AT&T must love selling iPads, because the carrier hasn't given consumers much reason to choose its Galaxy Tab over the four competing carrier models.Pros:
Still the best non-iPad tablet. Plans include Wi-Fi hotspots. Not much bloatware.Cons:
High up-front price. Blocks non-Android Market apps. AT&T's own apps are subpar.Spec data:
Screen Size: 7 inches
Storage Capacity (as Tested): 16 GB
Dimensions: 7.48 x 4.74 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 13.6 oz
Networking Options: 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 3G
Email Access: Dedicated email app
AT&T's Samsung Galaxy Tab looks and works much like the four other Galaxy Tab models on the market, but at $649 it costs more up front. AT&T makes some of the difference back with reasonably priced service plans that include hotspot access, but that initial price tag seems designed to drive consumers away from this Android tablet. Since AT&T is the major retailer of the Apple iPad, it's not like the carrier is getting left out of tablet mania, but other models of the Galaxy Tab are better bets for folks looking for a small-yet-capable tablet.
AT&T's tablet uses the same hardware as the T-Mobile version; for a full rundown, read our review of the T-Mobile Galaxy Tab ($399-599, 3.5 stars). To recap, what we have here is a handheld Android 2.2-powered tablet with a seven-inch, 1024-by-600 screen, 16GB of memory along with an empty MicroSD card slot, and two cameras: a 3-megapixel one on the back and a VGA one on the front.
The tablet isn't a phone, but connects to the Internet via AT&T's HSPA 7.2 network or Wi-Fi. The AT&T network is the second-fastest of the Galaxy Tab 3G networks, after T-Mobile's. I got respectable download speeds of around 1.5Mbps, but slow uploads around 200Kbps when testing the AT&T Tab in New York City.
Galaxy Tab Software
The differences between the five carrier models of the Galaxy Tab (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon) are mostly in pricing, service plans and built-in software. I'm happy to see that AT&T resisted adding much bloatware to this tablet. There's a non-removable link to an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot directory, and the Barnes & Noble Nook ebook reader client, but that's about it.
If you want to install more AT&T-exclusive apps, you can find them in a channel in the Android Market, but I'd suggest against it. AT&T offers AT&T Radio, which costs $5/month to do what other streaming radio apps do for free; U-Verse TV, a buggy DVR management and streaming program for existing AT&T U-Verse subscribers; and AT&T Music, which, in my tests, crashed every time I tried to load it.
AT&T has once again blocked non-market apps from being installed on this Android device. There's no way to load apps from creators such as Gameloft or stores like GetJar, limiting your app selection unnecessarily. No other model of the Galaxy Tab has this restriction.
Speaking of apps, the Galaxy Tab is still short on them. While Google just introduced a new version of the Android Market, it still offers no easy way to find apps designed for tablets. Yes, you can use phone apps blown up to full screen, but they don't take maximum advantage of the seven inches of display real estate.
Samsung has sold a million Galaxy Tabs so far, but there are still only a handful of true apps for the Galaxy Tab, compared to the thousands of apps designed expressly for the iPad. The new Wall Street Journal, Mediafly and SPB streaming TV apps are good. We just need more.
I'm also a little worried what will happen when Honeycomb, Google's new tablet-centric version of the Android OS, comes out later this year. While sources tell me the Galaxy Tab will be upgradeable to Android 2.3, known as Gingerbread, I've heard that the Tab won't meet the hardware requirements for Honeycomb. That could cut Galaxy Tab owners off from any tablet-focused apps designed for Honeycomb devices.
Pricing, Service Plans and Conclusions
The AT&T Galaxy Tab costs $649 with no contract required; there's no discounted two-year contract option, which I find a little inflexible. Every other carrier is offering the Tab with no contract for $599, so AT&T tries to soften the blow with a $50 credit for Samsung's Media Hub movie and TV store. But that's disingenuous; Media Hub is a mediocre store with middling pricing and you shouldn't be forced to buy movies from it to feel like you're getting your money's worth.
AT&T's service plans make this Galaxy Tab relatively affordable over two years, though. As shown in our full rundown of Galaxy Tab service plans, AT&T's two-year price is in the middle of the pack; very light 3G users can benefit from AT&T's reasonable $14.99/month, 250MB plan, while the 2GB, $25/month plan is also competitive. The plans also come with unlimited access to Wi-Fi hotspots at Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, McDonald's, FedEx, and other locations.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab is the best non-Apple tablet so far, and there are reasons you might want it over an iPad—for example, because it fits in one hand. But AT&T's model isn't the best choice. We'd recommend that light 3G users choose the U.S. Cellular Galaxy Tab or T-Mobile's version, and that heavier users pick Sprint's Galaxy Tab ($399-599, 3.5 stars).