Editor's note: this review was originally published on CNET and may refer to features, accessories and network capabilities that are not available in Australia.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 was one of the premier Android tablets when it launched in 2011, with specs that, at the very least, matched other top tier Android tablets at the time.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 feels almost like a disappointing prequel, rather than a full-fledged "we've improved everything" sequel.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is both slightly heavier and a bit less svelte than its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It still sports the same plastic backside, but now comes in titanium silver, as opposed to white.
Not quite as thin as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
Though the tablet feels comfortable in my hands, it's a bit wide and feels awkward when trying to type and hold it at the same time, even if you sport alien-like Arsenio Hall-long fingers like me. Also, the bezel isn't completely flush with the outer casing of the tablet, creating a slightly annoying edge.
When held in landscape, the top edge of the tablet seats five features: from left, there's a power/sleep button, a volume rocker, a 32GB capacity microSD slot, an IR blaster and a headphone jack. In addition, two 2-inch-long speakers stretch vertically along the left and right bezel. A dock connector and microphone pinhole sit along the bottom edge.
An up-close look at the microSD card slot.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 trades its predecessor's 2-megapixel front camera for a VGA one, and while it retains a 3-megapixel rear camera, the LED support light has been exorcised. Unfortunately, there's no HDMI option, requiring you to purchase an additional accessory if you have plans to connect the tablet to a TV.
The Tab 2 10.1 is the second Samsung tablet (after the Tab 2 7.0) to ship with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3, to be precise).
Samsung's TouchWiz UX skin is, of course, included and comes with custom Samsung apps like Music Hub, Media Hub, Game Hub, a built-in screenshot app and the Mini Apps tray located on the bottom of the screen. Tapping it brings up a tray of apps consisting of a calculator, notes, calendar, music player and clock. However, the most useful of these is still the task manager, which allows you to quickly kill any app running in the background; this comes in handy when apps become unresponsive.
The basic look and design of ICS are retained, just with a TouchWiz skin and a few extra shortcuts for quickly turning off Wi-Fi, GPS, screen rotation and so on. As an added bonus, Samsung offers 50GB of free Dropbox storage for the first year.
The Tab 2 10.1 houses a 1GHz dual-core OMAP 4430 CPU, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Tablet mainstays like 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi support, Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS are included, as well as gyroscope, accelerometer and digital compass support.
The larger speakers deliver louder sound, but, unfortunately, don't exceed the apparent quality limitations most tablets also adhere to.
The Tab 2 10.1 uses the same PLS-based panel tech the Tab 10.1 does, running at a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels; that's typical for most 10-inch tablets. Its clarity is as high as the original Tab's, but either there are different tiers of quality when it comes to PLS panels, or Samsung really didn't devote much time or effort to calibrating the Tab 2 10.1's colour. Like the Tab 2 7.0, the Tab 2 10.1's screen looks noticeably greener and colours appear washed out, compared with the original 10.1's.
When swiping through screens and navigating menus, the screen matches the sensitivity of some the most responsive Android screens out there, like on the Transformer Pad TF300. Also, apps launch without delay and settings menu options appear readily after tapping them.
Web and app download speeds matched most other Android tablets when within 5 feet of our test router, and even when up to 20 feet away, the connection retained much of its strength. While scrolling through websites was smooth, there was a noticeable degree of clipping, as the processor attempted to keep up with its rendering duties. Scrolling through a page once or twice, however, solved the clipping issue.
Thanks to its hardware scalability, we used Riptide GP as a games performance benchmark. Depending on the speed of the tablet's CPU, Riptide GP delivered a noticeable increase or decrease in frame rate. The Tab 2 10.1's TI OMAP 4430 CPU delivered decent playable frame rates, but can't approach the nearly 60fps smoothness we saw on Tegra 3-based tablets. It's not choppy and it's pretty consistent, but it's just not as buttery-smooth.
Games in 2D, like Angry Birds Space, showed no signs of performance issues compared with Tegra 3 tablet performance.
As mentioned, the Tab 2 10.1 has a front-facing VGA camera and a 3-megapixel back camera. Compared with the Tab 10.1, the difference between images and video recorded on the front camera was quickly apparent. A picture of my face taken with the VGA camera, for example, lacked many embarrassing and detailed blemishes, while a similar picture from the Tab 10.1's 2-megapixel retained many of my facial "features" I'd rather people not see.
The 3-megapixel back camera fared better, capturing more details, but the Tab 2 10.1's pictures still looked washed out, lacking detail and contrast. While the Tab 10.1's camera took a longer time to focus, it resulted in higher-quality pictures.
The 720p video playback from outside sources was smooth and crisp; 1080p files that were only a couple hundred megabytes in size, played fine, but files that were larger, say 1GB, looked less like a moving picture and more like a slideshow of images. That's one of the ways that Tegra 3 clearly enhances the Android tablet experience.
Our Tab 2 10.1's battery drained fairly quickly with normal use, over the course of several hours.
Even if you're a huge fan of Samsung's Touchwiz interface and you're champing at getting your hands on a 10-inch tablet with an IR blaster, AU$500 for the Tab 2 10.1 is still pushing it, given its competition.
The quad-core Asus Transformer Pad TF300 is the same price for the same storage, but the TF300 also includes micro-HDMI, a higher-quality rear camera and, for a little more, you can get the excellent ASUS keyboard dock too.
With that kind of competition, it's difficult to see the Tab 2 10.1 as anything other than an overpriced sequel that comes up short in performance and isn't exactly setting the world afire with unique features. IR blasters are nice, but can't compare with HDMI and quad-core power.