Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 Review

Posted on Monday, May 21 2012 on 03:42 PM

Samsung is changing its approach to tablets. Rather than compete at the highest end with the iPad or the Transformer Prime, Samsung's aiming for a happy medium: all the features we've come to expect from an Android tablet, without necessarily top-notch performance or specs, for an appealing price.


The bigger brother in the Tab 2 line is now upon us in the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. Like the 7.0, it has solid but unspectacular specs (a 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 1280 x 800 TFT display, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, dual cameras), plus Android 4.0. 





The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is a much more original-looking tablet than previous Galaxy Tabs, and it's an attractive one at that. The 10.1-inch display is surrounded by a small black bezel that is every bit as fingerprint-prone as the screen itself. Surrounding the bezel is a gray edging that covers the sides of the tablet, and peeks slightly out onto the face as well.


DISPLAY ~ My eyes can't forget seeing better


Samsung has made one tablet with a truly fantastic display and unfortunately it's not the Tab 2 — it's the Tab 7.7, a Verizon-connected tablet with a gorgeous AMOLED screen. The Tab 2 instead has a 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 TFT display, which is good without being particularly exciting. It has great viewing angles and gets pretty bright, but it can't measure up to the Tab 7.7 or the new iPad. The Tab 7.7's contrast is extraordinary, with blacks that look like the depths of space; the Tab 2 is a bit gray. Similarly, the iPad's display is so high-res that you can't pick out pixels as you read — on the Tab 2, I can all but count the pixels in the letter "M" in the Maps app icon.




This isn't a bad display by any stretch, but now that I've seen screens that don't have jaggies on text or slightly yellowish tints on whites, and screens where even tiny text is readable and dark movies look amazing, making those sacrifices with the Tab 2 is a little hard to justify.





Samsung's apparently buried the mess that was Honeycomb, and has loaded Android 4.0 onto both sizes of the Tab 2. Thank goodness, but it bears repeating: Ice Cream Sandwich is a massive leap forward from Honeycomb. There's almost no lag or stutter as you move around the operating system, and the tablet as a whole feels far more usable. Android 4.0 is the first version of Android that feels ready for a tablet, and that's a big deal.






Since this isn't a carrier-branded device, the bloatware load on the Tab 2 is relatively light. Samsung preloads its standard handful of apps, like Media Hub (for buying movies and music) and AllShare Play (a useful DLNA app for sharing files with other devices). There's also S Suggest, which recommends apps you might like based on... something. Then there are the standard third-party apps, like Amazon Kindle and Netflix. A couple of preloaded apps are a little more interesting, though.




I'm thrilled that Samsung decided its tablets make perfect remote controls, because it's absolutely correct — you probably already have it on your lap, plus it has a big screen, internet connectivity, and all manner of cool apps. Peel uses the Tab 2's IR blaster to control your entire home theater stack; there's a simple setup wizard that gets everything connected. Peel's also a clever TV Guide app, sorting the guide by what you want to watch — tell it you want to watch How I Met Your Mother, and it finds it for you, and switches to it no matter what channel it's on. I love Peel especially for sports – figuring out which channel the game is on is a constant pain — but it's a great app in general, and is really well implemented on the Tab 2.







In general things worked okay, but there were some definite quirks: the Tab 2 10.1 would occasionally take several seconds to wake up, and two or three taps to register the "Swipe on screen to unlock" motion. Widgets would also disappear and re-render every time I rotated the tablet, which is kind of jarring. Many things are fluid and fast — the camera's quick, as are the browser and multitasking menu — but there are just enough performance hiccups to be frustrating. Simpler games like Temple Run work well, but complex and intensive ones like Grand Theft Auto III led to a lot of skipped frames and stuttery performance. It feels like the processor was capable of powering a 7-inch device, but is ever so slightly overwhelmed by a 10.1-inch tablet.





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