updated 10:10 am EST, Mon February 27, 2012
Samsung 2012 tablets no risk for Apple yet
Samsung had no less than three tablets unveiled ahead of Mobile World Congress, headlined by the Galaxy Note 10.1 as well as two sizes of the Galaxy Tab 2. Each promises a different take on tablets, but are they worth the while? We've tried all three.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 is very much a literal screen increase of the Galaxy Note smartphone. Other than the 10.1-inch (and still 1280x800) display, it shares the 1.4GHz processor and the same S Pen. The cameras also take a step back: in keeping with the Galaxy Tab family, it's three megapixels at the back and two at the front, instead of the eight and two of the Note.
Samsung's pen does get some reason for being besides the existing S apps (S Memo, S Planner, and on) through Adobe's Photoshop Touch and Ideas. They do help make a case for the Galaxy Note 10.1 as a creative tool, but unfortunately, that still puts the number of pen-friendly apps on one's fingers. Also, unlike the five-inch Note phone, there's no place to cradle your pen; we could easily see owners losing the stylus and thus much of the advantage.
That said, as far as Android tablets go, this is still relatively responsive. It's not as quick as the ASUS Transformer Prime, but some of the original Tab 10.1's notorious post-TouchWiz home screen lag is gone. Don't expect Android 4.0 to have cured everything, though. At heart, it's still the familiar Android experience, and that's not necessarily a good thing; it's still somewhat disjointed with constant treks to the top and bottom of the screen.
The Tab 2 in both 10.1-inch and seven-inch forms also feels somewhat underwhelming. They both get a slight kick to performance from Android 4.0, but they're otherwise aluminum-backed refreshes of the Tab 10.1 and 7.0 Plus. We suspect both are budget models meant to fill the gap the original Tab 10.1 didn't address, especially since the 10.1-inch Tab 2 drops to a VGA camera at the rear.
Of the two, we'd pick the seven-inch model: it makes the most sense that if you're going for a budget model, you should go for portability. Screen size is a problem, but it's very portable and easy to hold for reading a book or watching a video on the airplane.
While they all look like competent devices, if this is Samsung's tablet lineup for most of 2012, it's not going to engineer a turnaround. Samsung's chief rival, Apple, could have a new iPad as soon as next week with a 2048x1536 display and a new processor. An answer is in the works, but Apple isn't waiting around. It could be Apple's (and Amazons's) tablet market to control for awhile.
Galaxy Tab 2 10.1
Galaxy Tab 2 7.0