Galaxy Tab: A great tablet for the 'can't do Apple' crowd

Why the Android 7-inch tablet is a perfect fit for this Windows admin's personal and business lives

I'm not anti-Apple -- but I'm not drinking the new Apple-flavored Kool-Aid either. Maybe the commercials picking on Microsoft put me off. The first ones were funny, but then they became mean, like Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes. As much as I see the value and use of an iPad, I'm stuck in the "can't do Apple" crowd for now, though there are no viable Windows tablets today, just laptops in a tablet design.

In my search for a non-Apple tablet that shines, it's the Galaxy Tab that wins the honor. I have to admit, when I read the review "Samsung's Galaxy Tab makes a strong case for buying an iPad" by my InfoWorld colleague Galen Gruman, I was immediately turned off from the idea of ever purchasing one. But a nice write-up from Engadget had me wondering if Gruman's comments were valid or if he had gulped down too much of the Apple Kool-Aid.

[ Learn how to manage iPhones, Androids, BlackBerrys, and other smartphones in InfoWorld's 20-page Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

Let me note that I'm not a mobile device expert. I'm just a network admin geek who loves gadgets but doesn't usually buy one unless I can see real value in its use. That's my angle for reviews: Will it work for me in my personal life? Will it perform well in the enterprise?  At the same time I needed to get an insiders view on why the Galaxy Tab was designed a certain way and I had the chance to speak with Chris Martinez, who is a strategy manager for Samsung.

How my Galaxy Tab test-drive worked out
With the conflicting comments on the Galaxy Tab, I had to see for myself. First impressions? It fits in the palm of my hand. I wear suits most of the time, and it slid easily into my suit pocket. The screen resolution was excellent. The speed of this thing was incredible when compared to my Android smartphone -- and the fact that I have an Android smartphone made it that much simpler to use and figure out because I was already comfortable with the OS. With its 1GHz processor, full Flash support, and dual cameras, I was pleased immediately with both the Galaxy Tab's performance and its functionality.

I tested it in as many ways as I could. I used the video capability at a marathon I ran a few weeks back at Disney World to capture the moments. The 3-megapixel camera (with LED) performed really well and came in handy at the beginning of the race when it was still dark. The quality of the video we shot was so good that I had to double-check that it wasn't HD (it wasn't). The Galaxy Tab shoots at 720-by-480-pixel resolution, and the motion capture was smooth. From a games perspective, I did what everyone else did and installed Angry Birds. It's even more addictive than expected on the Galaxy Tab because of its larger-than-smartphone screen that still fits in the palm of your hand.

The Galaxy Tab's size was perfect for my recent trip to Chicago, where I was able to comfortably use it on the plane to read, play games, and watch movies. I tried a bunch of different apps that worked fine. I realize that some won't work the same way on the tablet as they did on my phone, but it takes time for developers to iron out the kinks; it'll happen soon enough.

From a working perspective, I had some trouble with the on-screen keyboard, but I have trouble with all on-screen keyboards, the iPad's included. It's good enough for moving around, but if you want to do any serious typing, you should get a keyboard dock. Overall, I found the Galaxy Tab much easier to use than my smartphone when it came to email. They were easier to read and to respond to.

Enterprises will find a variety of apps and uses for the Galaxy Tab, including the Epocates Rx drug-reference app for health care professionals. You can download the ThinkFree Office Mobile app to work with Office documents., Dropbox, and GoAruna all have apps for syncing files via the cloud. EverNote is an awesome tool for taking notes in meetings; it even embeds voice recordings, pictures, and Web pages. Obviously, depending on your business needs, you can search for and there is an app for that (or there will be soon).

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