It's not a TV, it's a tablet. No wait, it's a tablet that's also a TV. Categorizations aside, Samsung is hoping to change the way you entertain yourself, starting on Nov. 6.
It’s easy to laugh off the Galaxy View ($599.99) as something that’s too big to be practical, but Samsung’s video-centric interface and the ability to easily transport this device to rooms where you can’t currently get your Empire, CNN or ESPN fix make it a very intriguing device.
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Design: On the Hinge of Greatness
Design-wise, the Galaxy View is an odd bird. Outfitted in a dark gray plastic with a distinct scale pattern, the tablet's rear panel acts as a kickstand and a handle. Secured by a sturdy hinge, extending the panel to adjust the tablet's incline felt like opening and closing a clasp on a handbag.
That makes since the tablet's handle resembles something you'd find on a nice bag or briefcase. Designed for easy viewing in almost any situation, the hinge can be quickly adjusted from upright to nearly prone. The panel is unable to lay completely flat, making it hard to stow away under a bed or in a tight space. However, that lack of flatness also eliminates the neck strain induced by staring at a flat surface for long periods of time.
From the front, the Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop)-tablet looks like any other slate device -- albeit much, much larger. It absolutely dwarfs your average tablet, but the 5.8-pound, 17.7 x 10.8 x 0.46-inch device is still smaller than both the Dell XPS 18 (5 pounds, 18.3 x 11.2 x 0.7 inches) or the Lenovo Horizon (5 pounds, 19.3 x 11.5 x 0.62 inches).
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One TV Aggregator to Rule Them All
The Galaxy View is designed primarily as a portable television to be trotted from room to room. To that end, the tablet will feature a number of popular TV and movie apps that you can easily access. During the demonstration, we saw apps for NBA GameTime, CBS, History Channel, Twitch, CNN, Hulu, HBO, Netflix and Showtime. Through partnerships with service providers, the tablet can also do live television. The Samsung representative showed off a little bit of this feature, deftly switching to the Time Warner Cable (TWC) app to watch a little bit of the news.
The show played in a box in the top right corner of the display while a real-time channel guide took up the majority of the screen. With a quick tap, the news segment went full screen. In addition to TWC, the Galaxy View will support most cable or satellite providers with Android apps including Verizon Fios, Xfinity and Direct TV. (Cablevision was notably absent, but could arrive with a future update).
Instead of poring through a ton of apps, Samsung has aggregated all your TV/Movies apps into one colorful digital patchwork, creating a easy-to-use-interface to quickly access your content. Tapping on an app will launch its respective service. The app layout will change depending on which program is currently in use. The View doesn't offer any further customization for the interface at this time, but Samsung will roll out that feature out down the line.
One feature the View lacks is picture-in-picture (PIP), which could come in handy when using a tablet. Samsung's alternative is to utilize the multi-window solution it's employed on a number of its phones and tablets. Launching the feature allowed us to watch a basketball game as well as surf the web side by side.
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Display and Audio
The Galaxy View's 18.4-inch touchpanel has a resolution of 1920 x 1080, bucking the increasingly popular trend of cramming a 4K display into everything. Samsung cited a number of reasons, such as battery life and keeping the product at a certain price point for the decision.
During our brief time with the tablet, the screen looked great. The Chicago Bulls' bright red uniforms drew the eye as the team made their way up and down the court, trying to stay ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gwen Stefani's expressive brown eyes held our gaze as she sang of love lost. Best of all, despite of its small (for a TV) screen, we felt like we were looking at a much larger display.
As a touchscreen, the large screen was quick and responsive, swiftly swiping between television shows and the Android interface. And just in case you need to do a quick video chat, the View features a 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera.
The relatively slim tablet packs some big sound. Stefani's signature soprano was front and center as we listened to "Used to Love You". When we switched to Drake's "Hotline Bling", the bass wasn't as prominent as I expected, but that might have more to do with the demo space than the tablet.
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Android to the Core
Despite the heavy emphasis on streaming and watching content, the Galaxy View is still an Android tablet. Swiping to the left from the TV interface reveals the familiar Android interface, although it's a little larger than usual. You'll still navigate using the ubiquitous Back, Home and Recent Items buttons at the bottom of the display.
In addition to your television apps, using Android means that you can also access all your games and apps for use on a bigger screen. While this should be awesome for reading, it will do wonders for fans of Android games like Badlands or Clash of Clans. The tablet will have the ability to do multiplayer games and support Bluetooth controllers, which should come in handy for titles such as Tomb Raider I, Knights of the Old Republic and Portal.
When it ships on November 6, the Wi-Fi version of the Samsung Galaxy View will ship with a 1.6-GHz octa-core processor with 2GB of RAM and support Bluetooth 4.1. The company will offer 32 and 64GB options for storage, but if that's not enough, a small panel beneath the hinge has a microSD slot allowing consumers to expand their storage with a 128GB card.
Samsung claims that the tablet can last up to 8 hours of continuous viewing on a charge. The company will also be offering a LTE version of the View, thoughr neither pricing nor availability have been announced.
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Not quite a television or a tablet, the Samsung Galaxy View is trying to give consumers the best of both worlds. I was skeptical at first, but after the demo I feel like Samsung is on to something. The device is light enough to be carried from room to room, particularly to those space where you normally wouldn't find a cable box. The display is lovely and combined with the powerful audio creates the illusion of using a larger panel. The interface is pretty straightforward, and using Samsung's multiwindow feature lets you approximate a picture-in-picture experience..
You can get any number of smart TVs (Samsung included) that have similar features with larger screens, but you can’t really take those display from room to room - or across the country. We do wish that the hinge could lay flat for easier storage, especially if you're entertaining the notion of traveling with the device. (A special case is on the way.) We also wish you could customize the grid interface yourself out of the box; that’s going to come later.
Not everyone wants a TV-like experience in every room. But overall the Galaxy View looks like a bold new step into a new category of devices.