Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 Preview

Introduction and Design
Introduction and Design:

We are holding a prototype version of one of the most-anticipated tablets this year, the Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1, which has a lot going for it, not least because of the fact that Samsung went back to the drawing board when it saw how thin the Apple iPad 2 turned out.

Samsung's design concept in its Android devices is to keep things as thin and light as possible, for the sake of all-plastic design – just look at the Galaxy S II. Whether you like that approach or not is a totally subjective matter, some might prefer more noble materials like metal and glass for the chassis, but you can't argue that thin and light is of utmost importance in mobile gizmos.

Since this design philosophy has come up with 10.09x6.81x0.34” (256.2x172.9x8.6 mm) of 10.1” slate, weighing mere 20.99oz (595g), we are totally happy with it. To put it in perspective – this is the thinnest, lightest 10” tablet out there, slightly less so than even the Apple iPad 2, which has obviously been Samsung's goal all along, despite having a tad larger display.

The 10.1” screen itself is of Samsung's own PLS-LCD variety, with crisp 1280x800 pixels of resolution, which should bring with it 10% more brightness and wider viewing angles than the IPS-LCD technology in the iPad, for example. That's on paper, in reality we didn't notice much difference, but the display is very good nonetheless. The colors are vivid enough, it has very wide viewing angles, and  the screen is bright enough for decent visibility outside, unless the sun is blasting directly on it, of course.

Another thing bugged us more, though, when looking around the silvery sides. Our Wi-Fi only version of the Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 has no memory card slot, so you are stuck with whatever the internal memory is. The versions with cellular connectivity will supposedly have SIM card as well as memory card slots, but not here. When looked in landscape mode, the tablet hosts two stereo speakers left and right, the proprietary dock connector at the bottom, and the top is reserved for a short power/lock button and a longer volume rocker, as well as the standard audio jack. The back is painted in white, with silvery stripe at the top, where the small round eye of the 3.2MP camera with adjacent LED flash reside in the middle. The screen bezel is plain black, so white, black and silver is the color combo of choice on the GALAXY Tab 10.1.

Overall, Samsung's flagship tablet felt quite ergonomic, mainly due to the fact that it's the thinnest and lightest of the 10 inchers out there, but also because of the rounded corners and tapered edges. It is a bit uncomfortable to pick up from a flat surface, though, the iPad 2's sloping edges are easier on the fingers in that respect. Your hand muscles will still tire if you hold the GALAXY Tab 10.1 with one hand, but after a longer period than most other 10-inchers we've held.

Interface and Functionality:

Android 3.0 Honeycomb is a well-thought out tablet UI, and we had the stock experience on our preview Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 unit, about which you can read in our Android 3 Honeycomb Walkthrough. The retail unit, however, is supposed to come with TouchWiz UX, Samsung's tablet Android overlay, which comes with a Live Panel menu for customizing the home screens on the GALAXY Tab 10.1 with pictures, bookmarks and social network feeds. TouchWiz UX includes a “Mini Apps” tray for commonly used features such as task manager, calendar and music player, which is called by pressing a small arrow in the middle of the bottom Honeycomb strip. Not much added value here, but as long as it doesn't bog down the interface speed, we can live with it.

The stock Honeycomb interface was flying on our prototype Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 version, powered by the 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 chipset, with which we were able to average about 2000 points on Quadrant, which is as good as it gets with this chipset on a tablet. The main menu has all the stock apps you'd expect of Honeycomb, with the addition of Samsung Apps, the company's application store, and Music Hub, the music locker. We'd guess that the other “Hubs” will be present on the final version as well.

Browsing felt mighty quick and flawless, the way it should be on a dual-core Android device. Scrolling, panning around, zooming and other standard interactions were just fluid and uneventful, even on this prototype unit. We scored 82314 on Browsermark with the GALAXY Tab 10.1, which is more than a third larger score than we manage to get with dual-core phones, a tribute to Honeycomb's multicore optimizations. As for Adobe Flash – it is fully supported and doesn't hinder the smooth operation of the browser, which is great. We were browsing via Wi-Fi, as that's the only Internet connectivity option in the version we had, and it picked up networks and logged on very quickly. The same is valid for the GPS chip - on cold start it located us for 2-3 minutes, and seconds after we were being happily guided by the robotic voice.

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Now off to the multimedia capabilities of the device, starting with the camera interface. The GALAXY Tab 10.1 has the new camera interface from TouchWiz 4.0, with minimalistic fonts and plenty of options to play around with the 3MP camera on the back, and the front-facing one for video chat. Our GALAXY Tab 10.1 preview unit recorded HD 720p video with 30fps in .MP4 format. You can have a look at the stills and video we captured with it, but bear in mind they are taken with a non-final sample of the device.

Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 Sample Video:

Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 Indoor Sample Video:

The music playback is pretty decent with the default Honeycomb player, and the stereo speakers are situated on the high end of both sides, so as you don't cover them with your palms when holding the slate in landscape mode. The prototype unit played our MPEG-4 and DivX/Xvid Full HD 1080p video test samples with no issues at all.


Overall, we were very pleased with what we saw in the Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 preview unit. It is shaping up to be one of the best Android tablets so far, be it only for the fact that it is the thinnest and lightest 10-incher out there. The only nuisance is the lack of a memory card slot in the Wi-Fi version that we had, so you'll have to make do with the internal memory. We also liked the stock Android Honeycomb feel, though in select markets, as the US, the Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 will ship with its tablet-optimized TouchWiz overlay.

If you want a more premium feel, you can choose one of the Asus Eee Pad Transformer or the Acer Iconia Tab A500 Android slates, with brushed aluminum finish, or innovative keyboard docks, which will also run you slightly cheaper; the Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 will be sold for $499 in the 16GB Wi-Fi version, and $599 for the 32GB one, starting June 17th, or June 8th, if you happen to live near Best Buy Union Square in New York. The ASUS and Acer tablets are not as thin and light though, so it all boils down to your personal preference. We will save our final judgment for when we get a finalized review unit, but what we handled so far in the prototype has tangible advantages that might bode well with consumers.

Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 Video Preview:

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