Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) Review

The Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) joins the ever-growing, all-sizes-covered lineup of Samsung tablets, following right behind its baby brother, the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0). The Tab 2 (10.1) attempts to strike a balance between price and performance, forgoing hardware upgrades and instead focusing on an improved user experience from Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich." We found the 7.0 to be a bargain, but the 10.1 just can't deliver against the same-price Apple iPad 2 and the less-expensive Asus Transformer Pad TF300 (Due in the UK, 18th of May).

Design and Features

While it won't win any awards for innovative design, the Tab 2 (10.1) is still an attractively built plastic tablet. At 256.7 x 175.3 x 9.7mm (HxWxD) and 581grams, it is nearly identical in size and weight to the original Galaxy Tab 10.1. The iPad 2 is slightly thinner at 0.34 inch. Along the top edge are the Power and Volume buttons, as well as a microSD card slot, micro USB port, and standard-size 3.5mm headphone jack. The addition of a microSD card slot is one of the notable variations between the Tab 2 (10.1) and the original Tab 10.1, which offered no storage expandability. Our 64GB SanDisk card worked fine in the Tab 2 (10.1). Samsung offers only a single 16GB model of the tablet, so the expandable memory is a welcome addition.

The same 1,280-by-800-pixel TFT display remains, and it's higher resolution than the iPad 2's 1,024-by-768-pixel display. The TF300 has the same screen size and resolution, but the Tab 2 (10.1) gets noticeably brighter, with a bit more color saturation. Neither, however, is quite as brilliant as the Asus Transformer Prime's Super IPS+ display. And the Retina display on the New iPad at 2,048 by 1,536, well, that's still in a class of its own.

A Wi-Fi only tablet, the Tab 2.0 (10.1) connects to 802.11b/g/n networks and integrates Bluetooth 3.0. The rear-facing three-megapixel camera from the original Tab 10.1 remains, but Samsung downgraded the front-facing camera from two-megapixels to VGA resolution.

Hardware, Apps, and Performance

The Tab 2 (10.1) is powered by a now-aging 1GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor and 1GB RAM. That differs slightly from the 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 chip featured on the original Tab 10.1. In our benchmark tests, the Tab 2 (10.1) scored significantly lower than the less-expensive Transformer Pad TF300, which features Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor. In real world usage, the Tab 2 (10.1) felt slower than the TF300. Gaming performance was also lacking, with the Tab 2 (10.1) scoring just 18.7 frames per second on our graphics benchmark, compared with the TF300's much smoother 47.1 frames per second.

Android 4.0 is a major upgrade from 3.2 (Honeycomb), but there are still some problems here. Samsung adds its signature TouchWiz Android overlay and animations like swiping between home screens lack the fluidity found in other ICS tablets, like the TF300, and the mini app tray that was so useful on the 7.0 was often laggy in my tests.

App availability for 10in Android tablets still falls far short of the Apple iPad, which has over 200,000 third-party apps with UIs designed specifically for tablets. To help remedy the problem, Samsung loads its own app store, which offers up a few hundred well-selected apps. You can also get the Tablified Market, with its list of 1,500 or so top-notch tablet apps. All the same preloaded apps and widgets on the 7.0 are here on the 10.1, including Netflix (possibly USA only), Kindle, and Dropbox (with a free 50GB of storage for a year). Bloatware is non-existent.

You get the same IR port and Peel Remote app found on the 7.0, both of which worked fine in my tests. Media playback was no problem; the tablet handled Xvid, DivX, MPEG4, H.264, and AVI videos (at 1080p resolution) and MP3, AAC, FLAC, OGG, WAV, and WMA audio files. The three-megapixel camera takes better photos than the iPad 2's subpar camera does, but it's still not a viable replacement for a digital camera. Video recording tops out at 720p, while the TF300 can capture full 1080p HD with its eight-megapixel camera.

The Tab 2 (10.1) includes a 7,000mAh battery that Samsung rates at up to 9 hours of video playback. In our test, which loops a video with the screen set to maximum brightness, and Wi-Fi switched on, the Tab 2 (10.1) lasted 6 hours, 17 minutes. That's significantly less than the Transformer Pad TF300's 7 hours, 53 minutes.

Verdict 

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) costs too much at $399.99 (UK price, yet to be confirmed) for the mediocre performance it delivers. The Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) is a good deal at $250 (£199, at Carphone Warehouse), offering a host of useful features for its budget price. But with the Asus Transformer Pad TF300 and Apple iPad 2 both in the 10in mix, the Galaxy Tab 2 loses out falling short in both performance and app selection. If you have to have a Samsung tablet, go for the 7in Tab 2, or hold out for the Galaxy Note 10.1, which is expected later this year.

Pros: More affordable than its predecessor. Ships with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). Adds a microSD slot. Sharp, bright screen

Cons: Aging components. Mediocre battery life. Performance not up to competition.

Score: 6/10

Manufacturer: Samsung

Price: TBC, 16GB

Specifications

CPU: Texas Instruments OMAP4430 Dual-Core

Processor Speed: 1GHz

Operating System: Google Android 3.0 or higher

Screen Resolution: 1,280 x 800 pixels

Screen Size: 10.1in

Battery Type Supported: Rechargeable

Storage Capacity (as Tested): 16 GB

Dimensions: 256.7 x 175.3 x 9.7 mm

Weight: 581grams

Networking Options: 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n

Email Access: Dedicated email app

Web Browser: Yes

Flash support: Yes

GPS: Yes

Camera(s): 1 front-facing and 1 rear-facing

Video Chat: Yes

Music Playback Formats: AAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WMA

Photo Formats: BMP, JPEG, PNG, GIF Video Formats: AVI, DivX, MPEG4, WMV, H.264, XVid

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