I really wish we weren't so awesome, it ruins day-to-day living for everything else.

Merlin: The Wicked Day
Oh, it's wicked, all right.
Merlin: The Darkest Hour, Part 2
Arthur sacrifices himself for Camelot... almost.
Merlin: The Darkest Hour, Part 1
Morgana unleashes a ghost army on Camelot.

The Galaxy Tab: Out of this world?

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I'm interested in tablet pcs, but not necessarily in the price tag (or the iPad, so don't suggest it.) Mostly I'd like a reader with e-ink, like a Nook or a Kindle, but in color, so that I can digitally buy indie comics on a whim. An electronic comic book reader would be my main reason for getting a tablet-like computer, but I'd prefer not having to stare at an LCD screen in my free time, as I spend 10 to 11 hours a day staring at various LCD monitors at work.

However, I've lately come to realize that the color e-ink reader probably isn't going to happen. Since the iPad's debut, there have been a number of non-Apple tablets that have come on to the market to compete. Recently I had the chance to try out a Samsung Galaxy Tab.

At less than a pound (.83 lbs) and barely a half inch thick, the 7 inch Galaxy Tab's size makes it seem like an overgrown Droid. It even runs the Android platform, so the menus and interface were much like playing around with my Droid phone. The iPad's screen is certainly bigger, but I liked that even with my tiny girl hands, I could fit the Galaxy in the palm of one hand. After a while it did get uncomfortable -- after all, an eReader like the Kindle weighs slightly less (even though they're similar in size.)

A bonus feature to getting a device with a capacitive screen is playing around with drawing apps. The Tab's slight size and weight would help in an attempt to shed my shoulder bag of several sketchbooks and a big ol' kit full of drawing pencils, markers, and pens. As you may have read earlier, I have a stylus that I like a lot, and while it won't ever hold up to Wacom's stylii (with the pressure sensitivity, inter-changable tips, and "eraser" end,) I can always hope that eventually Wacom will develop an app with a custom capacitive stylus for sale.

Barring that, though, I tried out several free drawing applications from the Android Market. On my phone, I use DrawPad, which is neat if you have a fast sketch idea you want to jot down. (My previous method was sketching quick ideas on post-it notes, and sticking them to blank pages in my sketchbook.) But DrawPad is not very robust, and I wanted to try out applications specifically geared towards a higher resolution gadget (though, the Tab's resolution is not as high as an iPad's, it is still really crisp.)

The first app I tried was "Scribble!", which billed itself as the #1 Android drawing application. I was unimpressed. In addition to having tool menus that were silly to navigate, it didn't seem to respond to "pressure sensitivity" even though I had that setting turned on. I also noticed I got smoother lines when actually using my finger, rather than with the stylus.

The second free app I tried was called "ClearDraw," and it was even more disappointing because it didn't even have an eraser feature. Your only choices were to clear the entire screen, or to use the "undo" button. Not very helpful if you want to do more than just doodle. (So, as far as free drawing apps go, I think I'll stick with DrawPad, because it has a neat feature that turns your device in to an Etch-A-Sketch -- the "shake to erase.")

The Galaxy Tab starts up pretty quickly, about twenty seconds to the main screen (and a few seconds afterwards for everything to finish loading up and syncing.) I imagine the more you cram on to its 16 gig microSD card (included), the more time it'll take to boot up. It plays back video fine, plays games fine, and the camera is a little more intuitive than on my Droid (though, it does not have an exterior "camera" button.) Kindle (pre-installed) worked just as well as on my phone (but with a bigger area for text display, obviously.) And, much to my delight, the "Calendar" feature is less stupid on the larger screen, because it allows for better tab navigation than on my Droid.

So I guess the real issue here is price. I'm already a Verizon customer, and to get the Tab on my account would cost me $499.99, plus an extra $20 a month in data charges. That may be worth it if the Galaxy Tab really wowed me, but not only do I not have $500 laying around for gadgets I don't really need, I am already paying off the $350 Droid2D2 that essentially has all the same features, just in a smaller package.

However! If you don't have a Smartphone and were considering either buying an eReader or upgrading cell phones, I can tell you this: If I had known back in November that the Galaxy Tab was going to be available for only a little more than a Droid, and with a cheaper price tag in terms of data access (I'm paying almost $60 right now for unlimited data and text on the Droid, Verizon's tablet packages start at $20 for 1 gig of data), I would have bypassed getting a smartphone and just got a tablet pc. I just checked my account, and we're more than halfway through the billing cycle and even using my Droid a LOT more than I used to (due to the battery not sucking so hard,) I haven't even used 200 megabytes of data yet.

One last thing, and this doesn't matter to me but it might matter to some -- Samsung apparently tried to set itself apart from other tablets by making the back a contrasting color from the front. However the Galaxy Tab I previewed seems to be black on both sides. I don't know if that's because the device was from Verizon or not.

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Comments (4)

Carey:

Is the Nook color not eink? Mine is black and white and I haven't seen the color yet. But if the color is not eink, then I'm way glad I have the black and white. So easy on the eyes.

Bren:

It's LCD. I don't think e-ink in color has been invented yet.

Nice review. I have been contemplating getting either a new laptop, a tablet, or a fancier phone. I hate phones though...so maybe this tablet might work...hmmm. Must research. I never thought of using it for drawing. that's a fantastic idea.

Bren:

There are also "notepad" type applications that let you jot down notes in your own handwriting. I think I'm gonna try that next. I'm already obsessed with ToDo List, a list making app.