Name: Samsung Galaxy Tab 2
The Back Story: Samsung’s made a killing with its Galaxy S line-up, racking up over 200 million mobile units sold worldwide and becoming the world’s biggest smartphone maker. And even with its Galaxy Tab series generating some noise on the tablet front, the reality is all Android manufacturers are struggling to grab a chunk of the market, as Apple and Amazon continue to dominate with their respective devices. Analysts are predicting a surge in sales going into 2015 and Samsung has the chance to capitalize with the release of its first Ice Cream Sandwich tablet: the Galaxy Tab 2.
Boasting the latest Android operating system, new multimedia features, and an unbeatable sticker price, the Tab 2 offers enough premiums to outshine the competition. But does Samsung finally have a tablet that can compete with the new iPad or a prominent successor capable of dominating all other non-Apple products?
• Finally! An ICS tablet: The Honeycomb horrors are over as Samsung bundles the Tab 2 with the latest version of ICS (Android 4.0.3). Samsung’s made some modifications to the software, allowing ICS to run smoother alongside TouchWiz, while incorporating several new upgrades in the process. Our favorite feature is the new screenshot button which allows users to capture onscreen portraits of anything. There’s also a Mini Apps tray on the bottom of the screen that offers access to eight productivity apps including the Task Manager, S Planner, Emails, and Music Player. Speaking of which, Samsung's included an assortment of widgets that capitalize on homescreen space and enhance the experience. The AccuWeather.com, DropBox folder, Memo, Gmail, and Music Playlist widgets come in handy.
• Peel Smart Remote app: One of the tablet’s biggest selling points is this home entertainment app. It turns the Tab 2 into a universal remote that can operate your TV and cable box. You’ll also be able to search for available programs, mark favorites, and set reminders for any shows scheduled to air. Peel’s UI is easy to use and the set-up process shouldn't take longer than five minutes to complete. Note: The program still has a few bugs that need to be fleshed out such as delivering more accurate listings, but it leaves room for some promising things. Our suggestion: Netflix support.
• Slim, sturdy, and stylish: When it comes to tablet construction, Samsung’s track record is near flawless. As expected, what we have here is an attractive piece of hardware that’s both thinner and more durable than the previous models. The Tab 2 is lighter and more slender than the Kindle Fire, plus it shares the same dimensions and weight (0.74 lbs.) as the original Tab 7.7, making it convenient to carry in hand or in a bag. The titanium silver tint also gives the Tab 2 a premium feel.
• Entertainment galore: Besides the Peel app, there's an array of multimedia options to be found. The Tab 2 comes preloaded with all of the Samsung Hubs (Media, Music, Gaming, Reader, etc.), plus Netflix and Google Suite services like YouTube. In addition, the AllShare app provides wireless streaming and content sharing between all DLNA-enabled devices. Video playback is superb, supporting MPEG4, XviD, and DiVx formats at 1080p resolution. Then you have an limitless number of apps available in Google's Play Store to go nuts over.
• Loads of memory: OK. 8GB ain't much to work with. Still, the microSD card slot, which can support 32 GB (and possibly 64 GB), should suffice. That’s not all: Samsung is spoiling owners with 50GB of free storage from DropBox for an entire year. If the internal memory is an issue, you can always hold out for the 10.1-inch version with 16GB due out in a few weeks.
• Price cut: Samsung’s finally got with the program and is launching the Tab 2 at a more reasonable price. At $250 cheaper than the new iPad and just $50 more than the Kindle Fire, the Android faithful should be lining up for this one.
• Mediocre dual cameras: We weren't expecting phenomenal pics from the rear 3MP or front VGA shooters. Then again, we didn't expect to encounter grainy images with terrible color saturation. Make sure to snap photos in bright-lit areas.
• Not-so-sharp display: A portable Samsung device without a Super AMOLED screen seems almost unthinkable at this point. But the company left us bewildered after choosing to rock with a PLS-based panel for it next-gen tablet. Some of the visuals looked washed out and we spotted some blurriness when browsing through certain sites.
• Missing HDMI port and Wi-Fi-only: An entertainment-heavy tablet with tons of media features, but no HDMI or mobile network connection? For shame Samsung…for shame!
Final Say: No, the Galaxy Tab 2 isn’t the new iPad killer. However, not only is it the next best thing to the iPad, but also the best Android tablet available now. The price point already makes it a notable contender, along with its smart remote capabilities, which could help Samsung steal some home entertainment swag from Apple as the Cupertino crew allgedely preps a new foray into television. Processing power is on-point, ICS ran and looked smooth, and the inclusion of 50GB of free DropBox storage makes the Tab 2 a steal at $250. But remember: We’re going on a third generation of Tab’s here and even though Samsung’s found new ways to enhance the Android experience, it’s still neglecting the little things. Case in point: no HDMI and no cellular data. Again, the Tab 2's price point pits it mainly against the Kindle Fire, but if you're looking for a tablet running Google's OS, the Galaxy Tab 2 should be the one.