Grab your popcorn, some Bluetooth game controllers and a few friends. It's a TV/movie/game night courtesy of Samsung's latest creation, the Galaxy View (priced at $599). This monster, 18.4-inch tablet doubles as a TV, letting you watch all your favorite streaming-video apps, including live TV shows, on one device.
Best of all, a built-in handle and stand along the back allow you to take the hybrid into places you'd rarely see a TV, such as a kitchen or bathroom. However, from the interface to the design, there are plenty of signs that this is a first-generation device.
From the front, the View looks like any other tablet, just stretched out to epic proportions. Outside of the thick bezel, the 18.4-inch display makes up the majority of the hybrid's front. Samsung added a 2.1-megapixel camera into the top bezel, just in case you want to video chat or snap an extra-large selfie.
At the top edge of the device, you'll find silver buttons for power and volume. A microUSB port and jacks for headphones and power reside along a small protrusion along the rear right side.
If you take a gander along the rear panel below the ports, you'll find a medium-size compartment hiding a slot for a microSD card (up to 128GB).
Stand and Deliver
When it comes to design, all eyes are on the View's rather unorthodox stand. Comprised of sturdy, dark-grey plastic, the curved stand is attached to the middle of the hybrid device's rear panel. The majority is covered in a raised, bricklike pattern that lends tactile and visual diversity to the overall design, while playing up the large chrome Samsung logo in the center.
A built-in handle sits above the logo. Modeled after what you'd find on a briefcase or purse, the handle is large enough to accommodate even the beefiest of hands.
The 5.86-pound, 17.8 x 10.9 x 0.47-inch tablet-TV is light enough that I felt comfortable letting my 6-year-old cousin take a turn at carrying the device from room to room. She made quick work of it, although she had to use both hands to get the job done, and the hybrid took a few knocks on the way -- suffering no damage. Samsung confirmed that while the device isn't rugged, it can take a reasonable amount of hits and dings with no ill effect.
The stand's other key feature is the hinge. The built-in device gives the Galaxy View two modes of use: a 76-degree upright mode that allows for traditional TV use, and a 17-degree incline position that makes it easier to watch television or use apps while you're lying in bed. In practice, transitioning between the two modes is seamless. You simply hold the handle and push or pull on the display with your thumb to switch positions, with the change signaled by a loud, satisfying click.
As cool as the clicking and seamless positioning is, I'm not particularly thrilled that the stand can't lay flat. That makes it hard to store when it's not in use. I would have loved if I could stow the TV on my bookcase or under my bed, but as it stands, unless it's in its box, the View will be a taking up space somewhere in your house. It's a little presumptuous on Samsung's part to assume that the View is going to take up permanent residence on my living room table, kitchen or bathroom counter.
It's not 4K, but the View's 18.4-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel display is lovely. Despite the overall darker tones of the 4K Suicide Squad trailer, there were brilliant splashes of color on the screen, such as the glimmering purple Lamborghini racing down a city street. The streetlights glinted along the metallic surface like neon dancers. Details were so crisp that I could clearly read the words "I am the light, the way" etched across actor Will Smith's collar.
When tested for its color-reproduction capabilities, the View's panel delivered 97 percent on the sRGB gamut scale, which is higher than the 92.4 tablet average. I was pleasantly surprised with the Delta-E color-accuracy score of 0.56 (0 is perfect). The panel could be brighter, though; it notched 354 nits, which is a bit below the 366-nit average.
The View's large display can comfortably accommodate three viewers when in upright or prone positions. Things get a little trickier after you add a fourth person. When my boyfriend and a couple of friends sat in front of the display, I noticed some inverse color as I relegated myself to the edge of the viewing zone.
But the View's massive display is more than a pretty panel. The 10-point capacitive touch screen is quick, responsive and accurate to boot. Swiping among screens and menus and tapping icons to launch apps is effortless.
Outfitted with a pair of rear-mounted stereo speakers, the View can easily fill a room with loud audio. But as with nearly every tablet (or television for that matter), loud doesn't necessarily mean good. Wentworth Miller's alluring voice poured out of the speakers as I watched The Flash, and played well against Grant Gustin's higher-pitched, boyish voice.
The trouble began once I listened to music. The organ intro during Maxwell's "Bad Habits (uncut)" was very brassy, so much so that it took away from the artist's seductive tenor. And while I could hear the bongos very clearly, the bass wasn't as present as were the rest of the instruments, particularly the horn section.
You have to hand it to Samsung, though. The company took special care to design the hinge in such a way that no matter what position it's in, the View's volume is unaffected. I was especially impressed while using the hybrid in bed. Despite resting atop several layers of covers and comforters, the speakers still filled my bedroom with loud, relatively clear audio.
Whether you call this device a tablet or a television, one thing's for sure -- the Samsung Galaxy View is all Android (Lollipop), albeit with a few important tweaks. Instead of the default Android home screen, the View's main screen is a 4 x 4 grid of various TV/video apps, including Hulu, Showtime Anywhere, Lifetime and Crackle. The large rectangular icons create a sort of digital quilt that's visually stimulating. Clicking on an icon will either install or launch the corresponding app.
The app layout will change depending on which program is currently in use, moving the most recently used apps to the top left. The View doesn't offer any further customization for the interface at this time, but Samsung says it will roll out that feature down the line. A small icon in the bottom left corner is there to take you to TV land at a moment's notice.
In case you want to play a game or browse the Web, a simple swipe to the left will take you to the familiar Android interface. There, you'll find the usual large analog clock with the current weather and a Google search bar at the top, and the omnipresent Recent Items, Home and Back buttons at the bottom.
The View can also be used as a digital photo frame (because, why not?) using the Family Square app. Represented by a small icon in the bottom left corner, Family Square displays your favorite photos as screen savers when the device is idle. The app can display images from National Geographic, Flickr, 500px and the Gallery app, as well as connected devices such as a smartphone or media server.
Family Square's best feature is Family Group, which let me invite members of my clan via email or phone number to join my group. It then let them add their pictures to a shared collection. It was a fun and easy way to get new images of my niece without constantly hounding my mother and brother to send me more shots.
A Day in Front of the Hybrid Tube
So now we come the hard part of this review -- what to watch. After I installed and signed into several of the apps from the TV home page, it was time to get in touch with my inner couch potato. Since I was several episodes behind on The Flash, I started with Hulu.
Once the app launched, it worked like regular Hulu; I searched for my show, picked what episode I wanted to watch and vegged out. The experience was similar with most of the other apps I tried, including Netflix, Twitch and Crackle. I switched to Live TV via the Time Warner app. (The View supports any cable or satellite provider, as long as it has an Android app.)
During the TWC app's initial launch, programs occupied three-quarters of the display, while the real-time channel guide sat in the remaining fourth. Since the app is basically an abridged version of your cable subscription, I had access to only 42 channels, such as NatGeo, Aspire and El Rey. None of the kids' networks were available, which was a shame as I could have gone for an episode of Teen Titans Go! In addition to the Channel Guide, the TWC app also gave me access to my DVR and OnDemand programming, which is a plus.
It took only 15 minutes for my normal TV habits to emerge -- namely channel hopping between commercials. Indulging my short attention span was somewhat troublesome without a remote handy. Sure, it makes sense to use your fingers with a tablet as large as the View. But, when I'm watching TV, I want to stretch out on the couch, lazily point a remote and let the magic happen. The View forces me to be a more proactive participant in my pursuit of entertainment. When satisfying my need to channel hop, I saw 2 to 3 seconds of lag when switching between channels.
I wish the View offered more-robust multiwindow support. I could use this feature with 20 preinstalled apps, such as YouTube, Gmail, and Play Movies & TV, but it's unavailable on any of the TV/video apps. It would have been nice to watch Empire and chat with friends in Google Hangouts using side-by-side windows.
People who long to play Badlands or the Android versions of the Final Fantasy series on a big screen have gotten their wish. Instead of relying on a Google Chromecast or an Android-friendly set-top box, gamers can get their fix directly on the Samsung Galaxy View.
Touch-based games such as Badlands and Fallout Shelter played smoothly. I definitely enjoyed having a surplus of screen real estate, especially when I was frantically tapping to keep my character from crashing into an obstacle.
Playing with a Bluetooth controller is pretty straightforward. S Console quickly identified the games in my library that were compatible with a Bluetooth controller while scanning for the device. Once it connected, I tapped Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and started playing. I didn't experience any difficulties, immediately going about the business of beating innocent civilians on the head with a baseball bat.
Performance: Middle of the road
In terms of performance, the Samsung Galaxy View is solidly a midlevel device. The hybrid's 1.6-GHz octa-core Samsung Exynos 7580 processor with 2GB of RAM is an able worker. I didn't experience any lag when switching among, or launching, apps. Games loaded and ran without incident. However, when we compared the View's performance to some of the smaller tablets on the market, it consistently came up short.
For example, on the Geekbench 3 benchmark, which measures overall performance, the View hit 3,426 on the multicore test. That was more than enough to top the 2,664 tablet average, as well as the Apple iPad Mini 4 (Apple A8 with M8 coprocessor), which notched 3,107. But the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 9.7-inch (1.9-GHz Exynos 5433 CPU) and the Apple iPad Air 2 (A8X Chip) trounced the View, with scores of 4,175 and 4,547, respectively.
When we measured for graphics performance, the View scored a measly 7,656 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a score that's nowhere near the 17,452 tablet average. The iPad Air 2, Tab 2 9.7 inch and iPad Mini 4 all scored above 18,000.
Samsung exercised restraint when outfitting the View with apps. As an Android device, it has your usual collection of Google apps, including Chrome, Gmail, Play Music, Maps, Photos and YouTube. You also get third-party apps such as Skype, Amazon Kindle and Adobe Acrobat. Just in case you want to get some work done, the hybrid also features the Microsoft Office apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and OneDrive.
But it wouldn't be a Samsung device without at least a few OEM-branded apps. Smart Manager gives you a quick diagnostic rundown of your tablet-TV, such as the status of your battery, storage and security, as well as the option to clean the RAM. If you happen to own a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, you can utilize the SideSync app to text, or take and receive phone calls on the View's 18.4-inch display.
Budding home chefs will want to check out the Samsung Chef Collection app, which is a series of videos and articles on recipes and cooking techniques. While some of the videos are nothing more than shills for Samsung home appliances, others, like "How to Braise and Stew" and "How to Choose the Best Potato for Your Recipe," were engaging and informative.
Samsung could have taken the easy way out and made the View outlet dependent. Instead, the company outfitted the hybrid with a 5,700-mAh lithium-ion battery. The View lasted 8 hours and 40 minutes on our battery test, which consists of continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. It's just slightly below the 8:42 category average. That means you can get a fair amount of binge watching in before you have to start searching for the hybrid's proprietary plug.
Not just a tablet, but not quite a television, the Samsung Galaxy View is somewhere between a conundrum and killer combo. You get a large Android tablet that has a lovely display, great battery life and passable performance and that does a pretty good job of aggregating all of your TV and video apps into one place. However, a smaller tablet can do pretty much all of the same things. The View is best for those who have A) plenty of disposable income and B) lots of space in their homes.
While the stand and handle attached to the View's rear add a level of portability and versatility that most televisions could only dream of, the $599 price is fairly steep. For instance, you can get a Samsung 32-inch 1080p smart TV for $267, although you can't move it easily from room to room.
Overall, the Galaxy View is an intriguing concept that could be immensely useful in the right situations. However, I'd like to see a fully collapsible hinge, a more customizable interface and more-robust multiwindow functionality before I'd put one of these devices in my house.