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Samsung Galaxy Tab 16GB Review

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The first Android-based tablet to hit the UK shelves is the Samsung Galaxy Tab. It’s got a 7-inch screen, runs on Android 2.2, can make voice calls and has a pair of cameras for pictures and video calls. Is it an iPad beater? Or is it more of an oversized phone?


What we like

Contrary to what Steve Jobs has said, you don’t have to sand your fingers down to use the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The 7-inch screen works fine. So it’s not as big at the iPad’s 9.7-inch display, but it doesn’t feel as cramped as certain people would have you think.

Web pages, pictures, videos, eBooks and games all look fine on the Galaxy Tab. And, unlike the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s browser supports Flash content. Web surfing can be done over Wi-Fi or 3G and pages load very quickly on either connection.

There’s something very satisfying about swishing left and right across the Tab’s homescreens, of which you can have up to nine. Naturally, you can customise these with app shortcuts, widgets and various trinkets downloaded from the Android Market.

Samsung has preloaded a number of apps and content hubs onto the Tab, from where you can download games, films, eBooks and music. We also really liked the Financial Times app, which displayes FT articles that have been formatted specifically for the Tab’s screen size.

As the Samsung Galaxy Tab runs on Android 2.2, you can do things like turn it into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, install apps to the SD card and edit Google Docs on the go. It’s actually not bad for writing documents and creating spreadsheets on, either on Google Docs or on the ThinkFree Office app which comes installed.

Along with the default Samsung keypad (pictured) Swype comes pre-installed if you’re that way inclined. The touchscreen is very easy to type on; you can hold it in both hands and tap away with your thumbs in portrait mode or switch to landscape if you prefer.

Memory-wise the Samsung Galaxy Tab comes in 16GB and 32GB flavours, with a microSD card slot for further expansion. So you’ve got a lot of space for apps, games and movies as well as an easy way to transfer music from your old phone.

Finally, the Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with a pair of cameras; a 3-megapixel camera for taking pictures on the back, and a 1.3-megapixel camera for video calls on the front.

The 3-megapixel camera is pretty basic although we had fun with the panoramic shot mode, which takes eight pictures and magically stitches them together. Perfect for capturing that frozen snowscene or beautiful summer sunset. We liked that there’s an LED flash too – not the most powerful flash we’ve seen but better than nothing. Did we mention that the iPad doesn’t have a single camera, let alone two?


What we don’t like

So the Samsung Galaxy Tab can make calls and take pictures – things that the iPad can’t do. All well and good, but we found that the quality of voice calls was average at best and the pictures taken on the 3-megapixel camera to be not that great.

It should be obvious that, when being used as a phone, the Tab’s size works against it. It’s far too big to fit in anybody’s pocket and can only just about be held comfortably in one hand. Much like the Dell Streak (which has a 5-inch screen) you’re going to attract the inevitable Dom Joly comment if seen talking on the Tab.

We weren’t huge fans of Samsung’s TouchWiz custom UI before and the Galaxy Tab does little to change this. As well as not looking as good as the stock Android UI, it doesn’t offer much more in terms of functionality either. We’d have preferred it if the Galaxy Tab came with stock Android instead.

In fact, a lot of what we don’t like about the Galaxy Tab can be put down to presentation; it doesn’t look or feel very organised. As we’ve said there’s a huge amount of content waiting to be accessed on the Galaxy Tab.

Instead of there being one place where you go to get things (like iTunes), there’s a myriad of different vendors, requiring a myriad of different logins and accounts to be created. We can see this being confusing and frustrating for some and think it’d be more convenient if you just had to register one or even two accounts to get everything.

The Galaxy Tab can feel sluggish at times, despite being powered by a 1GHz processor. The accelerometer too, doesn’t auto rotate as quickly or elegantly as we’d like. Sometimes you have to keep on tapping it and turning it as you try to goad the screen into rotating the way you want it to.


Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Tab doesn’t offer a refined a user experience as the iPad and feels a bit unfinished. But then again it does a lot of things that the iPad doesn’t, such as take pictures and support Flash in the browser. As a portable email and web surfing device it works fine although you probably won’t want to use it as a phone; its below-average call quality and size make it impractical for this purpose.

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