The iPad started shipping in April, and since then it has basically had the tablet market to itself. Literally, in the six months after the iPad’s release, it didn’t have a single direct competitor. Dell launched the Streak shortly after the iPad, but the Streak was a 5” unit that was significantly smaller than the iPad. In the 7-11” tablet market, Apple has been the only real player.

But that all changed when Samsung launched its 7” Galaxy Tab last month. It’s available for $599 off contract on all four major American carriers and US Cellular ($399 on a two year contract with Sprint or US Cellular, $349 for T-Mobile), with a $499 WiFi-only model on the way. If those pricepoints sound familiar, it’s because the unsubsidized prices are right on top of the 16GB iPad. I’m betting that’s not coincidental; it’s pretty clear what Samsung was targeting when they priced the Tab.

The Tab is the first Android slate to come from a major manufacturer, and probably will be the last one to release with Froyo. The rest (Dell’s 7” Looking Glass tablet, the Motorola tablet showed off in Google’s D: Dive Into Mobile press conference, and rumored devices from HTC, Acer, Asus, and others) appear to be releasing with Honeycomb in the early part of next year. Samsung says that the Galaxy Tab will be updated to Gingerbread at some point in the future, along with Honeycomb whenever that releases. But we’ll get to the software in a moment, let’s talk hardware first.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Physical Comparison
  Samsung Galaxy Tab Apple iPad Motorola Droid X HTC EVO 4G Samsung Galaxy S Fascinate
Height 190.1 mm (7.48") 248.2 mm (9.6") 127.5 mm (5.02") 121.9 mm (4.8") 125 mm (4.92")
Width 120.5 mm (4.74") 189.7 mm (7.5") 66.5 mm (2.62") 66.0 mm (2.6") 63.5 mm (2.5")
Depth 12.0 mm ( 0.47") 13.4 mm (0.5") 9.9 mm (0.39") 12.7 mm (0.5") 9.91 mm (0.39")
Weight 380 g (13.4 oz) 680 g (24.0 oz) 155 g (5.47 oz) 170 g (6.9 oz) 117 grams (4.16 oz)
CPU 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird Apple A4 @ 1GHz TI OMAP 3630 @ 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird
GPU PowerVR SGX 540 PowerVR SGX 535 PowerVR SGX 530 Adreno 200 PowerVR SGX 540
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 16GB integrated 8GB micro SD 8GB micro SD 2 GB, 16 GB microSD (Class 2)
Camera 3.2MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera None 8MP with dual LED Flash 8MP with dual LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 5 MP with auto focus and LED flash
Screen 7.0" 1024 x 600 LCD 9.7" 1024 x 768 IPS 4.3" 480 x 854 4.3" 480 x 800 4. 0" 800 x 480 Super AMOLED
Battery Integrated 14.8Whr Integrated 25 Whr Removable 5.698 Whr Removable 5.5Whr Removable 5.55 Whr

On paper, the Galaxy Tab is essentially a jumbo-sized implementation of the Galaxy S smartphone platform. You’re looking at the same A8-based 1 GHz Hummingbird processor and PowerVR SGX 540 graphics chip, the same 512MB RAM, the same lightweight plastic build, and pretty similar industrial design. The screen has been upsized, from the 4” WVGA unit in the Galaxy S to a 7” WSVGA panel, but it’s not a Super AMOLED display like on the smartphones. You lose a couple of megapixels and HD video recording capability on the rear-facing camera, but the Galaxy Tab does get a 1.3MP front facing camera for video calling.

The design is rather minimalistic, with the front having a small bezel around the screen and four capacitive touch buttons underneath the screen. Since we’re on the topic, I’d like to voice my annoyance that the touch buttons are always in different orders. HTC and Samsung use different layouts, Motorola uses two different layouts for no explicable reason, and Google has specced both of its Nexus phones with layouts that are not normally used by their manufacturers. The lack of standardization isn’t a huge problem, but it can get annoying if you switch between multiple Android devices on a daily basis.

The top view of the Galaxy Tab, iPad, and Vewsonic G Tablet (top-bottom)

Anyways, back to the industrial design. The sides are matte black, with the headphone jack at the top, dock connector and speakers at the bottom, mic on the left side, and the power and volume buttons and the covered microSD card slot on the right side. The back is glossy and dotted in the same way as the Fascinate and Vibrant. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Tab’s back panel is non-removable, so you can’t swap out the battery. Compared to the iPad, the overall feel is a bit less high end, mostly due to the use of glossy plastic instead of the aluminum unibody. But overall, the ID is very straightforward, leading to a clean and elegant device.

When you pick it up, the Galaxy Tab feels light, almost shockingly so. Given that it’s half the size of the iPad and just over half the weight, this first impression isn’t exactly unfounded. Given the lightness, the feeling of solidity is actually surprising if you’re expecting something along the lines of the Galaxy S phones - compared to the ultralight Fascinate/Captivate/Vibrant/Focus, the Tab feels significantly more substantial. The overall build quality definitely exceeded my expectations, though the unibody aluminum shell puts the iPad on a different level.

Samsung Galaxy Tab - Oh, That Screen
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  • tipoo - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    No problem.
  • SimKill - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    This is a minor pet peeve but when you( you != Specific author, you == general) write your reviews I think there was one more where you'd written '[Product] - The Anandtech review' instead of '[X] review' like before.

    I'm coming to Anandtech, it would be fairly obvious to me that the reviews on this site would be AnandTech reviews and wouldn't be rip offs from other websites.

    Oh, and good job.
  • tipoo - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    I love how you used !=. Do I detect a CS student/graduate?
  • SimKill - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Nah, mech grad here with boatloads of programming. I find != the most unambiguous way to 'I don't mean X when I say Y'.
  • tipoo - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Ah, I see. From what I've seen people who haven't done any programming use =/= to denote "does not equal", whereas people who have programed like us use !=.
  • TheStu - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    I would say that the reason for saying [Product - The Anandtech Review] instead of just calling it [Product Review] is that Anandtech reviews tend to includ more technical information than others, there is still subjectivity in the writing, but what I take away from Anandtech's reviews is a better objective view of the product.

    So, although it is self serving, and a bit narcissistic to label it as [Product - The Anandtech Review], it does serve the purpose of making it clear what you are getting.
  • synaesthetic - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    I find it helpful because I read most of my tech blows in an RSS feed reader, and can't always immediately tell which blog posted the article!
  • SimKill - Sunday, December 26, 2010 - link

    This is a fair point. But I generally group my RSS by websites. So if I click on Anandtech I can see AT reviews and so on and so forth.
  • SimKill - Sunday, December 26, 2010 - link

    We know what we get from them which is exactly why we come here time and again. I found this to be a little immature for such an awesome set of people.

    And why not let the review speak for itself instead.

    Don't get me wrong, there's a reason why I wait for AT reviews before deciding on anything major but I felt that as a group of highly professional writers I believe that there should be no place for self-serving and narcissism. But then again as the subject title indicates clearly, it's a minor peeve.

    I still love AT reviews.
  • ATOmega - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    I have two major complaints over how manufacturers are approaching android tablets:

    First, it's very difficult if not impossible to get one not as part of a carrier plan. So currently Apple has zero competition for their iPads without 3G/4G. As much as some people will see this as an outdated market, here in Canada lots of people are avoiding our major carriers because they're a bunch of greedy a$$holes. There's very little point in having their data plans on tablets because you're still stuck rationing out MBs...Kind of takes the fun out of it.

    Second, they're way overpriced. If as a result of the price being designed to encourage data plans, or if the manufacturers actually think they're worth that...The SOCs are dirt cheap as advertised by the people who make them and as part of the Android promise. The additional hardware used to make up the systems aren't nearly enough to reach $700 either. At the very least, we should be seeing sub $400 prices for non 3G/4G models.

    I want Android tablets on the shelfs of local computer stores (big box or wholesale alike) and available without data plans.

    I'd love to see Anandtech take on these details in future reviews. But I'm glad they're looking at Android the way they are already. Good show.

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