4 Android tablets vie for your attention
Samsung's Galaxy Tab follows close on the heels of the company's successful smart phones by creating the most complete tablet made to date. It combines an elegant functional design with excellent integration and versions for each of the major 3G networks. If it only had a stand, it would be ideal.
At 7.4 by 4.7 by 0.5 inches and 13.5 oz., the Galaxy is half the size and weight of the iPad, which has a 9.7-in. screen whereas the Galaxy Tab has a 7.0-in. display. Compared to the other 7-inch systems, it is 0.2 oz. heavier than the ViewPad 7, and 2 oz. heavier than the Archos 70.
I really liked the gently curved edges of the Galaxy Tab, which make the device easier to hold for extended periods of time. But when I was working on a tabletop, the tablet wobbled annoyingly and I definitely missed the built-in kickstand that Archos devices provide.
Inside is a 1-GHz ARM Cortex 8 processor, 512MB of RAM and 2GB of storage. Like the other Android tablets, the Galaxy Tab can expand its storage with up to a 32GB microSD card. It comes with a 16GB card, but it still can't touch the higher-end iPad's 64GB of built-in storage.
The Galaxy Tab that I looked at came from Sprint and can connect to Sprint's 3G network (though not its faster 4G network). Sprint's monthly data plans range from $30 for 2GB per month to $60 for 5GB per month. Samsung also has versions of the Galaxy Tab for AT&T, US Cellular, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. No other tablet offers that variety of service providers.
The tablet also works with 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. Meant to be a data-only device, the Galaxy Tab lacks the ViewPad 7's dedicated app for making phone calls, but it comes with the Quik videoconferencing app.
In addition to offering GPS and Bluetooth support, the Galaxy Tab has a pair of cameras: a 1.3-megapixel camera that faces the user for videoconferences and a 3.0-megapixel one in the back for shooting high resolution video and snapshots.
Bright and rich, the 7-in. screen can offer 1,024 x 600 resolution, matching that of the Archos 101. It responds well to subtle finger motions.
It takes some getting used to, but the Swype software makes rapid-fire typing possible by -- you guessed it -- swiping your finger over the soft keys rather than tapping them, and I like the keyboard's vibration feedback when typing.
At a Glance
Retail price: $400 with two-year contract (Sprint); also available from AT&T, US Cellular, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless
Pros: High-resolution display, available through several service providers, dual cameras, good performance, 16GB microSD card
Cons: No Wi-Fi-only version, no stand, lacks dedicated phone app
Navigation is through the Galaxy Tab's four control buttons below the screen: Settings, Home, Back and Search. The system has an on/off button and volume up/down buttons on the edge. There are connections for headphones, a microSD card and a proprietary flat plug for connecting it to a computer and charging the system's battery; it works with Windows PCs or Macs.
The default home screen comes with 11 apps, including e-mail, a Web browser, a Google search bar and a link to the Android Market for downloading new apps. The Applications icon takes you to the system's 40 preloaded apps, which include ThinkFree Office, Daily Briefing for a mix of news, stock prices and local weather, and a bunch of online games.
The Galaxy Tab scored a 1,072 on Aurora SoftWorks' Quadrant benchmark; that's 40% better than the ViewPad 7's score. Getting data from the Sprint 3G network, the system ran for 5 hours and 11 minutes; while using a Wi-Fi connection, the battery lasted for 14 more minutes. That's nearly 2 hours short of the Archos 101's battery life. It had an adequate Wi-Fi range of 90 feet, but that was 25 feet short of the Archos tablets. It played HD YouTube videos without a problem.
By combining Android's tablet abilities with high performance and 3G capabilities, the Galaxy Tab is the most complete Android tablet available.
Next: ViewSonic ViewPad 7
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