Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 Review
When I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, I called it the best Android tablet on the market. And the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 offers all the features of its bigger brother, in a slightly smaller, lighter package. The exception being a 4G LTE version for Verizon, which is only available in the Tab 10.1.
Samsung is still making a great tablet, maybe the best out there, and much of what you read below is identical to our comments on the 10.1. But the competition has stepped up their game, too.
An Acer Iconia Tab A100 with a 7-inch display is almost as thin and even lighter, and will run you $120 less than the Galaxy Tab's $470 price tag. Meanwhile, Amazon's soon-to-be-released Kindle Fire is only $200. Is a Galaxy Tab worth $270 more than a Kindle Fire? For many, the answer will likely be "no". But if money isn't a concern, the Samsung is the way to go.
How it feels in the hand
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is thin (only.34 inches) and light (15.7 ounces) and feels solid in your hand. Far lighter than the Galaxy Tab 10.1 at 1.25 pounds or the iPad 2 at 1.33 pounds.
Around the side of the Galaxy Tab is an aluminum strip, while the back is a textured dark gray plastic that offers a 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 its 10.1-inch big brother, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 has a 1280 x 800 TFT LCD display, beating out the iPad 2's 1024 x 768 display. The display was bright with rich colors and very good contrast.
The Galaxy Tab 8.9 does not have a standard HDMI output jack, but can output HDMI through an optional cable and supports DLNA.
The sound quality from the Tab 8.9's dual speakers was very good. There was plenty of volume and decent range in lows & highs.
Web browsing continues to be very good experience with Android Honeycomb.Of course, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 supports Adobe Flash, providing access to many web page features the iPad 2 can't.
The Tab 8.9 uses the same Nvidia dual-core processor as Tab 0.1 and the Acer Iconia Tab A100, which makes for a speedy browsing experience. Page rendering, scrolling and zooming were all quick. The annoying lag issues I experienced with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 when entering urls or other text in the browser was fortunately absent in the Tab 8.9.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is currently Wi-Fi only.
Camera & video recording
The Galaxy Tab 8.9 has the same 3MP rear-facing camera and a 2MP front-facing camera of the 10.1. 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.
The front-facing 2MP camera was fine for video chat.
The Galaxy Tab 8.9 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 8.9 ships with Android Honeycomb 3.1. The dual-core processor along with Honeycomb provide speedy navigation, videos played well and apps opened quickly.
Beyond the standard Honeycomb features, Samsung also includes its Media Hub for renting and purchasing movies and TV shows. Purchased content can be stored in the cloud and viewed on up to five other Media Hub enabled devices.
I find the virtual keyboard on the Galaxy Tab 8.9 to be slightly cramped compared to the 10.1. It certainly isn't terrible, and it's better than what you get on a 7-inch tablet, but if you plan to do a lot of typing you may want to opt for the 10.1 or an external keyboard.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is available with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, but no microSD.
Battery life was very good during my use, lasting most of a week with light usage.
Pricing & availability
Should you buy it?
Choosing between the Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1 comes down to the somewhat better portability of the 8.9 versus the somewhat larger virtual keyboard of the 10.1. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 also costs $30 less at $470 for the 16GB version. Beyond that, they're essentially identical, so it's a matter of personal preference.
Those who want more portability (and a lower price) should look to the 7-inch Acer Iconia Tab A100 ($349) and Amazon Kindle Fire ($200).
I wish there were more of a price benefit versus the iPad 2. For only $30 less, it's hard to recommend an Android tablet, even one this good, over the iPad. The apps jut aren't there yet. But if you're a fan of the superior Android browser (as I am), and want a more portable size than the iPad, this Galaxy Tab 8.9 would be an excellent choice.
OS: Android Honeycomb 3.1
Weight: 15.7 ounces
Dimensions: 9.1” x 6.2” x 0.34"
Display: 8.9" 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