December 31, 2010

In a Year of Tablets, I'm Hooked on the Samsung Galaxy Tab

This morning, I looked around the room and see three tablets in three corners. My wife's iPad was charging on one side of the room, while her Barnes and Noble NOOKColor was on the nightstand. By me was the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Three tablets, three manufacturers, all with different uses.

It struck me very clearly how 2010 was the year that tablets finally came to be useful household items, accelerated by Apple of course (after years of rumors), but in the end, the one I've been using the most has been the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I have found the 7 inch form factor extremely inviting, and it's going with me practically everywhere, thanks to built in 3G support.

Tablets? The iPod Touch, Samsung Epic, NOOKColor, Galaxy Tab and iPad.

At risk of falling into "most recent gadget acquired" syndrome, the Galaxy Tab is absolutely my favorite and most-enjoyed electronic gizmo of the moment. It takes what I've already enjoyed about Android, including significant customization, flexibility and integration with all my Google Services, and brought it to a bigger, high quality screen, and a very fast processor that runs every app I throw at it.

The Galaxy Tab vs the iPad In Size

Sitting in between my Samsung Epic phone and the MacBook Air, in terms of size, the Galaxy Tab is big enough to present full-colored demos to potential business partners, while also being small enough to put in an inside jacket pocket or jeans back pocket. The device is lightweight and easy to maneuver one handed, which has come increasingly handy when reading books, RSS feeds, Twitter or anything else when balancing a 4 month old baby. In contrast, the iPad's weight and bulk, not to mention heavy metal exterior, fails in this regard. The Galaxy Tab has a smooth plastic exterior that easily grips to your hand, but isn't so harsh as to be uncomfortable if rested on the chest or lap (real-world use case, people!).

My Galaxy Tab Home Screen

Many people have remarked that the Galaxy Tab is essentially a larger Android phone. That is true. In fact, to my surprise, when purchasing the Tab, Sprint assigned a phone number to the device, even though it is not configured to make phone calls. It seems the exact same hardware went into the device, plus a bigger screen, battery and CPU. So if you're already an Android user, you'll be pleased to find it running Android 2.2 and doing just as you would expect. This is very similar to Apple's unified OS strategy between their tablet and iPhone.

The Galaxy Tab's screen is the best I've tried. It is extremely clear and has high quality icons for apps and all services. The larger screen also allows for 5 icons to be stacked horizontally, unlike the standard 4 for most Android phones, which doesn't sound like a big deal until Android widgets built for the "four icons across" size show room remaining.

Like the iPad and the Barnes and Noble NOOKColor, the Galaxy Tab's battery is very good. While practically every smartphone I have used has been fragile to venture far from a power source, all the tablets have had significant lifespan and can go days without a charge. I've taken the Tab with me on car trips and used the 3G network (from the passenger seat mind you), to use Google Talk and answer e-mail, or catch up on the various social networks. I've even used the Galaxy Tab to take Christmas photos and video tape the twins running at the park - although holding the Tab in front of me to record them no doubt looks very silly compared to today's compact cameras.

With CES looming around the corner, and Motorola promising to launch a new tablet with a new version of Android, it's possible the Galaxy Tab's position at the top of Android tablets could be short lived. But it's clearly a real contender to the crown. It's fast, it's flexible, and the 7 inch form factor is extremely compelling. If you are looking for something smaller than the iPad or simply prefer Android, you'd do yourself a service to try out the Tab and add it to your arsenal.