Samsung fills gap with midsize Tab (November 11th, 2011)
Product Manufacturer: Samsung
- Great size
- Light weight
- Fast processor
- Decent battery life
- Plastic construction
- Not much cheaper than 10.1-inch tablets
- Cramped keyboard
Samsung has continued to expand its Tab series of tablets, offering the original seven-inch model, the Tab 10.1 to compete with the iPad, and now the Tab 8.9 to fill the gap. The midsize tablet offers many of the same features as its larger counterpart, except for a smaller display and compact build. In our full review, we compare the Tab 8.9 to Samsung's other tablets and competitors from other manufacturers.
Aesthetically, the Tab 8.9 is hardly distinguishable from the Tab 10.1 until both tablets are placed side-by-side to appreciate the size difference. Both share a silver frame with a brushed gunmetal finish on the backside.
Despite the attractive metallic appearance, the Tab 8.9 and 10.1 both use plastic rather than actual metal for the housing. Some users may like the light weight, however we found the construction to feel less solid than the iPad and other Android tablets that integrate metal frames.
Keeping to its name, the Tab 8.9 integrates an 8.9-inch display that shaves just over an inch from the corner-to-corner measurement of the Tab 10.1. Despite the size difference between the tablets, both utilize a standard LCD panel with 1280x800 resolution. The display quality appears to be similar between both devices, bright and vibrant but not as impressive as AMOLED or IPS panels.
We like the matching resolution of the Tab 8.9 and 10.1, as the viewing experience is essentially the same on both tablets. In fact, we would have preferred if the larger tablet maintained the same pixel density as its smaller cousin, which would require a higher-resolution display, though 1280x800 resolution on a 10.1-inch display is competitive with the rest of the tablets in the same size class.
The midsize Tab is powered by NVIDIA's Tegra 2 platform, with a dual-core processor that is capable of running at 1GHz. We expected the performance to match the Tab 10.1 due to the same components and presumably similar implementation, however we found the Tab 8.9 to be slightly snappier than the larger tablet.
Overall, the Tab 8.9 is one of the best performers of any Android tablet that we've had a chance to try out. The Tegra 2 chip seems to be a perfect match for Google's Android 3.1 Honeycomb build, enabling the device to keep up with interface transitions, multitasking, video playback and web browsing.
The Tab 8.9 integrates a 6100mAh battery, which is slightly smaller than the Tab 10.1's 7000mAh pack. We did not encounter any noticeable difference in battery life. The smaller display likely draws less energy, potentially negating the modest difference in battery size.
There is not much new that can be said about Honeycomb or Samsung's TouchWiz interface overlay. We like the stock OS and the TouchWiz enhancements, especially the widgets, do not detract from the experience.
The onscreen keyboard is the only drawback to the midsize tablet, as the smaller keyboard is slightly more difficult to use on the 8.9-inch spread. As expected, it is easier to use than the keyboard on the seven-inch model but not as great as the 10.1-inch presentation.
When Samsung first introduced the Tab 8.9, we questioned why the company would attempt to fill the gap between seven- and ten-inch tablets. After using the new tablet, however, we found the intermediate size to be preferable over the smaller and larger forms. The Tab 8.9 appears to offer all of the benefits of the Tab 10.1, without shrinking to a size that detracts from the tablet experience.
Although we preferred the Tab 8.9 over the rest of Samsung's tablet lineup, many customers may be turned off by the price. The midsize option breaks the smaller=cheaper rule, shaving just $30 from the retail price of the Tab 10.1. The 16GB model currently sells for $470, while the 32GB variant brings the price up to $570.