Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Review
Back in March when Apple released the iPad 2, the guys over at Samsung must have had a meeting. They looked at their Galaxy Tab, a tablet based on Google’s Android operating system that wasn’t doing badly, but still wasn’t performing nearly as well as Apple’s iPad. And they decided that it wasn’t good enough.
Back to the drawing board went Samsung, and a few months later, they had it — the redesigned Galaxy Tab 10.1, an Android tablet specifically designed to compete with the iPad 2. It’s thinner than the iPad 2, and lighter, by extremely small margins. But it beat the iPad 2 on thinness and weight, and Samsung obviously hopes it can beat it in other departments as well.
After a couple of weeks spent demoing the Galaxy Tab 10.1, it seems Samsung has done a pretty solid job in creating an Android tablet on-par with the Apple juggernaut. It uses NVIDIA’s dual-core Tegra 2 processor, it carries more RAM than an iPad 2 with 1GB, and it basically can do (almost) everything the iPad 2 can do. It also includes a solid version of Android 3.0 Gingerbread that is nice to use, it sports a lot of battery life like the iPad 2, and it’s capable of Flash video playback — which the iPad 2 isn’t. Oh, and it’s widescreen; suck it, iPad.
Hardware is all well and good, but lets get down to brass tacks: Gaming. The iPad 2 is quickly defining itself as a capable gaming machine that’s drawing a lot of innovation, not just in the mobile market, but among traditional video game companies as well (if you need evidence, just look at Nintendo’s Wii U controller, which is basically an iPad with analog sticks). Gaming is the primary use for tablets right now, according to a recent survey from Flurry. Can the Galaxy Tab 10.1 stand against the iPad 2 as a gaming device?
In a word: no. With qualification: not yet. And with further qualification: it’s not really Samsung’s fault.
There are a few areas where the Galaxy Tab is a solid choice for gaming, and in that way it matches the iPad. One great example: Angry Birds, which handles beautifully on the Galaxy, with a high-resolution HD version built for the widescreen capabilities of the device. However, there just aren’t that many games that are compatible with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 right now.
The entire stable of Gameloft games on Google’s Android Market, for example — don’t work on the Galaxy. Neither do EA’s games. Add Square Enix to the list. These are all big contenders in the mobile market, on Android as well as Apple’s iOS, but they don’t work here.
You can blame the fractured nature of Android for that situation. There aren’t many Android apps for tablets, period, and there are fewer solid games. And because every Android device is different, it’s notoriously difficult to develop for, and that means fewer offerings for the Galaxy Tab.
It really is a bummer, because as a device, I really like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 — more, for some things, than the iPad 2. But even when games are compatible with Samsung’s tablet, it’s because they’ve been scaled up from their smartphone counterparts. Plants vs. Zombies, which recently became available for Android in Amazon’s Appstore, is a good example. The game handles well enough on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and it works, which is already miles ahead of many titles. But it’s ugly, having been scaled and stretched to fit a much larger, widescreen display. Chillingo’s Gun Bros. suffers the same issue; fun to play, ugly to behold.
There just aren’t a lot of games to play on the Galaxy Tab. In fact, there aren’t a lot of solid apps that are found on the iPad in general. One glaring omission is Netflix: Apple’s iPad Netflix app supports streaming video (as does the iPhone), and it’s glorious (when it works). No such app supported by the Galaxy Tab right now. There’s no Hulu, either, and while the Flash capabilities of the tab make it possible to watch full episodes on South Park Studios and other websites, for a device seemingly designed for video, I really wish there was more video I could be watching on it.
There’s a market out there that will enjoy the Galaxy Tab 10.1 thoroughly: Android fanboys and Apple haters. Those people will find a lot to love about the Galaxy and they’ll be able to overlook the lack of apps as compared to what Apple is offering. For the rest of us — and I hate to say this — an iPad 2 is the way to go, at least until Samsung and the Galaxy Tab have more support from developers or a more steady stream of tablet-specific games in general. Despite being a quality device and having some solid hardware under the hood, without some big killer titles, there’s just not a lot to do here. Angry Birds can only keep a player going for so long.
- Solid, stable version of Android 3.0 Honeycomb
- Good hardware: 1GB of RAM, Tegra 2 1GHz processor
- Competitively priced with the iPad 2 ($499)
- Offers all the same technologies, and potential innovations, as Apple’s mobile products
- Flash video support (hooray for full episodes of “South Park”!)
- Serious lack of quality compatible games
- Many Android games aren’t optimized for tablets, or for the wide screen
- No Netflix and no Hulu — serious bummer
Final Score: 70/100