The Action bar also lets you customize how you access your apps and widgets among five different homescreen panels. Unlike an iPad, the Galaxy 10.1 provides five separate screens on which you can arrange your stuff. You could simply rely on the main home screen which piles the apps up the same way an iPad or iPhone do, or you can organize them, for instance, by placing email notifications and web page favorites on a panel with your most frequently accessed news apps.
All this makes bouncing around multiple apps pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Remembering what all those little icons mean and where they take you will require some practice, but the Home button (it looks like a little house) is a good failsafe if you get lost.
If basic functionality was where the review ended, then this Samsung tab would come through with flying colors. But you don’t judge a bookstore by how many bathrooms it has. The content counts a lot here.
So there’s good and there’s bad, especially for an Electronic House reader who’s interested in audio, video and home control issues. The Android app marketplace is mature, but not nearly as mature as the Apple app store. Apple currently has tens of thousands of apps optimized for the iPad platform, while apps for Android tablets number in the hundreds, and many of them not optimized for Honeycomb. Still, many of them are very good—the Sonos app (read a review of the Sonos iPad app) for instance is excellent and offers complete control of a Sonos music system.
The app market is loaded with games, many of them free. If you don’t adjust the unit’s maturity setting you’ll also run into a wasteland of NSFW apps. News and media junkies won’t find as much to digest here, but the news aggregator News Republic is a good place to start. So is Pulse, which helps you sort through a variety of media outlets. The Kindle reader and QuickOffice apps are also excellent.
A few new ones that really take advantage of the high resolution screen on the Galaxy include Google Body (I wish I had this way back in biology class) and Google Earth. There’s also Talk, an easy-to-use video chat app.
AMX has an excellent-looking control app in the marketplace. Other A/V or control companies with Android apps include Lutron, Crestron, HAI, Vantage, Homeseer, LG, Onkyo (I’ll be trying this one in a forthcoming review), Pioneer, Logitech Alert and of course Samsung (which I’ll also be trying out as soon as I unpack the TV). You can also find TV service provider apps from Verizon FiOS and Comcast Xfinity.
A few missing apps really standout. There’s
no Facebook (though you can access it through the Web browser) or Twitter (Note: both Facebook and Twitter are now available). Despite the perfectly-suited 16:9 screen, video options are in short supply. You’ll find no Netflix (update: Netflix is now available for the tablet) or other major streaming video service except for YouTube. Samsung has included Media Hub, which is a pretty decent video rental/purchase service with a large collection of movies and TV shows. Movies run around $4 to rent, $12-$18 to buy.
New apps are showing up daily, so hopefully these gaps will be filled soon. In Samsung’s defense, Apple had a significant head start in the app market, and the original iPad launched with even fewer optimized apps.
Overall, Samsung (with some Google help) has built a very attractive device here by considering the strengths of the iPad and building on its shortcomings. This doesn’t mean the Galaxy is better, but it does do things differently, including some things the iPad2 doesn’t.
The one place where the device isn’t competitive is in price. At $499 it’s exactly the same price as the equivalent iPad. Reason would suggest that to beat an entrenched competitor the device would have to be a little better and a little cheaper. Last week, for a brief period, Samsung teased people with a Best Buy offer that tossed in a free tablet with the purchase of a 3D plasma TV. I’m sure a lot of people are hoping that or similar deals come back.
Basic Specs and Formats:
• Dual-core NVIDIA Tegra processor
• Front Camera: 2.0 Megapixel
• Rear Camera: 3.0 Megapixel Auto Focus with Flash
• Android 3.1, Honeycomb
• 10.1” (W) x 6.9” (H) x 0.34” (D)
• 19.9 oz.
• Li-Polymer, 7000 mAh battery
• 16GB Internal Memory
• 10.1” Widescreen HD WXGA TFT Display
• Widgets, Smart Unlock, Accelerometer, Bilingual: Spanish/English
• MP3, OGG, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WAV, AMR, MID, IMY, WMA, Vorbis, RTTTL/RTX, OTA
• 1080p playback, 720p capture Video Codec: MPEG4, H.264, H.263, XviD, WMV7/8, VP8, MP43, VC-1 Format: 3GP(MP4), WMV(asf), AVI
• Full HTML Web Browser, Books, Browser, Email, Gallery, Gmail™, Google Maps™, Android Market, Google Search™, Google Talk™, Voice Search, Latitude, Music Hub, Navigation, Places, Pulse, QuickOffice, Samsung Apps, YouTube, Music Player
• Word File: doc, docx, xml, txt, rtf, dot, dotx Excel File: xls, xlsx, csv, xlt, xltx PowerPoint: ppt, pptx, pot, potx, pps, ppsx PDF: pdf
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.