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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  • VivekGowri - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    That market folded in on itself right as the tablets launched, sadly. I think people were just getting sick of the netbook form factor. The thing with MeeGo is that it will end up being paired with Intel processors a vast majority of the time.
  • synaesthetic - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Yeah, I knew that would happen once Intel got a hold of it. Though if Intel can deliver with Moorestown and its descendants, perhaps we will see a netbook like device with true instant on capability and very long battery life.

    The Atoms already can get battery life in the range of extreme to ridiculous, but the instant on is sadly not in the cards right now... maybe with a shift away from Windows 7 Starter and more toward lightweight Linux distros with things like EFI and Boot Booster (my old eeePC booted into WinXP pretty quick from a cold shutdown...)
  • appliance5000 - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - link

    "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."

    That's pretty much the macbook air; particularly the 11".

    What the iPad is, is a conduit for media distribution. That's where the big money is and that's what Apple is trying to control. Seen in that light it's extremely successful.
  • Hemi345 - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Baba264, I agree with you. These devices are nothing more than a gadget that has limited use. I see them only being useful for web browsing. All the apps you can download is gimmicky. How often are you going to play games, dyno test your car, or use a tablet with a grocery store app?! Unless you have a specific use in mind, the high price tag puts these devices in a very niche market.

    But I believe Barnes and Noble has a hot seller on their hands with their new Nook Color for $249. It's an Android-powered eReader that makes more sense in my opinion. The interface is fully customized so it doesn't seem like you're using a smart phone and it's built specifically for people who like to read a lot. 7" low glare screen, 8hrs of battery life, the ability to browse the web and a build quality that makes the Samsung Galaxy Tab look pretty pathetic. It doesn't have as much performance under the hood as the Samsung, but when I demo'd one in the store, it seemed fast enough for what it would mostly be used for. The price is much more reasonable for such a device.
  • Chris Peredun - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    "Outdoor shot taken at 1:45pm in an Audi dealership parking lot. Note the brand new A8."

    Hard not to notice it with that snout. Are they looking to challenge the Ford-slash-Gilette Fusion for "Most Bladed Front End"?
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Audi has been doing some funky stuff with their grilles since the 2004 A6 debuted, but this new A8 definitely takes the cake, no lie. I really don't know what their deal with that chrome schnoz is.
  • tipoo - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Pretty sure it has 256MB, not 512, according to the iFixit teardown.
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Riiiiight, I'm a retard. Fixed, thanks for catching that!
  • fabiolo - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Vivek, you are such a tard (f--k). You've been wrong so many time that your credibilty is gone. Please have your self a merry christmas!

    Sent from a GALAXY TAB
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Chill, my friend. You have yourself a happy holiday season too. I promise, my new year's resolution is to not forget to update tables.

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