T-Mobile G-Slate Review

6
Introduction and Design
Introduction:

Striving to grow their mutual relationship with one another, there’s no denying that LG is planning to bank a huge success with their line of new Android devices for T-Mobile USA – which inevitably would solidify their position with the carrier. Considering that LG’s presence on T-Mobile’s postpaid lineup is still relatively new, especially when it was only last summer that we saw the first set of LG phones arrive on T-Mobile’s lineup, it’s going to be interesting to say the least how things will develop now that Big Magenta is finally in the game with an Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet made by LG.

Conveniently, LG manages to seduce the carrier to bring its tablet aboard, the T-Mobile G-Slate, thanks to its unique novel feature of being able to shoot high-definition 720p videos in 3D. Of course, it’s very easy for anyone to say that this is a brash move to capitalize on the 3D hysteria sweeping the tech world, but it’s nonetheless something that will keep it differentiated enough from the pack – for now. Meanwhile, it’s riding onto the scene at a time when tablet competition, even within the Android camp, is beginning to become fierce as each attempt to outgun the other.

Flaunting a sticker price of $529.99 with a 2-year contract, the T-Mobile G-Slate has the slight pricing edge against its closest Android brethren in the Motorola XOOM, but will its novel feature of shooting 3D videos be enough to warrant even a pique interest from demanding consumers?

The package contains:

  • T-Mobile G-Slate
  • microUSB Cable
  • Wall Charger
  • microUSB to USB adapter
  • Product Information & Warranty Guide
  • Terms & Conditions
  • 3D anaglyph style glasses


Design:

Not surprising one bit at all, there’s nothing original about the G-Slate’s design, but when you think about it more, it’s rather hard to find much variety with the slate form factor of tablets. In reality though, it’s safe to say that the G-Slate is basically a super-sized T-Mobile G2x since it incorporates most of its design attributes. However, we have to say that it’s far more comfortable to hold than the Motorola XOOM primarily because of its soft touch rear panel and curved edges. Moreover, the soft touch surface does an exceptionally better job at keeping it looking clean and repelling the usual set of nasty baddies. Strangely though, the bezel outlining the 8.9” display isn’t uniform around, and instead, it’s moderately wider on the left and right sides – thus making it almost as wide as the Motorola XOOM. Regardless of that, its accompanying weight (21.87 oz) complements its overall solid build and exudes a premium feel in the hand.




There’s no hiding the fact that the G-Slate’s 8.9” capacitive touchscreen is moderately higher quality than what’s used on the Motorola XOOM, but upon turning it on for the very first time, it’s instantly recognizable. Gladly accepting its 1280 x 768 resolution, it’s able to muster some crisp and sharp visuals that make it satisfyingly agreeable to read out even the most miniscule of on-screen text. Additionally, it exhibits brighter tones over the XOOM that make colors come to life and pop with luminance at almost every angle. And honestly, you won’t have to worry much in attempting to use it outdoors under the eye of the sun since its high brightness output enables it to still be visible in almost any condition. To sum it up completely, the T-Mobile G-Slate’s display is undoubtedly superior on so many levels.




Unlike most things, the G-Slate’s front-facing 2-megapixel camera is tucked away in the upper left corner of the display – which works well if you happen to use it in portrait. In spite of that, it’s offset from what we’re familiar with and has an unusual perspective when using it in landscape.

 

Taking a peek at the left edge of the tablet, we find its proprietary charging port, 3.5mm headset jack, speaker, and dedicated power button. Now even though it’s located in a convenient and accessible area, it’s a little bit on the flat side, but exhibits a moderate response when pressed.



Oppositely, we locate an additional two speakers on the right side of the tablet that essentially offers stereo support if you hold the tablet in either orientation. Since the speakers are positioned directly on the outer edge of its bezel, there’s a tendency to accidentally cover them with our palms while holding the tablet in landscape – thus reducing its output.



Similar to the power button, the volume rocker is rather flat, but there’s still a moderate response to it when it’s pressed down all the way. In addition, the microphone is placed nearby the volume rocker on the top edge of the G-Slate.



Meanwhile, the bottom edge lays claim to a few connection ports – which include things like the HDMI-out port, pin connectors for a dock, and microUSB port. Interestingly enough, you can use the included microUSB to USB adapter to charge other devices on the go; like your smartphone.



Finally, count not one, but two 5-megapixel auto-focus cameras that are positioned at the same level to one another in the rear – with the LED close-by and the metallic strip separating the two. Obviously, the two cameras work in tandem to offer 3D video recording at 720p, but you can obtain 1080p for normal recording. Strangely enough, the packaging mentions that the battery is “preinstalled,” which, it turns out, means you’re locked out from getting to it. However, one of the sides is able to come off and provides access to its SIM card slot and manual reset button.





Interface:

Relying on the same exact blistering 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor found in use with the Motorola XOOM, the T-Mobile G-Slate operates at a high level to offer an engaging platform experience. Although we’re able to smoothly navigate between its homescreen in landscape with a live wallpaper activated, you get a sense that the platform isn’t quite adept in portrait due to the noticeable amount of choppy movements evident while navigating in this orientation. Nonetheless, it doesn’t particularly detract from its overall speedy nature – which is translated well into almost every aspect of the platform. All in all, the performance is similar to the XOOM, which should be decent enough for anyone, but it still falls behind the wicked responsiveness of the iPad 2.



Hooray for T-Mobile customers! They’re able to finally experience Android 3.0 Honeycomb in its full glory with the G-Slate. Naturally, newcomers will undoubtedly be mesmerized with the futuristic look of Honeycomb, but there really isn’t anything superiorly different that we haven’t seen with the XOOM. Aside from a few tablet specific apps and widgets, the stock Android 3.0 Honeycomb experience is intact with the G-Slate. Specifically, some of the new apps bundled for the ride are AccuWeather, Data Viz’s Documents to Go, Need for Speed Shift, Quickoffice, T-Mobile TV, and Zinio Reader. Of course, there’s plenty of eye candy littered all around for your eyes to feast on, but you’re still presented with the superb personalization aspects with the tablet platform. If you want a more detailed and comprehensive look at all the minute aspects of Android 3.0 Honeycomb, like the functions of the Action and System bars, you can read more about it here.






Contacts:

Realizing the common theme of making use of the expanded space available, most of the core Android apps takes advantage of the spacious confines of the display – which is evident with the Contacts app. Two panes basically take up the entire layout, one being the left area where you can scroll through your listing, while the other displays pertinent details with each contact. Naturally, you can sync Facebook and Twitter contacts, which seems to favor the latter since it will show their most recent Tweets. Nevertheless, adding new contacts is a straightforward process as you’ll have plenty of information to associate with each person. And finally, contacts will be synced to your Google account to keep your mind at ease in the event of a catastrophic event plaguing the G-Slate.



Organizer:

There isn’t much drastically different found with the Calendar app, aside from the expanded view we’re presented with. In any event, you can position it to display in either month, week, or day views – with the latter two being split up by two panes. Of course, you can also add a new event, with relevant information, to the calendar as it syncs with the appropriate calendar account.



If there is one thing missing with Android 3.0 Honeycomb that’s found on previous versions, it has to be the wide array of functions found with the Clock app. Instead, the one present on the G-Slate will only display the digital clock – where you can set up an alarm as well. Strangely, it’s missing some other key components such as a world clock, stopwatch, and timer.

Unfortunately, there is no love for theCalculator app since it’s an exact facsimile to what’s found previously. Both in portrait and landscape views, we’re presented with the basic and advanced functions of the calculator – but that’s all! Somewhat funny, the size of the buttons are extraordinary larger than most things found with the platform.

Lastly, Voice Search is brought along for the ride, rightfully so, but like what we’ve seen already with a couple of other things, it doesn’t get any new functionality. Still, it pretty much accomplishes the same tasks as before, such as being able to launch Google Maps Navigation, by simply speaking “Navigate to.”





Messaging:

For a tablet that employs an 8.9” display, we actually find it slightly easier to use over larger sized models out there. Strangely enough though, we actually find the G-Slate’s portrait style keyboard a bit more usable than its landscape one since it’s narrow enough for our thumbs to completely encompass its layout. In fact, the experience is similar to any smartphone out there as we’re able to comfortably type at a peppy rate without much falter. Moreover, you get a sense of responsiveness seeing that it’s able to keep up with our speedy typing – while still highlighting every button that’s pressed along the way. Aside from our desire to see some numbers implemented into the first row of buttons, which would increase the typing rate, we’re satisfied by the G-Slate’s overall peppy performance.

Just when the Gmail experience on an Android smartphone was good enough, the T-Mobile G-Slate takes it to a whole new level and seemingly brings forth a near perfect desktop-like experience. Three panes grace the experience as the left most one displays all the folders in the account, the middle allows you to scroll through all your emails, while the third one shifts over once a message is selected in the middle pane. Naturally, we’re greeted with all the rich features we’d come to expect out of the desktop experience – like threaded conversations, archiving, starring, and labeling. Indubitably, we’re glad to see that the transition to the tablet space is well thought out; thus making for one well rounded experience.

Aside from Gmail, the Email app will aggregate all your emails from various accounts. Setup is blatantly a simple process for generic clients, such as Yahoo or Hotmail, but in those instances when you’re trying to set something not as popular, it’ll require additional items like server addresses and ports to properly complete. Just like the Gmail app, the three identical paned layout is present once again, but you can quickly switch between accounts by pressing down on the area in the Action Bar.

Internet and Connectivity:

Certainly, you’ll be able to take the T-Mobile G-Slate abroad and still expect to get some sort of data connectivity, due to its HSPA connection. However, you can always switch to using its 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi in the extreme circumstance you find yourself outside of any cellular connection. In addition, the T-Mobile G-Slate packs aGPS for your location based services and Bluetooth 2.1 to get other wireless peripherals to connect with it.

Out of the box, the T-Mobile G-Slate actually lacks support for Flash Player 10.2, but it has a “Get Flash” icon amongst the app panel that basically diverts you to the download page in the Android Market. Once installed, you’re going to be presented with an amazing desktop like experience.



Thanks to its HSPA connection, complex pages load very quickly – leaving you plenty of time to start navigating around a page. Complementing its capacity, we experience stellar navigational qualities like responsive kinetic zooming, receptive pinch zooming, and double tapping that automatically reflows text to fit the length of the display. And in the wake of heavy Flash content, the G-Slate doesn’t stutter much with its operation – thus leaving us with a grateful and exhilarating web browsing experience that’s up there in terms of usability.



Camera:

Sticking to it with the stock Honeycomb camera interface, there’s nothing we haven’t seen before with the Motorola XOOM. Specifically, there’s one large dial on the right side of the interface that allows your thumb to quickly navigate between the various settings of the camera. For a tablet, there should be more than enough appealing shooting modes to satisfy most users out there, but it doesn’t quite offer as many manuals modes as we’d like. Regardless of that, we can get up to a 4.0x digital zoom level by pressing on the “+” button – which is half of what’s obtainable with the XOOM. Moreover, there’s an on-screen toggle to switch from camera to video mode, while another one perched close-by will switch it to the front facing camera.



Quickly assessing some of the snapshotstaken with the G-Slate, it’s instantly recognizable right away that they are inferior to the XOOM’s results. As a matter of fact, shots taken outdoors under sunny conditions produce average details, bland looking colors, and a lack of sharpness to really deliver some visuals.  Regretfully, the quality diminishes indoors under natural lighting due to its overall dark appearance and some faint digital noise popping up that lessen its clarity. However, the LED kicks into play as the tablet attempts to focus prior to taking the shot – thus capturing some acceptable looking images; despite the blurry appearance with shots taken further than 5 feet away. You can probably get away printing out 4 x 6 images with the G-Slate’s production, but we wouldn’t recommend blowing them up any larger.



Regarded as a rarity still, the G-Slate kicks the bucket with its ability to record 1080p high-definition videos at 30 frames per second. As much as we like its peppy capture rate on paper, there are still some instances of jitteriness with its results. Details are average at best, but what detracts us more from anything else, is the amount of artifacting present when quickly panning with the tablet. Additionally, it seems that the sensor is extremely sensitive seeing that exposure can abruptly change depending on the scenery. Lastly, audio recording is downright awful with its grainy sounding voices. If we had to pick, we’d easily choose the Motorola XOOM any day over the G-Slate when it comes to capturing photos and videos.



T-Mobile G-Slate Sample Video:



Without a doubt, the G-Slate’s ability to record 720p high-definition video in 3D is undeniably its biggest draw factor in luring people to its gaze. When a tablet is packaged along with a pair of retro style 3D glasses (anaglyph ones), there’s no denying that the feature is seen as being novel for a tablet. It’s obviously cool at first, but when you have to lug around the pair of 3D glasses everywhere in order to enjoy content on the tablet, it begins to become a bit inconvenient – as opposed to the no-glasses required technology being utilized by some upcoming smartphones.

Required to run the 3DCamcorder app to shoot 3D videos, its interface is merely a facsimile to what we see used by most stock Android smartphones. Towards the right portion of the interface, we find the circular red record button and thumbnail to the most recently shot video. Opposite of that, most of the camera’s controls and settings are positioned to the left area of the display – these include the ability to change the 3D mode, depth control, and settings. If you’re not versed with the 3D jargon, it’s nice to find the nifty help guide within the app to better give you a feel of how to operate it. As with most 3D capable devices, the tips and guide within the app actually inform us that the depth control “may cause fatigue for your eyes or loss of depth perception.” Scary, don’t you think?



T-Mobile G-Slate 3D Video Sample 1:

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T-Mobile G-Slate 3D Video Sample 2:

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Keeping things at the default settings, the 3D effect in general works when viewing content directly on the tablet itself with the included pair of anaglyph 3D glasses. Sadly though, the overall quality is still less than desirable to our taste, but it should suffice for some people out there who just want to experience 3D first hand. Specifically, the 3D effect is most prominent with figures moving from the background towards the camera, and vice versa. Although it shoots at 30 frames per second, everything else is pretty much a bummer since details are on the grainy side, colors are almost indistinguishable with the 3D glasses on, and exposure is super jumpy when panning between areas. As we mentioned, it’s definitely nice to see this on board with a tablet, but it’s utterly reserved to be a novel feature – and nothing more!



It's important to note that color-loss is evident with 3D video only when you're watching it with the red/cyan anaglyph glasses, which is actually the only way to watch 3D on the display of the tablet. For the newer methods of enjoying 3D content – with polarized or active-shutter glasses – you need to have the appropriate hardware – 3D TV, monitor or projector. If you have one of those, you'll be able to enjoy the content that you've captured with the camera of the G-Slate a lot more.

Seeing that Google Talk is always preloaded with almost every Android device out there, it’s the most convenient service to experience video chat. Connected with T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, we’re satisfied with the video calling experience with the G-Slate’s front facing camera – though, its placement in landscape adds a perspective look to us. However, it seems better suited for use in portrait.

Multimedia:

With a lightning quick 1GHz dual-core processor in tow, it’s only fitting to see it go to use with the Gallery App. We’re actually excited to see a novel 3D-like effect going on with the different albums in the gallery as you either tilt the G-Slate or touch the screen. Granted that it will display content stored locally on the tablet, but it’ll even pull things from your Picasa account as well. However, once we moved past the updated looks of the Gallery App, there isn’t much else different with it. Naturally, you can scroll between photos by simply swiping left or right, and zoom with pinch gestures, but there isn’t much in terms of editing functions offered – only things like rotating and cropping are available. And as usual, you can share content with a variety of services like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.



More of the same again, we’re still nevertheless enthralled by the stock music player of Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Starting up the music player, we’re instantly taken to an eye catching carousel of album covers that we can browse through with smoothness like no other. Definitely flaunting some eye catching visual flare with its own spin on Apple’s beloved Cover Flow mode, we’re glad to see that the transformation has finally arrived for the Android music player.



Once you select an album and song to play, it displays the customary set of things – like the album cover, track information, and on-screen controls. However, we were hoping to see some sort of visualization to complement Honeycomb’s 3D-esque appearance, but sadly there are none whatsoever. Even more, it doesn’t provide any equalizer options as well, and unlike the glaring output of the XOOM’s speakers, the ones with the G-Slate are more reserved with their production. Fortunately, the speakers don’t strain at the loudest volume setting, but the overall tone is a bit more on the neutral side of things – which obviously doesn’t sound irritating at all, however, it lacks any oomph to its output.

Using one of the highest quality displays we’ve seen grace any tablet out there thus far, the video watching experience is undeniably fantastic on so many levels with the G-Slate. Watching a video encoded in MPEG-4 1280 x 720 resolution, we’re greeted with lush details, iridescent looking colors, and playback that’s richly smooth. Add to that its reasonably ample sized 8.9” display, you have the perfect companion for those long and lonesome road trips. Trust us, it’ll keep you engaged with all of the action!

Storage shouldn’t be a problem for the T-Mobile G-Slate considering that it comes packed with 32GB of internal memory. Strangely though, it doesn’t offer a microSD card slot for expansion, and even though it comes with a microUSB to USB adapter, it’s unable to read any of our attached USB flash drives.

Software:

Google Maps has also received a subtle makeover as it makes use of the added space of course. However, there isn’t any new functionality present that we don’t see with its smartphone counterparts, but at least we’re offered things like 3D view, Google Latitude integration, street view, and free voice guided turn-by-turn directions with Google Maps Navigation.



Thankfully, the YouTube app has been updated as well to provide plenty of interaction while you’re watching a video. Initially, it’ll display a 3D wall of videos that you can scroll ever so smoothly, but when you select one, it’ll break down to various panes with their respective content. As the video plays in one pane, you can simply read about its description or comments in another, while related videos will pop up in the last pane. Also, you can obviously share particular videos to specific social networking accounts as well.



As for other standard apps that haven’t been optimized to work with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, they run just like they normally do on a smartphone. So for things like the official Facebook and Twitter apps, it’ll basically embody the look and feel that you’re accustomed to using, but hopefully developers will quickly optimize them. That’s because they’re scaled up and don’t take advantage of the extra real estate. Even well after Honeycomb’s official launch with the XOOM, there still appears to be some bugs with the G-Slate’s experience as well since we continue to come across some abrupt force closures on apps like Facebook.



Performance:

Using the G-Slate in the high coverage areas of the greater Philadelphia region, the tablet is consistently able to produce a signal strength of -77 dBm – and frankly, we rarely see signal strength ever fluctuating abruptly.

Sporting a smaller display than some of its major rivals right now, battery life is still respectable, though, it’s not as good as what we’ve seen put out by the Motorola XOOM and Apple iPad 2. Thankfully, a full charge will get you a solid one day of normal usage - which is what we would normally expect out of a tablet of this caliber. However, it’s still not as long lasting as the other two tablets before it, but in any event, it should suffice the requirements of most people.

Conclusion: 

Clearly looking at things on paper, there’s no denying that the T-Mobile G-Slate is a wonderful alternative to the pricier Motorola XOOM – especially when it outperforms it on so many levels. T-Mobile surely picked the perfect tablet to get Android 3.0 Honeycomb to its existing base of customers, however, it still falls short in some areas that prevent it from really rising above the current stack of competition out there. Sure it’s 3D video recording ability is a standout feature on its own, and rightfully so, it’s not something you necessarily find being offered by other currently available tablets. However, it’s still far away from delivering the exceptional 3D experience to make it engaging enough for the long term acceptance. For $529.99 on-contract, it’s still an acceptable offering considering the amount of fun it’s able to deliver – but don’t buy it for its 3D video capture feature alone.

Software version of the reviewed unit: Android 3.0.1, Build HRI66

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Pros

  • Comfortable & solid build
  • One of the best displays seen on a tablet so far
  • Acceptable on-contract price

Cons

  • 3D video capture isn’t all that great
  • Large size for an 8.9” tablet
  • Pricey off-contract price

PhoneArena Rating:

8.0

User Rating:

9.0
1 Reviews

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