Update: See notes about wifi below. I’m still having problems.
I haven’t been keeping a close eye on Galaxy Tab firmware updates as I’ve been very happy with the stability but, in preparation for V2.3 which appears to be confirmed, I took the chance to set up Kies, the Samsung phone/tablet management software this evening. I downloaded and installed the latest firmware for my region and ended up with an update to the ‘JMG’ version which dates from late March.
Interestingly, it did more than I thought it would.
The AllShare DNLA app seems to be updated (although it still doesn’t work with my Vista-based media center,) the Gmail app is updated to the latest version (supporting some great new features) and there’s a new Social Hub application. At least I think it’s new on my Tab!
More importantly though. The device is working more smoothly. it could be that a firmware re-build has deleted all the cache and temp files but there’s one other test that proves it’s more than just a clean-up. DrumKit is an application I use to test the touch latency of the Tab and other Android devices. It has steadily been getting better over time through developer optimisations but I have never seen it this responsive. It’s far from perfect (actually far from usable in any serious manner) due to the delay that still exists but it’s noticeably better. Version 2.3 has specific enhancements for touch responsiveness so it will be very interesting to see how it improves with the big 2.3 upgrade.
Other things I’ve noticed (that may or may not be new!) Take a look at the new Sunspider result.
The application library seems to be sorted by alphabet. (Or was it originally, with new apps just being added to the end of the list?) Update: No changes there.
My Wifi connectivity didn’t come up as default. Despite settings being saved it switched to 3G data. Update: It dropped my Wifi connection a few times while I wrote this article. That’s not good. Update 2 – After 2 hrs my wifi seems stable. Could be because 2 members of the family with 3 wifi devices have left the room. Will continue to monitor this. Update 3 – it dropped again and locked into 3g mode.
All screen layouts, widget setups were lost
Am I seeing a few new widgets? Date,Time,Weather â€“ Dual Clock? Not too interesting though.
Fonts â€“ Look smoother. Maybe the font even changed slightly. I noticed it when I went into WordPress. I’m also seeing some changes in color to improve contrast in some pre-installed apps. Calendar for example.
Sunspider 0.91 â€“ Using Dolphin Browser â€“ 5948ms.
Quadrant – 1007 (Original result 1050) The I/O part of the Quadrant result is still very poor.
Benchmark Pi â€“ 1423ms â€“ (Original result 1387) Slight slow-down.
Linpack â€“ 6.07 (Original result 5.94) Slight slow-down.
Readers Hub new design. (Clearly I need to update the apps within it though and that wood effect still looks very plastic to me!)
I’m sure there are more changes under the skin too and many more aesthetic changes I haven’t seen yet. Maybe, however, you’ve already got these features. My Tab was an original from the first batch and has only seen one firmware update since launch and of course, while these updates are welcome, it’s Gingerbread we’re really waiting for right?
There’s something psychological that makes big-screen devices seem faster than comparable small-screen devices and the Tab benefits from that. Web-pages fill at an impressive rate, applications start up without reaching that ‘has it crashed’ thought and video playback starts and jumps without any delay at all. If there’s one thing negative that we noticed though it was the very typical ‘locking’ of a multi-tasking device. You’ll notice it the first time it happens and it will grate on you every time it happens again. The more apps you load, the more it’s likely to happen. It’s multitasking life! Android has a noticeable touch lag too it and needs to be reduced to match the class-leading touch ‘physics’ of the iPad. Electronic musicians will probably want to stick with the iPad for the time begin. Overall we’re happy that we’ve got a device that performs to its class-leading price although it won’t be long before multi-core platforms make this seem out of date. Our initial tests on Tegra 2 devices show a big step-change in CPU and graphics performance but for the first half of 2011, the Galaxy Tab should remain competitive.
One of the most-used all-round tests for Android devices is the Quadrant application.
The Galaxy Tab scores 1050 in this result (we saw results range from 900 to 1100) and there’s a good CPU score from the stock firmware. 3D performance also seems good although I/O performance is on the low side. We’re hearing that there are some hacks that improve this.
Linpack measures floating point performance in Mega-FLOPS (Millions of FLoating point OPerations per Second.) The Galaxy Tab measured 14.1. For comparison, our Toshiba AC100,a dual-core Cortex A9 device (Tegra 2) scored only 11.27 but we suspect it was running only a single thread (one core used.)
The commonly used Pi test was completed in 1387ms which is a good score for a Cortex A8 implementation at 1Ghz
3D Performance (NeoCore)
The Neocore result of 53.5 FPS is very good and highlights that the PowerVR SGX540 in the platform is one of the most powerful out there at the moment. We tried to run the Neocore test on the AC100, Tegra2 platform, but the test is clearly not supporting the Tegra2 graphics.
We’ve had no issues with 3G connectivity since we got the Tab over 3 weeks ago. Reception is always strong and our data throughput rates always good. In a cellar-based test of three phones, the Galaxy Tab was able to train to the HSDPA (3.5G) standard. A Nokia N82 got UMTS (3G) but our Sony Ericsson X10 could only train to the GSM standard. Our cellar-based studio is a tough test for any 3G radio and we rarely see any devices getting 3G. In a second test we saw the Galaxy Tab drop to the GSM standard while the Nokia N82 retained 3G so clearly the Tab is not class-leading but in general, it gives respectable results.
3G video calling (European UMTS standard) worked well with the front cam providing a fair experience. We haven’t extensively tested GSM voice performance but we certainly haven’t had any problems either with loudspeaker use or headset use. We tested the Tab as a primary phone for a week. Note that the Galaxy Tab can’t be used against the ear because there is no low-volume earpiece. Speaker at low volume can be used with the device rotated through 180 degrees.
Note that the SIM card (GSM/UMTS versions) can be live-swapped but removing a SIM sends the device into a (graceful) reboot. Inserting a SIM does the same.
Storage/SD card performance
We tried a few SD card read/write tests from the market but results varied from a minimum of 2MB/s write speed to 6MB/s write speed on the internal memory. In a large file transfer we measures 4.5MB/s write speed to the internal storage and a 7.4MB/s rate to the SD card (Class 6 Transcend 8GB card.) Buying a fast SD card might be worthwhile for storing applications and data.
We don’t have the facilities to properly test the speakers or headphone output quality so we’ll have to give you our ear-test results. We can’t find anything to worry about! The built-in speakers are top quality for a device of this size and beat many laptops and netbooks we’ve tested. Our Viliv S7 is the only device we have that sounds better. As for headphones, again, the quality is good and free of any background noise.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab supports wireless printing but we haven’t been able to test this yet. If/when we do, this section of the review will be updated.
We’ve been testing the Galaxy Tab for over 3 weeks now and we’re confident to say that you’ll have trouble running this device flat in anything under 6 hours. Our most extreme test was in-car using 3G with the screen on running Google Navigation. The projected battery life in this scenario was 6 hours. Maybe turning on the 3G router and playing music could have brought the battery life down further but it would be an unlikely scenario.
Expect 12-18hours of usage if you’re using the device for up to about 6 hours per day with Wifi or 3G connectivity for general activities. With the occasional 10-20 minutes usage for 5/6 times per day, you can expect over 2 days use before charging. With the screen off, the device will run, connected to Wifi, for many days (Samsung quote a 3G standby time of 1500 hours) and if you’re just playing back MP3s with the screen off, we see again, multiple days usage.
Talk time is quoted as 16.5 hours which is a good indication of battery life streaming audio over 3G (screen off.)
Video playback time is estimated at 7 hours (medium brightness)
When the screen is off, the Galaxy Tab is a Galaxy S smartphone with three times the battery capacity. With the screen on you can expect significant drain. We estimated that an idle device with screen on full would drain flat in under 15 hours.
3G Router performance.
In a test of battery life we set the device up as a 3G hotspot, turned the backlight off and used it via our laptop’s wifi connection about 30cm away. After 30 mins, the battery life had dropped 4%. After 2hours with 2 external WiFi devices, radio streaming, web usage and the Tab also using the connection, the battery life dropped by 15%. We’re confident that you’ll get 10hrs out of the device in this ‘hotspot’ mode; Probably a lot more.
A bandwidth test indicated 2.5Mbps down and 1.2mbps up (indoors) which is more than acceptable. There’s no heat build-up.
We found a generic netbook/umpc car mount solution (see here for details) and tested the Galaxy Tab in the car. While you’ll have to be careful of reflections (mount high and angle towards driver usually solves the issue) you won’t have to worry too much about speaker volume, GPS quality and usability. We found the Tab an excellent solution with 3G and Google Navigation and made a demo video which is included below. More images in the gallery. Information about the official Samsung car mount below. We’re hoping that Samsung introduces an in-car application for the docking station but we haven’t seen any evidence of it yet.
Heat and noise.
During all of our tests we haven’t detected any significant heat on the device and as the device is free of any moving parts, it’s silent.
We know the lay of the land round here in terms of WiFi so it’s always easy to see how good any WiFi antenna is. We’re seeing very good results from the Galaxy Tab in terms of reception. In a walk-away outdoor test from our hotspot we got very cold before the Wifi dropped out. (It’s very good)
Wifi connections were fast to establish.
Throughput speeds over our Wifi-N hotspot have been excellent with a speedtest clocking in at over 10Mbps. Note though that application transfer speeds depend a lot on the processing performed by the client. For example, with an FTP transfer from another continent ran well at 4mbps, the SFTP transfer of the same file from the same server was less than one tenth as fast. Encrypted IP connections (E.g. SCP, HTTPS, VPN, RDP) will be affected.
The Galaxy Tab includes a Bluetooth 3.0 module but as this is the only device we have with BT 3.0, we can’t test the new features that include the negotiation of a Wifi data transfer. We tested A2DP, headset profile, file transfer (to the Galaxy Tab from a Nokia N82), file transfer (from the Galaxy Tab to a laptop) and saw that DUN, Object Push, OBEX File Transfer and a headset gateway service were available on the Tab. We tried DUN from our laptop but couldn’t get it to work. We’re happy using the 3G router function on the Tab to connect via Wifi though so didn’t spend much time trying to get it to work.
Over the last three weeks we’ve seen a few lock-ups that have lasted more than 10 seconds. Most of these resulted in an error message and an offer to close the offending application. We saw one lock-up which needed a reboot. This occurred after some testing of the haptics and sound settings for notifications. Reset requires a long, 10-second, press of the power button. In comparison to other phones and computers, we don’t see the Galaxy Tab as having any major stability problems. As we mentioned before, the more applications you load, the more change you will have of bugs, lock-ups and other issues.
Memory and process management.
The Galaxy Tab has 512MB of RAM with 440MB available for use. We’ve never knowingly had any sort of memory problem on the Galaxy Tab and the RAM manager always seems to show 100MB free at any time. Note that Android aims to keep as much in memory as possible so don’t be alarmed at the 340MB usage rate. Samsung’s application manager application permits the user to free up memory in two stages. We tested it but haven’t had an cause to use it yet.
More critical is CPU availability, especially when running multiple applications. Again, the Samsung application manager gives you a good indication of usage with the widget turning red when it detects what could be runaway CPU usage. Viewing and killing foreground applications is a simple process.
You’ll rarely have to boot-up the device although a SIM swap does require two of them. We powered up to the homescreen on a 3-week old build in 40 seconds.
We’re not quite sure how firmware will be updated on the Galaxy Tab. There doesn’t appear to be an over-the-air configuration so we can only imagine it will be done using PC-based software.
At the time of writing, none of the official Samsung accessories are available but pricing and images are.
We suspect that many people will be looking at the docking station which provides HDMI and analogue audio out, charging and a USB connection for connectivity with a PC. We don’t see any USB OTG support but we’ve ordered a docking station just to be sure! Street price: 37 Euro.
The keyboard dock will solve the problem of adding a Bluetooth or USB keyboard but at a price of about 90 Euros, doesn’t come cheap. The dock can charge the Tab, provide 3.5mm audio output and has a USB port for PC connectivity.
For the car, you’ll be looking for a mount and a 12V adaptor. The mount, at a street price of 52 Euros, includes everything you need including a 12v adaptor. There’s also an audio out port. Considering how good our experience was with Google Navigation (above) we’d certainly recommend this for people in countries with Google Navigation coverage and a suitable data connection. (Note: Google Navigation can be used offline, without a data connection, as long as the route is planned and started before leaving a Wifi hotspot connection. No re-routing is possible when offline.)
The leather case, at 35 Euro street price, looks good too.
During the final stages of writing this review a silicon case turned up from Handy Heaven (via Amazon Germany here) at â‚¬5.99 including delivery, we think it’s a must-have. It fits well, has cut-outs for ports, protects the vulnerable back-side and provides a huge improvement in grip. Quite how long it will last before it gets dusty, dirty and stretches we don’t know but at this price, order a few of them! There are plenty of other 3rd-party solutions coming into the market though so have a look around.
Before we summarise the Galaxy Tab and draw a line on this three-part review, let’s talk briefly about the things we think that aren’t so good about the Galaxy Tab.
Slippery finish â€“ The plastics and finish on the Galaxy Tab are top-class and there’s a useful fingerprint-rejecting layer on the device too. You’ll still need to wipe it down occasionally but thanks to the coating, it’s easy. The downside of this super-smooth surface is that if it’s cold and dry, the Tab is very slippery. The silicon case mentioned above solves the problem.
USB OTG â€“ Bluetooth keyboards and mice are good but when the battery runs out on these accessories, it would be nice to be able to plug in a standard keyboard and mouse using USB On-The-Go support. Plugging in USB or powered hard drives for extra storage would have also been nice.
Micro USB charging â€“ The 30-pin connector keeps the port count low but considering that mobile phones, in Europe at least, are moving towards the micro-usb standard, we would have liked to have seen it on the Galaxy Tab. Buying a second charging cable is almost a must although we like the idea of using the docking station as a charging point.
USB charging from PCs is slow â€“ With a battery that is 3X the size of a smartphone battery you have to expect it to take longer over the restricted current available on a USB port. 8 to 9 hours is to be expected and if you’re using the device heavily, you’ll run the battery down faster than a USB port can charge it. The supplied adaptor provides well over 1000ma of current. We tested charging on a few battery packs with USB but neither of them managed to trigger the fast-loading that the supplied chargers is capable of. The supplied charger completes charing in about 3.5hrs
Camera quality â€“ From the screen to the CPU, everything on the Galaxy Tab feels leading-edge, apart from the camera. The 3.2MP auto-focus implementation isn’t bad but it’s behind the quality we’ve seen on Samsung phones over the last year. 5.0MP with 720p recording would have brought it up to standard. We do like the camera software, speed and huge, huge ‘viewfinder’ though.
App styling â€“ While the Samsung applications are functional and worth using, they’re not exactly pretty.
AC3 support â€“ We’re surprised to see that the Galaxy Tab can’t decode and down-mix an AC3audio track. Maybe the audio appears as raw AC3 on the HDMI port but if you’re using the speakers or headphones, you’ll hear nothing. We hope that Samsung pays attention to this because if you’re looking at the Galaxy Tab as a serious PMP, you’ll get tripped up time and time again with AC3 and AAC multi-channel soundtracks. MP3 and AAC 2-channel stereo works fine.
Incompatible applications â€“ Samsung said from day one that they expect 90% of applications to work without a problem. We’ve seen a number of applications that work in a windowed WVGA mode and some that don’t work at all. We expect slightly more than 90% of applications to work but if there’s an application that it critical to you, it would pay to have it checked out. (Our forum members can help)
Android video application support â€“ The front facing cam can be used for 3G video calling but it doesn’t seem to register well with Android video applications. We weren’t able to get UStream or QIK broadcasting working which is a shame because it would make a very compact and long-lasting low-end broadcast unit.
Price â€“ The 799 Euro recommended retail price is too high and we think there’s universal agreement about that but 2-months after the price was announced, we’re seeing prices closer to 600 Euro than 800 Euro. At the current street price of 649 Euro we think the Galaxy Tab provides enough features to justify the price but it’s up to the end-user to decide how that feature profile fits their requirements. We do, however, expect prices to drop further and expect sub 599 prices in the early part of 2011. If Samsung commit to upgrading the Galaxy Tab to Android 2.3 (we’ve heard that one Samsung representative has confirmed this) then the device will represent even better value.
Our Galaxy Tab product page on Carrypad always shows a list of 10 comparable devices (based on screen size) so check it out for the latest device alternatives.
It’s been 3 weeks since we started testing the Galaxy Tab for this review and in that time we’ve seen no real showstoppers. Quality is high and the extensive feature list still impresses us. It’s one of the best truly converged mobile internet devices we’ve seen and Android allows it to be used in a flexible way. We’ve also heard from Galaxy Tab customers in our forum and there’s a unanimous agreement that it’s a great device. Having said that, no-one really needs it. Like the iPad, it’s a luxury item that brings together existing capabilities from other products and combines them well in a stylish package. Netbooks and smartphones allow you to do more than the Galaxy Tab does but it’s the convenience factor that really makes it special. We’ve long been proponents of the three-device strategy [image from 2008] and we think the Galaxy Tab fits in better than any other device we’ve tested. As for price, well, you’ve got the facts nowâ€¦it’s up to you.
Streak is part of a portfolio of tablets. We should expect to hear about the next product before CES (Jan 2011)
The upgrade to Android 2.1 is planned for October
The upgrade to 2.2 (Froyo) is planned for November
The Wifi-only version is no longer planned
While 2.1 will be a nice jump it’s 2.2 that will bring the real changes. Not only are there good changes to apps, features and settings but there’s also 2 core differences to note. Firstly, Android 2.2 includes a new ‘just in time’ (JIT) compiler that speeds up Android applications considerably. Secondly, 2.2 is the first version of Android that includes optimisations for the ARM v7 architecture. That means that CPUs based on it (Cortex, Snapdragon etc.) operate more quickly and efficiently.
Froyo (Android V2.2) on the Dell Streak will be a second- for the device and if Dell sneak in a little price drop you’ve got to consider this as one of the best mini tablets going. We’ve requested a review sample for testing when 2.2 is available so stay tuned.
In our meeting with Samsung today they came clean about pricing. We also heard about the CPU, some Samsung Market information and got a look at the accessory pack.
Pricing is indeed 799 Euro. This is, however, ‘u.v.p’ which is the same as ‘recommended retail price.’ What this means is that Samsung have built in a big pricing buffer that their customers (the carriers and resellers) can play with. We’re expecting street prices to be way lower than this and we saw a few nods when we mentioned 500 Euros. I get the impression we’re going to see early pricing hit 700 immediately and then a decline to the 600 mark over the next 3 months. Yes, the Galaxy Tab is expensive, but not as expensive as we first thought. Note: German pricing includes 19% tax. 670 Euros is the pre-tax price.
If we’re lucky, Viewsonic will get that truly comparable, although not as sweet, Viewpad 7 out for 399 Euro and make Samsung think twice! 400 certainly seems the right price point for a full 3G, GPS, compass, capacitive touch equipped consumer Android tablet.
Note about the O2 price mentioned in the video (via Twitter) – beware, it could be a contract for the hardware only. O2 Germany usually offer all their mobile devices in separate hardware / call / data contracts. That would bring the cost of the device to 759 Euros – not the cheap deal it might seem.
On the Samsung Market: It sits alongside the Google Market and offers developers a channel for Galaxy specific apps to be built for the device. Samsung will launch a promo campaign for this shortly.