14 Days with Galaxy Tab 10.1

On July 30, 2011, in Gadgets, Review, by jafo

Compelling Features

  • Like an Android phone, but with 10 hours of battery life.
  • All the same apps, much bigger screen.
  • Honeycomb is dramatically improved for a tablet.
  • Mostly familiar, coming from an Android phone.
  • Very nice form-factor.

Drawbacks

  • No Google Voice for you (because you can’t make calls, you also
    can’t do text messages).

  • It’s not at all a multi-user device, and $500 feels expensive if
    we can’t really share it.

  • Proprietary USB cable.
  • No SD card slot leads to no ability to use USB to copy things onto
    it.

  • Time has to be manually set.
  • I don’t knwo what to do with it other than show it off.

Overall Impression

I got one of these bad boys 2 weeks ago, and have been playing with
it. It’s a very pretty tablet, where other Android tablets are chunky or
clunky feeling, this is quite svelt. However, I’m still trying to figure
out what good it is.

Note that this is running a (very) slightly older version of
Honeycomb. It was very hard to buy this when the one sitting right next to
it asked us when we walked up to it if we wanted to update to a newer
version (3.2 versus 3.1, IIRC). It’s not a huge difference in
functionality, but from reading the net it sounds like it may be months
before I get that revision.

As a tablet experience, it works out extremely well. Getting used to
the home and back keys in the lower left has taken some time. Mostly it’s
very comfortable.

A word about Google Voice though. I use it a fair bit to text with
people, and I was very excited to try it out on the bigger soft keyboard.
It’s not available in the market for the tablets though. Google Voice
requires your device to have a cellular connection to make phone calls, and
because the Galaxy Tab doesn’t have this you are prevented from using it
for testing. Google says they will be coming out with a “tablet optimized”
version later, but at the moment you are on your own to find an “.apk” file
to install manually. Once you do that, it works just fine for texting,
BTW.

Unlike a laptop, I can’t plug in my Cricket USB modem and get 3G via
it. IMHO, the tablet is fairly worthless without connectivity, something I
didn’t really think about coming from a phone which almost always just has
connectivity. It almost makes the $60/month that most data plans cost feel
worth it (though I think $60/month is a bit much for just data, I’d be more
willing at $30/month I think).

I thought WiFi was all over, but now that I really need it to use
the tablet I’ve felt like WiFi is nowhere.

I was also very surprised to have to manually set the time…
Sure, I don’t have a 3G connection to get the time from, but this
does have both GPS (which delivers first-rate time/date information)
and the network. While there are third-party applications for setting the
time from both these sources, they require “rooting” the device to use.

Primary Uses

This I’m still trying to figure out…

One excuse for buying it is that we’ve been talking about getting
another Kindle for, get this, the bathroom. :-) Great, the Galaxy Tab can
do Kindle books, but it can also do web browsing, the grocery list, so much
more.

But unlike a Kindle, it’s fairly expensive and so it’s kind of hard to
just leaving it in the bathroom. Which means it’s never in the bathroom
when I’d like some light reading…

I also justified it as being satisfying my temptations to get a Sony
Vaio P 1 pound laptop. For when I need a laptop handy, but don’t want to
carry all 15 pounds of my normal kit.

Again, it kind of falls down here since usually when I need my laptop
I need it so I can connect to remote servers and web-pages for work, and
hoping I can find WiFi isn’t going to cut it. I need to either be able to
use my 3G USB card, tether to my phone, or wait for a 3G model to come out
and decide to spend $60/month for 2 years on a contract.

Also, I probably need OpenVPN to make use of this device for work,
which requires rooting it… And I also need to be sure that none of this
causes my access credentials to become exposed if I lose the device.

In short, I have yet to find a compelling reason for the tablet.

Alternative OS

I’ve toyed with putting Ubuntu on it. But then I’d want a cryptofs on
it, and I’d have to come up with a way to enter the crypto password in the
minimal boot environment where it’s asking for it… Then I could probably
use my 3G card and OpenVPN though…

I’ve also thought about ChromeOS, which does have a first-class system
for sharing the device among multiple users. However, it does not
have much in the way of applications other than a browser, IMHO. When I’ve
used ChromeOS, it’s always felt more like a toy than something I could use,
except as a browser.

Other Tablets?

The ASUS Transformer sounds like a pretty compelling alternative. The
biggest thing is that you can clip it into a keyboard, and it turns into a
laptop form-factor. The big benefit here is that the keyboard has a second
battery giving 16 hours of battery life. However, the transformer
with keyboard and second battery is getting up to 3 pounds, so I might as
well carry my $300 netbook with 8 hours of battery life and a real Linux
distro on it…

The Motorola Xoom has an SD slot and a regular USB port (not for
charging though), and a newer OS… But it’s also chunkier. I really
don’t find it to be a compelling alternative. Though if it had come out at
$500 rather than $700 or $800 I probably would have gotten one then. When
it came out at that price point, I just laughed at it.

Conclusions

My phone basically is useless for running apps. It feels like if I
use any apps on it, I probably will run out of charge before I go to
bed (I charge it every night on the nightstand). The Galaxy Tab has around
10 hours of battery life, so I can use and keep on using it…

It’s 2 been two weeks and my primary use of it over the last week has
been showing it off… I’ll admit that I’m probably not the typical user,
but I’m really struggling to find a use for it.

Tagged with: