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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  • trip1ex - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    because tablet software is made for the tablet while the software that is run on netbooks is developed for machines that are much more powerful with bigger screens and keyboards.

    That's a big reason why netbooks are a crappy user experience and the experience on the iPad is a great user experience.
  • vld - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    How about the Archos 70 or 101 internet tablets? Direct comparison is definitely possible with the Froyo2.2 update from their web page.
  • tipoo - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Do they have those for testing? I'm defiantly interested in those, with Froyo and potentially Honeycomb plus jailbreaking those look like solid contenders for a much entry lower price.
  • Rick83 - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Got a 101 for my parents for's certainly not in the same league as the iPad and G-Tab, but at the price it doesn't have to be. And at least you get hdmi out and a usb host (with an extra adapter on the 70).

    If Archos could spare 5p for some marketing, they'd be a major player.... Sadly, their finances are a bit strained....And they're French :-O

    Also, I continuously fail to see why people pay laptop money for sub-netbook hardware, just because someone went and threw the keyboard away. It's pretty ridiculous....At their pricepoints the Archos tablets are sensible products - slightly more portable than a netbook, and direct interaction UIs (ie touchscreens), while priced in the same region. The expensive tabs don't do significantly more, but the extra cost is just astronomical. Even 50% more, so in the 450-500 euro/$ range would be expensive....
  • TareX - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    It was a nice attempt on Samsung's behalf, but I knew I would be waiting for the Honeycomb 8.9" Tegra 2 tablets instead, like the LG Optimus Pad...
  • rs2 - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    "So what then? It’s the software. Or, to be more specific, Froyo. It’s too similar to a smartphone right now, too much of the same experience repeated on a 200% scale."

    ...and the iPad is the same experience as the iPhone on a 400% scale. You can't place the Galaxy Tab second to the iPad just for having the same problem as the iPad.
  • robco - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    That would be true of the first version of the software. It was a bit of a kludge. Now we know that the iPad was actually conceived first, so you could say the iPhone is a scaled down iPad.

    But Apple did create a lot of new UI widgets specifically designed to take advantage of the larger screen real estate. Froyo doesn't have this. Apple released a new version of the SDK with an iPad emulator, Samsung had to put their own together without Google. I'm not holding out much hope for a good standard UI on Android either. Google is a great engineering company, but they miss out on the "soft" skills. Apple is good at both. I know Google has UI designers, but it doesn't appear that they listen to them very much. They seem to be more with Android over their other products, but that's not saying a whole lot. iOS looks clean and professional, Android does not.

    I think in the end, people want a clean, polished product where the underlying technology isn't in your face, but is useful and makes it easy to get things done. MS is learning this lesson. Google needs to.
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    @rs2 - if you read my software section, I said exactly that - having a scaled up OS never held the iPad back, so it's not something I can hold against the Galaxy Tab. What I can hold against the Galaxy Tab is that there are basically no apps, first party or otherwise, that take advantage of the larger screen size, other than the three or four apps that Samsung put in afterwards (Mail, Calendar, Contacts, etc). Apple basically changed every core app on the iPad to use that screen real estate, and they had more than a few high profile 3rd party apps out for the iPad - ABC player, NYT, BBC, etc etc. I don't doubt that Google will get there, probably with Honeycomb, but until then, it's a legitimate problem.
  • Rick83 - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    Actually, there are both screen size and resolution variables that apps can read and adopt to, which only recently have been expanded to cover up to 10" (in 2.3) and 7" (in 2.2).

    So the issue with the apps is just a matter of time.
    Also, tablets are much like TVs: consumption devices. You set the channel/insert your media and lean back. (Unless you belong to the group of idiots that mistake the devices for portable gaming systems...) In this scenarion UI scaling isn't as important as it may seem. Actually, even on my 5" 800x480 tablet, individual features are very small, and I prefer the easier reading on the big screen of the Samsung.
  • Voldenuit - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    >I’m not much of a Swype guy

    Heretic!!!~ :P

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