An alternative to the iPad?

After apple launched the iPad in February this year there’s been much talk about competitors coming to market but it’s really only now that a serious alternative is available and that’s Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.

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Published: Sat 13 Nov 2010, 11:45 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:52 AM

Samsung has a remarkable job with the hardware. The 7-inch Tab feels surprisingly heavy to hold and the size is just small enough that you can use it and hold it in one hand, at least in portrait orientation. If you turn it to landscape you need both hands to hold it and use it.

Although it’s plastic all around it doesn’t feel cheap and it seems well put together as things fit well without gaps. The front is dominated by the 1,024 x 600 pixel display, which is surprisingly bright and sharp. There’s also a front-facing camera for video calls, as well as four touch buttons below the display. On the back you find a 3-megapixel camera for photos and video as well as a flash. You won’t get any great looking photos out of the Tab but it’s good enough in a pinch.All of this is powered by a 1GHz processor working with 512MB RAM. There’s 16GB of storage memory built-in and you can add another 32GB by inserting a MicroSD card. Wi-Fi is there as well as 3G and the Tab takes a regular-sized SIM card, not the small MicroSIM you will find in iPad. Performance is very good: I only experienced some jerkiness and general slowdowns when browsing some Web sites, typically ones with Flash animations on them.

My concerns about the Tab start with the software. It runs Android 2.2, the latest version of the smartphone software. And there can be little doubt that it’s meant for phones and not tablets. It even says “About phone,” not “About tablet.”

The larger screen is also not something Android is adjusted for yet. Samsung has done a good job working on their own versions of many apps, including Calendar and Memo, which work well with the larger screens but many apps will not. And since Android Market is not installed on Tabs sold in the UAE and alternatives like SlideMe are not good enough in terms of what is offered, you’re basically stuck with what there is. To pay Dhs 3,199 for a very powerful tablet, onto which you can’t really put any of the many great Android apps that exist, is such a shame.

There are also things that are confusing, with two e-reader apps and two email apps, for example. Bottom line in terms of software is that Android needs to grow up and hopefully with the upcoming Android 3.0 we’ll see an operating system better suited for the tablet form factor.

For now, Samsung Galaxy Tab is a good alternative to iPad, and in many ways it’s just as good or better than Apple’s offering. That is, provided you can get a Tab, which has Android Market on it. If not, the high price and the problems you’ll face with finding and installing apps, makes it hard to recommend anyone to buy it.

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