The urge to join the tablet group has becoming increasingly hard, specially with the long term fascination of wanting to read my automobile magazines at my finger tips. The move to the Xperia X10 with android though not as ga ga as expected, also got me the opportunity to test out a brand new Samsung Tablet. The contact offered it an awesome price (in local terms), and though i was about to commit, he suggested that i go try it out over the evening and make the decision or return (now that’s what you call trust, thanks Rizwan).
First the device definitely is small compared to the IPad, its like a CR book vs a standard exercise book in local equivalents for size. The build quality is good, but you don’t see anything that is impressive.
However the Gorilla glass is a practical selection, even though the viewing angles may not be great as the Ipad or Barnes and Nobles Nook Color IPS screens. To me the screen seems fine, though the reflections are a bit of an issue specially indoors in the night. The back white cover is supposedly scratch proof too, but seems rather thin, specially at the slots for the SD and SIM card, that seems to be a potential area where the device may potentially crap if mishandled.
Proprietary USB connection seems so ridiculous considering microUSB is now becoming a standard, and i think its also being pushed as the standard in Euro. Why Samsung wants to make a bit more pocket money selling these cables when the device is already so overpriced seems ridiculous. Shame on your Samsung (okay okay, we know you want to be another Apple/Stevy J).
The SIM slot and microSD slot are on the right side, and has rubber covers to protect the ports. Requires you to have nails to pry open, but nothing seriously flawed in the design.
Android OS – Froyo 2.2
Ah to the meat, my first experience with Froyo (android 2.2), since my beloved X10 is on 2.1 (yet to find time to root it and try the XDA ROMs). The large touch friendly icons makes it seem a bit toyish, and also means a lot of flicking. Now i know when they say that Android 2.x is not tablet friendly, coz the interface looks like a magnified phone interface. The reviews of the new honeycomb 3.0 android looks more like an desktop OS which may fit tablet computing better.
The interface is quite nippy and flicking through the desktops and loading apps have no noticeable lag.
However one quirky thing which i think was bad coding on google was that initially i could not get on the web or sign-in to my Google account to enable me to get access to the market. The error was more like my login credentials were incorrect. After while i just had a feeling it was a network issue and then remember that the auto APN setup had not worked on my X10 as well, and i had to create it manually. However the settings were downloaded a while later.
I downloaded Adobe PDF for Android and loaded a few digital contents, as one of the main reasons for this purchase would be to read my auto magazine collection, and also do my referring up on technology (my actual job of software engineering related aspects!). Here is where i noticed though the 7″ form factor was more convenient, that reading full page was out, as the fonts were too small. Switching to landscape helped, but the rather non-friendly approach to page switching on Android / Adobe for Android made it rather messy. The Adobe PDF reader seems to be in its infancy on the the Android platform on features, as the zoom features were limited, and though you could not set a specific zoom that would stay across pages. However the page switching was quite smooth even for very graphics heavy magazines.
I also tried BeamReader, and though this was a bit more pleasant on usage, thank to the two arrow buttons for navigation, this reader was less smooth and had trouble with large graphics pages with rendering being painfully slow.
On the whole while it might be good for pure text based books, the 7″ form factor could be limiting for specially for PDF compared to the 9.7 or 10.2″ screens. So make sure you see your usage pattern.
Camera: 3-mega pixel, oh come on Samsung clearly you want the buyer of the Tablet to also buy a phone since that’s just not enough! One thing i am sure any tablet user might want is to take a picture of a white board, or paper article. The camera just has not enough detail at the mega pixel, and is also lousy for macro shots. General outdoor shots seem fine, and the flash is quite powerful that it does sufficiently fine indoors though the photos have a rather dull output.
Camera Video: The video is decent, and the ability to use the flash as a video light useful.
Video playback: Tried out various formats such as MP4 and DIVX and things were smooth. The standard player played divx with no issues, something that my xperia cannot do. Maybe the new hummingbird implementation has native support for Divx compared to the Snapdragon processor based implementation on the X10. The built in speakers are loud enough, though headphones are recommended.
While using it suddenly i noticed it ringing, until then i had completely forgotten that the tablet was also a phone. Was impressed that you could take calls without even the headset though it felt weird talking to a book like device 🙂
Used the tablet for about 2+ hours, and it was on full charge. Connected to wifi for about 30mins, and on 3G data for around another 30 mins, the rest it was viewing complex pdf files, a few photos and video trials and general mucking around. For all this the battery only dropped by less than a bar, so definitely impressive.