The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 launches in New York next week and around the rest of the country the following week. I got a chance to meet with Samsung VP Gavin Kim to talk about the tablet at our reader meetup in New York last night. You can check out a brief interview and overview of the tablet after the break.
On paper, the Tab 10.1 looks like nearly every other Honeycomb tablet. It has a 10.1 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel display and a 1 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor. But it’s the thinnest and lightest 10 inch tablet around, and you kind of have to feel it to understand just what that means.
Sure, it measures just 8.6mm thick which makes it look really slick. But the most important thing is that it weighs just about 1.25 pounds without feeling cheap. I wouldn’t want to drop the tablet from a great height, but I don’t feel like it’s going to break in half if I look at it the wrong way. But it’s lighter than an iPad, and doesn’t feel much heavier than a paperback book when you hold it in one hand.
One problem that I had with the Motorola XOOM was that the 1.6 pound tablet really felt like it was meant to be held with two hands in landscape mode — but in many situations, it seems more natural to hold a tablet with one hand in portrait mode. While the widescreen display on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is clearly best used in landscape orientation, the tablet doesn’t feel nearly as off-balance as the XOOM when you hold it in one hand, thanks to the light weight.
That said, I still find a smaller tablet such as the 7 inch HTC Flyer or the original Galaxy Tab easier to hold in one hand. But neither of those tablets has a 1280 x 800 pixel display or an NVIDIA Tegra processor optimized for games such as Samurai II: Vengeance.
One other key difference between the Samsung and Motorola tablets? The XOOM has a non-working SD card slot. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 simply doesn’t have an SD card slot. You’ll buy a model with 16GB or 32GB of storage and you’ll like it (or complain about it… or use a WiFi hard drive with it).
In my relatively brief hands-on, the tablet felt responsive and the display looked excellent. The version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 that will ship initially in the US will feature the standard Android 3.1 user experience. In the coming weeks or months Samsung will offer an over-the-air update adding the company’s Touchwiz and Media Hub software.
I spotted one tablet last night running a very early (and somewhat buggy) build of Touchwiz, and it actually looked kind of nice. I’m not usually a big fan of software designed to run on top of Google Android and replace standard user interface elements, but the ability to pull up and app-switcher by dragging from the bottom of the screen instead of tapping an on-screen button is quite nice.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 also has a software keyboard that’s a little bit better than the stock Android keyboard, thanks to larger keys that make the ten-finger touch typing a little easier.
Speaking of touch typing, Samsung will be offering an optional case for the tablet which includes a flap that can be used as a sort of kick-stand, propping up the tablet at a comfortable typing angle. The case is also designed so that it doesn’t add much thickness to this super-slim tablet.
Samsung will be offering two different color options. While the front of the tablet is all glossy black glass, the back will be available in white or gray.
The white model has a shiny plastic look, but the gray model has a brushed metal finish which makes it feel a bit sturdier and which may help you keep a grip on the tablet.
Overall I’m pretty impressed with what Samsung has accomplished. The June 8th launch at a single store in New York feels a bit like a gimmick designed to let the company keep its promised ship date while offering only a handful of tablets on day one, and shipping the tablet without its final software just seems like a bad idea. But that said, the hardware is pretty amazing. It’s thin, light, fast, and attractive.
I should have a demo unit in my hands next week and I’ll share more information once I’ve had a chance to test it out more extensively. But I think the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 may be the 10 inch tablet to beat right now.
You can check out my demo video with Gavin Kim and find more photos below.