Samsung improves its flagship Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) tablet by upgrading it to Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” and dropping the going price to $399.99 (list). While the Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) is saddled with an awkward name, and its benchmarks aren’t exactly going to burn up the charts, it looks like an elegant option if you want a quality Android-powered tablet.
First, what do we call this thing? I’ll vote for the “Tab 2-10.” Superficially, it looks a lot like most other 10-inch tablets out there—a rectangle with rounded corners and a slightly textured metallic back. At 10.1 by 6.9 by .38 inches (HWD) and 20 ounces, it could fit seamlessly into an array of other similar tablets. The processor is a pretty stock model, too: The same 1-GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 we saw in the earlier Galaxy Tab 10.1 (3.5 stars).
But turn it on, and hurrah! It’s Ice Cream Sandwich! Samsung has TouchWizzed ICS, so it looks and works a lot like Samsung’s other tablets. But you want this version anyway because ICS is where the future is: This is the OS Google is targeting for the next generation of tablet apps. Samsung has laden the Tab 2-10 down with bloatware, but it’s largely useful. You get Netflix, a roomy 50GB of Dropbox space, various music and game stores, Kindle, an office app, and Samsung’s new Samsung Apps, which helps you sniff out tablet-friendly apps in the otherwise tablet-unfriendly Google Play store.
The flagship app, though, is Peel Remote, which we’ve reviewed previously on the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus ($399.99, 3.5 stars). Peel works with the Tab 2-10′s built-in IR blaster to act as a smart remote control for your home theater system. When we tried it on the new Tab 2 (7.0), which is made of the same stuff as the Tab 2-10, we found it to be more usable and responsive than it had been on the earlier tablet.
Otherwise, a MicroSD card slot helps keep storage flexible and prices down. This Tab only comes with 16GB of built-in storage, but you can go up to 48GB using memory cards. There’s a 3-megapixel camera on the back and a VGA camera on the front, and the tablet has an HDMI output port for TVs. It connects to the Internet using Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n—no 3G here, and no carrier contracts.
At $399.99, the Tab 2-10 goes up directly against Apple’s same-priced iPad 2 ($399, 4.5 stars). Just to look at the specs, Samsung has a superior tablet. Apple’s iPad has a lower-resolution screen at 1024-by-768, an inferior camera, and doesn’t have expandable memory or an IR blaster. But these factors are dwarfed by the huge number of iPad apps available: over 200,000, compared with about 1,500 in Tablified Market (4 stars), the best directory of Android tablet apps.
Seven-inch tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) ($249.99, 4 stars) can get away with running phone apps decently, but apps designed for phones look awful on a 10-inch screen. Many Android fans have told me that the built-in apps are enough—that with a good browser (and Android has several) and Peel Remote, you’ll have a useful tablet here. That may be the case, but go in with your eyes open.
This tablet will be available for pre-order on May 4, with real sales starting on May 13, at Best Buy, Amazon, and other large electronics retailers.