Reviews

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 310 review

 

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Samsung is probably trying to apply its smartphones strategy on tablets, as the company is launching Android tablets of varied specification in the Indian market. Starting from 7-inch, the Korean manufacture has a tablet for you in almost every possible size – 7.7-inch, 8.9-inch, and 10.1-inch.

The recently launched Galaxy Tab 2 310 is company’s first Ice Cream Sandwich tablet to reach India and it is also a device that marks a big shift in company’s target market. Instead of going after the iPad buyers, Samsung has realised that it is better to target buyers that don’t have the budget to opt for iPad and can compromise a bit on features.

The Galaxy Tab 2 310 comes at almost half the price at which original Galaxy Tab was launched in India and has similar features, but has the reduction in price impacted the overall performance of the device? We find out in this review.

Hardware
Apart from the original 7-inch Galaxy Tab, all the Samsung tablets look identical, with just a few aesthetic differences, but that in itself is not essentially a bad thing. The new Galaxy 2 310 looks nice and fits firmly in hand.

The tablet back is made of matte plastic and is resistant to fingerprints unlike the front, which just loves them.

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The tablet comes with microSD card and regular SIM card slot on the left, while volume rocker and power button are present on the right. The illustration on the SIM slot is, strangely, not indicative of the way the SIM is supposed to be inserted – we wasted quite a bit of time with that!

There is no Micro-USB port on the device and company has included a proprietary data cum charging port on the bottom that is joined by the stereo speakers and primary mic. The top houses the 3.5mm audio jack and secondary mic.

Overall, Tab 2 310 has been put together very well and the sturdy build is certainly a positive for it.

Display
In order to reduce the pricing of Tab 2, Samsung has opted for 1024x600p PLS display instead of much fancier AMOLED displays. PLS display are said to be brighter than normal LCD and offer better viewing angles, which is true for Tab 2 310 apart from the glare, but make no mistake – it is just your average display.

If you have seen the Retina display on the new iPad or even the Super AMOLED Plus on Galaxy Tab 680, you won’t be too happy with PLS on the P3100. The whites are a little yellowish and blacks are also on the grey side.

The touchscreen on the tablet is also prone to smudges and fingerprints.

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Software/ User Interface
The handset-makers have have been slow in bringing Android 4.0 smartphones in India but for tablets it has been a totally different story. Manufacturers ranging from Micromax to Zync to Milagrow, all have released multiple ICS tablets in the country. In that respect, Samsung is actually quite late in releasing its ICS tablet, while the relatively unknown makers have flooded the market with their latest ICS offerings.

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Coming back to Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 310, this tablet runs on Android 4.0.3 with Touchwiz UX on top. Similar to what we have seen on the smartphone, Ice Cream Sandwich is also a big improvement over Honeycomb on tablets.

The whole experience of using the ICS is pleasant and there is no lag, but surprisingly we saw a lot of shutter on the home-screen.

Another positive of having ICS on the device is the ability to install Chrome browser, which has just come out of beta and certainly is a must-have for every user.

One of the major issues that keep plaguing every Android tablet is the lack of optimised apps, and the story is same with Galaxy Tab 2 310. The number of tablet optimised apps is increasing but it is still quite low when compared to iOS.

On the pre-installed apps front, Samsung has included its own set of mini-apps (such as alarm, calculator, e-mail, music player, etc.) that do not take full screen space and can be overlaid on any running apps.

These mini-apps are very useful at times and can be opened from anywhere on the tablet by simply tapping on the arrow present on the bottom panel.

Other pre-loaded apps include ChatON, Photo Editor, Polaris Office, Readers Hub, World Clock and Video maker.

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Camera
Samsung has included a 3MP rear camera and VGA front camera on Tab 2 310. While, you won’t be using this tablet as your primary imaging device, but still the rear camera leaves a lot to be desired. The quality of images is average and as there is no flash, you will hardly be able to take any decent shots in low-light conditions.

The front camera is usable and you won’t have any issues video chats on the tablet.

Performance/ Battery Life

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The Galaxy Tab 2 comes with 1GHz TI OMAP dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM, which is more than enough to give decent performance and it succeeds in that. Apart from the occasional hiccups and shutters, the tablet is pretty smooth.

Tab 2 310 also comes with 3G connectivity with voice calling support and it works as anticipated. You can make voice calls, sent text messages and get 3G data, when you have no Wi-Fi access. In a country like India, where you don’t find Wi-Fi hotspot that commonly, having 3G on the tablet is certainly a big value addition.

The game playback is decent and games like Temple Run, BackStab, Asphalt 6 and Shadowgun worked perfectly.

The Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work just fine, however the Wi-Fi range is less than other tablets in the market.

The tablet comes with 4000 mAh battery, which is same as found in Galaxy Tab 620, and you will get almost two days of battery backup on regular use. However, if you are a 3G network hog, don’t expect it to last more than a day on heavy use.

Verdict
Samsung has released a very potent tablet in the form of Galaxy Tab 2 310. At the maximum retail price of Rs. 23,250 (street price is lower), it certainly has quite a few aces up its sleeve like 3G connectivity, voice calling, and Ice Cream Sandwich. However, the app problem is still present and if you want more app choice, bigger display and have no love for 3G, iPad 2 is still a great buy at INR 24,500.

 

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Samsung Galaxy S III

Hardware/Design:

As I briefly mentioned, the Galaxy S III is made almost entirely of plastic, save for the Gorilla glass coating its face. The design is meant to be inspired by nature, which seems silly considering all the plastic. There isn’t a straight line in sight, with rounded corners and tapered edges.

The plastic along the back has a brushed look to it, but it feels slick and grabs up prints. The blue version is worse than the white, though, with the white version simply clinging to dirt, dust and other unsightly particles while the blue just loves the smudge.

The phone is incredibly thin (.34-inches), considering the size of the display, and with a weight of 4.3 ounces it feels a little too light. You know — the cheap kind of light. Again, we come back to the plastic.

Now, I understand that building this phone out of metal or some other (more premium) materials would have made ease-of-use a bit more difficult. There are multiple radios in this guy, along with an NFC chip, and almost everything runs smoothly. With a metal frame, the same smooth ease-of-use would be far more difficult to achieve.

An elongated home button sits just below the display, with a volume rocker on the left edge, lock button on the right, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top left corner. The camera is square on the back of the phone with a speaker grill on the right and LED flash on the left. MicroUSB access is on the bottom.

OS/Software/Apps:

The Samsung Galaxy S III is packed with software features. To start, the phone runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI slapped on top. I’m not a huge fan of TouchWiz in terms of aesthetic (I much prefer pure Android ICS), but at least the custom overlay comes with a few helpful tidbits like resizeable widgets and navigational shortcuts in contacts.

But that’s nothing compared to the things Samsung has done with NFC and WiDi (WiFi Direct).

For one, Samsung has introduced a new way to make some money, called TecTiles. TecTiles are essentially stamp-sized NFC stickers, and work with any of Samsung’s NFC-equipped phones, allowing users to program specific tiles to do various actions when tapped. So a TecTile on my night stand may set an alarm and lower the ringer volume (in preparation for sleepy time), while a TecTile on my front door may connect me to my home WiFi network. The service works well, and the only real complaint I have about TecTiles is the fact that they cost $14.99 per a pack of five.

Another NFC-friendly feature is Samsung’s S Beam. It works similarly to Android Beam but functions over a greater distance, letting users share content in seconds without a WiFi or cell signal. This includes the sharing of photos, videos, music, web pages, etc.

In my experience S Beam worked well and transferred content rather quickly between devices. The main concern is just how much use S Beam will get. Sure, the Galaxy S III will be a popular phone, but that doesn’t mean that everyone in a given group of friends is going to go buy one.

The GSIII also comes loaded with Samsung’s new GroupCast feature, which syncs Galaxy S III devices so you can share a PDF, PowerPoint, or photo gallery presentation. The feature seems like it would be helpful for workers in the field or out of the office, especially considering that Samsung is offering an enterprise-friendly version of the device. It even lets users make marks on the presentation, though I wouldn’t consider this a collaboration tool since the marks disappear relatively quickly and can’t be saved.

The phone features Samsung’s cloud-syncing/sharing service AllShare Play, letting users share content on any AllShare-connected devices like Galaxy tablets, DLNA-capable TVs, set-top boxes and Blu-Ray players, as well as Samsung’s Smart TVs and Windows PCs running the AllShare Play app. This lets users pull files that are stored on home devices and throw a movie from their Galaxy S III to the TV.

Along with these major features, the Galaxy S III also has some small touches that make it a much easier device to use. Things like motion controls (tilting the phone to zoom in on images, or panning the phone to move icons from one home screen to the next) seem a bit arbitrary, as it’s just as fast and seamless to tap to zoom or slide my finger across the screen to rearrange icons. However, features like the ability to lift the phone to your face while in a text message conversation to initiate a call makes sense. The phone also dims brightness when it’s set down, saving you battery, and gives a little extra alert when you’ve been away from your phone if you’ve missed a call or message.

The biggest disappointment in software (and let it be known, I’m seriously impressed with the feature set offered here) is S Voice. It’s essentially a Siri competitor, allowing you to make commands with your voice. To start, it’s not as smart as Siri when it comes to hearing natural language

Pop Up Player, which lets you continue playing a video in a smaller window above some other task, is also a smart feature as multi-tasking becomes ever-important to us. Flipboard is pre-loaded on the device, as are plenty of carrier apps.

Camera: The camera on the Galaxy S III is built of  8MP rear and 1.9 MP front camera the Samsung Galaxy S III camera has a few software surprises that are sure to delight. There is burst shot, which takes up to 20 photos at a rate of 3 pics per second and best shot, which snaps eight images and automatically offers you the best one based on criteria like blinking, smiling, lighting, etc. The Galaxy S III will also let you take still images as you record 1080p video, and has an HDR mode.

More importantly, the GSIII camera has a shooting mode called Buddy Photo Share. It recognizes faces in images and lets you tag them with the contact’s name. From there, the phone will always recognize the difference between John Biggs and Matt Burns and let me share photos with them straight from their name-tag.

Display:

You really can’t go wrong with this display. Samsung’s HD Super AMOLED screens are the best out there, and at 4.8 inches there’s plenty of super crisp content to enjoy. Blacks are deep, colors are bright, and there’s really no differentiation between pixels. In fact, the 4.8-inch display has 306 pixels per inch, making it one of the largest pixel-dense displays I’ve ever seen.

Past that, there’s the size of the display to consider. Nudging up against the 5-inch mark, the Galaxy S III display is much bigger than I’m comfortable with. But the key to slapping giant screen on a phone and keeping it comfortable is device and bezel thickness. The phone is already super thin, allowing even smaller hands to grip the device solidly.

But the bezels of the Galaxy S III is what really saves the day. They take up less than half a centimeter on each side, allowing a huge screen to fit on a relatively comfortable phone. The rounded corners and curved edges also help with grip and performing one-handed actions.

Performance:

HTC has been kicking ass lately when it comes to benchmark testing, but there’s a new sheriff in town. The Samsung Galaxy S III beats out every Android phone I’ve ever tested in all three tests we run. In Quadrant, which tests everything from CPU to memory to graphics, the Galaxy S III scored an impressive 4911. The HTC One S comes in second with 4371, while most other phones (including the Galaxy Note) stay well below the 3000 mark.

Where browsing is concerned, the Galaxy S III pulled in a score of 103,780 compared to the One S’s 100,662. Compared to most phones, however, the GSIII wins by a long shot as we usually see scores around the 60,000 mark.

And as a testament to both the phone and the power of AT&T’s 4G LTE network, I can safely say that this phone is fast. We saw an average of 9.6Mbps down and 8.39Mbps up, which is excellent. I have yet to see the Galaxy S III have any issues in terms of performance, which says a lot considering that this phone is going above and beyond in terms of both hardware and software. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that second GB of RAM.

Battery:

The Samsung Galaxy S III has a 2100mAh battery, which is fairly large compared to other phones on the market. Be that as it may, all the extra features that make the Galaxy S III amazing (like the NFC and WiFi Direct stuff) end up tugging pretty vigorously at the battery. Pair that with a 4G LTE radio and there’s bound to be some trouble.

That said, the Galaxy S III lasted a full five hours and fifteen minutes in our battery test. That’s pretty damn good, considering that the screen is never off during a constant Google Image search. In real-world scenarios, it should at least make it through dinner time, and depending on your usage, it might even hang with you through those late night parties.

To give you a little context, the Droid 4 only hung in there for three hours and forty-five minutes while the Droid RAZR Maxx (Motorola’s battery beast) stayed with me for a staggering eight hours and fifteen minutes. The HTC One S lasted just under five hours.

Another plus is that the battery is removable, so if you’re a serious power-user you can always purchase another battery and swap them out throughout the day.

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