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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  • VivekGowri - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    Dude, I have enough problems typing normally, without having to worry about drawing lines between the keys. I will admit, I got the hang of it quicker than I thought I would, but as a G2 user, I must say that nothing can beat a good HTC hardware keyboard (unless Dell can manage it with the Venue Pro).
  • vision33r - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    I have an Android phone and my wife uses the iPhone. But we both use the iPad. For many years, I've compared my Android phone to the iPhone.

    Google keeps improving the performance of Android but have done very little to make the OS more user friendly.

    Apple has improved the performance of iOS and their UI. The implementation is much more mainstream with a minimalist approach vs the Android's muddy and convoluted way of stuffing the OS with tedius configs.

    The iPad stands for all those Apple design cues, easy, accessible, and everything works philosophy.

    The Galaxytab represents all the problems with Android. Lack of standardization, poorly executed and flawed ideas. The lack of standardization has hurt the ecosystem greatly. The Dev community can't find leadership or direction in this "Open" Android market. They don't know which direction Google wants Android to go.

    Bottomline, Apple has won the Tablet market. The industry mainly film, print, media, have all signed on to embrace the iPad "format."
  • OldPueblo - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    They own it except for those that don't want to be forced into Apple's ecosystem and those that want a tablet that actually fits in a pocket and doesn't belong mostly on a coffe table. The iPad hardly wins the tablet war on many fronts. "Stupid easy" doesn't make something better, it just means there are more stupid people parting with their money.
  • medi01 - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    Mentioning "lack of standardization" in "Apple vs Anything" as a pro-Apple argument is one of the most idiotic statements I've ever seen.
  • Paladin1650 - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    Those same arguments would apply to Macs vs. PCs, yet PC dominates. What actually happens is that Apple's user-friendly approach dominates the EARLY stages of a new market. Users don't know how to use a new device, so of course they gravitate to those that are most polished and easiest to use (Apple). Once everyone becomes familiar with how the device works, and once UI conventions become more or less standardized, then the general consumer population can see the more open PC/Android approach for what it is: Superior.
  • OldPueblo - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    I mean you knock it for it's interface, but what should a tablet interface be like? I mean how much simpler can you get? You can set it up the way you want with icons to tap to open things. What's not "made for a tablet?" Just because it's the same/similar to arguably the best smartphones on the planet, why is that bad on tablet? Why does it HAVE to be different?
  • medi01 - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    I guess if they don't invent such "problems" with Galaxy Tab it would have been much harder to come "iPad is still better" conclusion.
  • VivekGowri - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    Direct quote from another comment I posted:

    If you read my software section, I said exactly that - having a scaled up OS never held the iPad back, so it's not something I can hold against the Galaxy Tab. What I can hold against the Galaxy Tab is that there are basically no apps, first party or otherwise, that take advantage of the larger screen size, other than the three or four apps that Samsung put in afterwards (Mail, Calendar, Contacts, etc). Apple basically changed every core app on the iPad to use that screen real estate, and they had more than a few high profile 3rd party apps out for the iPad - ABC player, NYT, BBC, etc etc. I don't doubt that Google will get there, probably with Honeycomb, but until then, it's a legitimate problem.

    If the OS is the same and the apps are the same, why would I get a Galaxy Tab instead of a Galaxy S or any other Android device? I'm a day-in, day-out Android user (T-Mo G2), and I love the platform, but it really isn't ready for tablets right now.
  • Hrel - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    Didn't you guys already review this? I'm pretty sure I already read about this on anandtech...
  • kadaj - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

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