Samsung Galaxy Tab (AT&T) Review

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$549

Pros: Bright, high-res screen; Not locked into contract; Attractive design; Tablet-optimized apps included

Cons: 2GB monthly data cap; Slow connection speeds in NYC; No mobile hotspot feature

Verdict: AT&T's version of Samsung's Android tablet does little to distinguish itself from the others.

Now that every other major carrier has released its version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, it's only natural that AT&T has come out with its own flavor. This Android tablet is now offered on AT&T's site for $549 without a contract (down from $649 at launch). While it's nice that you're not locked into a two-year commitment and you can use the device overseas, AT&T doesn't offer much on the Tab that can't be found on the other carriers.

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Editor's Note: For a more in-depth look at the various features of the Galaxy Tab, check out our review of the Sprint version.

Design

At 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.47 inches and 13.4 ounces, the AT&T Galaxy Tab is the same size and weight as the other models. The only difference is the back: The AT&T Tab has a black checkered pattern, somewhat similar to the Verizon and T-Mobile versions; the Sprint Tab has an all-white back.

Display

The Galaxy Tab's 7-inch screen provides bright, colorful images at a high 1024 x 600-pixel resolution. Photos, games, and videos from YouTube were a pleasure to watch.

Keyboards

Like the other Galaxy Tabs, AT&T's version comes with two keyboard options: a Samsung keyboard and one from Swype, which lets you draw your finger from letter to letter to write words. One slight difference is that the area between the keys and the bottom row have a blue--rather than a gray--tint.

Performance

The AT&T Galaxy Tab has the same 1-GHz Samsung Cortez A8 Hummingbird processor as the other versions. It has 16GB of onboard memory, and can accept microSD cards up to 32GB in size.

In Linpack for Android, the AT&T Galaxy Tab scored 14, about the same as all the other Galaxy Tabs, but far below the ViewSonic G Tablet (36.55), which uses Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor. The Archos 101 scored 10.3 on the same test. On the An3DBench graphics test, the AT&T Tab scored 7,184; again, nearly identical to the other Galaxy Tabs, but well ahead of the Archos 101 (4,200) and the G Tablet (6,325).

Opening apps, swiping screens, and typing on the keyboards was for the most part swift and smooth, but we did notice a pause here and there.

Software

Unlike many other Android tablets that merely run a blown-up version of the smart phone OS, Samsung bundles several apps that are optimized for the slate's larger display. The Calendar, Contacts, E-mail, and Messaging programs have a split screen view when you use the Galaxy Tab in landscape mode, so you can see more information at once. For example, in E-mail you can see your list of messages on the left and a preview on the right. Another nice touch: You can toggle Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth right from the notification area.

Apps

Apps included with the AT&T Galaxy Tab include the standard Gallery, Google Maps, Nook eReader, QuickOffice, and YouTube, as well as Samsung's innovative Media Hub store for downloading movies and TV shows.

AT&T doesn't bring many branded apps to the table. The icon for AT&T Hotspots merely brings you to a website where you can search for that company's Hotspots. The only useful AT&T widget shows how much data you've used, and gives you the option to buy more credit.

This being an approved Android device, users have access to the full Android Market and don't have to rely on any workarounds such as Archos' AppsLib store.

The AT&T Tab has both front- and rear-facing cameras, unlike T-mobile's version, though Qik video chat isn't pre-loaded. However, the app worked with both the front and back cameras when we downloaded it. Fring also correctly activated the front-facing camera when we launched that app, but even over Wi-Fi, our video chat was marred by frequent breaks in both the audio and video.

Web Browsing

As we've found with smart phones, AT&T's wireless network isn't the best within New York City, but it improves somewhat when you get outside of Manhattan. Using Speedtest.net, we saw measly upload speeds of 92 Kbps in our office near Times Square. That's a fraction of the 1.44 Mbps rate we got with the T-Mobile version. Likewise, the AT&T Tab's download speed of 0.22 Mbps was far below the Verizon Tab's rate of 1.2 Mbps.

 UploadDownload
AT&T0.090.22
Verizon0.61.2
T-Mobile1.440.94

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as we got out of Manhattan, we saw speeds improve: In Jersey City, NJ, upload speeds increased to 140 Kbps (still not great), and download speeds jumped to 1.73 Mbps.

Likewise, when surfing the net, the mobile sites for the New York Times and ESPN took an average of 22 and 15 seconds, respectively, to load in our office. Once we got to Jersey City, the times dropped to just 12 seconds for both sites. Same with Laptopmag.com: In New York, it took an average of 47 seconds, and just 10 seconds in New Jersey.

Unlike every other carrier-supported Galaxy Tab, there's no mobile hotspot option available on AT&T's version of the tablet. Lame.

Battery Life

On the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over 3G with the screen set to 40-percent brightness, the AT&T Galaxy Tab lasted 8 hours and 10 minutes. That runtime is pretty good, but it's 20 minutes less than the T-Mobile Galaxy Tab, 8 minutes less than the Verizon Tab, and 11 minutes less than the iPad 3G.

Value and Data Plans

Like Verizon, AT&T only offers the Galaxy Tab unsubsidized for $549. This means that customers aren't saddled with a two-year contract, but it doesn't make financial sense for those who will frequently use 3G data. AT&T offers two data plans with the Galaxy Tab: 250GB for $14.99 per month, and 2GB for $25 per month. Considering that a five-minute YouTube video chews up 10MB alone, you'll want to opt for the 2GB plan.

Over two years, that plan (plus the price of the device) will cost $1,149; that's $130 more than Sprint, which offers a subsidized Tab for $299 and charges $29.99 per month for 2GB of data. The best deal for heavy data users is the T-Mobile Galaxy Tab. That version costs $399 (subsidized) with the $39.99 monthly 5GB data plan; it will set you back $1,358 over the life of the contract, but you get more than twice the data for about $200 more.

AT&T also offers two international plans, which start at $24.99 for 20MB and go up to $199.99 for 200MB. You'd really have to want to remain connected over 3G to pay those rates.

Verdict

It almost feels like AT&T released the Galaxy Tab on its network just so it wouldn't feel left behind. While it's nice that the Samsung Galaxy Tab is now available on all the major carriers, there's nothing that truly distinguishes AT&T's version from the others (unless you like paying through the nose for international data access). There are no unique apps, and it even lacks the mobile hotspot capability found on all the other versions. For those who plan to consume large amounts of data on the go, T-Mobile's 5GB plan makes the most financial sense over two years. For those with less demanding needs, Verizon offers a 1GB plan for $20 a month, which includes hotspot features for free. So while the Galaxy Tab is a very good device in and of itself, there's little reason to get it on AT&T's network.

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Author Bio
Michael A. Prospero
Michael A. Prospero, Reviews Editor
Michael A. Prospero has overseen reviews on Laptopmag.com since 2007, focusing on producing the most thorough and authoritative mobile product reviews. After receiving his Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia in 2003, Mike worked at Fast Company. Prior to that, he worked at The Times of Trenton, George and AlleyCat News.
Michael A. Prospero, Reviews Editor on
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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 1GHz Samsung Cortez A8 Hummingbird
RAM Included 2GB
RAM Upgradeable
Storage Drive Size 16GB
Storage Drive Type Flash Memory
Display Size 7
Display Resolution 1024x600
Graphics Chip
Graphics Memory
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
OS Android 2.2
Camera Resolution 3MP
Front-Facing Camera Resolution 1.3MP
Ports Headphone
USB Ports
Card Readers SIM
Card Readers microSD
Card Reader Size 32GB
Warranty / Support
Size 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.47 inches
Weight 13.4 ounces
Company Website http://www.attwireless.com