Samsung Galaxy Tab 4G ReviewThe blinding pace at which new tablet computers are reaching consumersonly serves as a reminder that we want the machines themselves to beblazing fast. And the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with 4G LTE I’vebeen testing is all about speed. It recently became the first Android tabletto exploit Verizon Wireless’ zippy 4G LTE technology.LTE is shorthand for the Long Term Evolution wireless network thatVerizon has been rolling out across the country.Word was that the Motorola Xoom would be the initial Android tablet toget to the LTE finish line, but the upgrade to make it happen hasn’t cometo pass yet.Galaxy Tab mostly lives up to its high-speed notices. But you’ll have tosign onto costly data plans and will have to sacrifice battery life along theway.If you think the Galaxy Tab 10.1 bears more than a slight resemblance tothe iPad, you’ve got company. For months now, Apple has beenembroiled in lawsuits against Samsung claiming that the Galaxy tabletand some Samsungsmartphones violate Apple’s intellectual property.The disputes extend beyond America’s borders. Reports out of Australiathis week suggest that Samsung delayed launching a version of the tabletDown Under. But Samsung said in a statement that a “Galaxy Tab 10.1
for the Australian market will be released in the near future.”But Galaxy Tabs have been available in these parts. And on July 28,Galaxy Tab 10.1 with 4G LTE went on sale in the U.S. at VerizonWireless stores.Sprinter-like speeds are this slate’s main draw, and it’s what I mostlyfocused on during this review. That said, Galaxy Tab is beautiful: slim,sleek and slick.Side by side, the Toshiba Thrive Android tablet I reviewed last weekcomes off as the overweight ugly sibling. Unlike the thicker Thrive,however, Galaxy Tab lacks such niceties as a built-in SD card slot orfull-size USB and HDMI ports. You’ll need optional adapters to add suchfeatures. The iPad also lacks these built-in connectors.As with the Thrive, Galaxy Tab runs Android’s Honeycomb operatingplatform for tablets. It has a splendid 10.1-inch widescreen display, fivecustomizable home screen panels, a 3-megapixel rear-facing camera withflash and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. The browser can handleAdobe Flash sites. You can purchase or rent movies or TV shows throughSamsung’s Media Hub store.In the specs battle against Apple, Galaxy weighs in at a mere 1.25 pounds,making it a tad lighter than the iPad. It’s ever-so-slightly thinner, too.Of course, Apple’s has a ginormous advantage vs. all Android tablets in
available apps.Then again, Apple’s tablet, at least to date, cannot equal Verizon’s blazingcellular speeds when Wi-Fi is out of reach. Verizon says customersexploiting LTE coverage areas can expect download speeds of 5 to 12Mbps and upload speeds of 2 to 5 Mbps. In certain areas of New YorkCity and the surrounding suburbs where I did my testing, I consistentlybested those download benchmarks by a wide margin. Using Ookla’sstandard Speedtest.net, I topped out at 29.0 Mbps downstream and 4.67Mbps in the other direction.Such results translate into rapid downloads of apps, speedy browsing andfluid video playback.But I also frequently slipped into slower 3G areas and, during my travels,occasionally even ended up in pokier territory. In my own house, Isometimes saw the tiny 4G at the bottom right corner of the screenindicating the machine was taking advantage of the faster network. Butsometimes that 4G indicator turned to 3G.For the record, Verizon says LTE is available in 102 markets across thecountry, covering a population of more than 160 million. By the end ofthe year, those totals are expected to hit 175 markets and 185 millionpeople.Of course, you can also tap into Wi-Fi if available. And you can use thetablet as a mobile hot spot capable of connecting up to 10 Wi-Fi-ready
devices in 4G or up to five Wi-Fi devices in 3G.High speeds on the Galaxy come with costly tradeoffs, however.First there’s the hardware price: $529.99 for 16 gigabytes or $629.99 for32 GB. (You can choose between metallic gray or white models.) Granted,that’s $100 cheaper than respective iPad 2 (3G) models with the samestorage capacities. But Galaxy owners must sign up for a two-year mobilebroadband data plan. On iPads with 3G, you can opt in and out of a dataplan with no penalties or lengthy obligations.Starting today, Verizon also will sell a 16-GB Wi-Fi-only Galaxy onlinefor $499.99.Verizon charges $30 for 2 GB of monthly data access, $50 for 5 GB and$80 for 10 GB. Overage charges are a hefty $10 per GB.Battery life turned out to be a major disappointment. Verizon made vagueclaims of 12 hours of use on a single battery charge. But in my harsh test,in which I cranked up the brightness level to about 75%, used cellular and(for part of my test) Wi-Fi connections while streaming videos, I barelyapproached 4½ hours.A second similar test (without Wi-Fi turned on) yielded nearly identicalresults. As I watched movies during those tests, the brightness wasautomatically dimmed after I received low-battery warnings to preservewhat little juice remained.
For sure, that’s frustrating. But you’d probably fare a lot better with“normal” usage. And if you’re in the market for an Android tablet, you’llbe hard-pressed to find a model with Galaxy Tab’s combination of goodlooks and speed.