Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 review

10 Aug 2011

The slickest Android tablet yet: at last the iPad 2 has, almost literally, met its match

Price when reviewed: 
479From £399 inc VAT
Buy it now for 
5

As we write this review, it’s been announced that sales of Samsung’s latest Android tablet are to be halted across Europe, following legal action from Apple. Glance at the picture and it’s not hard to see why. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 looks eerily, insolently similar to an iPad 2 – and it probably doesn’t help that its various capacities and 3G configurations are priced to precisely match Apple’s corresponding models. Samsung plans to appeal against the ruling, but once current stocks are sold there’s no telling whether or when there’ll be any more.

Update: The EU-wide ban has now been lifted; but Apple's legal action continues, so it's possible that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 might once more be withdrawn from sale.

It’s a shame, because the Galaxy Tab has a lot going for it. The looks have been updated since Samsung first demonstrated the device in February, but it’s still lighter than the iPad 2 at 565g, and a fraction of a millimetre thinner. The plastic back isn’t quite as bulletproof as Apple’s metal casing, but like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer – hitherto our favourite Android tablet – it feels sturdy and warm to the touch.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

The screen is a delight too – a multitouch 1,200 x 800 LCD panel giving more screen space than the iPad 2 and a sharper dot pitch. Based on Samsung’s Super PLS technology – the company’s own take on IPS – it’s as bright and colourful as you could ask for, offering excellent viewing angles and an arresting maximum brightness of 492cd/m[sup]2[/sup] (brighter than Apple’s display), with a punchy contrast ratio of 600:1. The only downside is that, predictably, the widescreen format feels slightly unwieldy in portrait orientation.

Internally, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is based on a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, again matching the Asus Transformer. It was no surprise, therefore, to see the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark complete in a very similar 2.4 seconds – just a smidgeon behind the iPad 2’s 2.1 seconds. The BBC home page opened in 5.6 seconds, and in the Android-only Quadrant benchmark the Galaxy Tab scored 2,200, again a typical score for a high-end tablet.

In practice, this makes Honeycomb a snappy experience. The scrolling and rotating animations appear slightly choppy compared to the iPad 2, and when you swipe to scroll up or down a page there’s a tiny delay before the movement registers. But these are general Android niggles, and they’re easy to live with. Overall, the apps and front-end are as responsive as you could ask for.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 rear view

Samsung has also overlaid its TouchWiz 4.0 customisations onto the regular Android interface. These include “live panels” – large informational widgets for your home screens – and a “Mini Apps Tray” along the bottom of the home screen. The notification and settings area at the bottom right of the screen is replaced with Samsung’s own version, offering simpler one-touch access to frequently used settings.

A showy “tilt to zoom” feature has also been added to the browser and various interface elements have been spruced up with a clean black-on- white look. These changes aren’t too intrusive, but they add little to the experience. Potentially more useful is the preinstalled copy of Polaris Office, plus some bespoke Samsung applications. These include the Social Hub, which combines your social network services into a single interface, and the Music Hub, an integrated music store powered by the 7digital service.

Detail

Price ex VAT £399
Price inc VAT £479
Warranty 1yr collect and return
Overall rating 5
Performance 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 6

Physical

Dimensions 257 x 8.6 x 176mm (WDH)
Weight 565g

Display

Primary keyboard On-screen
Screen size 10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Display type IPS
Panel technology IPS

Battery

Battery capacity 7,000mAh

Core specifications

CPU frequency, MHz 1MHz
Integrated memory 16.0GB
RAM capacity 1MB

Camera

Camera megapixel rating 3.2mp
Focus type Autofocus
Built-in flash? yes
Built-in flash type LED
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Other

WiFi standard 802.11n
Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes
Accessories supplied None
Upstream USB ports 0
HDMI output? no
Video/TV output? no

Software

Mobile operating system Android 3.1

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