Samsung today at the IFA trade show in Berlin announced the Galaxy Tab, a 7 inch Android 2.2 tablet with a capacitive multi-touch display, 3G, WiFi and a 1GHz Hummingbird CPU. A group of us were lucky enough to get a pre-briefing from Samsung yesterday here in Berlin, and spend some quality time with this "honey who stretched the Samsung Vibrant" product.
First off, though the Tab bears a striking resemblance to the overseas Galaxy S Android smartphone (in the US, the Vibrant on T-Mobile looks most like the classic Galaxy S), the experience is worlds different when you have a 7", 1024 x 600 Super TFT screen to work with. It runs Android OS 2.2 Froyo with Samsung's TouchWiz UI, so the experience and many of the apps are familiar. But the higher resolution makes for a much more enjoyable video playback experience (and we got to play locally stored high quality content and stream Flash video). Samsung has enhanced the calendar app is a great way as well as the mail app with universal inbox: it looks like Outlook Lite. The large screen is key to the new UI. As with other Galaxy products running TouchWiz, there are custom media players and enhanced contacts that integrate with social networking (Twitter, Facebook and MySpace).
The Tab has a cellular radio and the full Google experience, including the Android Market. Given the unusually high resolution, we're not sure all apps will work, though we did test out a game or two and they ran well.
The Galaxy Tab weighs 13.4 ounces and feels just right in the hand. It's not burdensome to hold nor is the screen too small to work with for longer periods of time. If you find the iPad a bit too much to hold for an hour or too big to add to your bag for travel, then the Tab will feel just right.
It has a capacitive multi-touch display that's responsive and it's powered by a 1GHz Hummingbird (ARM Cortex-A8 family) CPU just like the Galaxy S phones. It will be available with 16 or 32 gigs of storage and has 512+128 megs RAM (some is dedicated to the baseband/DSP).
The SIM card slot and microSD card slot are easily accessible on the side. We played with the international version and it has both WiFi 802.11b/g/n and 3G HSDPA. Samsung hasn't yet announced US carrier partners and unfortunately there won't be an unlocked version sold in the US. We'd absolutely love to see a WiFi-only version that would lack a carrier subsidy but wouldn't require yet another cell phone contract. It doesn't look like that will happen. Samsung says there will be a CDMA version but they haven't announced any US CDMA carriers (that would be Verizon and Sprint here in the US). Remember, Korea largely uses CDMA , so the leaks referring to that version might be a version for Samsung's homeland.
The Samsung Tab has a 4,000 mAh Lithium Ion battery. The good news is that's lots of juice. The bad news is that it isn't user replaceable. The back of the unit is gloss white, though others colors will likely be available as carriers have the device customized and branded.
As you've seen in leaks, there will be a selection of accessories including a dock with USB and HDMI out. The Tab has a 30 pin dock connector (remind you of the iPhone?) and a 30 pin to USB cable will be in the box.
It comes with the full version of ThinkFree Office that can both read and edit MS Office documents. Music Hub, reminiscent of iTunes, is on board and a new app called Reader's Hub with access to eBooks, newspapers and magazines via Press Display are here too. Reader's Hub may not make it to the US version; that's up to the carriers.
Other goodies include an accelerometer, rear 3 megapixel autofocus camera with flash and a front-facing 1.3 megapixel video conferencing camera. It has the same front-facing capacitive buttons that are hard to see when backlighting is off, just like the Galaxy S phones.
Pricing and US availability? TBA.
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview