I bought the Verizon version of the Samsung Galaxy Tablet the first day it was available and have been using it for hours every day for the last couple weeks. The bottom line is that this is a great device and if you want a 7 inch Android tablet, you’ll probably be happy with this one. If you want details, read on.
I’ll get the cons out of the way first.
- You have to buy the Galaxy Tab in a specific 3G configuration, so you’re locked into using a particular wireless provider. I chose Verizon because for me network coverage trumps everything else. I’ll talk more about this below, but my coverage with this tablet has been excellent.
- The price is high. I understand that an Android phone with similar capabilities and a smaller screen would cost me $500 – $600 without a contract, so $600 for the tablet seems fair, but I was hoping for a price of around $400 to compete better with the iPad. You can buy a tablet from some other US carriers for $400 but only with a 2 year wireless contract. I like that I can drop my wireless coverage for the tablet at any time (making this effectively a wi-fi only device) if something better comes along.
- The carriers (Verizon in my case) limit the internal memory of the tablet. My Verizon tablet has only 2GB of internal storage when it could support up to 32GB. I believe T-Mobile and ATT give you 16GB internal storage, which is considerably better. All tablets support up to a 32GB SD card and my tablet came with a 16GB card for 18GB storage total. While I haven’t found this to be a real issue since the Android 2.2 on the tablets lets you save most stuff to the SD card, it’s very irritating that Verizon would do this, probably to increase their profits. While I can always buy a 32GB SD card to increase my total storage to 34GB if I want, Verizon’s decision effectively limits me to having at most 34GB instead of 64GB storage at a time. I am not using all my current storage, but still …
- The rear-facing camera is not as nice as I’d like. It takes decent pictures but there are a number of phones that seem to have better cameras.
- The tablet has a non-user replaceable battery. This is annoying because you can’t just carry an extra battery when you need longer runtime. This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the runtime on this tablet is very good and I have a 4400mAh Gum Plus external battery that should double that runtime if I need it. (I love the Gum Plus by the way. I also have a CallPod external battery and it works well but the Gum Plus is better at everything I need and costs just a little more.)
- The biggest con is that all US carriers have disabled the phone functionality of the tablets, and Verizon charges extra for a texting package. Verizon has also conspired (with Skype) to disallow using Skype over 3G on its tablet. This is ridiculous. I’m an engineer, with a standard issue engineer personality. I don’t like talking on the phone and I don’t use texting much either. To insist that I also pay for and carry a cell phone for the one time daily (at most) that I’ll use one is just greedy. The future is data, bandwidth, and availability. A customer should purchase what he needs and use it however he wants. This should be the present, but it looks like we’re going to have to drag the cellular companies kicking and screaming into the light. In the meantime, I’ll use Fring, Google Voice, and whatever else I need to make my tablet work as a phone.
Now for the pros.
- This device is well made. It feels solid without being too heavy and fills my hand well. I now have my tablet wrapped in an Otterbox Defender case, but that’s because I’m neurotic, not because it’s delicate.
- The battery life is very good. I generally use the tablet off and on but pretty regularly all day at work and I have more than 50% charge remaining at the end of the day. When I use it mostly on during a weekend day (10 – 12 hours), installing and uninstalling apps, surfing the web, and otherwise tinkering, I still have about 30% – 40% remaining. While I would always prefer more battery life, this device has plenty for me and I suspect for all but a few people who are going to use it exclusively for 10 or more hours without a break. Looking at the power usage monitor app, the screen seems to use much more power than the processors. I leave the screen on the auto-brightness setting and it seems to conserve some power while providing plenty of brightness.
- The GPS seems to work very well. I haven’t run extensive tests on this, but it seems to be accurate to several meters. I plan to test this more and will update this if I find a deficiency.
- The sound is very good through the built-in speakers. I am impressed by the sound quality from such small speakers, plenty good enough for games and casual portable music listening. There’s always the headphone jack for more serious listening.
- The wireless coverage on this tablet, through Verizon, is great. I live in a well populated suburban area so I should get decent coverage, but this works well in my office at work (an internal office across a hall from the nearest window office) where other devices such as a T-Mobile phone and an iPad 3G get poor or no coverage. I often get over 1Mb/sec download speeds and about half that in upload speeds in that office. My home has a mostly underground basement and in the most submerged room with the door closed, I still get coverage, albeit at a very slow 50Kb/sec or so. So the tablet is clearly capable of good coverage and my decision to go with Verizon has been validated. This is while covered in the Otterbox case, which speaks well for both the case and the tablet.
- The wi-fi reception is very good, again while wearing the Otterbox case. I get coverage throughout my house and the device can see lots of signals from my neighbors. I live in a townhouse so this isn’t amazing, but it does indicate a very capable wi-fi component.
- The screen size is perfect for me. I can hold the tablet in one hand comfortably, while adding one more inch to the screen might make this more difficult, especially for women and men with small hands. The screen “feels” pretty spacious. It’s not as spacious feeling as the 10 inch screen on the iPad, but it feels like a genuine portable device rather than a “carry-able” living room entertainment gadget. I carry this device on walks, using GPS and similar apps, and while it feels a little large (compared to a 3-4 inch phone), it doesn’t feel ridiculous like a 10 inch tablet would.
- The default Samsung UI is very good. It’s not as customizable as the many home/launcher apps you can find in the Android market, but it’s simple, works well, and has enough customization to keep me happy for now. I have a bunch of apps across 5 screens including a large number of folders and it’s very easy to find stuff quickly.
Well, this should be enough to tell you whether you should be seriously interested in getting the Galaxy Tab. I don’t regret not waiting for the coming flood of Android tablets. Some of them will likely be very good, maybe better than the Galaxy for my needs. But I don’t feel like I settled for the Galaxy Tab. I feel like I compromised a little (mostly with the greedy wireless carriers) to get a great tablet now rather than wait for a potentially greater tablet next year. I will be having a great time with the Galaxy Tab while watching the various tablet makers one-up each other for our benefit. In a couple years, I’ll be ready for a new tablet with features I haven’t even thought of and my kids will enjoy this one.