Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 Review – Wi-Fi

When it comes to Honeycomb tablets, there’s no denying that Samsung creates some of the best Honeycomb tablets currently available in the market. Samsung first released the Galaxy Tab 10.1, a Honeycomb tablet featuring a very slim profile and a nice 10.1-inch display. They followed the release of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 with the slightly smaller version, the Galaxy Tab 8.9.

The Galaxy Tab 8.9 packs the same punch as its bigger brother, but all in a package that’s easier to handle. The devices are practically the same, with the exception of the smaller screen, lighter size, and smaller battery.

In my opinion, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 is the tablet that many of us have been waiting for. Its size, weight, are just perfect; not too big, not too small, easy to handle.

To find out if the Galaxy Tab 8.9 has what it takes to compete with the other Android tablets currently available, read our review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9.

The Good

  • Screen size: The Galaxy Tab 8.9 features a 8.9-inch display, a size that isn’t very common when it comes to tablets. Compared to 10 and 7-inch tablets, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 feels right; not too big, not too small.
  • Weight: Weighing in at only 16.58oz, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 is extremely light-weight. You won’t feel as if you’re lugging around a massive tablet, such as the Motorola Xoom.
  • Thinness: The Tab 8.9, just like the 10.1 model, is extremely thin. It’s actually the thinnest tablet in the market at the moment (until Toshiba’s Regza AT200 tablet launches).
  • Battery life: The 6000mAh battery will keep your Galaxy Tab powered all day and more.

The Bad

  • No microSD card: That’s right. To make things thin, Samsung opted to not include any microSD card slots in the Galaxy Tab 8.9. To compensate for that, the tablet is available in both 16GB and 32GB models.
  • High price tag: If you want one of these tablets, you’re going to have to spend at least $450. The 16GB model comes in at $449.99 and the 32GB model comes in at $569.99. It would have been great if the price was a little bit more affordable.

Hardware

Samsung didn’t digress to much from the design of the original Galaxy Tab 10.1. The two tablets are pretty much identical, except for size, of course. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 features a powerful 1GHZ dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor with 1GB of RAM backed by 1GB of RAM for fast access to your content at all times.

Samsung decided to not put microSD card slots in the Galaxy Tab 8.9. Instead, the Tab 8.9 comes in two flavors; a 16GB and 32GB model. Regardless of which model you pick, you will have plenty of space to store your data, unless you decide to load it up with a bunch of HD videos.

To take pictures and video chat, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 features both front and rear-facing cameras. The cameras aren’t anything to brag about either. The front features a 2-megapixel camera and the back features a 3-megapixel camera.

When it comes to the screen, Samsung has decided on a smaller 8.9-inch WXGA display with a 1280×800 resolution. Because of the smaller screen, this tablet feels very nice to handle. Regardless of whether you’re holding in portrait or landscape mode, the smaller form factor makes it easy on your hands.

To power things up, the Tab 8.9 features a powerful 6100mAh battery. Although Samsung doesn’t state specific battery life, we were able to go a few days without requiring a recharge on moderate usage. For video playback, we got about 7 hours before requiring a re-charge.

On the front of the Galaxy Tab 8.9, you have your beautiful 8.9-inch display that is surrounded by a thick bezel (about an inch), so you won’t be accidentally activating the screen when picking and moving with the tablet (if it’s on). The top of the display features the ambient light sensors which helps dim the screen when the brightness controls are set to automatic. Also on the top of the display is the 2-megapixel camera that can be used for video chatting and taking pictures and/or videos.

On the top edge of the device, you have all of your major buttons. The power button, volume rockers, headphone jack, and microphone are all located on the top-left side of the Galaxy Tab 8.9. The left and right side of the tablet don’t feature anything at all, which is ok by me.

On the bottom, you have Samsung’s proprietary connection port toward the middle, which is flanked by two stereo speakers. The proprietary port on the bottom of the Tab 8.9 is used to connect the tablet to your computer, TV (via the HDTV adapter) and to many other accessories available.

The back of the Galaxy Tab 8.9 contains both the 3-megapixel camera and LED flash. The back cover is dark and has a brushed metallic look to it. In reality, it’s just brushed plastic. That’s not a big deal because it allows for the tablet to be light; plus it looks good.

Software

The Galaxy Tab 8.9 runs on Android 3.1 Honeycomb. At the moment, there is no word on whether or not it will be receiving an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, which is going to be released with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus sometime in November. Unlike the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 comes pre-installed with Samsung’s TouchWiz UX UI. I didn’t get a chance to review TouchWiz UX in my review of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, by the time I had to send the device back to Samsung, the TouchWiz update still wasn’t available to the public.

Although I prefer my Android devices with pure Android, the Touchwiz UI is one the custom UIs that I actually enjoy using. Using it on the Galaxy Tab 8.9 was no exception.

The new TouchWiz UX features live panels, mini apps, and the quick panel.

Live Panels are nothing more than fancy widgets. You can add them to any screen that you wish. The new and improved live panels include the weather, time, social, and gallery. Yes, they look nice, but I wasn’t really impressed with them. Since I didn’t like them, I simply got rid of them.

Live panels are nothing more than fancy widgets

The Quick Panel is accessible by taping on the bottom right corner of your screen. From here, you have access to useful information, such as date and time, battery life, wireless network info and more. In addition, you have the option to adjust your screen brightness, access the settings, and also toggles to turn on/off Wi-Fi, notifications, GPS, Sound, Auto Rotation, Bluetooth, and Flight Mode.

Quick panel lets you access some system controls

The coolest feature of TouchWiz UX, in my opinion, are the new Mini apps. Mini apps are a set of apps that are accessible within any application that you launch on your Galaxy Tab 8.9. To access Mini apps, simply tap the caret on the bottom of the screen to reveal the 6 available Mini apps:

  • Task Manager
  • Calendar
  • World Clock
  • Pen Memo
  • Calculator
  • Music Player

Mini apps are visible after taping on the caret on the bottom of the screen

Unfortunately, those Mini apps are not customizable. These 6 apps are the ones you’re stuck with. You can’t replace them with apps that you want; you’re stuck with them for life, or until Samsung decides to update them.

The great thing about Mini apps is that they open on top of whatever application you’re currently running. Want to quickly jot down a note while browsing a site, launch the Pen Memo Mini app while on the site and take your notes. It’s a really great way to get certain things done without switching apps; if only it weren’t limited to those 6 apps.

Mini apps open on top of whatever app you are currently using

In addition to running TouchWiz UX, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 also comes preloaded with a number of Samsung and 3rd party apps.

Preloaded Samsung apps include:

  • AllShare – Share media with DLNA certified hardware
  • Ebook – Ebook reader
  • Media Hub – Buy and rent movies and TV shows
  • Music Hub – Buy music
  • Memo – Simple memo/text editor
  • Pen Memo – Take notes using the optional Conductive Stylus
  • Photo Editor – Edit photos
  • Readers Hub – Read magazines, books, and newspapers
  • Samsung App– Samsung’s app store
  • Social Hub – Social network aggregator

The list of 3rd party apps is just as big as Samsung’s pre-loaded apps. You will find the following 3rd party applications preloaded on your Galaxy Tab 8.9

  • Amazon Kindle – Read your Kindle books on your tablet
  • Amazon MP3 – Play music from your Amazon Cloud drive or music stored locally
  • Moviefone – View upcoming movie trailers, show times, locations and more
  • Polaris Office – Edit documents stored on your tablet or stored in your Box.net account
  • Pulse – Visual RSS reader
  • Words With Friends – Popular cross-platform Scrabble clone game

Camera

The Galaxy Tab 8.9 features both a front and rear-facing cameras. On the front, you have a 2-megapixel camera that is used primarily for video chatting and taking self portraits (mostly video chatting). On the back, you have a 3-megapixel camera that is also capable of recording videos at 720P.

The cameras are nothing to brag about, really. There is a noticeable shutter lag when taking pictures using the rear camera; the auto-focus is just a tad-bit slow. Check out the sample pics and video below.

Rear camera sample images

    

    

Front camera sample images

    

720P Sample Video



Mobile viewing link

Performance and battery life

The Galaxy Tab 8.9 features a powerful 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. That combination really helps make the performance on this tablet superior. Things just feel nice and smooth. Applications load quickly, transitioning between screens is smooth. Having multiple applications open at the same time didn’t hinder the performance of the tablet; it just kept chugging along.

For those of you who live by Quadrant scores, you will be happy to know that the Tab 8.9 consistently scored between 2200 and 2400 during my testing, which is on par with many other tablets out there.

When it comes to battery life, you won’t be disappointed. Although it sports a smaller 6,000mAh battery (compared to the Tab 10.1’s 7,000mAh battery), you still get a lot of use out of it. With normal use (browsing web, email, reading books, etc), I was able to go several days before requiring a recharge. Video wise, you can expect to get over 9 hours of continuous video.

Wrap-up

Overall, I think that Samsung made a good decision to release a smaller version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The thing that I liked the most about this tablet was its size. After having my Motorola Xoom for almost a year, I realized that 10.1 inches on a tablet was simply not for me. On the same note, after having tried a number of 7-inch tablets, I also realized had the smaller size wasn’t right for me either.

8.9 inches on a tablet is just perfect, and I realized that thanks to the Tab 8.9. It feels great in my hands and is very light and portable.

If only Samsung would have priced it a little bit cheaper, it could have been a real winner. At $450 for the 16GB model and $550 for the 32GB model, the smaller tablet is only 50% cheaper than the 10.1 model. I think that Samsung should have priced it at $399 and $500.

For more on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, check out its page on Samsung.com. If you want to find out who currently sells the Galaxy Tab 8.9 and for how much, check out Google Products.

Jonathan converted to the Android platform from Blackberry with the original Motorola Droid. He currently has a Samsung Galaxy Nexus complete with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on Verizon Wireless, a Motorola Xoom, and a Kindle Fire. Besides keeping up with Android news, he enjoys spending time with his family, gaming, reading, and computers. Google+

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