Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 review

When we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in October last year, we said it was the best Android tablet at the time. Does its successor manage to hold onto that title, or has it fallen by the wayside?

Design and build quality

Almost all the ports and buttons are along the top of the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1.

From left to right you find the power button, volume rocker, microSD slot, 3.5mm jack, and SIM slot (normal size, not microSIM). The power/data cable connector is on the bottom, while both sides are empty.

The power button can be a little tricky to find and it also doesn’t have much travel distance, so we weren’t always sure if we had actually pressed it or not.

Having the 3.5mm jack on top is more than a little irritating. As with the Motorola Xoom 2, your cable will either dangle over the screen or awkwardly loop around the back and go underneath the tablet.

For those of us who don’t particularly enjoy reading instruction manuals, getting a SIM card into the Tab 2 10.1 will be a an experience similar to inserting a USB flash drive into their computer. The picture on the slot cover (which is just the outline of SIM card) doesn’t indicate how the card sits in the slot, but rather tries to show that the top part of the image is the part that should go in the slot first.

On the front, in the top middle, sits a camera. On the left and right of the screen, where they belong, are speakers.

The back is a matte plastic which looks much better than any glossy plastic ever would, feels sturdy and doesn’t care for fingerprints. The rear camera sits at the top in the middle.

Design-wise, Samsung stuck with what worked with the previous version of the Tab, and made a few improvements where necessary. It’s not perfect, but it’s a solid design.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

Internals and performance

You may be tempted to think that the Tab 2 10.1 would have similar internals to the recently released Galaxy S3. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

The Tab 2 10.1 contains a TI OMAP 4430 SoC with a dual-core 1GHz CPU and an SGX540 GPU. There’s 1GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of storage (we had the latter). Storage is expandable via microSD with up to an additional 32GB.

Connectivity is supplied by WiFi a-/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, and of course HSPA (up to 21Mbps down and 5.7Mbps up).

What does this mean for performance on this version of the Tab vs. its predecessor? Sadly, very little.

In our AnTuTu benchmark, the Tab 2 10.1 managed a score of 4843.4. This places it fifth on our list, two places ahead of the original Tab 10.1 running Android 3.1 (seventh, with a score of 4782.6), but one place behind the original ASUS Transformer running Android 4.0.3 (fourth, with a score of 4985.8).

The original ASUS Transformer benchmarks higher on Android 4.0.3 than it did on previous versions, so one has to wonder how much, if any, of the Tab 2 10.1’s paltry benchmark increase is actually due to hardware.

In real-world use, the Tab 2 10.1 seemed to lag behind a little. Scrolling wasn’t always entirely smooth and there were far more stutters and hiccoughs than we would have like to see.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 – top view

Screen and responsiveness

Part of the Tab 2 10.1’s mind-boggling name comes from the size of its screen. It’s a 10.1-inch 1280×800 display that definitely won’t blow you away.

Responsiveness wasn’t a problem – the Tab 2 10.1 picked up our touches, tweaks, and swipes – but as we mentioned, performance was a problem.

Viewing angles were generally good, colours were decent, and we can’t really complain about the brightness, so it boils down to the decidedly average resolution.

Obviously, the screen on the iPad 3 makes the Tab 2 10.1 pale in comparison, but the worst part is probably that there’s little (if any) difference between the Tab 2 and the original Tab 10.1.

Sound and call quality

The Tab 2 10.1’s speakers actually face the right way, that is – towards you when looking at the screen (as opposed to speakers on the side or rear of the tablet).

Sadly, this doesn’t have a massive improvement on the output volume, though the quality was definitely better than most tablets we’ve heard. As with most other tablets, headphones also had low volume issues.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

Cameras

On the rear of the Tab 2 10.1 is a 3.15 megapixel camera that’s capable 2048×1536 still shots and 720p video capture.

In general, pictures lacked detail and were noisy even in well-lit environments. It doesn’t compare favourably at all to the cameras on current high-end smartphones, and we’re fairly sure that current-generation tablets outdo the Tab 2 10.1’s camera.

The front facing camera gives you VGA and it’s good enough if you need to make a video call.

Battery life

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend enough time with the Tab 2 10.1 to do our usual video-looping run-down. However, we can say that it seemed to hold up well in regular use and we have little doubt that it keeps up with the competition.

Software

Our review unit was running Android 4.0.4 (Ice-Cream Sandwich) and Samsung has of course decided to layer its own TouchWiz UI on top of that.

While I’m still not a fan of TouchWiz in general, I will admit that there are some useful, non-cosmetic, changes, like Samsung’s always available floating apps.

One change in the software that literally had some people whooping, was the inclusion of a “Phone“ application. What this means is that USSD codes are finally possible from the tablet – and yes, they do work.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

Conclusion

The Tab 2 10.1 is available on Samsung’s online store for around R6,700, which is probably not the best price point for it to be at considering that it doesn’t seem to much of an improvement over the original Tab 10.1.

The only major distinguishing factor between the Tab 2 10.1 and its predecessor is the new version of Android, and it just doesn’t seem worth it.

Original Tab 10.1 owners won’t feel a burning need to upgrade to the “new” Tab, and while first time buyers may want to add it to their list to look at, we think other competing tablets will look more appealing.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 review