'Ice Cream Sandwich' makes the Galaxy Tab 2 a little sweeter

Samsung Android tablet hardware is essentially unchanged, but new UI is easier to use -- except for Web browsing

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Run-of-the-mill hardware with awkward touches
The Galaxy Tab 2 has an unmistakenly iPad-like design, though the outer bezel is no longer chrome, so it doesn't look quite as identical as before. The weight and feel of the 7-inch model is quite nice, even when held in one hand -- which is key, as the onscreen keyboard is too small to type with both hands, assuming you have a stand on which to rest the tablet. You'll type mainly with one finger, holding the tablet in the other hand.

To lower the price to $250 for the 7-inch model and $350 for the 10.1-inch unit, Samsung uses the same hardware as for the previous Galaxy Tab models but cuts the onboard storage from 16GB to 8GB and reduces the front camera's quality even as it adds an SD card slot. (You'll have to use that SD card to store your videos and music.) The competing 7-inch Kindle Fire uses even less capable hardware to achieve its $199 price; therefore, I think most users will forgive the middling performance and screen quality. But if you pay $400 -- $50 more than the 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab 2 -- you get the much better iPad 2, so I believe the real competition is between the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 and the Kindle Fire.

But there are flaws in the Galaxy Tab 2 series hardware design that you can't blame on the lower-cost components. The most annoying involves the power button, which is located where you tend to hold the device. I and other testers repeatedly found ourselves turning off the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 accidentally as we picked it up or moved it from one hand to another. The autobrightness feature doesn't work well; it always had the screen too dim to read easily, no matter what the lighting condition. I had to turn off autobrightness and set the brightness manually to get a usable setting. And I found the Galaxy Tab 2 less able to establish and keep Wi-Fi connections than the iPad in areas with weak signals.

The Galaxy Tab 2 is no iPad-killer. It's not even an iPad wannabe. Instead, it's a Kindle Fire competitor that happens to allow email, calendar, and contacts access to many corporate environments. If you get a Galaxy Tab 2 for your living room and your company supports BYOD without highly stringent policies, the tablet could serve as a convenient way to check on email without having to get up from the couch to use an iPad or a computer.

But for business users, that's all the Galaxy Tab 2 series is really good for: occasional computing while you're surfing (with reading glasses on) from the couch. Many of us use an iPad in that mode as well, but an iPad can do much more than a Galaxy Tab 2. Still, with the adoption of Android 4 "Ice Cream Sandwich," coupled with some of Samsung's nice additions, the Galaxy Tab is a sweeter tablet than its predecessor. But its business usage is now more than ever just icing on the cake.

This article, "'Ice Cream Sandwich' makes the Galaxy Tab 2 a little sweeter," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile computing, read Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog at InfoWorld.com, follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter, and follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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