Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1") Android 16GB Tablet Computer Review
by: Howard Carson, September 2012
Requires: A need for a tablet or an interest in a tablet
MSRP: US$399, CAN$399.00, £299.99
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 is a 10.1" (25.6cm), well made, lightweight tablet computer running the Android operating system (version 4 - or 4.0.3 to be exact - also known as Ice Cream Sandwich or ICS - don't ask me where they come up with the names). The screen is a lovely 1280x800 PLS TFT panel that is bright, accurate and razor sharp. The main processor, the heart of any tablet, is the Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 dual-core. We're not sure why Samsung didn't move from the nVidia Tegra2 processor (used in the Galaxy Tab 1) to the Tegra3, but c'est la vie and we can only guess that Samsung cut a better deal with Texas Instruments. The tablet is 10" high x 7" wide x 0.38" thick (25.67cm x 17.5cm x 0.97cm) and weighs approximately 20.5 oz (580g). Charging is done with a supplied cable with a proprietary connector for the Tab on one end and a USB connector on the other end to attach to a wall charger or to any laptop or desktop computer (Running Windows, Mac OS X or Linux). The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 is not supplied with a case of any kind, so you might want pick up something with some screen protection (a stiffener) built-in to protect the device from bump, bangs, pokes and scratchy objects while walking or traveling with the thing stuffed into a shoulder bag, backpack, briefcase or whatever you use. The unit we've been using is WiFi and Bluetooth enabled. We did not get into the 3G version.
I'm not personally a fan of the smaller 7" (17.5cm) tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note tablet and the Asus Nexus. Too small and way too close in size to an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone as well. A tablet, in my opinion should be large enough to enjoy, thin and light enough to easily hold, with enough screen resolution, color accuracy and sharpness to enjoy movies, web browsing, TV shows, complex apps, advanced tablet gaming, and some reading. The Galaxy Tab 2 has the features and the processing horsepower to make everything work.
- 1 GHz Dual-Core CPU - The Texas Instruments processor is a rarity these days, but it performs well
- 16GB Storage - But (and it's an important but), you can also add a microSD card for up to (currently) 32GB of additional storage
- 1GB RAM - More than enough to run any conceivable app right now
- Fast Networking - Bluetooth v3.0, USB 2.0 Host, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi Direct, HSPA+ 21Mbps 850/900/1900/2100
- Excellent Video Support - Basically, the Tab 2 will handle anything you like including MPEG4, H.264. H.263, VC-1, DivX, WMV7, WMV8, WMV9, VP8, in all the main formats including 3GP, ASF, AVI, MP4, WMV, FLV, MKV, WebM, with Playback/Recording in full HD@30fps
- Excellent Audio Support - Basically, the Tab 2 will handle anything you like including MP3, AAC, AC-3, AMR, FLAC, MID, WMA, WAV, OGG, either through the built-in speakers or through any earphone, headphones or output from the 3.5mm jack
- Excellent Orientation Sensors - High resolution accelerometer for motion and position sensing, a built-in digital compass for map orientation, and an ambient light sensor for screen brightness control
- A Ton of Features and Services - Samsung TouchWiz / Samsung L!ve Panel, Samsung Apps, Samsung Hub, Readers Hub/Music Hub/Game Hub/Video Hub, Samsung Hub Widget, Samsung S Suggest App recommendation service, Samsung ChatON mobile communication service, Samsung All Share Play, Samsung Kies/Samsung Kies air, Google Mobile Services, Android Market, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Syncing with Google Calendar, Google Search, Google+, Polaris document editor, iA-GPS, Glonass
There's more, but you get the idea. Samsung ships the Galaxy Tab 2 with every feature and function you can think of, and hundreds of thousands of apps in the Google and Samsung app universe are available through the Android Market.
Now that there are literally thousands of purpose-built apps for marketers, doctors, nurses, presenters, scientists of all kinds, salespeople, realtors, financial managers, stockbrokers, and hundreds of other trades, professions and creatives, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of games, utilities, productivity, graphics, photo, video and connectivity apps, finding a use for Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 is not hard. Whether you use it (as I do) primarily at home, or whether you slip it into a backpack, shoulder bag, briefcase of large pocket and take it with you wherever you go, the day long battery life should serve you quite well.
Unlike Apple iOS found in the iPad, Android 4.x is highly configurable. Between the system settings functions and the more open operating system, you'll find hundred of free apps to customize your desktop exactly as you please. If you want news and information streaming in one window, next to your Twitter feed in another window, next to gmail in another window, you can do it. There are hundreds of thousands of other combination and permutations, and it's one of the areas in which Android shines far above iOS on the iPad.
By default, the Samsung Hub circle of apps appears on the main screen. Hub makes app recommendations and acts as a general launcher into various app categories, among other things. I tried Samsung Hub for as long as I could stand it, then killed it off my home screen. Its seems to be, in a sort of low-end way, Samsung's take on Apple's Genius concept. But where Genius in iTunes and on the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad uses extensive logic and programming and the vast knowledge base maintained by Apple, Samsung Hub just sucks. Immediately after writing this, someone looking over my shoulder at this review poked me in the back and declared, "Hey! I happen to really like Samsung Hub." Well okay, and maybe you should give it a serious look yourself to make sure I'm not just being unreasonable.
Less expensive than the iPad, just as much fun, almost as good a content consumption device, same irritating touch keyboard (sorry - I just hate touch keyboards even though I use them several times every day), a more configurable desktop and user experience than the iPad, an enormous number of available apps in Android Market (but still not as many as you'll find in the Apple App Store), smooth and responsive operation (but not quite as smooth and responsive as Apple's slick iOS operating environment), and highly versatile. I call it a good value.
Cons: The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 is not quite as snappy, responsive or smooth in operation as the rest of the tablets at the top of the heap. The original Tab was a thumb-your-nose nyah-nyah at Apple and the iPad, but the Tab 2 is a contender mainly because it's running Android 4.x. That's not enough to totally kick the iPad in the shins, and Samsung needs to smarten up. Swipe scrolling is smooth enough, taps in most apps are very responsive but not in all apps, and while the screen is excellent, it's not as good as the IPS Apple Retina display because it just does not have the same pixel density. The very-good-but-not-great Tab 2 screen pixel density means that small font sizes tend to look very slightly rough, so you're best configuring reading screens with black text on a white background (which is what the Kindle reader app does by default). The rear (higher resolution) camera is not very good.
I'd like to find whomever it was that decided to put a screenshot icon amid all the others on the bottom home screen control panel and cuff him on the ear, because I keep accidentally brushing the icon, whereupon the system makes a screenshot and then presents me with it. Curse, delete photo, go back to what I was trying to do. The Chrome web browser is fast - very fast - but its bookmark implementation for both accessing/selecting existing bookmarks and saving new ones is clunky. What's worse is that the bookmarks implementation doesn't remember your last position in the list. What that means is tapping the bookmark icon at the top right corner of the browser, tapping the bookmark folder, tapping a subfolder and then tapping a saved bookmark gets you to the web page you want, but the next time you tap the bookmark icon again you'll find yourself at the bookmark folder which means you again have to tap it, then the subfolder you want, then the actual link to which you want to browse. Clunky! Fix this! Apple's implementation of bookmarks in the Safari browser app in iOS on the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad is vastly better (although Safari itself is a noticeably slower browser than Chrome). Sigh.
The rear-facing camera (the main camera) is a 3 megapixel waste of time. Image quality with a held-rock-steady Tab 2 of a properly lit subject is reminiscent of digital images from 14 years ago - noisy, poor color depth, blown out highlights, and no modifying control over auto-exposure. At even this mid-range tablet price point, the camera should be at least 5 megapixels, and should offer at least twice the dynamic range, twice the lens quality, significantly more color depth and faster operation. Samsung already owns a well-established and respected camera division, so there's no excuse for this fail.
Pros: The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1") tablet works well, it's less expensive than the iPad, there are an enormous number of Android apps available right now, and the Tab 2 is more configurable, customizable and personalize-able than the iPad. Battery life is good and the vast majority of owners should be able to use it all day, on and off, without a battery top-up. Forget about the crappy camera - you won't find anybody sane holding a 10.1" tablet in the air trying to snap a photo at a family get-together anyway, because tablets are simply too awkward for that sort of camera use. The front-facing camera is excellent for video chat, video Skype calls and so on. One of the things that bugs me about the iPad is the gmail implementation which is clunky, awkward, offers no way to select multiple emails for deletion or categorization, making it basically unfriendly. On the Tab 2 however, the Android version of the gmail app is essentially a native app that has more features which work quickly and extremely well. The Chrome browser app is very fast. The maximum screen viewing angle is amazing. Screen rendering and response is very fast and complex games run as fast as they're supposed to, which is a thumbs-up for the Texas Instruments processor. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1") tablet is a lot of fun to use. It can provide you with an enormous amount of entertainment. It can be used as a minor productivity platform. It can be used for all sorts of communication. With the vast selection of apps in Android Market, you're never going to run of things to do on, with and in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. Recommended.