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Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch Review

Samsung is changing its approach to tablets. Rather than compete at the highest end with the iPad or the Transformer Prime, Samsung's aiming for a happy medium: all the features we've come to expect from an Android tablet, without necessarily top-notch performance or specs, for an appealing price. The tactic worked really well with the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, a $249.99 7-inch tablet that outpaces the Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, or BlackBerry PlayBook.


The bigger brother in the Tab 2 line is now upon us in the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. Like the 7.0, it has solid but unspectacular specs (a 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 1280 x 800 TFT display, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, dual cameras), plus Android 4.0, all for a very reasonable $399.99. Of course, even at that price there's competition from the still-on-sale iPad 2, the Transformer Pad TF300, and a handful of others. Does the 10-inch Galaxy Tab 2 find the same balance its 7-inch sibling did, or is your $400 better spent elsewhere? Read on to find out.


Whatever the reason for the new look of Samsung's tablets, it's clearly a good new direction for the company: The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is a much more original-looking tablet than previous Galaxy Tabs, and it's an attractive one at that. The 10.1-inch display is surrounded by a small black bezel that is every bit as fingerprint-prone as the screen itself.



The Tab 2 weighs 581g (1.3 pounds) and is 9.7mm (0.38 inches) thick. That's lighter, but thicker, than both the iPad and the Transformer Prime. The differences are tiny, though, and I certainly didn't notice the Tab feeling particularly big or light as I used it. It's a nice, svelte tablet, though because it's so large it's tough to hold in one hand for any length of time; 7-inch slates in general are much better suited to that.

 

 

Dimensions (in.)

Thickness

Weight (lb.)

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

10.1 x 6.9

0.38

1.3

Motorola Xyboard 10.1

10 x 6.9

0.35

1.32

Acer Iconia Tab A510

10.4 x 6.9

0.40

1.50

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

10.4 x 7.1

0.31

1.29

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

10.1 x 6.9

0.34

1.20

Apple iPad (2012)

9.5 x 7.3

0.37

1.44

 

The Tab is available in black or white — my review unit was black. I like both looks, though, and really like that there's a gray stripe around the edge regardless; it lends a bit of flair that uniform tablets don't have, especially on the white model.

 

Display

 

Samsung has made one tablet with a truly fantastic display and unfortunately it's not the Tab 2 — it's the Tab 7.7, a Verizon-connected tablet with a gorgeous AMOLED screen. The Tab 2 instead has a 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 TFT display, which is good without being particularly exciting. It has great viewing angles and gets pretty bright, but it can't measure up to the Tab 7.7 or the new iPad. The Tab 7.7's contrast is extraordinary, with blacks that look like the depths of space; the Tab 2 is a bit gray. Similarly, the iPad's display is so high-res that you can't pick out pixels as you read — on the Tab 2, I can all but count the pixels in the letter "M" in the Maps app icon.
This isn't a bad display by any stretch, but now that I've seen screens that don't have jaggies on text or slightly yellowish tints on whites, and screens where even tiny text is readable and dark movies look amazing, making those sacrifices with the Tab 2 is a little hard to justify.

 

Software

 

Samsung's apparently buried the mess that was Honeycomb, and has loaded Android 4.0 onto both sizes of the Tab 2. Thank goodness. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Ice Cream Sandwich is a massive leap forward from Honeycomb. There's almost no lag or stutter as you move around the operating system, and the tablet as a whole feels far more usable. Android 4.0 is the first version of Android that feels ready for a tablet, and that's a big deal.


Samsung's ubiquitous TouchWiz UI skin is here too, and though I'd always rather have a stock Android experience, TouchWiz has been scaled back over the years and is actually quite helpful in some ways. I like that Samsung added connectivity toggles to the settings pop-up, and the mini apps that pop up over a window and let you quickly take a note or check your email without leaving the app you're in. There's also a handy button for taking a screenshot, and a simple way to annotate and share those screenshots. Samsung also redesigned app and system icons, though, and changed the Tab 2's keyboard, two changes I'd rather live without (though I like the persistent row of number keys on the keyboard). In general, Samsung's changes tend to be more unnecessary than actually problematic — and given how problematic TouchWiz was in the past (and often still is on phones), I'll take what I can get.


Apps


Since this isn't a carrier-branded device, the bloatware load on the Tab 2 is relatively light. Samsung preloads its standard handful of apps, like Media Hub (for buying movies and music) and AllShare Play (a useful DLNA app for sharing files with other devices). There's also S Suggest, which recommends apps you might like based on... something. Then there are the standard third-party apps, like Amazon Kindle and Netflix. A couple of preloaded apps are a little more interesting, though.


Peel


I'm thrilled that Samsung decided its tablets make perfect remote controls, because it's absolutely correct — you probably already have it on your lap, plus it has a big screen, internet connectivity, and all manner of cool apps. Peel uses the Tab 2's IR blaster to control your entire home theater stack; there's a simple setup wizard that gets everything connected. Peel's also a clever TV Guide app, sorting the guide by what you want to watch — tell it you want to watch How I Met Your Mother, and it finds it for you, and switches to it no matter what channel it's on. I love Peel especially for sports – figuring out which channel the game is on is a constant pain — but it's a great app in general, and is really well implemented on the Tab 2.

 

Cameras

 

2012-05-12_13

The 7-inch Tab 2 has a pretty terrible camera, even for a tablet, so my expectations weren't high for the 10-inch model either. Sadly, I was right. The Tab 2's rear-facing 3-megapixel camera doesn't even take very good pictures in great lighting — every picture is just a little bit too dark and too saturated, and photos are soft enough that it's hard to tell what's actually in focus. For bright shots of distant landscapes, it's not bad, but it falls pretty flat on any shot more complex. There's also no autofocus to speak of, which means anything close to your camera is near-impossible to get in focus. The VGA-resolution (read: less than one megapixel) front-facing camera is bad, but fine for video chat and checking your teeth. The Tab 2 also shoots 720p video, which isn't really a badge of honor — at least 720p is just expected at this point. Footage looks the same as still photos: everything's soft and over-saturated, but it'll work in a pinch.


The Tab 2's camera performance indicates a clear point: Samsung doesn't think you're going to use your tablet's camera, so the company skimped on its performance in order to hit the $399.99 price point. I'm all for that decision and that tradeoff.

 

Battery life

 

The Tab 2 has the same size battery (7,000mAh) as the last-generation Galaxy Tab 10.1, and it works to similar effect — this is a tablet you'll only need to charge every few days, unless you're really pushing it hard. Playing games tends to kill the battery as the processor chugs along, but I got two full days of browsing, email, taking pictures, and watching YouTube clips before the Tab died. Put simply, you won't need to stress much about charging the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1.


Galaxy Tab Converter Tools to play videos and DVDs on Galaxy Tab2: http://www.aunsoft.com/imedia-converter-mac/

 

Original post at:
http://www.theverge.com/2012/5/13/3016957/samsung-galaxy-tab-2-10-1-review