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Review for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE from Verizon

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Android

Overview:

The new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE from Verizon is a sleek and fast computer that advances the bar for Android based tablets, but drawbacks presented by the Android 3.1 Honeycomb operating system prevent it from reaching its full potential and appealing to a more general audience.

Tablet Impressions:

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE is a beautiful and sleek tablet.  You cannot deny the shelf appeal of the tablet; indeed you would have thought someone brought a pizza into the newsroom when I opened the box for the first time.  People I had never even seen were reaching in the box trying to get their grubby fingerprints on my new testing toy.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE

One of the first things you notice about electronic gadgets is the tactile feel and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE does not disappoint.  The heavy, slick, cold steel feeling of the iPad is replaced with a light, warm textured plastic that doesn’t feel like its going to slip out of my hand.  Within the first week of ownership of my iPad I had dropped it several times, meanwhile the Galaxy Tab 10.1 spent a hot and humid weekend at the Brickyard 400 with me and never once slipped from my grasp.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is slightly larger, thinner, and lighter than the iPad 2.   With the exception of the power and volume controls, all buttons are soft keys. As I own an iPad, it did take me a while to get used to not having a center button and even more time to get used to having controls in all four corners of the screen.  If you are considering the Samsung as your first tablet, this won’t be an issue, but if you have used tablets before and in particular the iPad, it will take a while for you to retrain your brain to this new navigational method.  After a few days of usage I found the only reason I was missing the center button was as a directional indicator, i.e. letting me know which side was ‘up’ in order to find the cable connector and power / volume keys.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE features both forward and rear facing cameras.  The specs on the cameras are not overwhelming (3MP and 2MP respectively) but the picture quality is acceptable.  The Galaxy Tab 10.1 can also record video at 720p.

Galaxy Tab Camera Picture

Due to the absolute scarcity of video chatting applications, most notably Skype, for any Android based device, I was unable to test the quality of the dual camera capabilities.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 display is sharp although the user interface itself is generic Android.  If you like it on your phone, you will like it on the tablet.  If you are an iPhone or iPad user, it is likely you will be unimpressed.  Samsung is promising an update to the user interface called TouchWiz later this summer that should improve the user experience.

The included media players are serviceable and video playback of podcasts and movies from the Samsung Media Hub is exceptional.  I’m not fond of having to sign up to yet another media store account, but the selection in the Samsung store appears to be thorough.  As neither NetFlix nor Hulu work on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, you are currently locked into the Samsung Media Hub for streaming movies or television shows.

I found it slightly odd that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE did not offer any external ports.  No HDMI.  No USB.  No removable storage.  It is rumored that the proprietary charging port will allow for HDMI out among other things using a special cable, but currently that is not available.

Also conspicuous in their absence are social networking features.  Yes, you can download the Twitter app and install the widget, but there is no Facebook application.

The Verizon 4G LTE network is a definite selling point of this tablet if you live in an area where Verizon has rolled out their next generation network.

Using the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE as a hot spot, I streamed a HD movie from NetFlix on my laptop while streaming Indy Style podcasts on the Galaxy Tab and continuing with my daily internet intensive work on yet another laptop.  The Verizon network didn’t even stutter or hiccup.  All three computing devices behaved as if they were on a standard wifi network and the speed was exceptional.

As Verizon no longer offers unlimited data plans you do however need to watch your consumption and use wifi networks when available.  In the 30 minutes I performed the above tasks, I used 399 MB of data.  Monthly Verizon data plans are $30 for 2GB of usage, $50 for 5GB of usage and $80 for 10GB of usage monthly.  Doing the math and assuming I was using the lowest data plan, in a half hour I would have used roughly 20% of my monthly bandwidth allotment.  Any data usage over your plan allowance costs $10 per GB.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE is a good tablet computer, but I cannot recommend it.  The blame is not Verizon’s or Samsung’s.  Quite simply the hardware is years ahead of the software being used and as such the blame rests squarely on Google, the developer of the Android operating system.

The Android operating system is highly fragmented between manufacturers which makes it difficult to find applications that work correctly and even more difficult to find applications designed exclusively for tablets.

For example, here are a few of the annoyances that worked their way to the top during my five days of using the Galaxy Tab.

  • The email application refused to send forwards and replies on my corporate network (I could send newly composed email just fine).
  • Google Shopper, which as the name states is developed by Google, crashed the tablet every time I tried to scan a product.
  • The tablet crashed several times when I plugged it in to my computer via USB
  • The Android Market is a red-hot mess that is almost impossible to navigate.
  • The missing apps.  NetFlix, Skype, Facebook, etc.

The list of user-unfriendly features could go on for another ten paragraphs.  Perhaps the upcoming Android tablet release, code named Ice Cream, combined with the upcoming Samsung TouchWiz release will solve these issues.  For now, Android 3.1 Honeycomb adds nothing to, and may actually hinder, the tablet experience.

I realize that with this verdict that I may take some heat from the Android community, but remember that the target audience for products I review are folks that are not technically gifted.  As a developer and as a hardcore gadget freak I can discover shortcuts and work-arounds to issues that would make any device tolerable.  For a tablet selling at the same price point as a tablet that simply works, I shouldn’t have to perform that kind of nonsense, nor should I be expected to.

If Google and its stable of manufacturers ever want to take the tablet crown away from the user experience kings in Cupertino, they must learn that you cannot expect the average consumer to plunk down their hard earned cash on a device that features a clunky interface and applications that serve only to frustrate and confuse the user.

The Geeky Stuff:

Features:

  • Android Honeycomb 3.1
  • 1 GHz Dual Core nVidia Tegra2
  • 4G LTE, 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1
  • 10.1” 1280×800 display
  • 3 megapixel camera with integrated flash
  • 2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • 1GB RAM Memory
  • 16GB or 32GB Storage Configurations
  • Hotspot capable

Full specs are available from Verizon

Pricing and Availability:

  • The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE is available in grey or white color schemes from Verizon Wireless in the 16GB configuration for $529.99 with a new two-year customer agreement ($629.99 month to month) or for $629.99 in the 32GB configuration with a two-year customer agreement ($729.99 month to month).
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