detail was not great.

Keyboard & navigation

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 ships with Android Honeycomb 3.1. While I find Honeycomb less intuitive than the Froyo and Gingerbread Android variations found on cell phones, as well as Apple's iOS, it does offer a number of features iOS does not. Chief among those is the ability to customize your homescreens with live versions of various widgets, such as email, calendar and music players. On the Galaxy Tab 10.1, these widgets can also be easily resized.

The dual-core processors along with Honeycomb provide speedy navigation, videos played well and apps opened quickly. As mentioned above, I had problems with text lagging in browser entry fields. This is a Honeycomb issue and I hope Google fixes it soon.

Tablet specific apps for Android are still few and far between, with less than 100 called out in the Marketplace. Though for the average user who mostly uses the tablet for email, browsing and media consumption, the apps available are excellent. Android smartphone apps also work just fine, and many of these have been adapted to work well on tablets, too. I did experience the occasional app crash, which is disappointing, There's no doubt that Apple still holds a big advantage here.

If you're a Mac user, you need to know that there is a problem syncing files between the Tab 10.1 and Macs. This is likely something that will be fixed soon, but for now, getting photos or videos off the Tab will require emailing them to yourself.

Storage

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is available with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, but no microSD slot on the 16GB Wi-Fi model I tested. 

Battery Life

Battery life was very good during my use, down about 40% after many hours of usage. In-depth battery testing by Engadget suggests that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has longer battery life than nearly all other Android tablets and is nearly on par with the iPad 2—an incredible achievement for Samsung in a tablet this light and thin.

Pricing & availability

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 will be available on June 17th in a 16GB Wi-Fi version for $499 and a 32GB version for $599—exactly matching the iPad 2 pricing. If you're in the New York City area, you can pick one up now from the Best Buy in Union Square. 4G pricing has not yet been announced.

Should you buy it?

Make no doubt about it, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a very fine tablet. From a hardware perspective, the tab 10.1 is very much the equal of the iPad 2—slightly behind in a couple of areas, and slightly ahead in others. If you're in the market for a 10-inch Android tablet, this is the one to get.

When compared head-to-head with the entire iPad ecosystem, Android still has some catching up to do. The app selection is limited and there are a number of quibbles I have with stability. But Android also offers some very helpful features that iOS does not, such as customizable widgets and tabbed browsing (at least not until iOS 5 comes out in the fall). It will be very interesting to see where things stand six months from now.

While it's perfectly understandable that Android Honeycomb, which has only been on the market for five months, may be behind iOS, I still don't get why the tablet manufacturers have not recognized this in their pricing. Only the Acer Iconia Tab and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer offer a significant discount versus the iPad 2, but their hardware doesn't come close to the quality. Samsung (and Motorola, too) has chosen to match the iPad 2 pricing dollar for dollar, and that makes the Galaxy Tab 10.1, as much as I liked it, a little harder to strongly recommend—a $50 discount would have made a big difference here—but even tablet shoppers committed to the iPad 2 should take a look at the Galaxy Tab 10.1 before deciding.

Rating: Recommended 

 

Detailed Specs

OS: Android Honeycomb 3.1
Weight: 1.25 pounds
Dimensions: 10.1” x 6.9” x 0.34"
Display: 10.1" WXGA LCD (1280 x 800)
Video: 720p HD video recording
Camera: 3MP with autofocus and LED flash
Front-facing camera: 2MP
Processor: 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra Processor
Memory: 16GB or 32GB on-board, no microSD slot for Wi-Fi models
Wi-Fi: 2.4GHz and 5GHz

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Discussion loading

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Ebook reader capability?

From Atif Shaikh on June 14, 2011 :: 9:00 am

If I would buy a tablet, I would buy the one that can help me read through most formats. The most common ones that I use are PDF, CHM, PDB and MS Word. Can you tell me which is the best Tablet for this purpose? Am not sure if Android has an app to read CHM and PDB…

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There are apps out there

From Josh Kirschner on June 14, 2011 :: 9:47 am

There are apps out there that can handle those formats. iReader, for Android, is one. I haven’t tested them, so I can’t give you specific recommendations, but you can check out the reviews in the Marketplace. Every Android tablet should be more or less the same in it’s ability to load these apps and handle the formats.

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Bias is clear

From Bias is clear on June 14, 2011 :: 11:38 am

Whether the Author accepts it or not, but hist bias is very clear in this review. Even though IOS lack in so many features, the author decides to list only one or two and then immediately puts a ‘atleast until next version of ios’. In realy IOS is catching up to android in many areas and IOS 5 is a clear example of that(notifications system anyone?).
For a thinner and lighter device, with same battery life, better processor, better memory, a more advanced OS…..why in the world would Samsung offer a discount over ipad 2???

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My bias is actually slightly

From Josh Kirschner on June 14, 2011 :: 4:38 pm

My bias is actually slightly toward Android and my comment you quote was actually a compliment for Android. Apple’s deciding to copy many of Android’s features in iOS 5 is an indicator of Android’s leadership in many areas.

But with tablets, what apps are available is far more important than how much RAM it has, and Android is far, far behind Apple. It won’t be forever, but it is today. And for that reason, I believe manufacturers Samsung should be providing a discount versus the iPad.

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"Only the Acer Iconia Tab

From Alex on June 14, 2011 :: 2:05 pm

“Only the Acer Iconia Tab and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer offer a significant discount versus the iPad 2, but their hardware doesn’t come close to the quality.” Really? Asus EEE Pad has better resolution and the same IPS screen and better viewing angles than iPad2. Also has 1GB of internal memory instead of 512MB(half). Also is optionally expandable with SD and Micro SD cards, USB2.0 compatible, comes with an optional dock that makes battery life 16 hours, comes with Asus Cloud that allows UNLIMITED STORAGE free for a year. How could you really say that it doesn’t come close to quality unless you really don’t know what you’re talking about? Oh, nevermind, you don’t. Don’t start reviewing other tablets in this review if you haven’t even held one and read the specifications.

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You know, that's a fair

From Josh Kirschner on June 14, 2011 :: 4:57 pm

You know, that’s a fair criticism. I stand by the Acer Iconia Tab comparison, but the Asus Eee, even if the build quality is not fully up to Apple standards, does offer a lot at a pretty compelling price.

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Why?

From Mike on June 15, 2011 :: 11:25 pm

Samsung, Motorola and, especially, Blackberry rushed to market to get a piece of Apple’s action.

They want a piece, however small, of the money Apple is making on the iPad/iPad2 hardware and software.

So, they are putting out something, anything, to grab a piece of that pie. In other words, they are playing ‘catch up’ and hope that no one will notice.

Blackberry even introduced something that seems to be, at best, beta. With software panned by every review I’ve read. And you can’t do several key things - like email - without having a Blackberry cell phone.

Maybe Samsung, Motorola and any of the iPad wannabes will catch up. I doubt it since they are reacting to Apple’s innovation, instead of innovating themselves.

What do they think, the iPad2 will go away and people will want to buy their products?

Market share is largely hype. Apple has a higher market cap and more cash on hand than Microsoft. Do the math - Apple’s making more money, has more cash on hand and higher market cap than <gasp> Microsoft. The same Microsoft that controls 85% of the microcomputer OS market. Which would you be betting on?

Call me when a tablet, other than the iPad, sells a million units in the first 90 days of introduction. Let me know when another ‘app store’ does business that is 10% of what iTunes does…

The only way the ‘Johnnie come lately’ tablets will sell is to people have an irrational dislike of Apple and/or people who are willing to buy junk on price point alone.

In other words, buy at your own risk.

This is were I tell you that I am using a HP laptop with an i3 CPU, so I must like Windows.

Compared to the MacBook Pro with an i5 CPU, the HP isn’t even the same time zone…

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"Apple... I am your father!"- Samsung

From Revan Kon on June 16, 2011 :: 12:01 pm

One also has to keep in mind that Samsung is the main producer of Apple mobile devices.  Samsung made the iPhone 4, hence why the galaxy s1 has the same exact specs or better except with Android.  Also, the new iPad is made by Samsung.  The only major component that is not made by Samsung is the screens. Any guess why?  Stevie wanted Samsung to charge less for their Super Amoled screens and produce more in a shorter time.  Samsung fought back and refused to give up their flagship screens for an insulting low price.  So I am surprised to hear you say “over saturated” because Samsung’s screens are just like their HDTV panels.  Greens are beautiful, reds are hot, and blacks are blacks.  Samsung’s only look “over saturated” next to a dull coloured Iphone and HTC.  I will be purchasing that Galaxy Tab 10.1 tomorrow on opening day, and I shall gladly waltz around with a higher screen resolution, better camera, led flash, thinner, lighter, brighter, and more compatible tablet.  I shall leave with this anecdote. I was in the ATT store when a young woman college student walked in with her iPhone 5 and tried to get it to get out of sleep mode.  “I was texting two minutes ago, pressed the sleep button and now look, it takes 10 seconds for it to even pop back on!  Please, help me get rid of this thing!  I hear there are some great Android Phones that just came out.”  What did the ATT Employee recommend?  Showed her the HTC Inspire and the new Samsung Infuse.  She immediately took a liking to the brighter, bigger, lighter Samsung and once swype texting was shown, the battle was won.  Heck, I always complain about Apple because as a Computer Engineer, I push my systems to the max; so it makes sense how I can freeze a mac every time I use one.  But the average consumer, freezing the “unbeatable” iphone 4? It goes to show that shiny and metal isn’t always better. PEACE!

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Quick fix

From Revan Kon on June 16, 2011 :: 12:03 pm

She walked in with an iPhone 4 not 5 excuse me, typing too fast.

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Nice review

From Jeff Rivera on June 21, 2011 :: 11:56 am

Well done on the review. I have a group of friends that dogs on me constantly for buying a Xoom as they’re all iPad and iPad 2 owners. I don’t let it get to me too much, because I actually feel that the Xoom excels in lots of ways where the iPad 2 has issues.

I was able to play with the Samsung 10.1 for about an hour early in June and it was very impressive. It definitely made my Xoom feel a bit aged, but I think I’m waiting until the 3rd wave of Samsung tablets to upgrade from my Xoom.

But again, nice job detailing the pros and cons of the device.

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Thanks,Jeff!

From Josh Kirschner on June 22, 2011 :: 8:17 am

Thanks,Jeff!

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New at researching...

From Jewely on July 13, 2011 :: 9:36 pm

Ok, I’m gonna show how dense I am! Love this article - I have just begun the research on which tablet I will be buying (eventually). A question my husband keeps asking me, and now I’m wondering if anyone out there can answer it… Why get a tablet? I have an iPod Touch 4th gen, a Nook (the version just before the color came out! grrr), and an Android phone. Granted, I guess I can do all of my main things (book listening, book reading, music, i’net surfing, e-mail) with just one 10 inch tablet… any other reasons to spend the money on one of these? (yes, I am an electronics junkie) This article has me now looking at the Galaxy Tab over the iPad 2!!! But, it will be a few months before I do take the plunge - I do a lot of research before I dive!

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Just bought samsun10.1

From jeremy on July 22, 2011 :: 5:05 pm

I already had ipad2 and bought samsung .
I prefer samsung over ipad2 as its lighter and its much easier to read when tablet held up in one hand.

Also the keyboard on ipad2 sucks..It has smallest space key in the world and I keep going wrong on it .galaxy since its wider has a much better on screen keyboard.

When it comes to OS : i dont see much of difference in features. Google surely will be doing a better job and shorty take over

Apps: i have been able to find all the apps I need on both the platforms .

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Somethings not mentioned...

From Randy on September 07, 2011 :: 11:38 am

...and it’s service. How come these articles never mention what happens when something hi tech like this goes bad? No one wants to admit it, but even tablets can go bad and there is where Apple has and always will outshine any other competitor hands down.
Apple service centers and Apple Stores, heck even their phone support, is beyond anyone else’s. When this Galaxy has a technical problem, will you be able to go into an Amazon store to have it looked at? No. How about an Android Store? No. How well versed will those cell phone salesmen be on the inner workings of your tablet?
Please mention the inevitable condition known as needed service when comparing these products. No one…not even Apple products are perfect and the service issue needs to be addressed when making a purchase such as this.

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Honeycomb Keyboard

From nibor on September 07, 2011 :: 2:21 pm

For me, the show stopper has been that maddening lag with the virtual keyboard and Honeycomb. This has been known since release and nothing done. For those using these for $600 DVD players, it won’t matter. For those moving to a tab for productivity, this can be a deal breaker until Google takes an interest in fixing the problem.

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Musicsheet

From deka on September 13, 2011 :: 1:50 pm

hi guyz

i dont know wich one to buy for reading music sheet?
samsung is a little bigger so i think eazer to read but ipad have now a lot of programs who work perfect for reading and samsung does not have it yet
or did i mis one?

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does sam galaxy support 3g

From TUNS on December 29, 2011 :: 8:40 am

for the fact that it support adobe i would go for it
but my only worries is does it have 3G ability as ipad 2 ?

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Better with samsung

From Pressa on September 10, 2012 :: 1:12 pm

After all updates Samsung is the winner, especially the new coming tab.

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I'm planning to purchase the

From Dwight Rose on January 30, 2013 :: 12:02 pm

I’m planning to purchase the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to read music sheets. Is this a good idea? Does allow me to scan the sheets and transfer from my laptop?

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