Samsung’s GALAXY Tab series houses some of the thinnest and most powerful tablets on the market. Thankfully, Samsung gives consumers a ton of choice when it comes to their tablet offerings. The GALAXY Tab series is offered in a plethora of different sizes ranging from 7 inches all the way to to 10.1 inches. With an MSRP of just $399.99, the Wifi GALAXY Tab 8.9 becomes a very viable tablet option for the general consumer. How does the Samsung GALAXY Tab 8.9 fare in a rapidly maturing tablet market? Read the full BriefMobile review to find out!
The GALAXY Tab 8.9 is one of Samsung’s current flagship tablet offerings and features some of the most powerful hardware available all wrapped inside of an unbelievably thin chassis. Check out the full GALAXY Tab 8.9 specs sheet:
- 8.9 Inch WXGA TFT Display, 1280×800 pixel resolution
- Dual Core 1Ghz Tegra 2 Processor
- 1GB RAM
- Android 3.1 Honeycomb w/ Touchwiz 4.0 UX
- 3 MP Rear Camera w/ Autofocus and Flash
- 2MP Front Camera
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x .34 inches (8.6mm Thin)
- 16 or 32GB of Internal Storage
- 6100 mAh Battery
- Available in Wifi and 4G LTE (AT&T) models
Samsung’s GALAXY Tab 8.9 is an engineering marvel from a pure technological viewpoint because of how thin it is. However, as with all Samsung devices, the GALAXY Tab 8.9 is constructed almost entirely out of plastic. The tablet doesn’t feel cheap in the sense that it’s going to break if you drop it, but it certainly doesn’t feel premium either. Pressing down on the back of the device causes the plastic material to bend, which certainly detracts from the overall feel of the device. There’s also a silver plastic trimming that lines the entire perimeter of the device, transferring over to the dark grey plastic backing. We wish the silver trimming was real metal instead of plastic as it would make the device feel a lot more premium. On the other hand, the tablet is remarkably thin and lightweight considering all of the powerful features this thing is packing. Even with the plastic construction in mind, the GALAXY Tab 8.9 is a beautiful piece of technology.
Personally, I find 10.1 inch tablets a tad too big and 7 inch tablets just a wee bit small. Needless to say, the GALAXY Tab 8.9 hits the sweet spot perfectly. It’s big enough to feel like a real tablet but not so small that it feels lacking in any way. Up top you have your Power and Volume buttons, both of which are very flush and blend in heavily with the rest of the device. The buttons also lack depth on presses so you may find yourself accidentally hitting them more than once.
The Samsung GALAXY Tab 8.9 has one of the best displays found on tablets yet. It’s no Super AMOLED or IPS display, but colors still manage to pop and the picture is very crisp and clear overall. The tablet features a pretty standard 1280×800 WXGA resolution but the picture is still better than most other tablets. If you plan on using this device out in the sun, we highly recommend investing in an anti-fingerprint screen protector or bringing a cleaning cloth with you at all times. Finger prints can make the device almost unreadable in sunlight, but clean them off with a cloth and it’s perfectly readable.
The display on the Tab 8.9 is made out of Gorilla Glass, one of the strongest types of glass currently available. It’s going to resist scratches and hairline fractures like a champ, no need to stress out over the durability here.
The GALAXY Tab 8.9 ships with Samsung’s Touchwiz UX on top of Android 3.1. It’s no secret by now that the Android 3.x series has been severely lacking on tablets. Samsung has managed to create a custom UX for their Android tablets that enhances the software immensely. Above all, performance is exceptional on this device compared to stock Android 3.x. There’s still a little lag here and there and touches aren’t always super responsive, but overall this is a major improvement as far as performance goes thanks to Touchwiz.
The User Interface receives a major facelift with the Touchwiz UX and for the most part, it’s a great addition. Menus are full of color and feel a lot more lively, and there are a ton of small UI tweaks that drive to improve the experience. Two really nice additions in Touchwiz are a dedicated screenshot button and a button for “live” widgets (think Dashboard Widgets on Mac OS X). These live widgets include things like Calculators or Calendars and sit on top of everything you’re doing. You can move them around and still interact with whatever is behind the live widget. For example, bring up a Calendar live widget while you’re browsing the web and you’ll still have complete control over the web page. Whenever you are done with them, you can easily ‘X’ them out and they don’t inhibit performance at all. Samsung has implemented this powerful ‘Widget’ system almost perfectly into the OS; it doesn’t feel tacked on or lacking in any way. Personally, I think these ‘live’ widgets are a huge addition and make the OS feel like a real computer. I’d love to see Google bake something similar into stock versions of Android so it’s included on every Android device.
Everything from Android Honeycomb is still intact here. You have your home bar at the bottom of the page which stays there no matter what you are doing. The bar gives you access to a ‘Return to Home’ button, a Back button, a Recent Apps/Multitask button, the Screenshot button, the ‘Live’ widgets tray, notifications, and of course quick settings. Widgets are still resizable and Samsung has decided to throw their own into the fray. Samsung’s widgets are big, bright, colorful and for the most part pretty useful.
Out of the box you’ll be greeted with a few pieces of Samsung apps in the app drawer. Since we are reviewing the Wifi Galaxy Tab 8.9 model, there aren’t any AT&T or Verizon apps to be found. Most of the apps Samsung included are actually pretty good like AllShare, Memo, a Photo Editor, and Music Hub. AllShare, for example, lets you stream multimedia content from your GALAXY Tab to your Samsung television. We were never bothered by bundled Samsung apps on this device.
Not everything can be remedied with a custom skin, however. At the core, Honeycomb is still an unfinished product. Google has never released the SDK for Android Honeycomb because it was a ‘transition’ OS to Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0. Why does this matter? Well, it makes it infinitely harder for developers to create apps specifically for the tablet OS and make use of all that screen real estate. Many apps, like Facebook and Twitter, have still not been optimized for Android Honeycomb despite the OS being out for around 9 months now. Most apps that you’d use on your Android phone have not been optimized for Android Honeycomb and it really hurts the experience. We’re not sure why Google released such an unfinished product but hopefully Google rectifies this sooner rather than later. No matter which Android tablet you get, they will all be lacking in the apps and games department.
We briefly touched on this earlier, but the Samsung GALAXY Tab 8.9 is one of the best performing tablets money can currently buy. Even though Android Honeycomb is buggy and laggy at its’ core, the Touchwiz UX manages to make this device exceptionally snappy. Transitions, animations, load times, and overall fluidity feel much better on the GALAXY Tab 8.9 than stock Honeycomb.
Running a suite of benchmark applications, the GALAXY Tab 8.9 scored 2511 in Quadrant, 5009 in AnTuTu, and 18.6fps in Nenamark 2. In Quadrant and AnTuTu the GALAXY Tab scores higher than most Android tablets, but scores oddly low in Nenamark 2 for a tablet this powerful. We know the ULP GeFore GPU in Tegra 2 isn’t amazing by any means but it should be able to pull over 20fps in Nenamark 2 without any problems. Benchmarks don’t tell the entire story, however, so don’t base your purchase off of these scores. They’re more of a rough estimate, and we all know optimized software matters more than powerful hardware.
As with all Samsung devices, the web browser on the GALAXY Tab 8.9 is one of the best out there. Web pages load without delay and the pinch-to-zoom performance is buttery smooth. Even on the most graphically intensive websites we tested, the GALAXY Tab 8.9 was able to pinch-to-zoom without any performance hits, something most Android devices can’t claim.
If you’re in the market for a tablet, chances are you aren’t buying one based on camera performance. While it is nice to have a camera on a tablet, it is anything but convenient and practical to actually use out in the field as a dedicated camera. The GALAXY Tab 8.9 features a 3MP rear facing camera with auto-focus, flash, and 720p video recording. We were pleasantly surprised by the camera performance on the Tab 8.9. It was able to absorb a good amount of light, pictures came out nice and crisp, and auto-focus worked great on close to shots. Videos looked decent to our eyes. There is image stabilization at work and the audio sounds good, but the sensor has a hard time dealing with direct light from the sun. Videos can only record at 720p which is a limitation of the Tegra 2 chipset. Go ahead and check out our camera samples below!
Battery life is a huge plus on the GALAXY Tab 8.9. I was able to make it through 2-3 days of light/moderate usage without a charge which is pretty exceptional. Doing a rigorous continuous video playback test netted just around 9 hours before the battery was completely empty. For an Android tablet, battery life here is quite amazing and something you won’t have to worry about.
The Samsung GALAXY TAb 8.9 is one of the best tablets money can buy. With an MSRP of just $399.99 for the 16GB Wifi model, you’ll be hard pressed to find a comparable tablet at the same price. My two main complaints are the build quality, especially considering the back cover has give when you press down on it, and the downright pathetic collection of Android tablet applications. Besides that, almost everything about the tablet is spot on. The screen quality, battery life, performance, OS, and form factor are amongst the best out all tablets currently available. If you’re looking for a portable yet powerfully functional tablet at a decent price, look no further than the Samsung GALAXY Tab 8.9.