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Hands on: Samsung's Galaxy Tab 8.9 and second-gen 10.1

updated 02:15 pm EDT, Tue March 22, 2011

Company spreads tablet strategy across all sizes

As expected, Samsung unveiled its new mid-size tablet, the Galaxy Tab 8.9, at a special event at CTIA in Orlando. The new device was introduced alongside an updated version of the company's 10.1-inch variant, which arrived as a bit of a surprise considering the first-generation model was introduced just months ago at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Electronista had a chance to preview both devices, though the company has yet to show off production models.

Samsung has taken an interesting approach to the tablet market, offering a seven-inch small size, an 8.9-inch edition in the middle of the road, and two different models with 10.1-inch displays to match the size of Apple's iPad and several other competitors.

We like the new design, which is smoother and built with rounded features rather than the squarish build of the current Tab 10.1. The company worked to squeak under the iPad's specs, shaving 0.2mm of the thickness and undercutting the weight by just six grams. Silver accents have been replaced with gunmetal colors, giving the tablets a look that resembles the dark Xoom.

We were already impressed with the tablet optimizations in Google's stock Android 3.0 release, so we were curious to see how Samsung added its further customizations with the TouchWiz overlay. We like the minor enhancements, which provide several extra features without interfering with the positive aspects of the stock OS. The company seems to have avoided customization just for the sake of differentiation, a problem that we've seen with some Android overlays on smartphones.

Most of the TouchWiz tweaks are optional widgets, which include several 'Live Panel' options for unified social networking feeds, pictures and websites. Users can also take advantage of an application tray that provides quick access to commonly used tools such as the calendar and music player. The application tray is another option that users may or may not find more attractive than Android 3.0's own multitasking system.

Unfortunately, Samsung only showed off the new software on the first-generation devices; the hardware upcoming designs was not functional. Nonetheless, the software was responsive and fluid while switching through different menus. We don't expect any performance downgrade for the production models, as both integrate chipsets similar to that of the Tabs used for the software demos.

From a price perspective, Samsung appears to understand the importance of matching the iPad's pricing structure. While the Xoom was criticized for commanding a significant premium over the segment leader, the 10.1-inch Tab is available in 16GB and 32GB storage options for $499 and $599, respectively, which makes the device a much closer Android alternative to the iPad.

Dropping down to the 8.9-inch models only brings a modest price drop to $469 and $569 for the same storage options, but it is definitely crucial to avoid releasing smaller tablets that are as expensive or more costly than the iPad.

The new Tabs appear to be a fairly formidable contender against the iPad and other tablets. The hardware is not a leap beyond other high-end tablets, but the ratio of features to cost may make Samsung's offerings attractive compared to the current competition.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. jpellino

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 1999


    Dedicated smiley key?


    And thank heavens they labeled the space bar.

  1. MyRightEye

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2008



    prefer where they put the dock connector over the iPad.

  1. midtoad

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2007


    no contender

    How are either of these devices a contender for the iPad2? The iPad2 is available right now, while Sammy failed to show up for the fight.

  1. solafide

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2007


    ...and so well made...

    Ooohh ... plastic!

    Android developers will love developing for so many different resolutions...

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2004


    8.9" still too big

    a portable tablet is going to be 6" or 7", and they just need to make it thinner and significantly lighter than a 10" tablet.

    OK, they figured out some pricing, now figure that out! A smaller screen requires less battery. Less battery and less screen should equal less weight!!!!

    But because they are going with the cheaper designs, they keep coming up with these thick, heavy tablets that weight about the same as apple larger iPad.

    That has to change. Apple is giving away the portable 'paperback' size tablet market, and only competing in the larger 'magazine' size market.

    But in order to capitalize on that market opening - you have to.....well capitalize on it.

    Wow guys, these Android tablets are still not good enough.

    I think someone will figure it out eventually, but it seems like a never ending wait. Well, at least Android 3.0 is out and developers can start working on apps.

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