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Samsung Tab 8.9 Review

What We Think

The Samsung Tab 8.9 creates a new 8.9inch size for tablets; a size we found to work quite well. The lightness and slimness of the tablet was a positive and had no affect on chassis strength.

It’s also a fast and responsive tablet, just with a few little glitches here and there. We’d expect it to be the perfect tablet for those who don’t buy into the whole Apple thing, however it’s maybe just not as complete as the iPad 2. Still, it’s certainly one of our favourite slates yet.

Introduction

There seem to be hundreds of tablets out there at the moment –  all manners of ePads, A-Pads among others. This means buying a tablet can seem like a bit of a minefield. Though, owing to all experience of commerce it still seem to be a case of paying for what you get and Samsung’s Tablet 8.9 is at the premium end of the market both in terms of price and ability.

The tablet comes with a top end Tegra 2 processor and also very good looks. In fact, one of the most telling signs of its quality is its blade thin size, which manages to undercut the super slim iPad 2’s by a hairs breath of 0.2mm. It also manages to cut 154g off Apple’s 3G enabled iPad’s weight, and almost floats at 447g.

Design

This lightness impacts in no way in terms of the quality feel the Samsung offers. It’s a slim, but sturdy piece of kit with no flex, though still manages to be only 8.6mm deep. Of course it’s just short a quarter of an millimetre smaller than the iPad 2, but we sense this is a morale boosting attempt from Samsung. The black shiny front of the Samsung, is surrounded by a tidy silver bezel and black frame. The back end comes in a choice of black, or white and is comfortably grippy – a good thing for the clumsy among us.

We’ve already mentioned its slight weight of 447g  still ensures it’s far from shoddily built and we feel quite comfortable in its abilities  for long term wear and tear. Overall it’s a stylish, if not quite typical tablet, with definite nods in style towards Apple’s devices. However, its screen differentiates it from Cupertino’s charge.

Screen

Samsung’s years in the TV arena mean it knows how to create a great screen and just as with its phones, its tablets are no different. This tablets 1290x800p screen is of the Super PLS mould, not the AMOLED of its Galaxy phones, though that’s not to say it looks great. At 8.9 inches it’s still large enough to provide a very comfortable reading, or viewing experience – something that surprised us and may see others follow in its wake.

Black levels are good, as is the accuracy of colour. It manages to produce 169 pixels per inch, which is good for a tablet and is 30 per cent higher than the iPads. It also does a good job with viewing angles in both bright light and darkness. The capacitive screen is among the best in existence and a dream to use Android’s array of gaming apps on, for those of such a persuasion. Of course with the NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core chip means it doesn’t struggle to keep things moving either.

The tablet comes with a frontal and rear camera, 2mp and 3mp respectively and both quite average. There is 720p video on board and video apps, but the whole experience feels slow and wasn’t enjoyable. Audio however was surprising and we enjoyed its sounds and though it’s obviously not bass heavy its crispness impressed. Such sound was appreciated as we breezed through gaming apps and films on the device without a glitch.

Performance

The 8.9 inch tablet provides a nice sharp experience, though is perhaps not just as fluid as the iPad 2. As you may have guessed, it runs Android 3.1 Honeycomb – Google’s now replaced tablet operating system, though an upgrade is expected soon. The Tegra 2chip is a 1GHz dual core offering and provides good power and we didn’t feel it lacking with any of the current apps on the market. Though under very heavy multitasking, it does show some slow down. However, the ever increasing manner of technology means it’s now replaced with the quad core Tegra 3 chips of 2012.

The tablet is overlaid with Samsung’s TouchWiz 4.0 software, this means that you don’t get the pure Android experience – not a bad thing. Samsung includes its tilt to zoom feature,  adds its own social and music hubs and makes a few changes to stock Android with TouchWiz. These hubs aggregate all you content for a specific area, for instance the social hub includes Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc.  Together Android and TouchWiz don’t create as smooth of experience as Apple’s IOS5, but do offer far more customisation and in some ways are more innovative.

Unfortunately for  data hogs the tablet has no SD card and comes with 16GB and 32GB fixed memory options. There is room for a SIM on the 3G model and also 3.5mm connector. Samsung has also only included a 30 pin charging dock and not a universal port as expected and we’d have liked. Sharing can be done via its KIES wireless syncing and streaming is smooth, allowing for irritation free video.

Thanks to the 21 mbps HSDPA connection, browsing is sharp and as it’s an Android tablet it supports Flash. This pace and the excellent screen make for a great, very whole browsing experience. Google’s Mail and Talk integration is smooth and we have nothing but good things to say about the whole experience.

Finally, battery life comes from a 6100mAH power source, which provides adequate and expected life. Expect to get between 7-8 hours while browsing, doing a little downloading and playing some games. Do note that in tests around 70 per cent of battery power was because of the screen – so it’s a bit of a juice sucker.

Our Verdict

Samsung have created an iPad 2 rival, though something that is not exactly the equivalent of Apple’s slate. It’s a fast, responsive and light device, with a better screen than Apple’s, among a number of better features.

However, it’s just not as complete of tablet and lacks a little in some areas. There can be a little screen stutter at times and Android Honeycomb is just not as smooth as iOS5. That all said it’s one of the best alternatives to the best and for those not part of the Apple brigade it will surely be a popular choice and understandably so.

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