Flash support and Honeycomb apps
The lack of pre-installed content wouldn't be an issue if there were a surfeit of dedicated Honeycomb apps to download, but sadly that isn't the case. Indeed, one of the biggest problems facing Android tablets is the lack of developer support.
While Apple's iPad has a mountain of apps and games to choose from, Honeycomb has so far struggled. Even now, months after the launch of the Motorola Xoom, the number of tablet-friendly downloads in the Android Market remains small.
While many leading Android mobile apps have been modified to function on a larger display, there are still a worrying number of omissions. For example, the Android Facebook app isn't compatible with tablets, and therefore it won't show in the Android Market when you browse the shelves on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. You could argue that the tablet's ability to display full Web pages mitigates this issue, but we'd like to see touch-friendly apps all the same.
The selection of Honeycomb apps available at the moment pales into insignificance when compared to those for the iPad 2.
This sorry state of affairs becomes even more confusing when you load up the Samsung Hub application, which is intended to be a one-stop guide to the wonderful world of Android. It dutifully highlights recommended apps -- one of which is Facebook for Android. Attempting to install the app from this portal results in an 'item not found' warning, which is bound to befuddle and frustrate users.
The Samsung Hub is largely pointless, offering links to Android Market apps, some of which won't even run on the Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Aside from this little hiccup -- which, in reality, is just an unfortunate bug relating to the way in which Samsung's Hub app functions -- we should perhaps be thankful that Google has configured the Market to only display apps that will work on your device, thus avoiding the potential frustration of purchasing and installing a program only to find it refuses to run on a tablet.
Unfortunately, this also serves to highlight the massive, yawning gulf between the amount of Honeycomb apps available and the number of dedicated iPad apps out there. Google has a tonne of catching up to do, and it's well worth bearing this in mind if you're undecided about which faction to pledge your allegiance to.
Right now, the tablet with the most extensive and far-reaching app library is the iPad 2, pure and simple -- and that situation isn't going to change overnight, regardless of whether or not the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a bestseller or not.
One area in which the Galaxy Tab 10.1's impressive specifications are put to excellent use is surfing the Internet. Websites load at a blistering pace over the tablet's Wi-Fi connection, and navigating each page using the touchscreen is a near-effortless affair. Multi-touch support means that pinch-to-zoom gestures are supported, and many people may even find this manner of Web browsing to be preferable to using a desktop PC.
You can open multiple pages using the browser's tab-driven system, and it's possible to sync your bookmarks with the desktop version of Google Chrome to ensure you're always up-to-date with your favourite sites. You can even browse 'incognito', should you be up to no good and don't want anyone else to view your nefarious Web history.
The Tab 10.1's Web browser is a joy to use, with tabbed browsing and quick links to your most visited sites.
Adobe Flash content runs smoothly in the Galaxy Tab 10.1's default browser, offering a more complete Web experience than some competing devices we could mention. We're looking at you iPad 2. Flash content comes in many forms, from interactive adverts to fully fledged games.
With Flash support, surfing the Web on the Tab 10.1 is a real joy.
The iPad 2 famously doesn't support Flash, with Apple's stance being that it's a processor hog that sucks your battery dry. But, on a device like the Galaxy Tab 10.1, with its dual-core CPU and cavernous 7,000mAh power cell, this isn't really an issue.
Flash support means you can enjoy the Web as it's supposed to be seen, and it also grants access to apps such as the brilliant Kongregate, a repository of hundreds of brilliant, free-to-play games.
Thanks to the inclusion of Flash support, Tab 10.1 users can enjoy hordes of games via the Kongregate application.
All in all, hitting the Web on this device is a thoroughly enjoyable pastime, and the stock browser feels very much like an extension of the already excellent mobile Android browser.
One of the lessons Android tablet makers seem to have ignored is that it's vital to make your product visually and physically appealing -- that's almost certainly one of the reasons why the iPad has become so popular.
Thankfully, Samsung has created an attractive and highly desirable product. From the moment you pull the Galaxy Tab 10.1 free of its packaging, you'll have nothing but intense admiration for the device's form.
With a wafer-thin thickness of just 8.6mm, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is slimmer than the iPad 2 by 0.2mm. It's also 36g lighter. Of course, winning the battle of the bulge means little if the overall design is lacking, but thankfully that isn't the case.
Although the casing isn't metal like that of the iPad, the build quality is sturdy enough. There's no creakiness or unsightly gaps to speak of, and the clean design avoids the fussy nature of the Motorola Xoom and Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Still, we did notice that the plastic rear panel has a certain amount of flex to it, but it's only really apparent if you prod and poke hard enough.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1's back is made from plastic rather than metal.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 looks like a catwalk supermodel when compared to its dumpy Android tablet rivals. The front of the device is dominated by the capacitive touchscreen display, which has a black border running around its edges. Beyond that you'll find the rounded corners that sit comfortably in your palms.
The power button is located in the top left-hand corner, right next to the volume rocker. They're the only physical buttons on the entire device.
Also along the top edge, you'll discover a 3.5mm headphone jack. Aside from this, the only other port to speak of is the proprietary connection on the bottom of the machine. This is used to connect the Tab to your computer's USB port, as well as charge the battery.
There's no USB, HDMI or microSD slots on the tablet -- all you have is this 30-pin connector.
One touch we particularly like is the design and placement of the stereo speakers. Rather than being on the back or front of the Tab, they've been positioned on the sides, near the top of device. This allows them to deliver a reasonably decent stereo experience without the danger of getting covered by your hands.
The Tab 10.1's speakers are located on the sides of the device, and produce crystal-clear audio.
To achieve that super-thin frame, Samsung has unsurprisingly had to make some sacrifices. There's no microSD card slot or USB port -- omissions that we'll cover later in the review.
Next page: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 hardware and touchscreen