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Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Samsung has announced a trio of new Galaxy tablets, all of which are part of its updated Galaxy Tab4 range. The new devices replace the aging Galaxy Tab 3 models, which were released last year, and didn’t offer much over the previous Tab 2 hardware. What has it got for us this time?
The largest of the three is the Galaxy Tab4 10.1, which has a 1280×800 pixel, 10.1-inch touchscreen. An unnamed 1.2GHz, quad-core processor with 1.5GB of RAM powers the tablet, plus there is 16GB of internal storage space. Other features include a microSD card slot, a 3-megapixel rear camera, a 1.3-megapixel video call cam, plus the option of adding 4G LTE connectivity. Keeping all this up and running is a 6800mAh battery.
Samsung has also launched the Galaxy Tab4 8.0, which has an 8-inch screen boasting the same resolution as the 10.1-inch tablet. The processor is also a 1.2GHz quad-core chip with 1.5GB of RAM. Other specs remain the same too, with the main difference being the screen size and the battery capacity, which drops to 4450mAh. Finally, there’s the Galaxy Tab4 7.0, and the good news is the specs are the same as the 10.1-inch and the 8.0-inch models. The only choice you’ll have to make, when choosing a Tab4 tablet, is how large you want it to be.
Android KitKat is installed on all three tablets, complete with multi-window app support, and Samsung will produce both black and a white models. Prices have yet to be confirmed, but they’re due to go on sale before the end of June.
We got an early look at this range of tablets earlier this year. The Galaxy Tab 3 family consists of three tablets: 7.0-inch, 8.0-inch and this 10.1-inch. This isn’t all that dissimilar to what Samsung has done in the past with its other tablets. Indeed, there was a 10.1-inch version of the Tab 2 and, if you scrouge around, you might be able to find used or refurbished models for as little as $230-$250 or so.
For the most part, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 (I really hate when companies put numbers next to one another like that, by the way) is an incremental improvement over the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 that it replaces. Indeed, Samsung even says that you get the “same Galaxy experience” here as your Galaxy smartphone.
Compared to the decidedly higher specs you’d get on a Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) though, the Galaxy Tab 3 isn’t nearly as impressive. The 10.1-inch display is merely 1280 x 800, a lower resolution that the Galaxy S4 which has a screen one-quarter the size. Other specs include the 1.6GHz dual Core Intel Atom Z2560 processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, microSD expansion, 3.2MP main camera and 1.3MP front-facing camera.
I’ll start with the positive stuff first, since we don’t need to get all Debbie Downer just yet.
One of the first things that attracted me to the Lumia 2520 was its design. The tablet measures 10.5 inches wide by 6.6 inches tall by 0.35-inch thick, and weighs 1.3 pounds, so it’s not small by any means. But, much like the Lumia smartphones, it has a seamless unibody design and rounded edges that help keep the tablet manageable.
Its main competitor, the Microsoft Surface 2, is bigger and heavier at 10.8 inches by 6.8 inches by 0.35-inch, and 1.49 pounds. But it also manages to pack in a USB port and built-in kickstand. There is an accessory case you can buy for the Lumia 2520 for $150 that lets you prop the tablet at an angle and includes a full keyboard and touchpad. It also provides up to five hours of extra battery life.
The Lumia 2520’s 10.1-inch touchscreen is a bright spot — literally. With a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, reading text and viewing videos was a delightful experience. I downloaded Pixar’s “Monsters University” from the Xbox Video store, and the display showed great detail along with bright colors. Like the Lumia 1520 phablet I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, this tablet also automatically adjusts the display’s brightness depending on the lighting conditions, and I had no problems seeing the screen, even while using it outdoors.
Being able to use the tablet everywhere is a huge draw of the Lumia 2520, and one of the ways Nokia tried to differentiate the tablet from its competitors. As such, the tablet offers 4G LTE cellular connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi. (The Surface 2 is Wi-Fi-only.) This gives you a lot more freedom in where you can use the tablet once you’re outside the boundaries of your home or office’s Wi-Fi network.
I own a Wi-Fi-only iPad, and it was nice to be able to take the Lumia 2520 with me on the go, and not have to worry about trying to find a cafe with Wi-Fi whenever I needed to check email or catch up on news. I’ll also be traveling for the Christmas holiday soon, and I can see it coming in handy while waiting at the airport (so many cute cat videos to watch, so little time). But that privilege also comes with the added expense of monthly data plans.
The Lumia 2520 costs $400 with a two-year contract on AT&T or Verizon, and data plans for the 32 gigabyte Verizon model I tested start at $30 per month for 4GB of data plus a $10 monthly line access fee. AT&T’s data plans start at $15 per month for 250 megabytes of data. Alternatively, you can pay $500 for the Lumia 2520 without a contract, and pay for a monthly data plan only when you need it. Meanwhile, the Wi-Fi Surface 2 costs $450 flat, and Nokia currently doesn’t have plans to offer a Wi-Fi-only Lumia 2520.
Still, for those who crave or need that always-on connectivity, the extra expense might be worth it, and the Lumia 2520 is a lot cheaper than some of the alternatives. The 32GB iPad Airwith 4G, for example, costs $630 on contract with Verizon, and the 16GB Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 costs $500 on contract. But in going with the Lumia 2520 (and the same goes for the Surface 2), you give up the wide selection of apps available to the iPad and Android devices.
While I was able to find some of the more common big-name apps like Facebook, Twitter and Netflix in the Windows Store, there were plenty of missing titles. Pandora, Temple Run 2 and Rockpack (a Web video discovery and curation service) are several apps I frequently use on my iPad, and none were available for the Lumia 2520. Windows RT 8.1also differs from regular Windows 8.1 in that it can’t run an array of traditional Windows programs like Adobe Photoshop or QuickBooks.
You do get the full RT version of the Microsoft Office suite, including Outlook. And Nokia includes some software extras, such as its Video Director app (for editing videos) and Nokia Music.
If you can get past these limitations, the Lumia 2520 does perform its duties as a tablet well. With a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the tablet felt very responsive and fluid.
Battery life was also solid. In my formal battery test, I turned off the 4G connection but left Wi-Fi on to retrieve email in the background, and then played a continuous video loop with the screen set at 75 percent brightness. With those settings, the Lumia 2520 was able to provide 11 hours of battery life. That’s about an hour and 15 minutes short of the iPad Air, but still plenty of juice to watch a movie on a cross-country flight.
In a more real-world setting, where I used the tablet with 4G to check email, social networks, browse the Web and work on documents, I could go a full day before needing to recharge.
With the Lumia 2520, Nokia has built a very attractive and solid Windows tablet that can give the Surface 2 a run for its money, as long as you’re okay with paying for a monthly data plan and working with a limited selection of apps.
The device borrows heavily from Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note 3 smartphone both in terms of design and features.
It is also a shadow of its former self with the new version noticeably smaller and lighter with the latest model just 7.9mm thick and tipping the scales at 540g.
The wi-fi version of the device is powered by a 1.9Ghz quad core processor while the 4G version has a 2.3Ghz quad core processor.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition has the same leather-like back panel as its Samsung younger brother the Galaxy Note 3 right down to the detailed stitching and leather grain look and feel.
It also has the same silver edging and an indentical home button and virtual key layout under the display.
Speaking of the display, the 10.1-inch display has a WQXGA resolution of 2560 x 1600 so your content will look sharp and clear.
The new tablet also inherits the same S-Pen stylus as the Galaxy Note 3 and it stores neatly inside the device in the top right corner until the user is ready to use it.
The S-Pen and the ability to write directly on the screen is what distinguishes Samsung’s Note tablets from its Tab range.
Users have the choice of using the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as a regular Android tablet but it also provides a tactile experience if you like the feel of a pen in your hand.
Apart from writing simple notes, the S Pen can be used to create charts, draw and paint and to also execute simple tasks through Air Command.
Air Command appears as a semi-circular list of commands which includes Action Memo, Scrapbooker, Screen Write, S Finder and Pen Window.
Action Memo allows users to write addresses and numbers that can be saved into your contacts or used to call, find on the web or on a map.
Scrapbooker makes it easy for users to gather information from the web and collect in one place. Simple circle a headline on a website with the S Pen and that link is placed into a scrapbook of your choice.
This is a handy feature if you’re researching a project or a new product to buy.
Screen Write lives up to its name and, when selected, snaps a picture of the screen which can then be written on if you wanted to draw on a map, write instructions or caption a photograph.
S Finder is an easy way to search through the content with your S Pen while Pen Window creates a space on the screen to run another application.
Once Pen Window is selected, the user simply draws a square on any part of the screen and selects another app from the list that appears in this space including a calculator, contact list and calendar for true multitasking.
Speaking of multi-tasking, the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition also makes it possible to split the device’s screen so you can run two full apps at once.
On the content side the device comes with My Magazine – an app that can gather content from your social media and news feeds and present in an easy-to-read magazine style.
Unlike the iPad Air, the Samsung tablet is designed to be used in landscape mode seeing the home button and logo are located along the top and bottom of the longest edges.
But that’s not to say you can’t turn the tablet on its side and view the content in portrait mode.
This was how we preferred to use it especially while writing directly on the screen as it felt more like a notepad.
But in this mode the user has to come to grips with the physical controls like the volume controls and home button not being in the right position.
On the rear panel is an 8-megapixel camera while a 2-megapixel camera is positioned on the front.
And while the tablet isn’t always our first option when it comes to taking photos, it's good to know the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition has an above average shooter that is as good as many smartphone cameras.
The device has done away with the proprietary connector/charging plug that was seen on the previous model and has replaced it with a microUSB port.
Also on board is a microSD card slot to expand the onboard 16GB memory and to make it easier carry around your favourite content.
There’s also a 4G version of the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition and it takes a micro SIM card to connect you to the cellular network to stay connected from anywhere.
There are a wide range of 4G/LTE bands where the tablet will work so it can keep you connected almost anywhere in the world.
The 4G version of the device will also work with the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch so you can get notifications, emails and other alerts on your wrist.
Thanks to the 8220mAh battery onboard you’ll get up to two days of regular use but if your main task is watching videos and playing processor intensive games that will bring that down to a day.