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Samsung Galaxy Tab - Android 2.x & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly



Our Score:


Hardware quibbles aside, the biggest problem with the Galaxy Tab isn't the Tab itself, it is good old Android. Try as Samsung might, it can't hide the fact Android in its current guise is solely a smartphone operating system. Google hasn't yet laid down the tablet blueprints for developers to follow and there are a paucity of apps. If the Tab is an underwhelming experience is it primarily Google's fault.

Where the blame flips back, however, is Google knows this. In fact this is the reason why it has been publicly telling manufacturers to wait until 'Gingerbread' (Android 3.0) which will specifically evolve Android to address the tablet sector. Most major manufacturers have listened, but Samsung broke ranks determined to get itself an early piece of the tablet market.

Consequently what we are left with is a case of what might have been. After all video playback is powerful with support for Full HD 1080p playback. There is a camera, unlike the iPad, and even if its 3MP shooter produces mediocre results at least the option is there. Likewise you can record video and while its 720 x 480 pixel results don't compare to the latest smartphones again the option is there. We also had good experience with the battery which lasted two full days with moderate use. Just a big Android smartphone? For many this will be more than enough - especially at the right price.

Unfortunately the price isn't right. At a whopping £529.99 unsubsidised and with networks doing little to drop the price on bundled data plans you'll be forking out a huge amount of money. In addition Android 3.0 is just around the corner and while the changes will Google bring could create a truly brilliant product you have to position this against a) hoping Samsung will update it, and b) knowing dedicated Android 3.0 tablets will be rushing onto shop shelves.


The Galaxy Tab is a gamble, pure and simple. For Samsung it has taken a gamble to try and beat its rivals to market with an iPad competitor that is currently a big phone not a tablet. For users it is a gamble knowing real Android 3.0 tablets should arrive in the next few months.

On paper the Galaxy Tab represents a smaller, neater and more open alternative to iPad (itself a flawed device) and we wish it was. In reality it is an uncomfortable phone/tablet hybrid with a sky high price that will likely be eclipsed before Christmas. If you absolutely had your heart set on the Galaxy Tab by all means try one for yourself, but we'd suggest being patient and putting your money away.


November 5, 2010, 2:54 am

This is why Apple has been having such a huge success, they think their products through and market them carefully, and for luxury items (who REALLY needs an iPad ?) the premium is rather small (think Vertu phones and other nonsense). HTC is the best candidate for a really good tablet given their phone track record. They probably won't release one before the OS is right. Anyone in the market should go to Apple or wait for HTC.

Tim Sutton

November 5, 2010, 3:44 am

I wasn't interested in this as a tablet as, well, I'm just not interested in tablets.

I would certainly have bought one for myself as a big PMP if it hadn't been so horrendously priced. And if the OS worked properly. And if the screen was good. And if I felt it would annoy iZombies.

I'm so disappointed I'm almost depressed. The only thing that's keeping me from buying a My Chemical Romance album and wearing skinny black jeans while locked in my bedroom for a week straight is how far ahead of Gordon I am in the TR fantasy football league.


November 5, 2010, 6:17 am

@berio - exactly right. I wish this tablet had been fantastic, the competition is badly needed.

@Tim - down to 7 points... you're lucky I left Kevin Nolan on the bench last week... ;)


November 5, 2010, 8:50 am

@all - stay tuned for a full video review of the Tab, it will appear soon on the first page of the review.

In the meantime here are a couple of videos I shot of the Tab during testing to illustrate two of the main problems I found with the device: http://gordonkelly.com/news...


November 5, 2010, 10:40 am

With so many failings to choose from I'll just stick to my pet hate even if it does cause me to sound like a broken record - the damn weight. Even at 380g it's still too heavy for a (largely) hand held device. Add the slippery casing to the equation and you have a serious problem.

Opportunistic and ill-thought out products like this ultimately result in long-term damage to the brand in the eyes of customers who have bought them. This is particularly unfortunate in the case of Samsung who can at times make some stunning kit.


November 5, 2010, 11:38 am

This is extraordinary. Samsung being pricier than Apple, with a product that manages to combine the flaws of iPad with the flaws of recent Galaxy phones in my opinion.

As for the price by the way, the Galaxy Tab in Poland will cost 299 zlotych (about £70) on 89 zl (£20) plan with 4gb allowance and it's free on 129zl (£30) with 15gb, how does it compare with UK plans?


November 5, 2010, 11:59 am

Can't say I'm too surprised after your tweets!

Bit surprised as other reviews I've read have been fairly positive.

Just wondering what you'd give the iPad to give some context to this score.

Greg Shewan

November 5, 2010, 12:43 pm

Well this really does fly in the face of other reviews... much like your review of the Galaxy S (which coincidently I bought).

However I trust your judgement in most cases (though I still fear a fair amount of Apple fanboy-isms are starting to emerge), are you sure the unit you received wasn't damaged or faulty? I just find it hard to believe how oppositionist your review is in contrast to other sites (won't mention them don't worry).

Is anyone else feeling like this? Price aside, it seems like a nice product.


November 5, 2010, 1:17 pm

@greg: actually this is exactly the sort of review I expected. The Tab has never struck me as a product that was going to deliver a great end user experience and a LOT of the reviews I've seen that are more positive are, frankly, treating it as a large smartphone rather than a tablet. Which is fine if that's what you want but I think that the general public are going to be very disapointed when they actually get their hands on this. I do wonder about the screen and performance issues as those haven't been a talking point from what I've seen but if this was a review unit shipped from Samsung that's faulty that speaks volumes about their quality control.

Honestly, if you don't want an iPad then I'd strongly recommend not buying a tablet right now. Android 3.0 is coming, who knows what HP might deliver through webOS, Microsoft is going to have to look at bringing a WP7 version to tablets as Windows 7 just isn't delivering and, of course, there's the looming form of the iPad 2. The Tab is looking like a serious dead end right now and doesn't offer anything like enough in return to justify the hefty investment.


November 5, 2010, 1:58 pm

I've attached some sample pictures from the camera and a feature table and will shortly add some photos of the device taken in our studio.

Here are a few of my thoughts on it:

Hardware design is lovely - no problems with the slippy back here.

Screen is okay - it's evenly lit with reasonable overall sharpness and the extra resolution added to the larger screen makes a big difference when browsing the web and for productivity tasks. Viewing angles are very good but overall colour reproduction is muted and uninspiring. This is exaggerated by it being a large tablet rather than a small phone. It is particularly poor at picking out dark detail making watching films distinctly disappointing - you need to boost the dark level to a point where blacks look grey to make out any detail. That said, it's still a damn site more comfortable to watch a film on than a 3-4in smartphone.

Touch sensitivity is excellent but responsiveness is let down by the slow system. Primarily this seems to be down to the graphics processor that simply can't handle the extra resolution. As such, graphics heavy web pages, or even just animations when moving between menus (especially if you're using a live wallpaper) can be a bit jerky. Once in a game, when typing, or just using generally more simple looking programs like Facebook, it's fine but overall it's again a bit disappointing.

Flash video works very well - almost to full desktop browser speeds - but does make the rest of the system grind to a halt, so you're best to only turn it on when needed.

Mostly Samsung has only taken away rather than added to the Galaxy Tab when it comes to its software tweaks - I still suspect this device could be faster if a completely standard version of Android were loaded onto it - however the tablet versions of the email reader, calendar and contacts are great.

All told, slightly disappointing screen, not good enough performance, and clearly too high a price.


November 5, 2010, 3:06 pm

Android is a big bag of fail on tablets right now.

Still have high hopes for WebOS - really looks like a tablet would give this platform the space to really breath, shine and strut it's stuff.


November 5, 2010, 3:16 pm

"This is exaggerated by it being a large tablet rather than a small phone."?


November 5, 2010, 4:34 pm

@all - having waiting the best part of a year for an iPad alternative I'd suggest a few more months until Android 3.0 would be the most sensible decision. I can't commend on other reviews - I noticed TechRadar was particularly negative - other than to say both Ed and I found the screen response time, especially in the browser to be unacceptable and it is remarkable this isn't commented upon (and even contradicted) in some rivals reviews. It's a key aspect. Again please note that until our official video is published I recorded a few brief videos of these problems in action (links in my comment above), view them and make up your own minds.


November 5, 2010, 8:04 pm

I've watched your videos and didn't have the problems you detailed in your videos. I think waiting for 3.0 is unnecessary. It'll be like asking people to hold of purchasing the iPad which currently does not have multitasking, folders, game center, etc... until apple releases iOS 4.2. From my own experience Android 2.2 runs fine on the Galaxy tab and will keep people happy till 3.0 is released.


November 5, 2010, 8:10 pm

All that initial scoffing at the iPad, and you know, it seems they created a better and cheaper product than we credited them for. I guess if tablets were so easy to produce, someone other than Apple would have cracked the market before 2010. Still not convinced by Android for either phone or tablet, and the one thing I don't need to worry about with the iPad is responsiveness - cameras and Flash are a distant second to that. Bring on iPad 2 and don't rest on your laurels!


November 5, 2010, 9:22 pm

Studio pictures now added. Apologies for the slightly iffy quality, they were done by me and not our normal photographer.


November 5, 2010, 9:57 pm

Doesn't excuse the Galaxy but it would be shocking if the iPad didn't perform better given that it can't multitask.

Tim Sutton

November 5, 2010, 10:45 pm


No. Just no.

The fact that Samsung have decided they too must charge ridiculous amounts of money for a smartphone in tablet form in order to protect the ridiculous amounts they charge for regular smartphones doesn't suddenly make Apple doing exactly the same thing good. It makes Samsung equally bad.

Actually, it makes Samsung worse, as their product isn't even as nice as Apples intentionally crippled one.

James Reckitt

November 5, 2010, 10:58 pm

I think Apple's strength as a company lies in the fact that it makes sure everything works perfectly before its released. The iPad worked as it should from day 1 due to their designers taking a moment to stop and think about whether it would function properly as a package or not.

Maybe Steve's hate for Flash is not because he thinks it's a waste of time, but because iOS devices lack the power to support it? As we've seen here, flash isn't very well implemented due to a lack of processing power and inadequate software. If Apple was to release a version of iOS with Flash included, it'd be sure to fail on iOS devices because they're not built to deal with it. Not to mention that it would no doubt remove the "slick" factor from their OS, hence removing their USP.

I agree with @berio though; an offering from HTC would be of great interest!


November 6, 2010, 3:00 am

@ Tim Sutton

{High pitched reluctant voice.} Mmm. I dunno. I'll concede the points that capacity at the base level is a bit stingy and the premium for the 3G is nuts. Otherwise, £429 for iPod Touch XL? That's worth a punt.

The pricing does make sense at least within the Apple structure - £329 for the top tier Touch, 100 quid more to get into the big versions - whereas there are other places we can attack Apple for even stretching its own logic like the ridiculous prices for prepaid iPhones and the previous Air. I just don't think this is one of those times, given that not so long ago we were all dreading them revealing a pricepoint upwards of £700.

In my ideal world the 64gig Touch would be sub-£300 again, allowing the iPad to be sub-400, but we're haggling over minor banknotes here. I think they essentially got it right. At the very least they've set themselves up for those pricepoints to make iPad 2 an attractive deal.

If we were having a conversation about iPhone prices I think my rage would equal yours - that tiny ugly 8GB 3GS should be about below £300 (where I'd put the 64GB Touch) allowing the iP4s to be maybe £399 and maxing out £499 - all still dear but justifiable. I guess what I'm saying is the upper-tier iPads grow to be 100 quid dearer than they should be, but given the extra screen estate that extra £100 is much less offensive when asked for the iPod-Touch-with-Crappy-Phone-Feature. The Touch is a great PMP and pocket computer. The iPad is an enjoyable secondary computer. The iPhone always seems to be a crap phone.

You'll notice, with all that squawking about Apple Tax I've yet to mention the Tab. Well that's because £500 plus for a sluggish interface means I don't have much to say - I rank it as a glitzier version of the Archos 5 experience and straight away, I feel I really have no patience for that.


November 8, 2010, 6:17 am

Unfortunately, this was predictable. You can't rush a product to compete with Apple when Apple keeps making devices everyone will want as they work, with the exception of the iPhone 4 (in terms of working).


November 8, 2010, 5:27 pm

Hmmm, Dell Streak seems more appealing. Screen is still big enough for that "wow" factor, yet it fits in your pocket.


November 9, 2010, 11:32 am

This may not be selling well. Tesco have plenty in stock and have cut £30 off the price instore to £499.


November 9, 2010, 4:13 pm

To anyone reading this review, I suggest you actually try a Tab first before making your decision.

True, the Tab is not a perfect device, but then again there is no such thing.

There seems to be a polarizing of opinion when it comes to reviews of the Tab, with most of the bad reviews focussing on the fact that is has all the hallmarks of a large smartphone. To say that the Tab is just a large smartphone is akin to saying that the iPad is just a large iPod Touch - and both statements are pretty much true, but how you use the device can make a massive difference to these perceptions.

The word we are looking for here is "convergence" people! The processor in a modern smartphone would have been considered desktop grade just a few short years ago and the devices that employ them are becoming more and more capable.

If the Tab really is just a giant smartphone this is by no means a bad thing because the one thing that really holds the smartphone back as a productivity tool is its size - it is just too small for any "real" work.

Anecdotally, most iPads never leave home and sit on coffee tables in living rooms waiting to be picked up and used either for web browsing, or media consumption. Prior to my Tab, I could use my HTC Desire for this, but given the size of the screen if I wanted to do anything moderately more involved than reading a few websites (e.g. buying from Ebay, Amazon etc), I'd reach for Macbook (which sits on a coffee table, like an iPad would). Having bought a Tab, I seldom pick up the Macbook for this, and use the Tab almost exclusively, so in this way it has displaced both my smartphone and my laptop. To me, this is a clear sign that this is a different device to both of them, in the same way that an iPad is.

As an aside, watching the videos, my tab exhibits none of the lag of the first video (and I do use a live wallpaper!), but the default browser is definitely laggy (shame on you Samsung!). The beauty of Android though is that you can change to another browser if you please.

As to why Tesco cut the price - probably because Dixons Group were selling it for £499, not due to poor sales.

As I said at the start of this comment - try one before making your decision. If you think the iPad is giant iPod Touch, this device is not for you. If however you see value in the iPad (beyond the Apple brand), you may just like the Galaxy Tab!


November 10, 2010, 2:05 pm

Had a play with it at a local Tesco store and it was responsive and slick in use, but it gave me the impression it was an over-sized mobile phone rather than a tablet.

Videos looked washed out and viewing angles were poor. couldn't sample many apps due to no network/wifi working but Angry Birds showed the sytem to be good enough for the task.

Interesting that Tesco brought it in for £499. Still too exdpensive, but you wonder how poor value the Tab will be when the Android 3.0 Tablets come out.

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