The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v (also known as the P7100) is a piece of hardware with an unfortunate story behind it. That little extra “v” means that this Vodafone exclusive differs from the Galaxy Tab 10.1 that will start appearing on South African shelves in the next month or two. Will you be worse off with the 10.1v than the retooled, sleeker 10.1?
The long, drawn out story is that Samsung had already begun the production run for their just announced 10.1 when the iPad 2 was unveiled (click here to see our review of the iPad 2). Samsung was so impressed by the form factor of the new iPad, that a decision was made to retool the 10.1 to make it the thinnest tablet yet. Some deals were made, and it was decided that the “old” 10.1 was to be a Vodafone exclusive, under a new name – the 10.1v (hey, they had to do something with the stock). Now that the sleeker, retooled 10.1 has surfaced, Vodafone has decided that they’ll offer both the 10.1v and the 10.1 (at least until 10.1v stock runs out). So, have you been shortchanged if you’ve already gotten yourself a Tab 10.1v? Will it be a bad idea to pick up a Tab 10.1v if the price comes down? The answer might surprise you.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v measures 246.2 x 170.4 x 10.99 mm (2.39 mm thicker than the retooled 10.1) – this sounds bigger than it looks. At 589 grams, it’s much lighter than expected. This isn’t a bad thing, though. It’s easy to pick up and comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.
The solid sheet of Gorilla Glass covering the 10-inch display, front camera, and proximity sensor is set into a grey metal rim, with the power/lock button, headphone jack, and one of the pair of stereo speakers on the left side of the device. The right side holds the SIM slot and the other speaker. The bottom is home to Samsung’s proprietary dock connector in the center, and a volume rocker and microphone can be found along the top of the device. The buttons are pleasantly responsive, but you won’t find yourself accidentally locking the device or adjusting the volume. That being said, the position of the volume rocker isn’t optimal. I’d have preferred it on the right hand side of the device – within easy reach.
The back is a hard, textured black plastic that looks (and feels) very durable. There’s a slightly recessed oval in the center of the back that holds a silver disc that sports the Samsung logo. Apart from being a nice aesthetic touch, this recession also gives you a more secure grip. The main camera and its accompanying LED flash also lives on the back of the device.
Both the form factor and the materials used to construct the Galaxy Tab 10.1 are pleasant enough, but it does feel a little cheap compared to something as solid as the Motorola XOOM.
The Tab’s 10.1-inch TFT Capacitive display, running at a resolution of 1280×800, is more than adequate. It doesn’t bring any technological breakthroughs to the table, but it’s definitely on par with what’s out there at the moment.
Brightness is good, and colour reproduction is quite faithful. The responsiveness of the (multi-point capable) touch sensor sometimes felt like it couldn’t keep up, but this may be a software issue. There was also, unfortunately, a little backlight bleed visible with dark colours.
Performance And Battery Life
The Dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 proccessor, paired with a GeForce GPU (all held together by NVidia’s Tegra 2 chipset) is mostly the same configuration found in all of the other Honeycomb tablets out there at the moment. In-app performance is generally very good, with almost no lag present. Games run with relatively high frame rates. The general Honeycomb interface, however, does feel a little laggy and slightly unresponsive at times. This may be down to the fact that this tablet is still running Android 3.0. All in all, though, the Galaxy Tab 10.1v’s performance is nothing to scoff at.
The 10.1v is powered by a massive 6860mAh Lithium-polymer battery. It takes ages to charge, but the inverse is also true. To say that this battery is impressive would be an understatement. With moderate use, getting more than a week’s worth of battery life was easy.
Here’s where the 10.1v wipes the floor with the retooled 10.1 – in order to shave just over 2mm off the device’s thickness, the camera module had to be replaced with a 3 Megapixel one. The Galaxy Tab 10.1v comes with a 8 Megapixel auto-focus camera that is pretty damn good. Pictures are sharp, colours are vivid, and it performs better than most cellphone cameras in low light. It can also record Full HD (1080p) video.
The front camera (intended for video calling), at 2 Megapixels (fixed-focus), is also much better than what you can find on the majority of other devices out there.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v has usual set of hardware that assists in one way or the other: aGPS, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Digital Compass, Proximity and Light sensors. All present, and, as always, all working as expected. GPS locked quickly and accurately. WiFi was solid. Light sensors have gotten so good that you’re not even aware that they’re doing their thing.
The 10.1v also sports a SIM slot. Put in a data SIM, and suddenly you’re no longer dependent on Wi-Fi being present. Depending on signal strength, the 10.1v makes good use of 3G cell networks, being capable of full HSPA+.
The one thing that the 10.1v does not have is an SD slot. So, you get 16GB of internal storage, and that’s it.
Google’s version of Android for tablets, Honeycomb, has been out for a while now. Most Android tablets are already running 3.1 – some flavors of the XOOM have been blessed with 3.2 – and these new versions have brought quite a few notable features to the table: performance improvements, scrollable task list, resizable widgets and much, much more.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1v has none of these features as it’s still running Android 3.0, with no set date for the promised 3.1 update. If you’ve worked with the later versions of Honeycomb, going back to 3.0 is frustrating. If you’re new to it, then you won’t mind as much. However, as mentioned before, there is noticeable lag in the Honeycomb UI, which will probably be addressed in the update. One such aspect of the UI that was outright frustrating to use at times was the browser. The difference in responsiveness and rendering speed of the browser in 3.0 compared to the one in 3.1 is like night and day. Let’s hope the 3.1 update arrives sooner rather than later.
Another thing you won’t see on the 10.1v is Samsung’s TouchWiz UI customizations. Depending on who you ask this is either a blessing or a curse, but there’s nothing quite like an untainted version of Android. The question is, though, will the updates for the 10.1v be priority, and if not, will they at least be timely?
There are many that will tell you that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v is an older, lesser device than the retooled 10.1 – well, they’ll be right about the “older” part, but “lesser”? The internals are pretty much identical. You’ve got a choice. You can either live with a device that’s a smidgen over 2mm thicker, but with an excellent camera, or you can have one of the thinnest tablets available that takes mediocre pictures. Sure, there’s the risk you’re taking of waiting for official firmware updates, but a quick visit to the XDA Developer forum already shows that the 10.1v is quite a hackable device with a lot of potential.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v is a Honeycomb tablet that definitely shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. It may not be as pretty as its sibling, but it’s just as capable.
Build Quality: 7/10
Performance and Responsiveness: 6/10
Albert is a developer, gadget geek, and all-round nice guy. He‘s passionate about Android, and writes for ZADroid, a new blog that covers Android in South Africa. However, anything shiny and sufficiently technologically advanced puts a smile on his face. Above and beyond that, Albert loves the web and the technologies that drive it, good design, and original ideas.