Samsung just officially launched its Galaxy Tab 2 products, the latest additions to the company’s line of multi-sized Android tablets. The new line includes 7- and 10.1-inch models and competes aggressively on price.
The new 7-inch Galaxy Tab costs just $249.99 for 8GB of storage. Looking at similarly sized competitors, the 8GB Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet goes for $199, and the BlackBerry PlayBook is $50 more, at $299 — although a temporary price drop to $199 appears to be slowly becoming permanent. Amazon’s Kindle Fire set the low bar when it debuted, and is still priced at $199.
In the large size, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 (yep, that’s the official name) is just $399.99, or virtually the same price as the iPad 2. The new Galaxy Tabs run the latest version of Android, “Ice Cream Sandwich,” and boast a few novel features.
First and foremost is a built-in remote control. Each Tab 2 is equipped with an infrared emitter to control your TV, Blu-ray player and other electronics. In addition to operating your gear, the Smart Remote app also integrates TV listings from your cable or satellite provider (or over-the-air if that’s your bag).
It’s a great idea in theory, but emphasizing content has a price in control. After getting our Galaxy Tab 7.0 to pair with one of Mashable‘s Sony TVs, we found that it didn’t do a very good job of replicating all of the TV’s abilities, for example widgets and web browsing. That’s ironic, since our Sony set is actually a Google TV device — the same company that makes Android.
The Samsung secret sauce doesn’t stop there, though. If you happen to have a newer Samsung TV, the Tab 2 can actually take whatever’s playing on the TV and mirror it on your tablet. That’s potentially an extremely useful feature. It could, for example, let someone cooking in the kitchen watch the same media (TV broadcast, cable show or Blu-ray movie) that people in the living room are watching — without any installation. Much appreciated, but again, only Samsung TV owners need apply.
On top of the remote goodness, you also get access to the Samsung Media Hub for buying music and videos with the widget front and center on your home screen (you can get rid of it fairly easily). Plus, there’s built-in integration with AllShare, the company’s media-sharing (soon to be cloud) service that lets you easily move and copy your photos and movies between Samsung devices. Who’s excited?
Right. Nobody. That could be part of the reason Samsung is partnering with Dropbox — a cloud storage and sharing service that a large audience actually uses — to offer 50GB of free storage (said to be a $99 value) for one year to anyone who buys a Galaxy Tab 2.
The 7.0 version has a 1,024 x 600-pixel screen, while the 10.1 is 1,280 x 800. Both models pack a 1GHz dual-core processor.
Samsung, as ever, makes strange choices in skinning Android. Why, for example, are the “see all apps” icon and status indicators (like the time and Wi-Fi strength) in opposite places than on other Android devices, even Samsung ones like the Galaxy Note?
That’s probably a matter of taste, though, and it doesn’t stop the Galaxy Tab 2 from being a very capable device. The 12-ounce weight feels perfect in your hands (easy to carry but not so light that it feels cheap), and games, photos and video look decent on the 7.0 screen — although it’s a far cry from the new iPad’s retina display.
The dual-core processor does a good job of keeping up with the graphics, rendering rapid-fire videos and games with fluid precision. It performed well in benchmarks, outperforming many of its ancestors, the original Galaxy Tab, the Galaxy Nexus and the Samsung Nexus S.
Overall, the Galaxy Tab 2 is a solid 7-inch tablet, although the display (arguably a tablet’s primary feature) is unimpressive. We like the idea of the remote-control abilities, and the TV-mirroring is a great addition if you have the right gear. If you don’t have any use for those, however, Samsung’s new Tabs probably won’t do much for your iPad envy.