updated 01:15 am EST, Sat January 14, 2012
Samsung CES intros get our early hands-on
Samsung used CES to introduce Americanized versions of the Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE and Galaxy Note. We've tried both at the show both to get an early look at their US appearances and how well they might fare in the real world. Full details are after the break.
The Galaxy Tab 7.7's selling point is unquestionably its display. Its Super AMOLED Plus display is unquestionably bright, colorful, and very tolerant for wide viewing angles. Apple has often been credited with having set a gold standard on the iPad, but we'd argue that this at least comes close, even if the colors may be dialed up versus the more neutral iPad.
It helps with slimness, too, and the metal body is one of the thinnest and lightest we've seen in the class. It's not quite e-reader light, but it avoids the bulk that often comes with smaller tablets.
Otherwise, the Tab 7.7 is very much in step with existing Samsung tablets: Android 3.2 still has the TouchWiz customized interface and is reasonably responsive with points where it bogs down. We're comfortable within the interface, although we still prefer the directness and raw speed of the iPad. LTE was hard to test in the below-ground environment, although if you need access and don't have a smartphone hotspot to share, this may be one of the best choices.
The Galaxy Note, meanwhile, is still defined by its size. While the 5.3-inch screen is known for being big, handling it in person makes it clear that it just barely qualifies as a phone. It's very useful if you're treating it as a data-first device, like we suspect Samsung expects, but we know some for whome it's just too big to use for calls. The Galaxy Nexus is small by comparison.
Inside, it's much like a faster Galaxy S II, although the 1280x800 screen resolution does make for a perceptibly sharper interface. Its stylus, the S-Pen, isn't quite as exciting as Samsung makes it out to be, though. We like the idea of hand-drawing notes and sketches when necessary, but we honestly don't know that many need pen input that frequently. We consider it a bonus that comes with the large screen.
On AT&T, we'd seriously consider the Galaxy Note if your focus is browsing, social networking, or large amounts of media. If you're not attached to the carrier, though, we'd spring for the Galaxy Nexus on Sprint or Verizon. Both have nearly the same screen resolution, but in a more manageable size and with a newer OS that's more likely to get use than a pen.
Both Verizon's Galaxy Tab 7.7 and AT&T's Galaxy Note are due in the early part of the year, although neither has been given definitive release dates or prices.