There’s no doubt that Apple still rules the roost when it comes to tablets, but as with the smartphone market, their biggest rivals to the throne is Samsung. The first of the Samsung Galaxy Tab devices were little more than an alternative choice to Apple’s iPad. With the release of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 devices, roughly 2 months after the launch of the 3rd iPad, can the 2nd edition Galaxy Tab be more of a rival to the number one tablet, or yet another one of many tablets that merely make up the numbers without posing any threat?
At first glance, there are noticeable changes to the design and build of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. Almost all the ports, buttons and speakers are found along the front and top of the tablet, making it easier to use, which also provides better sound when the device is placed flat (as opposed to the muffled sound with speakers placed on the rear). The only pitfall with the positioning of the buttons is that the power button is a little too close to the volume keys, meaning that you consistently decrease the volume as opposed to selecting the power button.
Compared to the original, the Galaxy Tab 2 is heavier, if only by 20g. The glossy finish of the original has been replaced by a matte finish, which doesn’t pick up fingerprints as easy. The redesign also has a sturdier build quality. Although these are good improvements, there isn’t much else to discuss in terms of change to the build and design.
With both devices released in May 2012, you’d expect the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 to be comparably similar or better in terms of hardware specifications to the Galaxy SIII. Surprisingly, this is not what the results yield. The SIII has a magnificent Quad-Core 1.4GHz Cortex-A9 CPU, compared to the Dual-Core 1GHz Cortex-A9 CPU you find in the Tab 2. Again, surprisingly, this is the same CPU you find in its predecessor. Other similarities in terms of hardware include the camera, display, battery, RAM, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 3G speeds.
The biggest difference over the original lies in the software upgrades and additions. With the upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, there’s quite a lot more to offer. The first addition comes in the form of the ‘phone’ app, which allows you to make use of USSD commands, which work as they’re supposed to, and not a half-baked, last minute solution. Other apps installed with the TouchWiz UI is ChatOn, Game Hub, My Files, Opera Mini, Photo Editor, Polaris Office, Readers Hub, S Planner, S Suggest, Samsung Apps, Video Hub, Video Maker and Video Player. Despite the reduction in performance using TouchWiz over the default Android 4.0, there are a number of features that improves the experience. This includes its Task Manager, Floating Apps (on the homescreen), quick launch, and a number of Samsung widgets.
With the similarities in hardware, the installed software makes the biggest difference in benchmark tests between the Galaxy Tab 2 and its predecessor. With an upgrade to the latest OS for the original Galaxy Tab 10.1, benchmark tests may reveal a surprise or 2 when the 2 tablets are compared.
The biggest disappointment with the new Galaxy Tab 2 lies in its GPU. The original Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 featured the nVidia Tegra 2 GPU, which not only brought about great gaming graphics, but also supported a host of games designed specifically for the Tegra-based GPU. Most experts would have foreseen an upgrade to Tegra 3, but Samsung instead opted for the PowerVR SGX540 GPU, which also powers the Motorola RAZR, despite the Tab being released after the new iPad powered by the PowerVR SGX543 GPU.
Note: The argument over the best GPU is ongoing, with some experts believing that the raw power isn’t all that matters, but rather how it is used. Thus, there are many different outcomes when running benchmarks tests comparing the PowerVR SGX543 GPU against the nVidia Tegra 3.
Although the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 has some new features over the original 10.1, the lack of noticeable hardware upgrades and GPU improvements would, thus, imply a more business-driven approach. Samsung takes itself a bit more seriously since the release of the first Galaxy Tab, which allows the likes of Asus, Sony and Acer catch up to the leading Android tablet (with the Motorola XOOM 2 seeing quite a big fall from grace), as opposed to Samsung making a more concerted effort at challenging the Apple iPad. The cost for Samsung’s new flagship tablet starts from around R5800 (recommended retail around R6500) depending on where your search for purchase takes you. The equivalent new iPad costs R6499.
Comparing the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 against the new iPad for each individual spec category sees Apple’s tablet come out on top. The additional software installed on top of the standard Android Ice Cream Sandwich allows the Galaxy Tab 2 to gain some ground on the new iPad, but sadly, not enough to overthrow the king off its throne.
You can find the full specifications here.