Monday, 25 October 2010 - tech news fast! - tech news fast!

Samsung Galaxy Tab review

Posted: 24 Oct 2010 08:05 AM PDT

The Samsung Galaxy Tab is the first slate since the iPad that really made us sit up and take note on launch. In between all the cruddy, cheap Android tablets with resistive touchscreens and no core Google apps, the Samsung Galaxy Tab stuck out like, well, an Android tablet that had core Google apps, a responsive capacitive touchscreen, and that most definitely wasn’t cheap.

Google itself has said that Android still isn't ready for tablets, and yet Samsung begs to differ. Who's right? We’ve been testing the Samsung Galaxy Tab to find out whether we’ve got a worthy rival to the iPad at last. Read on for our findings here in our Samsung Galaxy Tab review.

The folks at eXpansys provided us with a Samsung Galaxy Tab for the purposes of this review, and we have to say we're pretty impressed. While the model we've got isn't a boxed unit, we've had no visible software or hardware issues and performance is everything you could hope for with a 1GHz CPU under the bonnet. The problem only stems from justifying the cost of the Samsung Galaxy Tab – and that in turn is partly down to Google itself.

The Galaxy Tab's screen is a joy to use, and the unusual resolution for Android isn't as much of a problem as we feared

Physically, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is a delight. Its 7-inch, 1024×600 screen is bright, resilient (Thank you Gorilla Glass) and responsive, with extremely wide viewing angles. It's as smudgy as the Smudge Tool on Photoshop, and bounces back a fair bit of direct light, but no more so than any other tablet we've seen. While we could sit around bemoaning the lack of a Super AMOLED screen, let's not forget that Samsung itself makes them: if it can't come up with one that's affordable at this size and resolution right now, no one can. C'est la vie.

Because of its shorter length, the Samsung Galaxy Tab doesn't actually appear thinner than an iPad, but it is by a few millimetres. However, it's still sturdy and satisfyingly hefty. Ports are pretty much where you'd expect, with a 3.5mm audio jack on the top, and power/lock and volume on the right. Also on the side are slots for a microSD card and SIM card. These are tough to open, but you'll rarely have to do that – it'd be more problematic if these doors were on the charging slot. They're not, but it's also not micro USB, rather than Samsung's own connector, so you'll have to take good care of it, and probably buy a spare.

The Galaxy Tab charging and data loading dock

The touch sensitive buttons, while responsive, are a bit of a niggle – they don't light up when the screen is on unless pressed, and it's very easy to forget which button is which (They're not in the same order as on HTC Android phones). If you're using the Samsung Galaxy Tab in bed, you might forget which one the Menu button is, not be able to see it, then have to stab a few times to realise. But a minor inconvenience you'll probably learn to overcome.

Placing the Samsung Galaxy Tab side by side with an iPad, it really is eery how similar they are in design. But it is worth stressing that though 7-inchs sounds similar to 10-inches, in practice it leads to a vastly smaller tablet. As you can see below, you can essentially fit two Samsung Galaxy Tabs across the front face of an iPad – it'll still fit in your pocket like a phone. The question is of course, is if it does – why then do you need this along with your phone? Enter the software: Android 2.2 Froyo, with full Google app support, a first for a tablet of this size and resolution.

Android 2.2 on the Samsung Galaxy Tab

We don't know whether we were pleased or disappointed that there were no real surprises on the software front: this is Android as you've known it for the last half year or so, complete with most of the embellishments (or crippling ailments, depending on your point of view) Samsung brings with its TouchWiz skin, and iPhone -esque grid menu you swipe from right to left through.

Samsung's software skin over the top of Android 2.2 is very reminiscent of the one as seen on the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone, but there are a few differences. The browser's grey task bars make it look more like Firefox from 2005 than the stock Android browser, but it gets the job done and pinch to zoom works almost as flawlessly as on an iPad. Then there's the contacts book. Android being Android, it'll pull in all your Google contacts, but the UI is a more like that of the Dell Streak, making use of the screen size and splitting everything into two columns, like a desktop email client. It doesn't feel like much of an improvement, but it's not detrimental either.

Samsung's Android mobile hotspot software is absent in the Samsung Galaxy Tab however, despite the 3G connection. In truth, it's not missed since the chances of you carrying this instead of a phone with the same functionality (rather than both) is pretty slim.

Other features have met the cut, to mixed reception from us. Samsung' App Store is back to bump shoulders with the Market, and it's still as sparsely stocked as ever – at the time of writing, there were two apps available for download. And while we loved Swype on the Samsung Galaxy Europa phone, but we have to say it's pretty redundant here. The regular portrait QWERTY keyboard is excellent, and just the right size for cantering along with your thumbs without ever making a mistake, where as tracing your finger over such distances actually ends up being quite tedious. But hey, it's optional, so no harm done.

The Galaxy Tab played every video we threw at it

Samsung's AllShare media streaming app though is back once more to make DLNA a doddle, and unlike on the Europa, it actually works. We were up and running, slinging TV shows over WiFi to our PlayStation 3 in minutes, and they looked superb. While in practice we've never bothered streaming movies from a phone to our TV, the Samsung Galaxy Tab's storage space (16GB plus a microSD slot), screen size and codec support means we'd actually consider making it the dumping ground for our videos.

Speaking of those codecs, the Samsung Galaxy Tab played everything we threw at it without a struggle, from AVI and MP4 files to 720p MKVs which caused some frame skipping on the Samsung Galaxy S. For media hoarders this is a big deal, and will definitely make it more attractive than an iPad locked into iTunes downloading and syncing. Music can also be controlled from the task bar and lock screen just as it can with TouchWiz on the Galaxy S, which is helpful – and if you've got cover art, colourful. Samsung's eBook app is meant to show off the tablet's ereader skills meanwhile, but slow loading times and a lack of syncing makes Kindle for Android preferable still. It is a nice size and resolution for reading though.

Samsung's eBook reader in action -in truth, it's slow to load compared to the zippy Kindle Android app

More disappointing was the media the Samsung Galaxy Tab itself produces. There's a 3.2 megapixel camera on the back without a flash, and there's no tap to focus in the camera software, so you're left with pretty miserable shots packed with more noise than the Notting Hill Carnival. The front facing camera (Which works just fine for video chats with Fring) also can't be activated, if you fancy a self portrait.

Incidentally, we couldn't get Flash 10.1 to work – it refused to install from the Market every time, and even using an APK file was fruitless. Samsung says the Samsung Galaxy Tab will support it however, so we'll be chasing some more units to see it in action – we've already seen it working just fine on a Samsung Galaxy S with Froyo so we can't imagine there'll be a problem.

It being a high end Android, device we also had no performance issues with the Samsung Galaxy Tab – save when it came to account syncing. As so often happens with this type of functionality in mobile devices, trying to grab updates of everyone you follow on Twitter (if it's in the four figures) causes a big ol' slowdown, but otherwise, everything else was as speedy as you'd hope.

We were pleasantly surprised by the battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Android isn't exactly known for being easy on the gas, but we got more than a full day's intensive use out of it with both 3G and WiFi turned on. Something we can't give such a reassuring answer to is whether you'd want to use it for a whole day. You see, we're struggling to work out when we'd use it, for the cost.

Yeah, you want to play Angry Birds on the Galaxy Tab

While it runs most Android apps without any problems despite the higher resolution (There's the occasional bit of letterboxing, but honestly, Angry Birds is fantastic on it), so do Android phones. It's not an ideal office device. The Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with thinkfree office mobile installed, but typing isn't as quick as on an iPad in landscape at a shallow angle, and it doesn't provide anything beyond font size and basic formatting – no footnote editing, as one reader wanted to know, though it's always possible other Android apps allow for this.

In fact, if you need a tablet for word processing, we'd recommend the Dell Streak since it supports Bluetooth keyboards. You can open PDFs with the right apps, sure (In fact, Documents To Go runs great) – but the step change in productivity from a four to seven inch screen is not the same as that between a phone and an iPad display, even if the Tab's resolution is similar.

Of course, the iPad isn't hugely, obviously practical at a glance either, but we've really learned to appreciate the joys of an instant on machine capable of desktop web surfing lying around on the sofa. The Samsung Galaxy Tab would do the same for people who hate iOS, but you'd really have to hate iOS to stump up the eye watering £549 pricetag.

You see, unlike the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with 3G built in as standard. You don’t have to use it of course, but you’ll be paying for that SIM slot and 3G gadget whether you do or don’t – it’s the only way Samsung could have got the thumbs up from Google for those core Google apps (Gmail, Google Maps, Android Market). Google’s requirements also mandate that the Samsung Galaxy Tab has to be able to make calls – and this is where the silliness comes in.

Remember the Dell Streak? We said that at five inches it was just big enough to hold comfortably on a call. You won't have to do that with the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab – it only works as a mediocre speakerphone, or with a headset – but the problem is that you'll be paying for this functionality regardless. And as the numbers of people who've bought WiFi iPads should testify, it's not really necessary – save for the fact that right now, Google says it is. Watch us try to make a phone call in the video below.

So there you have it: the Samsung Galaxy Tab is a more portable iPad that's better for media, but with less to distinguish itself from the larger smartphones out there, and a pricetag that's no more appealing.

Is it one worth coughing up for? That depends on how much you value notional frivolities like watching videos, checking the train times online, and playing games. Us, we're starting to see them more and more as essentials. But if you wanted to hold out for Android 3.0 to see what Google has planned for Android tablets – well, we wouldn’t blame you.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 16GB is available for pre-order at eXpansys now.

Related posts:

  1. Samsung Galaxy S review: What do you want to know?
  2. Samsung Galaxy i7500 review
  3. Samsung Galaxy Europa review

Electricpig opinions: Why celebrity doesn’t mean credibility and Amazon Kindle, HTC HD7, Samsung Omnia 7, camera reviews and more

Posted: 24 Oct 2010 05:00 AM PDT

Want to know what the Electricpig staff think about the latest tech issues and products? This is that time of the week where we roundup their thoughts, opinion pieces and review verdicts. Mobile phones, cameras, games, it’s all here.

Windows Phone 7: Why celebrity does not equal trust

Reviews editor, Ben Sillis fired up the HTC HD7 earlier in the week only to be met with the smug facial features of Dappy from music band, N Dubz, without him asking for it. Further probing revealed that the artist was there because the band have a new album out. Ben wasn’t pleased.

“Microsoft has only just kicked its Marketplace into gear for the full launch, it seems, as the Marketplace background has been black most of the time until now – but the company has decided that featured music downloads deserve to take up the whole of your background: by the looks of things, they have a new single out, called Best Behaviour.

“This obviously touches on one of the current flaws with the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace – that it doesn't do much to distinguish between apps and media, especially when you search. But more pressingly, it's simply an assumption too far.

“Of course Microsoft should make some money by having a featured apps section in the Marketplace, especially since discoverability on mobile app stores is such an issue (Looking at you, Android Market). But to then plaster the background with these pics is a leap too far.”
Plonking celebrities in our faces isn’t so wise, Ben argues. Especially divisive ones such as Dappy. Our phone backgrounds are our personal space, Ben adds.
“Does Microsoft really think users' reaction will be "Gosh, a current band, I like Windows Phone 7 for showing me pictures of them without asking?". If so, it's a pity Redmond thinks its new users are that fickle.

“And perhaps it sounds petty, but your phone's background is a personal thing, with emotion tied up in it – it might be a picture of your family – and at any rate on the HTC HD7 it's also bloody massive, making N Dubz' presence all the more intrusive.”

Does the HTC HD7 live up to expectations?

Ben Sillis ran the rule over the HTC HD7 earlier in the week. So, what did he think. While he loved its generously large proportions, its simplicity and speed, owing to its 1GHz processor he was disappointed with its screen.

“All in all, the HTC HD7 is the spruced up slab of hotness we were expecting. What really surprised us about the HTC HD7 however, we're almost sorry to say, is the screen. While it's perfectly responsive and sharp, at 800×480 resolution, it's also unfortunately washy for something so top of the line, and the Windows Phone 7 default black background only shows it up even more.”

But it’s not all bad: “…we'd go so far as to say that it still makes it a better choice than the fugly Samsung Omnia 7, despite its clearly inferior screen. It's big, beautiful, and for better or worse, has all the pros and cons Windows Phone 7 brings with it.”

Amazon Kindle: Rad reader?

Early nineties adjectives aside, our reporter, Jennifer Allan got to grips with the Amazon Kindle e-reader. It might not be able to compete with the likes of the iPad, and indeed Samsung Galaxy on the media and overall entertainment front, but it is a damn good e-reader, so says Jennifer. She loved it enough to give it five stars. She loved how light, compact and easy to use it was, calling it a “bargain” from £109.

“After almost a week with the new Amazon Kindle, I can say I'm almost converted. It is easy, so easy, to buy and read a book on it, and as much as I love books, you don't get less immersed in a novel on a Kindle than its physical equivalent.”

Samsung Omnia 7 reviewed: Best screen in the business

That was the verdict of Ben Sillis. “Glorious” is the word he used to describe its 4-inch WVGA Super AMOLED screen.

“Where Samsung really steps on the gas though is with the Samsung Omnia 7's screen. It's beautiful. Just like the 4-inch, WVGA Super AMOLED screen on the Samsung Galaxy S, it will quite possibly cause your eyeballs to implode.”

However he wasn’t so keen on the rest of its design: “The problem is the rest of the Samsung Omnia 7's build. If you'll recall in our glowing Samsung Galaxy S review, we said Samsung needed to drop its piano black plastic design ethos – it has, but what it's gone for instead is the worst of both worlds.
But is the Samsung Omnia 7 worth a punt? “If you know you want a Windows Phone 7 handset, you're left to choose between great screen or great design – it's a pity we can't have both just yet.”

Looking for a Freeview HD PVR? James Holland has the answer

Electricpig editor, James Holland started the week crowing about the delights of the TVonics DTR-HD500. He was suitably impressed.

“We've seen boxes that struggle with HD playback at speed. Those with awkward interfaces, and some that're just plain noisy. It's refreshing then to see TVonics, a small British firm, leading the way with a dynamite 500GB Freeview HD recorder in the TVonics DTR-HD500, jam packed with smart features and clad in a wonderfully eye-catching design.”

It’s menus might be the stuff of horror movies, but the TVonics DTR-HD500 is one of the best around, says James. “As Freeview HD recorders go, the TVonics DTR-HD500 might not be the cheapest, but it is the best looking, quietest and, assuming you can stomach those eye-jabbing visuals, the best Freeview HD PVR we've seen to date.”

Nikon D3100 put to the test

Sam Kieldsen put out his photography feelersto review the Nikon D3100. He loved how small and light it was, and its quick autofocus and photo quality. He hates its lack of stereo sound and manual video controls. It records 1080p video, but “you have to kick the quality down to 720p just to achieve 30fps,” says Sam.

“None of this is to say the Nikon D3100's video quality is poor. In fact, it's actually packed with detail and crisp, natural-looking colour, even using just the included kit lens.

“It's a great camera for beginners, sure, but it lacks that knockout feature to truly set it apart from the many rivals in its price range. Its video performance is good, but could be made much better with the ability to record stereo and adjust settings manually.”

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare DLC is looking dead good

It has zombies in it after all. But far from being a lazy add-on stuffed to the brim with tacked on zombies extras, Undead Nightmare offers a new single player campaign and an almost addictive multiplayer mode where you and up to three other players attempt to stave off hordes of zombies.

Yours truly got the chance to visit Rockstar’s London HQ and can safely say ahead of our planned review that it’s looking good so far. If the single player campaign is anywhere near as Rockstar told us then Red Dead fans are in for a treat. But do look out for our full review, where we will be giving out full verdict. In the meantime check out our multiplayer and single player previews of Undead Nightmare.

Related posts:

  1. Tech week in photos: HTC HD7, Samsung Omnia 7, new MacBook Air, HTC Desire HD, Amazon Kindle and more
  2. Lunchtime Lowdown: Amazon Kindle reviewed, the Samsung Omnia 7 and Call of Duty Black Ops zombies spotted
  3. Electricpig opinions: iPad versus Kindle, and why YouView is the way forward

Video of the week: Samsung Galaxy Tab image recognition adds visual music searching

Posted: 24 Oct 2010 01:00 AM PDT

Earlier in the week we paid a visit to the folks at 7digital, who along with its native 7digital music downloads app for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, showed off its image recognition skills letting you scan in album covers and promo materials including posters. Read on to see it in action.

Of course, as we also mention in the week, this kind of thing has been done before, but it’s nice to see it working so efficiently on the Samsung Galaxy Tab, courtesy of its front-facing camera (this is something the iPad really should have been able to do to).

Check out the video below to see the service in action, grabbing album information within a second of taking snapping its cover in a magazine, letting you preview clips almost in an instant. It’ll work on bus shelter posters too, if you’re the sort to risk walking the streets with your Galaxy Tab.

Samsung Galaxy Tab: super speedy visual search for music downloads

Related posts:

  1. Samsung Galaxy Tab: super speedy visual seach for music downloads
  2. Samsung Galaxy Tab video: 7digital music hub demo
  3. Video of the week: Samsung Galaxy Tab official first tease

No comments:

Post a Comment