Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (Google I/O edition) hands-on

Google I/O (Google's annual developer conference) attendees in San Francisco got a very nice surprise this week, a shiny new limited edition Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to take away with them. Of course Pocket-lint was on hand to grab a hands-on with the new slightly tweaked model, over the one we previously played with at US mobile trade show CTIA.

The big differences are the ditching of Samsung TouchWiz layer giving you a pure "Google experience" and a new back plate so you can show you that you're special. 

Out of the box and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (remember this is a different design to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1V) is the Honeycomb tablet most likely to be mistaken for an iPad. In fact several passers by asked how we liked our new iPad as we were using the Tab.

Design wise it has a similar sleek silver design (the limited edition version from the Google I/O conference that we looked at has a design of little grey and white droids on the back) and is a very similar size.

It's not exactly the same - the Tab 10.1 sports a 16:9 screen ratio that it’s a little longer than the iPad, and it's actually some 25g lighter if we are getting picky, and that screen ratio and the slightly-off centre positioning of the battery means it looks and feels a little larger and less balanced. Still a quick glance will make you wonder which one you are looking at.

The oversized power button and volume control are on the top edge of the screen (although it auto-rotates at the slightest twist of your wrist, almost too readily), along with the headphone socket (and the extreme thinness of the Tab makes the socket look unusually large). Tiny speakers are on either side and the sound is reasonably good, although we certainly noticed distortion at high volumes.

On the bottom is a proprietary Samsung USB port (and it’s not the same proprietary Samsung USB port as their MP3 players or any other Samsung devices we’ve had our hands on lately). And that’s it; no SD card socket or USB port, no HDMI connector (and as this is a Wi-Fi-only version, no SIM card socket).

Google is obviously hoping you’ll use services like the new Music Beta (US-only) to get content.

You can plug it into your PC but when so many other tablets and smartphones make it easier to load content that seems beyond minimalist.

The screen is extremely, almost excessively shiny and we had significant problems with reflection if we tried turning the brightness down; turn off the power saving ambient light sensor and you get a bright and very colourful screen that’s much easier to see (but that uses up rather more battery - a quarter of the battery life gone in under 2 hours). Pictures and video look vivid and saturated.

The 3 megapixel camera on the back is a little slower than we’d like to focus and to adjust the white balance (indoors we saw a yellow cast until the automatic adjustments kicked in) and with such a large image to paint on-screen, live preview can show a clear lag if you move the tab around.

When you take your photo it’s reasonable quality although it’s odd to have a camera app (not the standard Honeycomb one) that lets you set the white balance but not zoom in or out.

The Google I/O version of the Tab doesn’t have Samsung's TouchWiz UX interface; this is a "Google Experience" tablet with the stock Honeycomb interface, including Honeycomb versions of apps like Google Maps and the new Music Beta interface and just a couple of extra apps.

Samsung Apps is a store, currently with nothing but some strange Korean apps; Pulse is a news aggregator that’s nicely designed for the tablet form factor (many Android apps don’t scale up well, so it’s good to have something that shows it off) and there’s the ubiquitous 7digital Music Store.

The size of the screen has some drawbacks - the keyboard is overly large in landscape mode - and you're getting all the advantages and disadvantages of Honeycomb, on a high performance tablet (thanks to the Nvidia Tegra 2 Dual Core processor).



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