When we first heard about a $250 7" Android tablet, it wasn't from Samsung, but ASUS. Since then, ASUS has grown suspiciously quiet on the subject of its cheap tablets (perhaps because of a change in plans?), but Samsung has taken up the mantle. The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 boasts a middle-of-the-road spec list when compared to some of this year's other tablets, but still manages to be one of the sleekest tablets I've used.
Note: I errantly described the display as an AMOLED screen in the video above. It is actually a TFT display.
HardwareThe seven incher is made of a sturdy plastic backing and feels very solid. While it's a tight fit, the tablet is easily pocketable, and very easy to hold. It actually feels a little lighter than the Kindle Fire. Inside, it's carrying a dual-core TI processor and 1GB of RAM underneath a 1024x600 TFT display. On paper it doesn't sound like much, but the display is actually surprisingly crisp and easy to read, even in sunlight.
The device uses Samsung's proprietary connector for charging and data transfer, and includes 8GB of built-in storage, expandable via an SD card. The 3.2MP rear shooter, as well as the barely-video-chat-worthy front camera are only moderately useful, but this slate does have one stand out piece of hardware: an IR blaster. More on that in a bit.
Android 4.0 makes another tablet-based appearance on this slate and, while we're happy it's here, it does raise some interesting questions about Android's tablet UI. While the right size for a tablet is largely subjective, Android's tablet UI is fundamentally designed to put more info on the screen than its phone counterpart. While it's not universally bad (several people I showed this device to loved its size), there is a certain sense of diminishing returns when the OS is working to add more info to the screen and the device is giving you less of it.
Part of the problem is very likely due to the comparatively low-res 1024x600 display. Certain UI elements seem to be bound to a certain width, not necessarily a certain percentage of the display. This results in some rather unbecoming layouts, as in Google Talk, shown above which gives about five characters worth of space to the left panel, but a huge percentage of the screen's space to the right side of the panel.
While it may be true that other 7" tablets will display Android's tablet UI more elegantly, it's still worth pointing out: Android simply does not scale down very well if you keep the tablet interface. Manufacturers might be better off using Android's phone UI for devices with too low of a resolution to scale properly.
That being said, the device is still buttery smooth. Since it's Android 4.0, all your apps that you know and love are here, including the Kindle and Nook apps. While the Kindle Fire and the Nook Color are the primary competitors for a tablet like this, it hurts the argument for either of them when you can get many of the same services on both. Except, on the Tab, you can also get everything else you'd expect from a full Android tablet for $50 more.
Speaking of things you get with this tablet, Samsung is also running a promo with Dropbox. Current or new users who sign in with the bundled Dropbox app on this tablet will get a bonus 48GB of storage, in addition to the 2GB that comes standard with an account, for a whopping 50GB of online storage. Unfortunately, unlike Dropbox's other space boosts, the extra 48GB will disappear after a year. Still, that's more space than you could fit in the microSD card slot, which is only expandable to 32GB.
TouchWizSamsung has also added a few new features on top of the stock 4.0 experience. In general, we're not big fans of manufacturer skins, but this time around, it's a net positive. For starters, Samsung's floating apps make a comeback. In the center of the Status Bar, the Tab has a pop-up menu with shortcuts to a series of apps that float about the UI. Just like AirCalc and OverSkreen, these apps stay on top of whatever you're doing, allowing you to truly multitask. The calculator, in particular, is a most welcome addition, but Samsung also includes floating app versions of Alarm, Email, Music Player, S Planner, Task Manager, and World Clock.
One other great addition feature: if you long-press and drag an app icon on the home screen or in the app drawer, a bar of icons appears at the top. Most notably, on the left is a button for more info. Drag the app to the info icon and it will take you directly to the app's info page usually found under Manage Applications in settings. If you've ever needed to force stop, or clear the data/cache from an app, this is a welcome addition as it makes finding this page much, much easier. [Update: Thanks to Adam Powell for pointing out that this is actually part of the stock launcher. Of course that would come from Google.]
The screenshot button cozying up with the multitasking button.
Samsung has also added a persistent screenshot button to the status bar, right next to the multitasking button. In all honesty, this seems like a pretty horrible place for it, as I found myself accidentally pressing it more than once. What's more annoying is every time you take a screenshot, you get immediately taken to an annotation page where you can write notes on your screenshots before saving them. On the other hand, when you want to take a screenshot, you can just tap this button, and even write notes on your screenshots before saving them! It's a mixed blessing that's only really obnoxious when you trigger it accidentally.
Smart RemoteWhile this app isn't technically a Samsung exclusive, the Tab 2 is one of two Samsung devices that supports IR blaster functionality in the Peel Smart Remote app. If you missed it on the Tab 7.0 Plus, here's the deal: your tablet is now your universal remote control. The app has support for a ton of codes for a variety of manufacturers of TVs, DVRs, DVD players, and other home theater boxes.
In addition to consolidating all of your controls, the app also gives you access to your cable service's catalog (where available) and lets you browse what shows are on right now. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a search box, but you can select what types of shows you like and browse the categories. Tap a show and it will give you a description of the episode that's on right now and even the option to change the channel right to it.
The app is basic, yet still manages to cover most of your channel surfing bases. While Google is trying to kill channel surfing entirely, Peel manages to turn the desperate and lazy search to find out what's on into a rather pleasant experience for the first time. Which is crazy since we've been doing this for decades now. As surprised as I was that I'd be including this sentence in this review, you could probably throw away your remote controls and use this tablet instead.
Poor Sandy looks washed out and dull in the Tab's camera.
This camera is nothing to write home (or on the internet) about. The front camera does a decent job of video chat, largely because none of us expect decent quality when video chatting. The rear camera, though, is another story. At 3.2MP, this camera ranks among some of the lowest of the low end. Photos taken with it are bordering on worthless. While "the best camera is the one you have with you," we wouldn't suggest leaving your house with just this tablet if you think you might take any pictures.
Battery LifeFor moderate usage, this tablet holds up extremely well. The device lasted all day with intermittent casual browsing, video playback and IM/email work. Video playback was a pretty substantial battery drain. The Tab may keep you entertained on a domestic flight, but if you intercontinental travel-sized chunks of time you need to fill up, you might be reaching for a charger before the end of the day. That's still a minority of users, though. As with most tablets, this device lasts longer than most smartphones.
The Bad Stuff"When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all." These words ring exceptionally true with this tablet. My job is a simple one: make sure this device does what it says it does and find things that are wrong. With the exception of the previously mentioned size issues, and the obviously horrible camera, there's little about this tablet that stands out as noticeably bad.
That being said, any tablet is only going to be as good as its ecosystem. Android, as a whole, has gotten a lot better over the last year in regards to tablets. The selection of tablet-oriented apps, however, is still lagging. Facebook's app still only has a phone layout (which actually works better on this screen, but still could could be improved). What's worse is that many apps don't take into account tablets of such a low size/resolution. Take a look at the top navigation bar for Flixster's app in portrait mode, for example:
Because this app expects to have more room, text gets cut off and the interface just looks weird. While little things like this don't make the device any less capable, it does make the experience as a whole feel incomplete. It's not nearly as bad as it was. I bought a Xoom the month it came out and I've watched the app environment grow up as time goes on. Life on Android tablets is way better than its ever been. However, 7" tablets (especially the low-res ones) and 10" tablets are, in some very tangible ways, different beasts. In fact, for some situations, they require different considerations from developers while designing their apps, so it may be a while before Android fully catches up with itself in the app department.
Samsung is certainly giving the other budget Android tablets a run for their money. At $250, the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire are both cheaper, but $50 is a small price to pay for the full Ice Cream Sandwich experience, an IR blaster that turns the tablet into the most advanced universal remote you've ever used, and 50GB of free Dropbox space for a year. It's not the best tablet on the market, but it's not supposed to be, either.
If you're looking to get an Android tablet on the cheap, but don't want a specialized device that's tied to a non-Google ecosystem, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is the way to go. Just don't be surprised if you're waiting patiently for a few apps to make good use of your new tablet's extra space.
What Flash ROM did you install? I noticed that many of the available ROMs for my phone (Galaxy S II T989) still use Android 2.3.6. Can you suggest an available ROM that has Android 4.0.XX.
I do know that as you stated better battery use was one of the features. I bought the TMobile phone as it has a WiMAX radio transceiver and look forward to eventually utilizing this capability.
The great advantage that Android has over a Linux and/or Apple OS is GOOGLE supports it. That means for me, as long as my dual core 1.5Mghz processor remains sufficient to run the OS, I can upgrade to newer version very easily as they are developed.
My Galaxy Nexus is a 4G GSM true Google (yakju) variety that is pentaband and truly a world phone. There is not a country that the Galaxy Nexus won't work. I use it with T-Mobile but will work equally well with AT&T. It gets updates from Google directly as soon as they come out. It's battery with the 4.0.4 update lasts and lasts and lasts. I can say with certainty that the battery endurance went up more than 50% from the 4.0.2 version to the 4.0.4 version. Yet at the same time the speed on everything went up as well. Android 4.0.4 is truly a work of art.
Look for 4.0.4 AOSP roms for your phone as they will be based off the same code. Kudos to Google. They are truly the greatest software wizards.
The Transformer Pad TF300 will be available in royal blue immediately but other colors such as torch red and iceberg white will be available in early June. US Pricing is $379 for the 16GB model, $399 for the 32GB model with the optional docking station retailing for $149. Keep in mind, if you're a ASUS Transformer TF101 or Transformer Prime TF201 owner, the docking station is not backwards compatible.
The latest member of the Transformer family from ASUS is now available for purchase by US consumers. The quad-core Tegra 3 slate can be purchased for an easy-to-swallow $379 for a 16GB WiFi model or $399 for the upgrade to 32GB of internal storage. The keyboard dock can be had for an additional $149. The 10.1-inch slate runs Android 4.0 and features an 8MP camera. It will be available next month in Europe, while the high-end Transformer Pad 700 is expected to arrive in early summer.
If it happened any other way, it just wouldn't be as satisfying, now would it? After years of leaks, murmurs, hubbub and other familiar synonyms, Google's mythical cloud storage platform is now official... sort of. As Lady Fate would have it, the company apparently outed a memo of the features on its French blog earlier today, but before it could yank the 'pull' switch, an eagle-eyed reader managed to grab the text and run it through -- surprise, surprise -- Google Translate. What's left is an official-as-you'll-get-right-now transcript of Google Drive's features, but contrary to the hype, it all feels way more enterprise-centric than consumers may have wanted. For starters, there's no real mention of music (we guess Google Music is on its own, there), and there's just 5GB of free storage for "documents, videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs, etc." According to the brief, it's designed to let users "live, work and play in the cloud," with direct integration with Docs and Google+.
We're also told that Drive can be installed on one's Mac, PC or Android phone / tablet, while an iOS version will be "available in the coming weeks." Of note, Google's making this accessible to visually impaired consumers with the use of a screen reader. As for features? Naturally, Google's flexing its search muscles in as many ways as possible; if you scan in a newspaper clipping, a simple Search All within Drive will allow results to appear directly from said clipping. If you upload a shot of the Eiffel Tower, it'll show up whenever you search for the aforesaid icon. Moreover, Drive will allow folks to open over 30 types of documents directly from a web browser, including HD video, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and more -- "even without the software installed on your computer." For those concerned about access, the new platform will have the same infrastructure as any other Google Apps services, giving admins a familiar set of management tools on that end.
On the topic of storage, just 5GB are provided gratis, with 25GB costing $2.49 per month, 100GB running you $4.99 per month and 1TB demanding $49.99 per month, with a maximum of 16TB ($799.99 per month, if you're curious) per user; thankfully, Google Docs will not be included in your usage total. Finally, the note played up the ability to "attach documents directly into your Drive Gmail," and given that it's intended to be an open platform, Goog's promising to work with third party developers in order to enhance Drive's functionality even further. The source link below is still dead as of right now, but it simply can't be long before the lights are officially turned on. Oh, and if you're not enamored at the moment, the outfit's suggesting that "many more developments" will be arriving in the coming weeks.
Update: It's live on the Google Play store, and a pair of explanatory videos are embedded after the break!
Google Drive vs. the competition: pricing plans and perks, compared By Dana Wollman posted Apr 24th 2012 1:53PM engadget.com
Sometimes a table says a thousand words. Now that Google has finally announced its cloud service, Google Drive, we're sure more than a few of you are crunching the numbers in your head in an attempt to figure which is the best deal. Far be it for us to tell you which service to use when we've barely had a chance to poke around Drive, but for now, better if we lay out those gigabytes and dollars in number form, rather than squeeze them into a crowded paragraph, don'tcha think? Follow past the break for a brief breakdown of what you'll get from Google, along with Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive and iCloud.
25GB: $2.49 per month; 100GB: $4.99 per month; 1TB: $49.99 per month. Maximum plan is 16TB for $799.99 per month
20GB: $10 per year; 50GB: $25 per year; 100GB: $50 per year
50GB: $9.99 per month / $99 per year; 100GB: $199 per year / $19.99 per month; 1TB and up: starts at $795 for five users
10GB: $20 per year; 20GB: $40 per year; 50GB: $100 per year
20GB annual cost
$29.88* ($2.49 per month for 25GB per year)
100GB annual cost
$59.88 ($4.99 per month)
$199 ($19.99 per month)
Maximum file size
300MB via the browser; unlimited if you upload from your desktop
25MB for free accounts; 250MB for paying subscribers
Windows and Mac (free)
Windows and Mac (free)
Windows, Mac and Linux (free)
Windows and Mac (free)
Android (free), with an iOS version "coming soon"
iOS and Windows Phone (free)
Android, iOS and BlackBerry (free)
SDK available; deep Google search, Google+ and Google Docs integration; OCR technology; if you sign up for a paid account your Gmail storage expands to 25GB.
Remote desktop access; users can create Word docs, PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets and OneNote notebooks in the cloud with group editing; ability to share files; Bing search integration.
Dropbox recently made sharing easier by adding a public link for every file; customers with free accounts get half a gigabyte per referral, and can expand their service to up to 18GB; paying customers get 1GB per referral and can add up to 32GB in additional storage this way.
Deep iOS (and Mountain Lion) integration; iTunes Match, which costs an extra $24.99 a year, allows you to store music you did not purchase through iTunes, such as ripped CDs.