Joys

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 User Notes

I’ve had the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 for a month or two now and wanted to share some notes about what it’s like to use.

Which Model?

Deciding which model to get was a touch call. I ended up going for pretty much the cheapest one as it is my first tablet. I have the 16GB WiFi only version and mainly use it around the house and occasionally in the office.

Storage

I actually thought it came with a micro-SD card slot (not sure why, probably read specs for the old 10″ Galaxy Tab), so I wasn’t too focussed on storage capacity. However, since getting it and realising that I am limited to the onboard storage, it’s been more than adequate for me so far.

I’m  highly unlikely to take my tablet somewhere that I don’t take my phone, so would see my phone as the primary music device. The tablet is definitely best for video, but you can still stick a lot of video in 10GB.

The nicest part is that you have truck loads of app storage. I believe it’s all formatted into one big area, so I don’t think there’s a limit on app storage (not 100% on that, but I’ve installed a few big apps and no problems yet).

You can also get an SD card reader which plugs into the proprietary port in the bottom if you want to expand things later.

Lastly, the storage is mountable on a computer by plugging it in via the provided USB cable. That’s pretty useful given that the Galaxy Nexus and possibly other upcoming devices that have single storage don’t allow mounting.

WiFi vs 3G

Tough call. Eventually, price was the determining factor for me. An extra £70-80 for the unit, plus minimum £5 a month seemed like a lot for the extra functionality. I can also create a WiFi hotspot with my phone, or I believe some phones can share their data connection via Bluetooth which I’ve heard uses less battery and is possibly more stable. I currently have an HTC Desire running CyanogenMod 7.0 and I’ve not managed to do it yet (I’m not sure if it’s possible…).

Screen

OK, so now I’ve given the run down of why I chose the model I did, it’s time to get onto actually using it.

The first wow feature for me was the screen. It’s amazing. It’s so bright, vivid and clear. I would actually prefer to watch videos on it than my laptop because it’s so nice. I’ve not really spent any time with other tablets, but I’m very impressed with it.

Touch sensitivity is good, and of course it gets a little grubby at times.

Hardware

The actual device feels sturdy enough. The back feels like it’s made from a flexible plastic sheet that has something hard behind it. Almost like a skin over a hard backing. A couple of times I’ve felt a somewhat soft area on the back where the skin seems to have no hard backing and it flexes a bit. It’s a hard thing to describe, and it’s not really presented a problem, but it doesn’t feel like a solid hard back like I believe some other tablets have.

It is also super thin, very light and a feels very nice in the hand.

The headphone jack is set on a rounded corner of the device, so it does have slightly sharp edges. All the buttons feel nice and firm.

It only has 1 port – the proprietary Samsung one. A micro-USB would’ve been nicer. Charger is nice.

Lastly, it has a built in battery, so there is no way of removing it. This is the first device I’ve had like this and I’m not a fan. I like the ability to perform a hard reset – the device has crashed on me a couple of times and restarting it via software when the software has crashed is an obviously difficult task. A removable battery would be better.

Battery Life

Battery life is pretty good. I reckon I get 6-9 hours out of it, and most of what I do is gaming, video, social and web browsing. Depending on the mixture of those tasks will depend on how long the battery lasts. I almost inevitably do that over the course of a few days as well, so it’s usually sitting for a good long period with WiFi on which continually syncs. It’s certainly not bad, but there are probably other devices which are better.

Case

At the moment I have the standard Samsung leather pouch for it. It’s a nice case, fits snugly and protects the device nicely (in general use – wouldn’t like to drop it). However, it doesn’t provide much use when you want to stand the device up at an angle on a table (or slightly incline it to type on). There are probably other cases which are better in this area.

Software

I’m still on Android 3.1 and unfortunately that was the first disappointment of the device. It’s slightly sluggish at times. For example, if you scroll the homescreens quickly, it gets a bit jerky. On a high end device – that shouldn’t be an issue.

When you’re installing apps, it also gets a bit bogged down at times.

First Use

When you first turn on the device and enter your Google account details, it automatically downloads all the apps you have installed on your Android phone.

Wow! I was very impressed. I have the Google+ app installed on my phone and set to upload photos automatically, so after taking photos of the unboxing with my phone, they were on the tablet less than 10 minutes later without me doing anything other than entering my Google account.

Honeycomb

This is my first real experience with Honeycomb and it’s interesting. There are some nice features like the improved cut/copy/paste, the access to the notifications and settings menu by clicking the clock and the app switcher is quite nice (although a bit jerky on my device).

However, there are some things I find less useful – the screenshot button is cool, but does it deserve a space next to ‘back’, ‘home’ and ‘switch apps’? Seems a bit prominent for a rarely used feature. During the first few weeks I hit this regularly by mistake.

The menu button is also per-app. IE it only shows if the app supports a menu. I personally love the menu button – I think it’s a fantastic piece of design. I know Android is moving away from it as it’s seen as a ‘technical challenge’ for some users, but I think it’s great.

It also feels like it’s moving towards a desktop OS a little bit. For example, the button/notification bar at the bottom is always visible – even when you’re watching full screen video. That seems a little strange to me – although perhaps it’s related to the lack of physical buttons on the device and inbuilt battery.

WiFi Issues

However, the biggest issue I’ve noticed so far is a bug related to WiFi connectivity. There are 3 settings for WiFi sleep policy: on all the time, on all the time when plugged in, or on only if the screen is on. Obviously the last setting is best for battery life, so I gave that a shot.

Unfortunately I’ve had an issue with that twice. The first is if the device is left for a day or two and put to sleep and back a few times in that period. When I go to turn it on again (taking it out of sleep) the WiFi connection is not restored. WiFi is turned on, but it doesn’t connect. If you try and turn WiFi off and then on again, it takes ages, and at some point it crashes. As mentioned above, restarting it under these conditions is testing.

App Issues

It’s glaringly obviously and not pleasant to use apps that are specifically designed for phones and not tablets. Some have tiny buttons, small headers or just bad layouts for tablets. Hopefully that will be addressed in future and as Android gets better at handling multiple device types and sizes. The apps that are designed for tablets are generally nice.

However, I’ve noticed a few times that if I change the volume while in some apps, it causes issues. For example when playing Great Little War Game when you change the volume, you lose all sound from the game. You need to switch out of it to another app, then switch back and it’s restored. This could be an app issue, it could be an Android issue – not sure, but it’s annoying!

Calendar Issues

After first entering my 2 Google accounts, I noticed that calendar appointments created on the tablet were not being synced to the cloud or my other devices. Removing and re-adding both accounts seemed to resolve this, although it’s annoying.

Gmail Sync

I’ve also noticed that since getting the tablet, my phone seems to be randomly turning off ‘Sync Gmail’ on both my Google accounts. It’s done this 2 or 3 times so far – no idea why. I can’t say for sure it’s related to the tablet, but it might be.

General Usage

Media King

It’s a lovely device to use. Nice for consuming media: news, video, games, social etc. It’s really what it’s for. Turning on from sleep (provided you have no WiFi issues) means you can surf the net in like 5 seconds (realistically). It’s perfect for sitting by the couch when you’re watching TV or doing other things.

eReader

It’s OK as an eReader, but the gloss screen and general size make it less than perfect there. I started off taking it on my train commute, and today left it at home because I spend more time carrying it than using it (although perhaps a better cover/case would remedy that). I think something smaller would definitely be better in this area.

Web Browser

The stock browser is OK. I noticed that it doesn’t handle background images properly on some sites so checked out the competition. I checked out Firefox, Opera and Dolphin. I quickly dismissed Firefox for being too slow to load, and Opera for something else (don’t remember what). I used Dolphin for a while but found it crashed quite a lot and ended up going back to the stock browser.

NAS Compatibility

ES File Explorer (and possibly others) allow you to connect to network locations including a NAS which is pretty nice, so within my home network, I can stream video from the NAS.

Keyboard

The full keyboard is not great unless you have two hands. The best option I’ve found is a split keyboard. I tried a couple of free ones, but this one appeared to be the best I’ve found so far and is well worth the investment.

Working

Although it has some nice features and is good to use, I wouldn’t say it’s a device you could do much work on. I still find it easier to type on my phone than on the tablet. The addition of a physical keyboard would really bridge that gap and make it a strong contender when compared to a netbook.

Conclusions

This post turned out to be a little longer than expected! It’s not an extensive review, just some notes after using the device for a month or so.

In conclusion, it’s a great device – I’m very glad I got it. I think you don’t really know how having it will affect you and what you’ll find useful about it until you get a tablet. If you already have tablet then I’m less qualified to say how this compares – but I know it was the lightest/thinnest tablet with a high spec when I got it. Having said that, the upcoming Asus Transformer Prime looks nice!

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