All I knew about the Samsung galaxy tab came from AppleInsiders’ reviews roundup, which dubbed it as the first “real” iPad competitor. Last saturday I had a chance to try it hands-on at a local mall for a few minutes.
Here are my impressions on the new device…
It is much lighter then the iPad, and that is a good thing. However, it feels like cheap plastic subject to scratches a lot more then the metal and glass of the iPad. I have Samsung compact camera with the exact same glossy finish the Tab has on its back so I know what I’m talking about.
The standby button sits on the side along with a number of other buttons and ports. The fact that the buttons are almost at the same level as the border made it difficult to locate and identify them just by running the fingers along the Tab borders. This is a natural gesture I do every time I hold my iPad and I don’t know the exact orientation I’m holding it, which is pretty common really. Doing the same with the Samsung Tab is going to be a struggle: you’ll end up flipping the device to look where the buttons are instead, loosing focus on the main task you’re at.
Apart from these glitches, I found the hardware pretty pleasing to look at and device handling felt ok.
The Samsung Tab has back and front-facing cameras. How practical is it to use, I could not test.
It also includes a full featured mobile phone, allowing you yo make and receive phone and video calls and text messages. The drawback, if you already carry one or perhaps even two mobile phones, is that you’ll get yet another phone number to use through the Tab.
The Tab software has the Android “desktop” with widgets, which I still need to get familiar with so I won’t comment on. Once you find your way to the springboard, the thing looks just like an iPad, only not as nice.
I had no chance to check on the web browser, so I only tried the eBook reader. It is so similar to the iPad’s book reader not just in the looks, but also in the controls and their locations, it is all to clear they developed it with one hand while keeping an iPad in the other. Still, the overall implementation feels sloppy: it’s slower in doing everything and the graphics look low-fi when compared to the iPad’s user interface.
It feels like an open-source version of the iOS just like the various Linux desktop GUI themes feel like an open-source version of Windows, Mac OS X or NextStep… There are some tweaks here and there to mix things up, but there’s no innovation whatsoever in this product.
When you need to choose between a copy and an original, why should you choose the copy if it costs about the same and doesn’t deliver the same quality?
The screen size of the Samsung Tab is considerably larger then an iPhone, and considerably smaller then an iPad. If you already own an “internet phone”, be it an iPhone or an Android powered phone, the user experience of the Samsung Tab won’t be a leap from the one on your phone.
The Samsung Tab has “full flash support” in the browser but it’s a long shot to say it delivers the full web experience. You’ll end up doing a lot of panning and zooming on that screen compared to the iPad — making the overall experience feel a lot more like the one on an “internet phone” rather then the one delivered by a small notebook.
I don’t think the Samsung Tab is a netbook replacement as the iPad can be. It is a great first multi-touch device if you have a classic mobile phone or a non-touch smart phone; but I don’t see it being an addition to your iPhone or Android phone.
Finally, the iPad is a device even my 4 years old daughter and my 70 years old father could use. I don’t think either of them would figure out the Samsung Tab without some training.