Samsung's Galaxy Tab makes a strong case for buying an iPad

A few nice capabilities don't overcome an ill-conceived 'tweener' tablet with an ill-fitting Android OS

Competing with Apple on quality, elegance, and innovation is nearly always a losing battle. By comparison, most products feel awkward and substandard. And so it is with the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch, Android 2.2-powered touch-based slate device.

The Galaxy Tab does show some promise, but its flaws far outnumber its positives. Part of that is due to Samsung's hardware design, and part of the blame goes to the Android 2.2 OS that Google says never was designed for tablets. After using Android 2.2 in a tablet, I understand why Google is telling device makers to wait for a tablet-oriented Android. Samsung should have heeded Google's warning.

[ Also on InfoWorld: See how Apple iOS 4 and Android 2.2 compare: "Mobile deathmatch: Apple iOS 4 vs. Android 2.2." | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]

The Galaxy Tab is very portable, with a 7-inch widescreen display, and it weighs just 12 ounces -- about half the mass of the iPad. It's also exactly half the size and roughly the same thickness. Anyone familiar with the iPad will be struck by the smaller size of the Galaxy Tab. Plus, the Tab's overall fit and finish is very nice: sleek, comfortable, and precise.

The Galaxy Tab even includes features the iPad lacks, such as front- and rear-facing cameras and support for removable storage. Nonetheless, at $600 versus $630 for the equivalent iPad, the Galaxy Tab feels overpriced.

Galaxy Tab: Portability over usability
The Galaxy Tab's portability comes at a big price: usability. I had to put on my reading glasses to use the device because text is too small, even after I increased the text size. The screen size also makes it hard to use the Web browser. In vertical orientation, the browser window is impossibly tiny, and in horizontal orientation, only a small strip of a Web page fits. The iPad's 9.7-inch screen can feel cramped, but the Web is quite usable on it.

I also found the Galaxy Tab screen's 16:9 aspect ratio awkward to use for everything except watching movies. In either vertical or horizontal orientation, the display feels too cramped. The 4:3 aspect ratio of the iPad's screen is a better fit for most apps and content, though not movies.

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Test Center Scorecard
 
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Samsung Galaxy Tab868586

6.8

Fair

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