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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  • boden - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    In my shop we've been working on these for about a month and the guys agree totally with you. We joke around by holding the tabs up to our head and pretending they are huge phones. There's not much difference between the standard android phones and the Tab yet.
  • medi01 - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    What kind of "difference" do you expect please?
  • VivekGowri - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    Apps? Something? Anything? It's supposed to be a completely new product segment, I'd like to see something more than Android + TouchWiz scaled to a 7" screen. I love Android, but there's really no point in a tablet that's almost the same as any given Android smartphone. Personally, I don't think Android tablets will hit the primetime until Honeycomb releases.
  • OldPueblo - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    Why? I say our Android smartphones are excellent devices EXCEPT it can be annoying having to work with their small screens. In that it's a complete reversal, the Galaxy Tab is an excellent Android device and the smartphone versions are frustrating and "too small." I rarely use the smartphone ability of my Incredible now that I have the tablet. Why would I prefer to use a smartphone when I can do everything faster on a larger screen that is still extremely portable? I think you're kind of missing the larger point here, that is tablets can make you dump the need to try to do a lot of things on a small smartphone screen. The iPad CANNOT fulfill that role, but the Tab and others like it can perfectly. THAT's the tablet field.
  • lordmetroid - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    I do not want android, can I install another distribution on this device?
  • jabber - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    Note to manufacturers - For non actual camera kit, 3.2MP is perfectly good for everyday snaps.

    However, please can you do the following -

    1. Give the 3.2MP sensor at least a $2 lens to work with rather than the $1 doillar one you give it.

    2. Reduce the compression factor applied to the shots or at least let the user decide how much to use.

    I see so many 'supposedly low quality low MP' cameras that would be great if the manufacturer hadnt squashed the jpegs down to 200Kb each. Compression means more to final image quality than MP.

    Rather have a reasonable quality 3.2MP than a truly crappy corners cut 8MP.
  • Jacerie - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    When can we expect a review of something actually useful for business purposes and not just toys? The Slate has been available now since October and not a single word has been mentioned on AT. On paper the Slate dominates all the other tablets, but I would like to see a full AT review before I invest.
  • Penti - Sunday, December 26, 2010 - link

    That's because it's just a netbook with a TN-panel and touchscreen functionality. Expensive Atom-device. Not the hyped product ones called Slate.

    It's nothing like the talked about e-book reader format or Slate PC tablet. It simply wasn't turned into a consumer device, which is why iPad and Galaxy Tab is so popular. No 500 dollar consumer pricing. That's why it's not mentioned. It's not positioned in the same category and simply isn't a consumer device. Of course the others just being consumer devices is why they kind of fail too.
  • simpleboi - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    Just found this over the net

    Netbooks are cheaper. The majority of them run between $200-$400. And after you spend all that money on accessories and upgrade options for the iPad, you'd be able to buy three netbooks for the same amount of money.

    With a netbook, you can multitask, allowing you to run several apps at the same time.

    Though it hasn't been confirmed that there is absolutely no Flash support in the iPad, we at least know netbooks have full Flash support.

    Netbooks have USB ports, about two to three on average. The iPad has none.

    Higher Resolutions. There are several 10-inch netbooks that offer 1,366-by-768 resolutions, namely the HP Mini 5102, Dell Mini 10, and Sony VAIO VGN W-Series. The iPad tops out at 1,024 by 768.

    Netbooks have options for bigger screens. You can get one with an 11-inch or 12-inch widescreen.

    Removable batteries. You can buy an additional battery for your netbook if you want, allowing it to last for multiple days.

    Every single netbook comes with a webcam for video conferencing and chats.

    They have physical keyboards, so you don't have to spend extra money to buy a physical one that docks.

    Multiformat card readers are built into every netbook, so you can download photos and videos from your camera.

    Netbooks have the potential to support handwriting recognition. Handwriting recognition is built into Windows and convertible netbook tablets already exist, so it's only a matter of time before Wacom bursts into action.

    Netbooks have a clamshell design, so their screens are less likely to get scratched.

    Netbooks use faster processors.

    Yeah, spinning drives on netbooks are less durable than the solid-state drives (SSDs) found in the iPad, but they come in greater capacities; and at least you can upgrade a netbook up to a 128GB SSD.

    Netbooks can easily be "modded" with more RAM, bigger hard drive capacity, or a different operating system.

    The Dell Mini 10v can be "hackintoshed" with a full-blown version of Mac OS 10.

    With a netbook, you can get apps through other means besides iTunes.

    Netbooks have widescreens, which aren't necessarily better, but at least rotate, which gives you true portrait mode. The iPad screen can rotate, but it's square-ish in dimension.

    Netbooks have an Ethernet port and some have a Gigabit Ethernet. Thus, if the Wi-Fi's throughput is not enough for streaming HD video, you can always plug in a network cable.

    Some netbooks can play back 720p and 1080p HD videos, using the latest Nvidia Ion chips.

    Netbooks have shown that they can last longer than 10 hours on a single battery charge.

    There are countless netbook designs to choose from. So if, say, the Toshiba mini NB305-N410's plastics don't suit you, the metals in the HP Mini 5102 might.

    Netbooks can run a full-blown Windows OS.

    You're not tempted to spend hundreds of dollars on accessories for netbooks.

    Some netbooks have both VGA-Out and HDMI-Out, without the need for a connector.

    Gaming is more advanced on a netbook, albeit not by much.

    Some netbooks, like the Lenovo IdeaPad S12 and S10, have ExpressCard slots, so you can add expansion cards for FireWire, TV tuner, legacy ports, or 3G/4G wireless.

    You can choose different 3G wireless carriers with a netbook.

    Netbooks purchased from Costco or ASUS come with two-year standard warranties. The iPad will likely give you one year standard.

    You can print files from a netbook.

    Netbooks have more networking capabilities, such as the ability to map to drives and printers.

    We know Intel and AMD processor and chipset technology will scale each year. The iPad is using an unproven, homebrewed chipset, so we don't know how well it will scale.

    With a netbook, you can connect an optical drive for all your Netflix and Blockbuster rentals.

    You can buy turn-by-turn direction software for netbooks that have embedded GPS options.

    Netbooks can support multiple OSes. Most netbooks have Linux pre-boot environments that will get you access to a browser and e-mail data within seconds.

    Netbooks are more child-friendly. Disney and Nickelodeon have launched netbooks with a ton of child-friendly software. And netbooks like the Dell Latitude 2100 and HP Mini 5102 are being deployed in schools.

    The Dell Mini 10 has an option for a built-in TV tuner, so you can watch and record live TV.

    Your netbook can run multiple browsers, so you're not stuck with Safari only.

    Netbooks can run Java.

    Netbooks can run multiple Exchange Mail accounts.

    You don't need another computer to sync your data.

    Netbooks with Nvidia's Ion chipset can support external Blu-ray drives.
  • OldPueblo - Friday, December 24, 2010 - link

    Next time just drop a link DAMN SON. That list misses the entire point though. You might as well make the same argument against a smartphone, why not just have a dumb fliphone and a netbook! The difference is convenience. Having had a netbook that was nice and portable, they are still not instant on and nowhere near as convenient as a tablet. You can't pull it out of your pocket, scan a barcode and read the product info or check your email and all that and then have it back in your pocket in 60 seconds. Netbooks are a separate market where need a highly portable laptop that plan on being on for awhile when you pull it out, there's no bridging the two markets.

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