Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs. iPad 2 vs. Clarke's Newspad

Samsung's new Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a worthy competitor to Apple's iPad 2 (in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I received a Galaxy Tab at Google IO). Although the limited edition Tab has some pre-production bugs (I found a partial work-around for the music transfer problem, BTW; see below), the operating system is as quick as the iPad's.

As it turns out, either one is a good implementation of Arthur C. Clarke's Newspad from his 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey:

When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug his foolscap-sized Newspad into the ship's information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers; he knew the codes of the more important ones by heart, and had no need to consult the list on the back of his pad. Switching to the display unit's short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him.

Each had its own two-digit reference; when he punched that, the postage-stamp-sized rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. When he had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination.
(Read more about Clarke's NewsPad.)

One of the most interesting differences between the Tab and the iPad 2 is the aspect ratio of the screen; the iPad has an aspect ratio (AR) of 4:3 and the Tab has an AR of 16:9.

An AR of 16:9 is associated with widescreen displays, while 4:3 is associated with standard television; for this reason, the Tab is better at presenting widescreen video with less letterboxing than the iPad (and it has a screen able to present full 1080p video, see below).

However, a tablet computer needs to do more than present video, which is an essentially passive activity. Tablet computers are for doing things; it is easier for a 4:3 AR screen to "become" different things, particularly books. And speaking of the tablet becoming different things, you need apps to make it happen: the iPad App Store has about 92,000 apps, while the Android market has a paltry 50 (ahem, Android developers? you have your Tabs, let's get cracking!).

Clarke says the Newspad is "foolscap-sized", which corresponds to a sheet that is about 17x13.5 inches; closer to 4:3, like the iPad.

One of the key differentiators of the Tab is its slightly higher resolution screen ( 1280x800 pixels on a 10.1 inch diagonal screen, as opposed to 1024x768 on 9.7 inches for the iPad, which gives the tab 30% more pixels), which made a surprising difference for tasks like reading. I downloaded the same books on the Kindle app, and the Tab's screen is significantly easier on the eyes.

Usability experts have said for years that the biggest problem with reading on a screen is that it is significantly more tiring; studies suggest that people read 25% less than on paper. Screen resolution is one of the key contributors to this problem.

Another differentiator between the two devices is the backing. Some people have commented disparagingly on the plastic back of the Tab compared to the metal back of the iPad. Frankly, I found that the Tab is easier to hold on to, because the plastic back feels more "grippy" when held in the hands.

I compared the iPad 2 and the Tab directly; I noticed that the iPad 2 would often appear to display graphics more quickly, but the Tab seemed to complete the page more quickly.

One of the annoying things about the preproduction version of the Galaxy Tab, which I assume will be corrected in a downloadable update, is the inability to transfer music and video from your Mac to the Tab. I found out that you can at least partially take care of this problem if you have music on another Android device [ like, say, your HTC Evo device ;) ], by downloading Bluetooth File Transfer by Medieval Software and installing it on both the Tab and your other device. Then, you can conveniently transfer your music and video using Bluetooth.

All in all, I found the Tab to be real competitor for the iPad 2; I'm sure both devices will find enthusiastic fans. Oh, and I think that Clarke would be thrilled with either one.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/13/2011)

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