From the moment the Tab has booted it generates a sense of apathy that is far removed from the the impressive preview sample Ed saw at IFA. Samsung's famed screen prowess is nowhere to be seen with the Tab's 7in display sporting extremely narrow viewing angles, with washed out colours and poor handling of blacks - particularly when watching video. Why is something of a mystery since the Tab's 1024 x 600 resolution makes for a much higher pixel density than the 10in iPad, yet side by side there is no comparison.
This is compounded by the fact that screen response is inconsistent. Tap away on the virtual keyboard and all seems fine, but open a few applications and everything quickly slows down with a noticeable lag in registering commands, particularly multi-touch gestures. At times it can hark back to the bad old days of resistive touchscreens like the ones Samsung used in handsets such as the Omnia i900. The problem can be alleviated by closing open programmes, switching off Flash support and toning down animations, but it isn't what we had hoped for after so much hype.
This need to close programmes also means overall performance doesn't inspire confidence. The web browser is slow to render pages (again in contrast to Ed's preview sample) and it stutters horrendously when zooming in and out of more complex pages. Flash may be one of the Tab's great differentiators to the iPad, but we'd advise you have it switched off most of the time. Happily third party apps fare better with Facebook, Twitter and IMDB more responsive, even if touchscreen lag is still noticeable.
On the plus side Samsung has attempted to customise Android 2.2 to make it more tablet friendly. Notably the homescreens can rotate into a landscape mode and Samsung has taken the time to make its own dedicated app store for tabletised apps. At present this is rather bare, but it has done a nice job of creating email, calendar and eBook apps which make good use of the extra real estate. The media player has been tweaked as well and the extra graphical flourish adds attractive album art and greatly improves on the infamously perfunctory player in Android - something Google really needs to update.
The trouble is, nice as these touches are, it does nothing to address the problem which was suggested at the start of this review: the Galaxy Tab has a fundamental identity crisis. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed it has not been referred to it as a tablet at any point and that is because it isn't one. Dear readers the Tab isn't the first mass market Android tablet, it is the largest mass market Android smartphone...