The Galaxy Tab is the most refined Android tablet we’ve tested, in large part thanks to its “Super TFT” screen. At 1024x600, this 7-inch display exceeds Android 2.2’s maximum screen resolution of 854x480. While Android apps built to that standard spec will be “upscaled” on the Tab’s screen, we didn’t notice any ugly pixel interpolation during testing. The Galaxy Tab’s screen is sharp, bright and categorically brilliant. True, we didn’t test for color accuracy, but skintones looked natural in HD movies (the Tab handles 1080p), and no one is doing Photoshop editing on a 7-inch screen.
The Galaxy Tab scored well in our Android performance benchmarks, easily besting the ViewPad 7 (see chart). The speed and responsiveness of the UI also trumped what we experienced with the ViewPad 7. This comes as no surprise, given the Galaxy Tab’s superior processing engine (its greater screen-resolution demands notwithstanding). The Tab is armed with Samsung’s own 1GHz “Hummingbird” processor, as well as a PowerVR graphics unit. This is essentially the same processing duo you’ll find in an iPad, but the Galaxy Tab’s UI doesn’t match the quick scrolling and screen redraws of the iPad (which has an even higher resolution of 1024x768).
Samsung’s screen in a spec-busting 1024x600. Various custom apps make use of that larger resolution quite well.
Does the iPad have a leaner OS? Better optimized application code? These are questions for the forensics team. We just know that even the Galaxy Tab—the world’s current-best Android tablet—has a markedly less fluid interface.
But we do like what Samsung has done with the Tab’s graphical iterations of the basic Android UI. In particular, the Calendar and Email apps have a more polished, friendly information design. You’ll find tabbed panes for Day/Week/Month/List immediately exposed in Calendar, as well as a very iPad-like Email app—especially in landscape view, with message headers in a left-hand column, and full message bodies on the right.
The Tab’s industrial design is snoozy. The front face is entirely glass with a 5/8-inch black border skirting the perimeter. The remaining fascia is hard plastic in either black or white. The look is unremarkable if inoffensive. A proprietary (doh!) 30-pin dock connector handles USB, HDMI and power-charging duties. The front glass is host to a 1.3MP chat camera, and a 3MP camera graces the back.
Guess what? We didn’t even test the rear camera. We figure a tech enthusiast’s smartphone—armed with either a 5MP or 8MP camera—is always at the ready as a superior image-collecting device.
Samsung makes only one Galaxy Tab model, and 3G data support is baked right in, thus explaining the company’s decision to sell the tablet directly through phone carriers. The device costs $400 if you buy a data contract, and $600 if you decide to go commando—which we recommend because 3G isn’t necessary in a tablet. We’re already getting reamed for 3G smartphone fees, so we’ll use our phones for Internet duties when WiFi isn’t available.
This leaves us with a $600 tablet that, when compared to the $630 iPad, offers less screen real estate, and a much less robust apps ecosystem. The Tab is a solid piece of hardware, yes, but do you really hate Apple so much that you won’t buy an iPad?