SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB 10.1: Another Amazing Tablet Ruined By Honeycomb Operating System [REVIEW]

galaxy tab 10.1

Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider

We’re at the point now where Honeycomb tablets are launching at an ever-accelerating pace, just like Android phones.For the most part, I’ve been ignoring them. I was so disappointed with Honeycomb when I tested the Xoom (I wanted to like it…I really did) that I decided to wait for a major update before giving it another shot.

I’m giving that shot to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1. This is Samsung’s first Honeycomb-powered tablet, and probably the best competitor to the iPad right now.

Click here to check out new photos of the Galaxy Tab >

Samsung has been absolutely crushing it with Android phones. It has put out some of my favourites so far, including the Nexus S and Infuse 4G.

But can it do the same with tablets? Jump below to find out.

Brilliant Hardware That’s On Par With The iPad 2
My tablet of choice is still the iPad. I have the heavier, original version now (waiting for the iPad 3), so it was refreshing to use the super thin and light Galaxy Tab. For the record, the Tab is technically thinner and lighter than the iPad 2. But the difference is so minute, you won’t even notice.

Even though the tablet is thin and sturdy enough, I wish Samsung didn’t opt for the plastic backing. Sure, it shaves off a bit of weight, but I’d have no problem sacrificing that for metal or glass like Apple does with the iPad and iPhone. The plastic makes the Tab feel more like a toy than a serious computing device.

But that’s a very, very minor flaw with the design, and the only one worth mentioning.

samsung galaxy tab

Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider

I’m a big Samsung fan when it comes to displays, and the 10.1-inch screen on the Galaxy Tab doesn’t disappoint. It has a higher resolution than the iPad 2, and is just as bright. Video looks incredible. Touch response is top-notch. Samsung wins here.Under the hood, the Galaxy Tab is just as impressive. It sports the same snappy Tegra 2 dual-core processor that many other Android phones and tablets have been running on. It does an excellent job loading web pages and games with 3D graphics without crushing the battery. Bravo.

Speaking of battery, it has excellent performance. I set the screen’s brightness to max, so I probably didn’t get the best life I could have. But I could still get two days’ worth of regular use out of it. No problem.

I’m still not sold on rear-facing cameras on tablets yet. I can’t see why I’d want to whip out a 9 or 10 inch device to take a photo. That being said, the rear-facing camera on the Tab does the job. So does the front-facing camera for video chatting over Google Talk.

Honeycomb Is Still A Wreck
I’m more than aware I’m going to get a lashing in the comments for this, but I’ll say it anyway. Honeycomb is the only thing holding Android-based tablets back.

Some of the bugs have been fixed in version 3.1, but it’s not enough. Overall, the user interface is a pain to navigate, and the Android Market is a mess. The app selection for tablets is still just as bad as it was back in February, even after developers have had about four months to work on that.

But Samsung did include one of my favourite tablet apps with the Galaxy Tab, Quickoffice. Quickoffice is an all-in-one app for word documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and it now works seamlessly with Honeycomb. You can also connect to your Dropbox,, or Google Docs account and pull in files stored online. (If you don’t have Quickoffice on your tablet — Android or iPad — you really should check it out.)

samsung 10.1 galaxy tab

Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider

The only place Honeycomb truly shines is multitasking. Tapping the rectangular icon in the taskbar brings up your running apps. With one tap you can pick up where you left off. Apple has yet to nail multitasking in iOS, and it looks like iOS 5 will just be more of the same.

The only way I can see Samsung saving Honeycomb would be with its TouchWiz skin. The Galaxy Tab ships with what is essentially stock Android 3.1 right now, but Samsung reps told me an update with TouchWiz is coming this summer.

The skin will add some more built-in apps like a calculator and calendar to Honeycomb’s taskbar that can run in popup windows within currently-running apps. Samsung didn’t have any screenshots or live demos of what TouchWiz will look like though, but I can only hope they take a serious look at Honeycomb’s clunky interface and attempt to fix it.

Ugh, Flash
Minor rant warning: Go ahead and skip to the end if you don’t want to read this.

I’ve seen demos of several tablets over the last few months. The number one thing every company rep pitches me? “The full web with Flash.”

If by “full web” they mean ads, then yes, the Galaxy Tab and other Flash-enabled tablets have it.

Case in point: When I met with Samsung the reps opened up a Flash video. The first thing we saw instead? A popup ad that the Tab choked on.

Most videos on YouTube and other video sites are available in HTML 5 nowadays, and watching them this way lets you skip those silly popup and pre-roll ads.

Plus, the Galaxy Tab’s battery gets a shade below scorching when watching Flash video for an extended period of time.

The only thing I could see myself using Flash for on a tablet is Hulu, and that’s already blocked. Why bother?

End of rant.

Should You Buy It?
As you’ve probably deduced by now, the only thing holding me back from the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is Honeycomb. The hardware is incredible, and even outshines the iPad 2 in some areas. The price ($499 for 16 GB and $599 32 GB) is fair. And if you want to wait, Verizon will be offering a 4G-powered version later summer. (Price TBD)

At the end of the day you have to ask yourself: Are you cool with Honeycomb? (And yes, I’m aware some of you are.) Are you willing to wait for developers to sign on and start cranking out apps? (If they ever do.)

Then go for it. The Galaxy Tab is easily the best Android tablet out there. No contest.

If not, there’s still the iPad. And HP’s TouchPad (launching July 1) doesn’t look too bad either.

The Pulse reader app is one of the few tablet-optimised apps in the Android Market. It's a winner.

The home screen is fully-customisable, but there aren't too many useful widgets for Honeycomb yet.

Here's where the customisation happens. You can select which apps and widgets you'd like to add to the home screen.

This is what multitasking looks like. You can scroll through and open apps that are running in the background.

Samsung's displays are bright and crisp. The resolution is even higher than the iPad's.

Quickoffice comes included with the Galaxy Tab. You'll love this app.

If you have a Google Music Beta account, you can stream your tunes from the cloud to your Tab.

So thin. So pretty.

The original iPad looks like a bloated monster next to the Galaxy Tab.

Not a fan of the plastic backing.

Looking for an Android-powered alternative to Honeycomb?

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