Samsung Galaxy Tab: Stuck in the Middle

The scoop: Galaxy Tab (Sprint version reviewed), by Samsung, about $400 (with two-year contract, plus data service). With no contract, the device costs $600.

What it is: The biggest issue with the Galaxy Tab may be trying to definite what it is. It's a tablet that's smaller than an iPad. It's an Android device that's larger than a smartphone. It's stuck in that middle area between those two categories (iPad and other tablets on one end, Android smartphones and the iPhone on the other).

From a feature perspective, the Galaxy Tab sports the Android Froyo 2.2 operating system, weighs 13.58 ounces, runs a 1GHz Hummingbird CPU, and has two digital cameras -- a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera for video chats and/or self-portraits, and a 3 megapixel auto-focus camera for shooting images. For network connectivity, you can connect via Wi-Fi, or 3G wireless (our unit was the Sprint EV-DO 3G network). There's no native phone app on the device, so you may have to look for Skype or another VoIP-like app if you're looking for voice functionality.

Apps on the device include the standard clock, Web browser, calendar, photo viewer, Facebook, e-mail (corporate Exchange plus Webmail options), Google search, maps, music player, GPS navigation, YouTube and video player. Sprint adds a "Sprint Zone" app with access to your account and suggested Sprint apps (like its NFL and NASCAR-supported apps). You can find thousands of more apps, free and paid-for, through the Android Market.

The Galaxy Tab also has the benefit of being available on the four major carriers -- Sprint (the one we tried), Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile are all offering the device.

Why it's cool: If you're looking for something smaller and lighter than an iPad, this fits the bill. I could comfortably hold the device with one hand, and the weight didn't bother me as much as it does with the iPad sometimes. Surprisingly, the 7-inch display makes it the perfect size for the Amazon Kindle app, which gets "home page" access on the device. Reading a book on the Galaxy Tab was a better experience than on my iPhone 4, and even the iPad (the iPad book reader feels like you're reading a large-print or coffee-table book sometimes).

Some caveats: Like the iPad, users will need to figure out "what do I want to do with this?" Android phone owners might appreciate the larger screen, but iPad owners might say "meh" on the smaller display. Like the iPad, the main purpose of the Galaxy Tab is to consume content, whether it's a book, Web site, music, video, photo or Angry Birds (games look great on this thing). Creating content (writing a document, e-mail, spreadsheet) is a bit more difficult, which makes this a concern for business usage. The iPad still has a way to go before it is 100% business ready, so the same issues apply with the Galaxy Tab. I'm not about to ditch the notebook for this, but I wasn't for the iPad either.

Also, the larger size of the Galaxy Tab means it's tougher to put into your pocket, unless you have very big pockets. Doctors and pharmacists who have big-pocket lab coats may enjoy this, but it could be a stretch (literally) if you try to jam it into a normal pants pocket.

Bottom line: Your final decision on whether to get a Galaxy Tab depends on several factors: Are you in the Android camp and want a larger device than your phone? Are you fine without voice capabilities? Are you willing to pay monthly data charges? (there's no Wi-Fi only version yet). If those answers are yes, then the Galaxy Tab should be on your short list.

Grade: 3.5 stars (out of five)

Shaw can be reached at kshaw@nww.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/shawkeith

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter

Comments