The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7" Android tablet that began shipping for the holiday season 2010 has been quite successful. Why? It wasn't just Samsung's mega marketing campaign and Android fans' desire for an iPad alterative. The Galaxy Tab is highly portable compared to the iPad and Motorola Xoom, it's available from the big 4 US carriers (and smaller carriers too) and Samsung did a wonderful job of making over some core apps like calendar and contacts to turn them into something tablet-worthy. It has all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a quality name brand tablet including a sharp and bright display, WiFi, Bluetooth, a GPS and dual cameras.
But the Motorola Xoom runs the designed-for-tablets Android OS 3.0 Honeycomb. It has a rambling 10.1" display that just begs for quality video time and web browsing. It's wickedly fast thanks to the dual core 1GHz Tegra 2 CPU with a gig of RAM. It has a front 2 megpaixel camera that works with Google's lovely Gtalk video chat and a rear 5 megapixel main camera. The casing uses plenty of metal vs. the Samsung's unabashed plastic look. It's a BMW 7 Series while the Galaxy Tab is a Mini Cooper.
And therein lies perhaps the most important factor when choosing between the two: do you want large and deluxe or a tablet you can park anywhere from large coat pocket to decent sized purse? Though Steve Jobs strangely declared 7" tablets as pointless as Flash, there are plenty of folks who adore the Galaxy Tab's portability. It's easy to use on the bus, crowded coach seat or toilet. The Xoom feels and is slightly more portable than the iPad, but it's much larger than the Tab, and heavier too.
We love them both, to be clear. And we love each one depending on where we want to use it. The Motorola Xoom is hard to beat on the couch when we can revel in the pleasures of a large display and plenty of pixels to show us full web pages that are readable without zooming. In fact, the Xoom's tabbed browser is more like Chrome than Android webkit, and you really feel like you're brrowsing using a computer. That siad, the Xoom is large enough that I'd reach for the Galaxy Tab first before hitting the local coffee shop for a short break. For a long break, I'd take the Xoom.
In terms of technology, the Xoom is clearly more future proof. Samsung's Galaxy Tab is last year's model, even if it came out late last year. It runs the older Android 2.2 OS (Froyo) that's designed for phones rather than tablets. It has a single core CPU, albeit a very capable 1GHz Hummingbird CPU. It has less RAM and less internal storage. It's 3G-only, while the Xoom is supposed to get a free hardware upgrade to 4G LTE.
Countering the Xoom's many positives is the Tab's lower price sticker. When the Tab first came out, it listed as high as $649 retail with no contract, but now sells for $499 with most carriers sans contract, and $299 with contract. The Moto is $799 with no contract and $599 with a Verizon contract. Ouch. But those prices may drop, just as the Galaxy Tab's did after a few months (not much help if you want a tablet right now). And right now, there are thousands of apps that work well with 7" Android OS 2.x tablets, while there are relatively few Honeycomb-centric applications in the Android Market. Finally, while both have excellent battery life, the Tab runs the longest on a charge and outlasts even our iPad. FYI: the Tab has a 4,000 mAh Lithium Ion battery vs. the Xoom's 3250 mAh battery.
If extreme portability and price aren't important to you, but having the latest tech, a tablet OS vs. (nicely) modified phone OS and a large high resolution display get you hot and bothered, the Motorola Xoom (and perhaps upcoming 10" Galaxy Tab and LG G-Slate) are your ticket. If you want something small and don't have a lot of money to throw at your purchase, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is a solid choice. And Samsung has stated that the Tab will get a Honeycomb upgrade, but given how long it took Galaxy phone OS upgrades to make it through US carriers, I wouldn't hold my breath.
Here's our Motorola Xoom vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab comparison video: