Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

I am not going to spend too much time on this review, as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 has been out since this past October. I am waiting for a chance with the Galaxy Note, and decided I would wet my toes with a solid couple weeks in the Android world.

Let me start off by saying that I am an Apple fanboy through and through. I have been using Apple hardware for around 23 years, so when given the chance to use something else, I can sometimes be close-minded. But I thought after CES, I would take some time
getting to know Android and Windows Mobile Devices. This isn’t to say I haven’t used them in the past, but for long periods of time, I can honestly say I haven’t. Linux and Windows desktop OS are probably the only two things outside of the Apple experience I can say I’ve used on a regular basis.

So we’ll spend some time just going over what I experienced, in a non-biased form. Even though I would never purchase a tablet over the Apple venture, I won’t completely disregard other manufacturers attempts…

The Specs

  • 8.9″ 1280 x 800 PLS TFT LCD display
  • Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A( processor
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 16/32/64 GB of storage
  • 3 megapixel rear / 2 megapixel front
  • WiFi/Bluetooth/3G
  • Android 3.1 Honeycomb

Hardware

First off, let me say that this little guy is extremely comfortable to hold in your hands. I have only picked up the Galaxy Tab 10.1, but after spending 2 weeks with the Tab 8.9, I can say that the size is something I can stand to not put down. This tablet is super thin, slapping in at .34 inches thick, it rivals Apple’s iPad 2. It definitely weighs a considerable amount less than the iPad 2, at just under a pound, we can say that we enjoyed this little guy in our hands.

I didn’t like the fake brushed metal plastic backing at all. It seemed to cheapen the device immensely. Compared to the iPad 2, it just seems like they skimped on what could have easily been all aluminum.

The Tab 8.9 measures 9.1 x 6.2 x .34 inches, so we have a good balance between the bigger version and the iPad 2 and the smaller 7” tablets on the market. But this guy feels well balanced in our hands, whether we are on the go or sitting, it just felt right.

The display isn’t anything to write home about. It is pretty impressive, but compared to some of the other displays on the market, we felt that it didn’t really stack up. The pixel density, however, is slightly higher than the Tab 10.1, so you are gaining that density with the smaller screen, giving a smoother viewing experience than the the bigger sibling.

Performance

While packing a 1GHz dual-core processor and a gig of RAM, I would expect a snappier experience while using the tablet. It was quick to load apps, but I felt a laggy UI was present when swiping through pages and the home screen. I’m not sure if it was the device itself, or the version of TouchWiz, it just seemed that some of the UI experience left me wanting more. This could be my almost complete ignorance in the Android device world, so if it is just the version of OS it was running that created this experience, I apologize for my stupidity.

But like I said, apps loaded super quick and you could tell that this handled well with what it was packing on the inside. We had no issues running multiple apps at the same time. We really didn’t notice any drop in speed when jumping from one app to another. Same with loading websites, this was extremely quick over WiFi. We have seen faster (with the iPad 2), but this little guy is no slouch at the intertube browsing. Video playback and gameplay seemed to flow smoother during our tests as well.

Battery Life

The battery life in no way dissapoints. I almost topped out at 10 hours by using it for about 5 hours on WiFi a day, and the rest playing games and watching video, I can say for a fact that this would have no problem lasting you a cross country flight. I didn’t once need to grab the charger in the middle of my day to give it a nice snort of fresh air.

Camera

Let me begin by saying I find it completely awkward to take pictures with a tablet. I think a rear camera on these things is unnecessary. A front facing camera for video chatting is where it should end on a device like this. I would never ask my MacBook Air to have a rear facing camera, and that is how I view a tablet’s attempt. I’ll always have my iPhone(or similar device) in my pocket and I will never be that douce bag with an 11 inch point and shoot.

Okay, back to the review… The camera actually takes some nice shots, at least for a 3 megapixel camera. For what I would use the camera for in every day life, it fairs well. It does snap pictures quickly, but again, not overly impressive quality. We do get an LED Flash that does create some decent exposure in low-light conditions. The Tab 8.9 can also capture 720p video.

The camera isn’t something that rivals any modern smartphone on the market, but in a pinch, you can get some decent shots. The 8.9 also features a 2 megapixel front facing camera. I didn’t use it a whole hell of a lot, but the pictures I did snap with it weren’t bad at all.

Conclusion

All-in-all, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is a decent tablet. If you are looking for a size between the popular 10-11” tabs around and the smaller 7” variety, this is definitely something to take a look at. As I mentioned earlier, it felt great in my hands. I had no problem using it on the go, and didn’t feel like I could drop it at any moment. Respectable battery life, and decent app management, I enjoyed the time I spent with the device.
I wasn’t a fan of the skinned over version of Android I was using. It felt clunky at times, creating a UI experience I wasn’t horribly fond of, but in app time was as smooth as I would expect.

At $399, I would recommend the Apple iPad 2 to be perfectly honest. With the “New iPad” being released, Apple dropped the price of the older generation, and if you were going to spend 400 bucks on a tablet, the iOS experience and unbeatable piece of hardware outweigh any Pros you might have. This doesn’t mean the Galaxy Tab isn’t a bad device, but I feel for the same price you might enjoy your purchase that much more.

Thanks to Samsung for the review unit, you definitely gave me more time than I have ever had with an Android device.

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