What's hot: High quality materials, bright and sharp display, fast HSPA+ 4G.
What's not: Smaller display vs. 10.1" tablets, yet isn't really smaller or lighter. Pricey.
Reviewed May 3, 2011 by Lisa Gade, Editor
In a world of rushed releases and the negative reviews that ensue, you have to wonder why manufacturers are making early launches a trend. Or maybe not. The BlackBerry Playbook got panned in pre-release reviews but in the week before release, RIM apparently did remarkable work getting the tablet stable and pleasing (not counting lack of third party apps). Folks are buying it anyway and quite a few seem to like it. Motorola not only wouldn't be beat to market by a competing Android Honeycomb tablet, they decided to beat the iPad 2 to market by a week or two with their Motorola Xoom. Sure, that meant it shipped 2 weeks before Adobe Flash was available, LTE has to be stuffed in later via a free mail-in hardware upgrade and both the microSD card slot driver was missing as well as USB host drivers. Oh, and there were a total of 10 tablet apps available at launch. But the Xoom made a big splash because it was the first Honeycomb tablet and because the hardware was quite nice. Now that the crowd is filling in with the likes of the Dell Streak 7, G-Slate, Acer Iconia A500 and Asus Eee Pad Transformer, and the Xoom's lead is weakening.
The LG G-Slate on T-Mobile hit the scene a few months later when Adobe Flash was ready and more tablet apps populated the market. It's not waiting for micro SD card or USB drivers because it doesn't offer those features. T-Mobile's 4G HSPA+ technology is basically a tweak of existing HSDPA tech, so there was absolutely no need worry about 4G hardware issues. Verizon's 4G LTE uses a totally new kind of wireless radio and network, and it apparently presents challenges for mobile device design, since LTE products have suffered delays.
So is it all good for the G-Slate? Not so much. The problem, beyond the lack of a huge tablet app library that could rabbit punch the iPad 2, is the price. It costs just about as much as the Motorola Xoom, a larger tablet with a few more features and Verizon's lauded network behind it. The G-Slate boasts quality materials, a lovely if understated design and good performance, but at $529 with a contract (yet another contract in these hard economic times) and $629 out the door before you get your rebate, it's a pricey proposition. Buying it retail might save you in the long run, but it's still $750 without contract.
Don't get me wrong, I think the G-Slate is a very nice tablet, and I'd put it in second place behind the Xoom for quality materials and software. It's more well behaved than the cheaper Acer Iconia Tab A500 and uses higher quality materials than the Eee Pad Transformer. T-Mobile's software bundle is good: T-Mobile TV, Zinio Reader, Quickoffice HD and Need for Speed Shift add valuable entertainment and productivity apps. 4G HSPA+ rocks--it might not be as fast as LTE, but it's fast enough that you'll think you're on WiFi.
micro HDMI and micro USB ports plus dock connector contacts are on the bottom.
The vanilla Android OS 3.01 build is stable and we had no problems beyond the occasional browser crash when we had several tabs open and Flash running in a few. The G-Slate charges reliably and has good power management that allowed us to go 3 days on a charge with normal use. The display is sharp and brighter than the Xoom and Acer, and it has excellent viewing angles. While the Dell Streak 7 is decidedly budget, the LG is plush.
Deals and Shopping:
But the slightly odd and overly long form factor of this 8.9" tablet isn't our favorite. Honestly, you don't save much weight or storage space by going down to 8.9" from 10.1", and 10.1" really makes the experience much more computer-replacement-ish. It feels spacious, while the LG still feels a bit more "mobile device". You only lose 32 pixels in height with the LG (1280 x 768 vs. 1280 x 800 for 10 inch tablets), and we didn't miss them all that much, and the slightly higher pixel density makes everything look a bit sharper, but we'd still prefer a less elongated, larger screen tablet when jumping beyond the highly portable 7" crowd.
Here's our 16 minute LG G-Slate video review. We cover software, video streaming, gaming and comparisons with other tablets like the Xoom and iPad 2.
In terms of performance, the G-Slate uses the standard state of the art 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core CPU with hardware graphics acceleration and it has 32 gigs of storage. The tablet has 768 megs of RAM rather than the 1 gig in the Xoom and Acer (why?). There is no microSD expansion slot. The end of the back cover slides off to reveal the SIM card slot and a reset button, but no storage slot or user accessible battery. Gaming is solid on the G-Slate, as is video playback.
The G-Slate scored 2040 on the Quadrant benchmark app, putting it within a few points of the Xoom and Acer A500. That's significantly faster than the unexpectedly slow (from a benchmark perspective) Dell Streak 7, which scored 1512. The LG scored a respectable 34.9 in Linpack and experientially it feels fast and responsive.
Data speeds were likewise pleasingly fast, and we averaged 3.3Mb down and 1MB up according to Ookla's Speedtest.net app. That's on par with what we get with T-Mobile's 4G HSPA+ Android phones, and it's fast enough to handle streaming video from T-Mobile TV and YouTube Flash video. You can use the Slate as a portable WiFi hotspot and it also does USB tethering. For those times when you're not in a T-Mobile coverage area, the tablet has WiFi 802.11b/g/n. The G-Slate also has Bluetooth 2.1 and a GPS that works with Google Maps and Navigation.
As with other Honeycomb tablets on the market, the LG G-Slate is a data-only device and it doesn't do cellular voice calling or text messaging. You can do voice and video calls using Gtalk and we're sure other VoIP solutions will appear for Android.
Now to the parlor trick section of our review: 3D video recording. Yep, the dual 5 megapixel rear cameras can shoot 3D video that you can watch using the included plastic glasses with red and blue lenses. These glasses work for any passive 3D display, so you can also view the video after transferring it to your computer or watch it over HDMI to your plain old non-3D TV. How does it look? Meh. It's not wild with depth like movie theater 3D showings, and the colors are shifted such that it looks like video of an alien world. The red left lens particularly seemed to mess with my vision (as if I'd stared at the sun too long), and my senior editor got queasy when wearing the glasses to view G-Slate video. Though the electronics industry has been marketing 3D on TVs and now mobile devices like mad, the mobile experience just isn't there. Non-3D video recording quality is good, and the camera can shoot 1080p video. The camera has a flash which helps when taking photos of subjects at close range in dark environments.
The front 2MP camera does a solid job with Gtalk video chat, but like the Acer Iconia Tab A500, the lens is at the left corner, so you'll either hold the tablet at an odd angle to chat, or show off your left ear.
The T-Mobile G-Slate by LG is a very nice tablet hampered only by its price and tweener size. We love the build quality, attractive looks that remind us of the LG G2x on T-Mobile, and bright display. T-Mobile's HSPA+ network is fast, and if you're in a good coverage area, you won't be pining for WiFi. The Slate is fast, has decent speakers and handles 3D games and video playback well. Though some have eyes only for the iPad, we see great promise in Android Honeycomb, and tablet apps are making their way to the Market, from 3D Tegra 2 games to CNN to tier 1 weather apps. But the tablet's elongated design, slightly smaller screen size and lack of a microSD card slot still have us leaning toward the Xoom. That said, if you're a T-Mobile customer, the G-Slate is a solid second best.
Pro: High quality materials, bright and sharp display, fast HSPA+ 4G.
Con: Smaller display vs. 10.1" tablets, yet isn't really smaller or lighter. Pricey. No microSD expansion card slot.
Price: $529 after $100 rebate with a 2 year contract, $750 without contract.
Display:8.9" capacitive multi-touch
color LCD. Resolution:
1280 x 768, supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer, has ambient light sensor.
Ion rechargeable. Batteries are not user replaceable.
Claimed runtime: up to 9.4 hours of continuous use. Claimed standby: 11.3 days.
Performance:NVIDIA Tegra 2 1GHz CPU with 1 768 megs RAM and 32 gigs internal flash storage.
Size:9.6 x 5.9 x 0.5 inches. Weight: 21 ounces (1.37 pounds).
3G/4G:Quad band GSM world device with 3G and 4G HSPA+ on T-Mobile's 1700/2100MHz bands.
Camera:5 megapixel autofocus rear camera and 2 megapixel front video chat camera (works with Google Talk). Rear camera can record 3D video.
in stereo speakers with Dolby Mobile software, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
WiFi 802.11b/g/n (single band n 2.4GHz) and Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR.
Software:Android OS 3.01 Honeycomb. Google apps: search, voice search, Maps, Navigation, Places, Gmail, Email, web browser, Gtalk with video chat, Books (Google ebook reader), Gallery, YouTube, Music, Clock, Calculator, Contacts, Calendar and Latitude. Third party apps: Need for Speed Shift, Zinio Reader, T-Mobile TV (requires monthly subscription fee), DoubleTwist and Quickoffice HD.
In the Box: G-Slate, charger, USB cable, 3D glasses.