First look: Galaxy Tab 10.1 brings much of the iPad to Android
Samsung's sleek, 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab is finally an Android tablet that even an Apple fanboy could loveFollow @MobileGalen
Both the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the iPad 2 have speedy processors, and both devices feel comparably responsive, though Web page loading seemed faster on the Galaxy Tab 10.1.
From a hardware perspective, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 does a good job of competing with the iPad 2, and it makes previous Android tablets like the Xoom and Galaxy Tab 7 feel downright bricklike. I can see why Apple sued Samsung over the similarities, though I'm not sure how many ways there are to design a thin tablet. Besides, no one but Apple seems to do original hardware design any more, so what else would Samsung use as inspiration? The Samsung bezel is quite nice, but it offers nothing comparably innovative to Apple's really cool magnetic Smart Cover.
When the Galaxy Tab 10.1 goes on sale in June, it'll cost $499 for a 16GB model and $599 for a 32GB model -- basically the same price as the comparable iPad 2 models. Unlike the iPad 2, Samsung plans no 3G models, at least not initially, so you're limited to Wi-Fi connections. As with the iPad 2, you can't expand the Galaxy Tab 10.1's internal storage.
An improved Android OS, but some earlier flaws remain
As you might expect from the ".01" label, Google's Android 3.01 and its included apps are not a lot different than the (pretty good) 3.0 version that shipped with the Xoom. But it is more polished in some ways. For example, when you set up a Microsoft Exchange email account, you get a list of all the permissions you're granting IT over your tablet before you choose to accept them. It's a great way to make sure employees and businesses are on the same page on how shared devices are managed. Android 3.0 and iOS don't provide that detail.
The onscreen keyboard is very nice, with a clean layout that takes advantage of the widescreen orientation to offer keys like Caps Lock and Tab that the iPad 2 omits. I also liked the way Android 3.01 handles text selection: When you tap on text, a slider now appears so that you can reposition the text cursor easily. It's thus easier to work with text than in Android 3.0 or on smartphones running Android 2.x. (As before, a long-tap selects all the text and provides the selection tabs.)
But this text-selection method isn't universal: The demo version of Quickoffice that's included, for example, doesn't support it, so I fear that some of the nice UI changes in the Galaxy Tab 10.1 work only in the core apps, such as the browser. They need to be universal.
Samsung complements Android 3.0's already nice ability to see thumbnails of active applications with a custom UI element called live panels, which are widgets you can place on a home screen that show the current status of, say, your email inbox or the weather. One aspect of the Android user interface I admire is the at-a-glance indicators that show you what is going on in the tablet (system info, battery life, and so on) or in the outside world (such as news and weather); the iPad 2 is more single-minded in that you have to switch to whatever app or website you want to see that -- and only that -- information.
But some annoyances of Android 3.0 persist. For example, it takes about 90 minutes to encrypt the 3.01-based Galaxy Tab 10.1, as it does with the 3.0-based Xoom, and you can't use the device during that period. By contrast, the iPad's iOS comes pre-encrypted, so there's no delay before you can use the device.