The iPad started shipping in April, and since then it has basically had the tablet market to itself. Literally, in the six months after the iPad’s release, it didn’t have a single direct competitor. Dell launched the Streak shortly after the iPad, but the Streak was a 5” unit that was significantly smaller than the iPad. In the 7-11” tablet market, Apple has been the only real player.

But that all changed when Samsung launched its 7” Galaxy Tab last month. It’s available for $599 off contract on all four major American carriers and US Cellular ($399 on a two year contract with Sprint or US Cellular, $349 for T-Mobile), with a $499 WiFi-only model on the way. If those pricepoints sound familiar, it’s because the unsubsidized prices are right on top of the 16GB iPad. I’m betting that’s not coincidental; it’s pretty clear what Samsung was targeting when they priced the Tab.

The Tab is the first Android slate to come from a major manufacturer, and probably will be the last one to release with Froyo. The rest (Dell’s 7” Looking Glass tablet, the Motorola tablet showed off in Google’s D: Dive Into Mobile press conference, and rumored devices from HTC, Acer, Asus, and others) appear to be releasing with Honeycomb in the early part of next year. Samsung says that the Galaxy Tab will be updated to Gingerbread at some point in the future, along with Honeycomb whenever that releases. But we’ll get to the software in a moment, let’s talk hardware first.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Physical Comparison
  Samsung Galaxy Tab Apple iPad Motorola Droid X HTC EVO 4G Samsung Galaxy S Fascinate
Height 190.1 mm (7.48") 248.2 mm (9.6") 127.5 mm (5.02") 121.9 mm (4.8") 125 mm (4.92")
Width 120.5 mm (4.74") 189.7 mm (7.5") 66.5 mm (2.62") 66.0 mm (2.6") 63.5 mm (2.5")
Depth 12.0 mm ( 0.47") 13.4 mm (0.5") 9.9 mm (0.39") 12.7 mm (0.5") 9.91 mm (0.39")
Weight 380 g (13.4 oz) 680 g (24.0 oz) 155 g (5.47 oz) 170 g (6.9 oz) 117 grams (4.16 oz)
CPU 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird Apple A4 @ 1GHz TI OMAP 3630 @ 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird
GPU PowerVR SGX 540 PowerVR SGX 535 PowerVR SGX 530 Adreno 200 PowerVR SGX 540
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 16GB integrated 8GB micro SD 8GB micro SD 2 GB, 16 GB microSD (Class 2)
Camera 3.2MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera None 8MP with dual LED Flash 8MP with dual LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 5 MP with auto focus and LED flash
Screen 7.0" 1024 x 600 LCD 9.7" 1024 x 768 IPS 4.3" 480 x 854 4.3" 480 x 800 4. 0" 800 x 480 Super AMOLED
Battery Integrated 14.8Whr Integrated 25 Whr Removable 5.698 Whr Removable 5.5Whr Removable 5.55 Whr

On paper, the Galaxy Tab is essentially a jumbo-sized implementation of the Galaxy S smartphone platform. You’re looking at the same A8-based 1 GHz Hummingbird processor and PowerVR SGX 540 graphics chip, the same 512MB RAM, the same lightweight plastic build, and pretty similar industrial design. The screen has been upsized, from the 4” WVGA unit in the Galaxy S to a 7” WSVGA panel, but it’s not a Super AMOLED display like on the smartphones. You lose a couple of megapixels and HD video recording capability on the rear-facing camera, but the Galaxy Tab does get a 1.3MP front facing camera for video calling.

The design is rather minimalistic, with the front having a small bezel around the screen and four capacitive touch buttons underneath the screen. Since we’re on the topic, I’d like to voice my annoyance that the touch buttons are always in different orders. HTC and Samsung use different layouts, Motorola uses two different layouts for no explicable reason, and Google has specced both of its Nexus phones with layouts that are not normally used by their manufacturers. The lack of standardization isn’t a huge problem, but it can get annoying if you switch between multiple Android devices on a daily basis.

The top view of the Galaxy Tab, iPad, and Vewsonic G Tablet (top-bottom)

Anyways, back to the industrial design. The sides are matte black, with the headphone jack at the top, dock connector and speakers at the bottom, mic on the left side, and the power and volume buttons and the covered microSD card slot on the right side. The back is glossy and dotted in the same way as the Fascinate and Vibrant. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Tab’s back panel is non-removable, so you can’t swap out the battery. Compared to the iPad, the overall feel is a bit less high end, mostly due to the use of glossy plastic instead of the aluminum unibody. But overall, the ID is very straightforward, leading to a clean and elegant device.

When you pick it up, the Galaxy Tab feels light, almost shockingly so. Given that it’s half the size of the iPad and just over half the weight, this first impression isn’t exactly unfounded. Given the lightness, the feeling of solidity is actually surprising if you’re expecting something along the lines of the Galaxy S phones - compared to the ultralight Fascinate/Captivate/Vibrant/Focus, the Tab feels significantly more substantial. The overall build quality definitely exceeded my expectations, though the unibody aluminum shell puts the iPad on a different level.

Samsung Galaxy Tab - Oh, That Screen
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  • SuperFly03 - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    As a preface my phone has been 4 or 5 different Android devices and I have had an iPhone before.

    I used to say the same thing and I still believe the iPad is a glorified iPhone. Let's face it, it is. It is an iPhone with a huge battery, huge screen, and way more built in storage. That's about it.

    Having said that, I asked for one for Christmas and I got it early. I love it.

    I have a hugely powerful desktop I use for gaming and I have a corporate issued laptop. The corporate issued laptop uses live encryption on a 5400RPM laptop drive and with all the other software running it is a disaster. Absolute disaster. Start up is 20 minutes, browsing the internet is a joke and it all around adds a great deal of frustration and stress to my day. It's sad.

    So when I am at home at night or on the weekends and I am watching football or a movie and I want to play on the internet and I pull out the laptop it ruins my night. It really does.

    Instead of whining like a little girl, I got an iPad. I didn't want a netbook because that's a full laptop which I didn't need and it's larger and bulkier. All I needed it for was couch browsing and simple tasks (email, youtube, etc). The iPad fit my needs very well and has been a pleasure to use. The CPu could be a bit faster and I'd like to revise the auto correct... but all in all it is much faster and better at the simple tasks I needed it to accomplish. Add to that I can play Angry Birds or Cut the Rope on the couch while watching the Texans figure out a new way to lose a game... it's money. It has a decent price tag if you stay at entry level but escalates to a pretty penny real fast.

    The other thing I use it for a great deal is when I'm traveling. Just last week I was in Victoria, TX with nothing to do after work for a full week. I had to stay in a hotel that had a 20yr old curved glass tube TV and WiFi so slow I couldn't check my email. So what did I do? Busted out the 3G connection and streamed South Park and kept my sanity in check.

    My Android smartphone is used while out and about but when I'm home and not gaming, I'm on my iPad.

    netbooks have always been a step child to a functional instrument... the iPad and Galaxy tab present you with functionality and apps geared for the reduced power of the devices unlike netbooks which require using full windows software.
  • cwebersd - Monday, December 27, 2010 - link

    My wife's iPad lives on our dinner table. Whenever someone needs quick web access it is there, instantly. It has totally changed when and how she gets her business-related computing done (email, notes, looking up info on the web). It's small enough to be unobtrusive, but large enough to the clumsiness and cramped screen of a phone. No case to open, no wakeup time to speak of, nothing getting between user and the task at hand. Simply a joy to use!
    From a technical standpoint I love the fact that iOS and Android have done away with the notion of files and directories. Let the apps worry about that and focus on the task at hand. Tablets take this "new" OS concept back up the food chain to devices which can in many cases replace full fledged PCs.
  • blueboy_10 - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    It is safe to say to say that the Galaxy Tab failed miserably in comparison to Apple's iPad. Come on, WTH? Wait until Honeycomb comes out with hopefully some full tablet integration for tablets, then we'll start seeing some real competition! Correct me if I'm wrong, but 2011/2012 will spell out the years for tablets era. - BLUEBOY
  • tekzor - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    you are absolutely correct

    I got the tab from tmobile(contract less thank god)

    And it is simply an oversized phone with very little catering to the tablet form factor.
    Regardless of what benchmarks say, my ipad has the best UI performance I have seen and completely crushes the tab.

    Potential tab owners, the flash performance of the tab is abysmal, seriously.
    If you are getting it for the flash built into the browser experience, you will be sorely disappointed!

    froyo alone is just not ready for tablet prime time and I dont think gingerbread will be either. The best bet right now is to get an ipad1/2 or wait for honeycomb.

    at the least you have 30 days to return the tab and get off contract, use that time to play with it.
  • ltcommanderdata - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    How come there's no iPad performance comparisons? Seeing that's the Galaxy Tab's main competition it's important to know. Hopefully you'll also be able to update the iPad to iOS 4.2.1 along with your iPhone 4 results.
  • melgross - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Yeah. This is the second time they've done these comparisons without the iPad.

    Really guys, is it too much to ask? It's not like it hasn't been out since early April! The iPhone 4 is 20% slower, so it's not a good test when comparing tablets, and since the iPad is the gorilla in the room, it's required to have it on the charts.

    This is irrespective of whether people love or hate Apple.
  • tipoo - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Agreed, it should be in there. Vivek, pretty please?
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Done. The pretty please pushed me over the edge. :)

    As a bonus, the results also got updated in the Tegra 2 performance preview.
  • tipoo - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Muahaha, no one can resist my implied puppy face!
  • synaesthetic - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    I still think tablets are a solution searching for a problem, an answer looking for a question.

    I've used the iPad. While it is definitely an impressive piece of hardware, I do not see how it is better than a netbook. It's slightly lighter and significantly thinner, but it really isn't that much more portable. And trying to do any serious work on a tablet is very difficult... even worse than on my Galaxy S, because it's just too large to thumb type on.

    tl;dr version: Tablets are too big to be smartphone replacements, too unwieldy to be netbook replacements.

    What I'd rather see are smartbooks... netbooks with actual keyboards, touchpads, ARM processors, real netbook Linuxdistros like MeeGo or Aurora (NOT Android, mind you) with big batteries and 15+ hour runtime. Not just smartphones made bigger.

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