Powerful front-facing speakers; Bright display; Smart Remote app for controlling TV ; Free 50GB of Dropbox storage for one year; Long battery life
Charges slowly; Mediocre camera
A bright display, long battery life and a smart remote make Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 a compelling and affordable choice.
With the original Galaxy Tab 10.1, Samsung had a pretty good thing going: It was thin, lighter than the iPad 2, and had strong speakers. But technology never stands still, which is why Samsung added smart remote capability for controlling your TV, as well as a microSD card slot, all while lowering the price by $100. Now just $399 for the 16GB version, the Tab 2 10.1 is a definite improvement over the original, but has Samsung done enough to stay ahead of the Android competition?
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Instead of the all-black aesthetic common to many touchscreen devices, we like the silver plastic back and gray plastic edges of the Tab 2 10.1.
Like the New iPad, the Tab 2 10.1 is both thicker and heavier than the previous version (1.28 pounds, compared with 1.24 pounds), but the difference in both cases is minimal. It's slightly smaller and lighter than the ASUS Transformer TF300 (1.4 pounds, 10.4 x 7.1 x 0.38 inches).
The placement of the speakers, IR transmitter, and webcam (along the long edge of the bezel) indicate that, unlike the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, this 10-inch version is meant to be held in landscape, not portrait mode.
With an average brightness of 424 lux, the Tab 2 10.1 far outshone the TF300 (331 lux) as well as the Android tablet average (351 lux) and the new iPad (386 lux).
Having the speakers on the front of the Tab 2 10.1, as opposed to the edges or back, makes a big difference. Whether we were listening to music or watching a movie, it was nice to have sound directed at us. While there will always be an element of tinniness in speakers this small, we noticed good depth and detail in songs, from Bruce Springsteen's "Tunnel of Love" to Jay-Z's "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)."
We only wish the physical volume buttons were within easier reach of our left or right hand, instead of being on the top.
Google voice typing is also included for those who prefer to dictate their missives.
Software and Interface
Samsung TouchWiz adds small flourishes with big impact. We continue to be fans of the arrow icon in the bottom system bar, which calls up helpful Mini Apps such as Calculator, Alarms, Email and Task Manager that open above the currently opened app. You can have up to seven apps in the system bar, but you can't use it for third-party apps.
The Notifications Box on the right side of the bottom system bar also has some TouchWiz tweaks. A large clock sits at the top, along with a Quick Settings box seen in most Galaxy S II phones. Scrolling to the left reveals a number of settings, including Wi-Fi, Airplane Mode and Bluetooth. Display Brightness and Settings are located beneath Quick Settings with space for other notifications underneath.
Overall, we like the look of the ICS/TouchWiz combination on the Tab 2 10.1, but with the app button, notifications menu, Mini Apps tray and multiple home screens, there's quite a lot to process versus the more straightforward iOS on the iPad.
On An3DBench, a graphics test, the Tab 2 10.1 scored 6779 to the TF300's 7,705. The category average is 7,194, and the older Tab 10.1 scored 7,526.
Still, the Tab 2 10.1 was speedy when opening apps and flipping through home screens. We rarely, if ever saw a slowdown or pause, even when we were surfing the Web with Pandora playing in the background.
Our configuration of the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 came with 16GB of internal storage, which can be expanded to 48GB using the microSD card slot.
Google and Third-Party Apps
Although Samsung has done a pretty good job here creating a mini ecoystem, it's fighting an uphill battle versus Amazon, which lets you purchase everything from games and movies to books and music using a single account most people already have. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 gives you more choice but also a bit more complexity. For example, to download apps from the Samsung App store, you'll first have to create a Samsung account, in addition to the main Google account on the tablet.
The third-party app selection on Android tablets continues to be a mixed bag. While some apps look great on larger screens (such as Netflix and "Angry Birds Space"), others are just stretched-out phone apps (Pandora, Facebook).
Our favorite Smart Remote feature is its ability to learn our preferred programs. After choosing several genres and shows, Smart Remote began suggesting shows and movies from the channel guide. It's a lot more personal than Logitech's Harmony Link.
Unfortunately, the Peel app seems less stable than when we tested it previously. For example, when we pressed the power button to turn off our TV, cable box, and stereo simultaneously, the app would crash.
Camera and Camcorder
Outdoor photos weren't much better as the edges of objects such as buildings and trees seemed a bit hazy, even on a sunny day. Images taken in direct sunlight were fairly colorful, but not particularly sharp and those taken in a shady area were darker than we'd expect.
The front-facing VGA camera was even worse. We saw many more artifacts when we turned the camera on ourselves.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 should last you all day long. When we ran the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 40 percent brightness, the Galaxy Tab 2 lasted an epic 9 hours and 59 minutes. By comparison, the TF300 lasted 7 hours on Balanced mode; the tablet category average is 6:51.
One of our pet peeves about the Tab 2 10.1 is how slowly it charged. At one point, it had charged only 6 percent after 25 minutes. We found things moved quicker, though, when the screen was turned off.
However, the Asus ASUS Transformer TF300 offers faster quad-core performance and offers twice the internal storage for the same price. Plus, the TF300 can double as a mini laptop when you add the optional keyboard. Then again, the Tab 2 10.1 has a brighter display, longer battery life and better sound in a thinner, lighter design.
It all comes down to what you value most, but the new Tab is certainly one of the top mid-range Android tablets.
|CPU||1.2-GHz Dual Core|
|Storage Drive Size||16GB|
|Storage Drive Type||Flash Memory|
|Display Resolution||1280 x 800|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution||VGA|
|Card Reader Size||32GB|
|Warranty / Support|
|Size||10.1 x 6.9 x 0.38 inches|