updated 07:35 pm EST, Sun February 13, 2011
New tablet steps up to iPad-level specs
Samsung's Mobile World Congress event primarily focused on the new Galaxy S II smartphone, but the company pulled the curtains back open to spend a few minutes talking about its second-generation tablet. Electronista took advantage of an opportunity to try out the new gadget, which is among the first to be based on Google's tablet-optimized Android 3.0 OS.
The Tab 10.1 is built around a larger screen than its predecessor, stretching from a seven-inch panel to a 10.1-inch spread that inspires the name. The shift essentially brings the device into direct competition with the iPad; the first-generation Tab arguably fell into a separate category for mid-size devices. Our experience with the original Tab felt closer to a smartphone than a tablet, but the larger model overcomes those objections.
Our first impression with the first Galaxy Tab was partially influenced by the OS; Samsung jumped into the Android tablet market before the OS was truly optimized for the larger screen. Android 3.0 Honeycomb solidifies the tablet experience on the Tab 10.1, however, helping to eliminate issues that emerged when using a scaled-up smartphone OS. We also agreed with Samsung's choice to leave the stock OS alone. UI tweaks helped overall usability with Froyo on a seven-inch layout, but it does not seem to be necessary with Honeycomb.
From the front and sides, the Tab 10.1 and iPad both share a similar appearance with black bezels held by an aluminum frame. Samsung takes from the Galaxy S design for the back panel, which is textured and slightly contoured for hand grip. The tablet felt solid in our hands, while the weight seemed lighter than the iPad.
Under the hood, the Tab 10.1 packs the same dual-core Tegra processor as Motorola's Android 3.0-based Xoom tablet. The OS and apps seemed to be snappy and responsive while we flicked through the UI and tried out a few apps.
We liked the Tab 10.1, but the device did not have any spectacular features to set it apart from the rest of the crowd. Users can generally expect quite a few tablets to arrive this year with the same OS and similar screen sizes, screen resolutions and camera configurations. A few of the current unknowns -- price, battery life and launch timing -- may be the factors that make or break the Tab 10.1.