2011 is the year of the tablet PC. If, by the end of this year, you’re still using a laptop or a netbook for your mobile computing then you will very definitely be behind the times.
Having said that, only now is the tidal wave of tablet PCs starting to hit South African shores, led by Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. I spent some time with a Galaxy Tab over the past week to see how it suited my lifestyle.
First impressions are that the Tab is very attractive and pretty small. It’s more like an oversized mobile phone than a tablet PC, which is not necessarily bad because it fits very easily in the hand.
This little 7-inch mobile device is almost exactly the same size as a Moleskine leather-bound notebook. Until I started using the Tab, a Moleskine notebook was one item I never left home without. Now, I occasionally forget the notebook but always take the Tab.
One of the chief objections most reviewers have had to the Tab is that it only has a 7-inch screen. They all argue that the 10 inches provided by the iPad is the only way to go. Frankly, I prefer the 7-inch variety, but it does depend on what you really want to do with your tablet PC.
I do find the 7-inch screen a little small for browsing the web. Flipping it sideways does give a little more width but then you sacrifice a huge amount of viewing height. Clearly a 10-inch screen would give you much more comfortable viewing and the long-portrait shape of the Tab screen really lends itself to portrait and not landscape viewing.
The smaller size doesn’t bother me, however. I tend not to spend huge amounts of time browsing the web on the Galaxy Tab. I prefer my big-screen desktop PC for that. I do occasionally look up something on a website but most of my news reading is done through Google Reader, which is perfect for the shape of the Tab.
Reading e-books on the Tab is perhaps the best experience ever. As an old-school book reader (one that prefers actual pages and covers) the idea of reading a novel on an electronic screen was something I could never imagine enjoying. And yet, after just a week alone with the Tab, I have almost finished reading a full novel which I bought through Amazon and read using the Kindle for Android software.
For most types of serious reading the size of the Tab is a distinct advantage as far as I am concerned. The size and weight is not that dissimilar to that of reading a printed novel, so there is familiarity, and a 10-inch device is simply too big for reading in bed.
The performance of the Galaxy Tab is pretty zippy, thanks to its 1GHz Arm processor, which manages to handle having a number of apps running at the same time without choking. Occasionally a particularly slow-loading and data-heavy web page will cause it to stumble but generally there are not too many problems. The built-in task manager makes it easy to kill processes that are slowing things down.
The screen on the Tab is fantastic. It’s not Amoled like its phone counterpart but the 1024 x 600 LED is very bright and crisp. The quality improvement when viewing high-resolution videos via You Tube on the Tab is noticeable and makes for pleasant viewing.
Viewing angles on the Tab screen are good and generally readable even at acute angles. So you don’t have to put your neck out trying to view the screen.
Input on the Tab is decent. The touch screen doesn’t require too much pressure and mostly gets it right. Occasionally, when text is pretty small, it is hard to hit the right spot, and not just because of having big fingers. It’s almost as if the alignment of the input and the wanted item is slightly out of sync and so you have to hit the screen a little higher that you think you should.
The Tab’s built-in applications for e-mail and web browsing are also pretty decent. The email client is streamlined when in portrait mode but switches to a traditional mail client feel with folders on the left when in landscape mode. The browser is fast and clean and even though I installed a beta of Firefox Mobile, I found myself using the default browser the most.
One of the Tab’s big features are the dual front and back cameras. The 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera is good enough for web chats. The rear camera is a 3 megapixel with LED flash that took good pictures, but not good enough to replace your standard camera.
The video recorder doesn’t do HD video but the video recording is adequate. Which is probably okay because frankly you will attract weird looks holding up this oversized cellphone to take pictures and videos.
There are some downsides to the Galaxy Tab. Obviously size is an issue for many users. Personally the Tab suits my lifestyle pretty well but then I don’t actually want the Tab to be a laptop replacement. The 7-inch screen is too small to be a serious workhorse and typing anything more intense than a couple of emails might make you regret getting a Tab instead of a netbook or small laptop.
One alternative to the size issue is to wait a little longer and get yourself the Galaxy Tab 10, which has just been announced at the Mobile World Congress. That 10-inch tablet has the bigger screen that the first edition does not.
The other drawback is the cost. The Galaxy Tab is pricey at somewhere between R6,000 and R7,000. For the same money you could get a decent laptop.
It really is horses for courses. I enjoy using the Galaxy Tab and the fact that it fits in a pocket is all the better. I don’t have to rely on it exclusively for doing my day-to-day work – if I did I might find it a bit more frustrating.
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