We had known about Samsung's event for a little while now, and while there was some pretty obvious speculation about the purpose of that event, it wasn't until a leaked internal Verizon document that we got any kind of "confirmation" as to what we'd be seeing tonight. And, sure enough, Samsung delivered the goods with their Galaxy Tab device. The 7-inch tablet that runs Android 2.2 is officially heading into the United States under the watchful guidance of the four major wireless carriers some time within the holiday season, this year.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab features a 7-inch, 1,024 x 600 WSVGA resolution display. Samsung also confirmed that the US-based versions of the tablets will feature the same front- and rear-facing cameras, which will let customers take full advantage of the voice calling service, which will be facilitated by Qik. This service will only work over a WiFi connection, however, so no 3G video calling for Tab owners. Other features include integrated WiFi (there will be a WiFi-only model that will ship some time in the near future -- Samsung wouldn't provide any further details on it), GPS, an HDMI-out port, as well as a USB port. You'll find a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting your favorite headphones into the tablet, too.
Software wise, you're looking at the same TouchWiz 3.0 User Interface that has grown so famous with the smaller versions of the Tab, the Galaxy S line-up of smartphones that were recently released in the States as well. There have been some changes, however. Unlike the international version of the Galaxy Tab, US-based owners will not be able to take full advantage of the Reader or Music Hubs. There will, also, be customizations to the software to work in a far more seamless experience with your particular carrier of choice. Meaning, you will find AT&T-based services on your AT&T branded Galaxy Tab, and the same will go for all of the carriers.
Inside, you'll find Samsung's 1GHz Hummingbird applications processor, which is best known for its way of handling 3D games. The processor does a very good job of pushing the tablet, making sure that applications launch in a respectable amount of time, and you don't see any noticeable hiccups along the way. It's the same processor that you'll find in the Galaxy S devices. However, while there is plenty of good news, there are some bullet points in the negative column.
First and foremost, the Galaxy Tab that launches on the Sprint network, where it will be housed with its little brother, the Epic 4G, will not be a 4G-equipped tablet. Unlike the Galaxy S smartphone on the same network, Tab owners won't be able to browse the Internet on those fast 4G speeds. And, while Samsung was happy to show off all of the features for the Galaxy Tab tonight, they weren't able to show us the carrier-branded devices quite yet. So instead, they let us play with the international version -- the same one we had plenty of hands-on time with at IFA this year.
As for software announcements, Samsung officially announced that the Media Hub is available. Currently, it seems that international Galaxy S owners will be able to take advantage of this new release. Here in the States, the Epic 4G on the Sprint Network is reportedly seeing Over the Air (OTA) update notifications, in which the Media Hub is part of the downloaded package. The Media Hub will be the go-to place for Galaxy Tab (and Galaxy S smartphone) owners to get their media. Samsung has partnered with NBC, Warner, Universal Studios, and MTV Networks to bring the best in media to the devices. Samsung added that they plan on adding new partners over time, so that the content can grow. As for pricing, they didn't go into great detail, but said repeatedly that they would be competitive with the other digital markets out there. And the Media Hub will allow you to rent content, too. You won't have to wait until something completely downloads to start watching, either. You can start streaming it as soon as a portion of it is downloaded.
The Galaxy Tab is launching with Android 2.2. Not only does that mean that it will be updated to the latest in software on the Android front, but it also means that the tablet will have the ability to play full Flash videos and games, as well as other entertainment. The Tab will launch with Flash Player 10.1, which means you get the "full Internet," in all of its ad-covered glory. They did show off some games running on the tablet, straight from their websites, and they did manage to work quite well. Of course, real-world testing will probably differ, especially over time.
In the end, our view on the Tab hasn't changed. Not that it really could have, considering we were only provided with a model that we had already seen. But, while the device itself is plastic and light, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Tab is light enough to hold in one hand and not get fatigued, yet solid enough that it doesn't creak every time you move it around. The question, "Is it better than the iPad?" is one that's going to be asked several times, for a long time to come, but the truth is, that's only something that one person can answer: yourself. You'll have to try both tablets to get the full effect, in which case you'll be able to decide which one is right for you.
We are impressed with Samsung's Android-based tablet offering. They've done a good job of making sure that the hardware matches the quality of the software. And now that the Media Hub is official, and launching with the Tab when it comes to the four major wireless carriers here in the States by the end of the year, we know that there will be plenty of people out there eagerly anticipating getting their hands on it. Check out our hands-on video below, which was at tonight's Samsung event, as well as all of the videos from the event.
Flash Player 10.1 Demo
Android Market app and Qik demo