Galaxy Tab

Volume 13, Issue 59; 29 Dec 2010

Playing with my newest toy.

After a fair bit of procrastination, I decided that I really did want to try out a tablet. Given my current philosophical objections to Apple's app store policies, and the fact that the iPad is heavy, I knew I wanted an Android tablet.

After a bit more fretting about the next cool tablet that's bound to come out “real soon now”, I decided to give the Galaxy Tab a try.

I have to say that I'm quite impressed with the form factor. It's pleasant to hold: it feels wonderfully roomy compared to a mobile phone, and yet much more intimate and personal than a laptop. I think there might be something to this tablet thing.

I bought the Verizon version, not that it really matters since I have no intention of buying a data plan for it. (I have both a phone and a MiFi I can tether to if I need bits away from wifi.) The out-of-the-box experience was momentarily spoiled by the device's insistance that I “active” it. Happily, a quick web search revealed the volume button dance necessary to bypass activation. (Really? You couldn't just have a fscking “Skip” button?)

I get the distinct impression that an unactivated device wasn't part of Verizon's QA for the Tab apps. The default browser's default home page sort of falls over because it's trying to tell me something about my wireless account, but I switched to the Dolphin Browser, so I don't really care. I've avoided most of the other Verizon apps, just on principle.

I downloaded some music and such to it. It paired easily with another of my new toys, a pair of MOTOROKR S305 wireless headphones.

It functioned as a quite respectable music player while I was doing some work in a cafe today.

I'm also trying to read Zero History on it. I just finished the previous two Hubertus Bigend novels on my (older) Kindle, so it's a useful comparison. It's too early to say conclusively, but I think it's going to shake out like this: the e-ink, purely reflective, reading experience is better, easier but the tablet is going to win anyway because it's so much more versatile.

Even with the brightness turned down, I think I'm going to find that reading an LCD just isn't quite as comfortable as reading the e-ink display. And neither is even a distant second to actual ink on dead trees, but convenience is definitely a factor and I can carry a lot of books in either device.

I continue to find Android a quite pleasant experience. Maybe it lacks a little polish around the edges, but it's not like I notice very often.

Happy as I am with the Tab, there is one issue that I haven't resolved: how do I make the damn thing dead silent. Except for the media volume, which I sometimes want to have on, I don't want it to make any other noise.

In the main settings, I've turned off all the audible notifications (well, I think I have, I've surely tried), and I've further turned them off in applications that have separate settings where I've found them, and I've turned all the system volume levels to zero.

And yet, when I unlock 1Password, the padlock goes “kerchunk”, and when I added a new account, it made some ghastly “brinnng” noise. Shut up, damnit!

[Update: 30 Dec 2010, apparently the system “silent” checkbox got unchecked; maybe I did that, maybe not. We'll see if it sticks this time.]

There's also something funny going on with icons on the home screens. Connecting the device to my laptop via the USB cable appears to cause some icons to get deleted. I'm not absolutely certain that's the cause, but that's the impression I got. Time will tell.

[Update: 30 Dec 2010, apparently nothing to do with USB except that mounting/unmounting probably causes the home screen to refresh.]

In the minor nit category, it bugs me that the “menu” and “home” buttons are in a different order on the Tab compared to my phone.

Issues notwithstanding, the Galaxy Tab gets a thumbs up from me.


One advantage to reading ebooks on a glowing, non-e-ink screen is reading in darker situations, where they typically offer a white text on a black background option.

Will it run all typical Android apps?

—Posted by bobdc on 30 Dec 2010 @ 03:47 UTC #

Yes, on the plus side, you could read the Tab in a black dark room. Heck, like my phone, I'm sure it'd be a functional flashlight in a black dark room.

Conversely, on the minus side, I should also have mentioned battery life. With wireless turned off, my Kindle lasts for several weeks on a single charge. I haven't run the Tab to zero yet, but I'm sure it'll take no more than a few days.

With respect to apps, I haven't run into any that don't work.

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 30 Dec 2010 @ 12:17 UTC #

You hit the nail on the head with regard to eInk vs. LCD. I finally worked out a system where I do all my technical and work reading on the iPad because it's the best environment for annotating PDFs. All other reading is done on my Kindle or Nook. The iPad has "beamed" me more than once in dark planes and rooms, and the LCD tends to trigger headaches in the car. Even with the brightness turned all the way down. Interestingly, it appears that the size of the iPad screen is a relevant factor, as I do not have problems reading my iPhone in the same conditions. Either way, the iPad is never very far from reach during the day.

—Posted by Jean K on 30 Dec 2010 @ 03:21 UTC #

So...? Have you installed GNU emacs on it yet...?

(From google hits it looks like the only way to do so, is to first install a linux on it, typically debian or Ubuntu, and then apt-get install emacs. This seems a bit drastic... but to replace the netbook I'm using for the same type of use, that's something I personally would have had to do)

—Posted by Steinar Bang on 17 Jan 2011 @ 04:14 UTC #

No, not yet. But not because I haven't thought about it!

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 18 Jan 2011 @ 01:22 UTC #