Tablet deathmatch: Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs. iPad 2

Samsung's Android 3.1-based tablet is the first to give Apple's iPad a real run for its money -- most of the time

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Although the iPad 2 offers a front-facing camera for videoconferencing and a rear one for taking pictures and capturing video, the quality of still photos and movies taken from from the machine are not that good: The camera seems to be the same, poorly regarded model used in the latest iPod Touch. The iPad 2's camera also lacks a flash and support for high-definition range, both of which the iPhone 4's camera does support but the iPod Touch's does not. Apple hasn't released the camera's megapixel rating, but my photo-editing software pinned it as a measly 0.7 megapixel; by contrast, the iPhone 4's camera is 5 megapixels. The iPad 2's camera does perform better for motion video, taking decent 720p, 0.9-megapixel video -- fine for casual videos but no more.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1's camera quality is little better than the iPad 2's, despite its 2-megapixel front camera and 3-megapixel rear camera. The Galaxy Tab does have a flash, a wider-angle lens, and adjustment controls lacking in the iPad 2 to help improve image quality through manual overrides. But it has, bizarrely, no zoom, whereas the iPad 2 does. For motion video, the Galaxy Tab's 720p, 2-megapixel video capture results in better video quality than the iPad 2, especially in low-light conditions, where you get lots of pixelation. (The iPad 2's video quality is about the same as the iPhone 4's, despite the higher resolution of the iPhone 4's video file.)

For still photography, both tablets are clearly aimed at Web-oriented images, such as for posting on Facebook and Flickr. You're not at all likely to keep any for your family albums, project portfolios, or client sales presentations; you'll want a real digital camera for those. For videography, both tablets are fine for casual video -- don't buy into either Apple's or Samsung's HD video hype -- though the Galaxy Tab clearly bests the iPad 2.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the iPad 2 are equivalent in quality when it comes to audio output, despite the fact the iPad 2 has a single speaker and the Galaxy Tab has two. To get stereo-quality audio, connect either tablet to a stereo.

The winner: Again, we have a tie. I personally prefer the iPad 2 because its screen dimensions make browser and text windows easier to use, and the greater battery consumption and slow recharge of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 bother me. But the truth is the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a faster performer, and its other hardware capabilities are essentially equal to those of the iPad 2.

The overall winner is ...
The differences between the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 are real, but as often as not to be based on legitimate differences in design decisions. The Galaxy Tab is a faster device, and it beats the iPad in areas such as browser capability and notifications. The iPad 2 wins slightly on the security front and more decisively on the applications and power-handling fronts. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 and its Android 3.1 OS also show their seams more than the iPad 2 and its iOS do.

If it were not for the flaw in Android 3.1 that prevented me from setting up IMAP and POP email -- which I'm sure is a bug, as the issue did not surface on pre-3.1 Android tablets -- the two tablets would be very close in terms of their business connectivity capabilities.

Ironically, that email issue puts the Galaxy Tab 10.1's InfoWorld Test Center score (7.8) slightly lower than the Motorola Xoom tablet's score (8.0), which is not as slick as the Galaxy Tab 10.1 but benefits from having more hardware capabilities for those who like their tablet to have PC-style ports. The Galaxy Tab 10.1's score would rise to 8.0 if that email issue were addressed.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is also within striking distance of the iPad 2, both in terms of score calculations (the iPad 2 hits 8.5) and my own sense of what feels right from using them. The iPad 2 is clearly better and more polished, but the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has closed most of the previous Android tablets' gaping holes. Apple's iOS 5 this fall and Google's Android OS 4 by year's end will no doubt up the ante for both platforms. And they'll both have strong hardware platforms on which to showcase their new strengths, especially if Samsung adds 3G models to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 lineup. It's a real competition now.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs. Apple iPad 2

 PriceSupported U.S. networksBottom Line
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
$600 (32GB); $500 (16GB)None (Wi-Fi only)
The first 10-inch Android tablet to use the tablet-optimized Android 3.1 OS, the Galaxy Tab packs the hardware capabilities that many users want. The Galaxy Tab's use of widgets and notifications keeps users more easily up-to-date. On the downside, the widescreen display results in awkward visual cramping, and email setup is iffy.
Apple iPad 2iPad 2 with Wi-Fi: $500 (16GB), $600 (32GB), $700 (64GB); iPad 2 with Wi-Fi and 3G: $630 (16GB), $730 (32GB), $830 (64GB)For 3G models: AT&T, with no-commitment data plans of $15 for 250MB and $25 for 2GB; Verizon Wireless, with no-commitment data plans of $20 for 1GB, $35 for 3GB, $50 for 5GB, and $80 for 10GB. For both carriers, the use of tethering adds $20.The revamped model of the device that created the tablet phenomenon is even moreso the best tablet available, with a cohesive, elegant UI; lots and lots of apps; and a solid, well-designed enclosure. Its new inclusion of cameras and ability to mirror its display to an external monitor erase the major deficits of the original iPad. But note the camera produces mediocre still images and merely adequate video.

This story, "Tablet deathmatch: Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs. iPad 2," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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