GadgetGuy reviews Samsung’s Galaxy Tab

We’ve seen Android handsets offered one or two unique applications, but the Galaxy Tab takes this to a whole new level.

You get the same style Galaxy S menu skin, with a left-to-right slide menu that sits over your wallpaper, plus Android’s widget screens. Here, though, you get up to nine screens, and choosing between them and adding more is easy: just pinch a home screen and you’ll find an easy-to-use interface that lets you customise to your heart’s content.

The top status bar can still be dragged down to display notifications and updates, and just under this you’ll find control of wireless networking control, Bluetooth, GPS, brightness, and an “orientation lock”. This forces horizontal or portrait modes to remain unchanged until you switch the lock off.

GPS and games

Nifty features unique to the Tab include a full navigation application, providing a proper turn-by-turn 3D GPS option. Coupled with pre-loaded Navteq maps for Australia and New Zealand, the Tab performs nicely as a large-screen GPS device, though a mounting device for your windwcreen is yet to be released.

Next you’ll find “Need For Speed SHIFT,” a high resolution 3D racing game with accelerometer controls for steering. We’ve been using the Android platform for some time and its current lack of games is noticeable, so it’s nice to see Samsung include a high quality title such as this.

Newspapers, magazines, books through Readers Hub

New to any Android device is the “Readers Hub,” a portal to eReader applications that make it possible for you to read newspapers, books, and magazines on the go. This feature is so new that two of the three programs Samsung is using haven’t even been officially released yet, with “PressDisplay” and “Zinio” not yet released for any other device.

Newspaper reading is handled by “PressDisplay,” which allows you to purchase digital copies of papers from around the world. This includes Australian titles such as The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun, The Age, The Australian, Townsville Bulletin, and others. And if you’re nterested in yesterday’s news, editions dating back several days are available.

International newspaper editions are available as well, allowing you to keep up to date with local news from, say, Liechtenstein (yes, we checked).

Magazines are handled through “Zinio,” a digital magazine service that offers well-known titles such as Popular Science, Cosmopolitan and Elle, as well as more niche titles.

And then you have the books, taken care of by Kobo, the same service through which Borders and Angus & Robertson sell ebooks in Australia.

These three services make up Samsung’s “Readers Hub”, and all make use of swipe gestures and easy to read text. The experience is not as natural as reading regular print editions, we’ll be honest, but given the cheap price of the media and the eco-friendliness of it, the e-reader experience on the Tab gets our thumbs up.

Much like the Samsung Galaxy S before it, the Tab supports multiple video formats, with DivX and Xvid supported out of the box. The video application looks great, with widescreen titles loading quickly, and without any black bars. While we appreciate the extra screen real estate provided by the iPad, the Galaxy Tab’s 7 inch 16:9 form factor wins, in our book, for multimedia display.

A two-month trial to “The Australian” was provided via an application, offering a version of the newspaper designed for the Galaxy Tab’s smaller form factor.