Hands-on with Australia’s first Honeycomb tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v

It looks like the iPad 2 competition has well and truly landed, with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 arriving as the 10.1v, a pure Google experience packing in a 10-inch HD screen, dual-core processor, and support for Flash.

Available only on the Vodafone network for $729 outright in mid-April, the 16GB Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v is very much like the unit we looked at earlier this year in February.

It’s still the same 10.1 inch 1280×800 screen, 8 megapixel rear camera with 1080p Full HD video capture, 2 megapixel front camera, 16GB storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, and Google Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system. Strangely, there’s no microSD slot for memory upgrades, making the Galaxy Tab 10.1v more like an iPad than the original expandable Galaxy Tab we reviewed last year.

And with a $729 price point, it’s pretty obvious that Samsung and Vodafone are competing directly with Apple’s iPad 2. Both the 16GB 3G/WiFi iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v (16GB with 3G and WiFi) have the same $729 price tag.

The music application found on the Galaxy Tab 10.1v allows you to browse through huge album covers, changing the background colour to match the album in the bottom left corner.

As far as tablets go, the Galaxy Tab 10.1v is a pretty impressive little beast. The first made-for-Honeycomb tablet we’ve tried, the Tab 10.1v drops all buttons from the front and just goes with one 10.1 inch touchscreen. Honeycomb keeps a bottom taskbar with all the necessary functions at your disposal, including shortcuts for home, going back, recently used applications, and a menu that shows you the time, battery life, recent activity, and a mini settings menu.

The menu showing your recent activities and settings can be accessed at any time by hitting the clock.

You’ve still got five screens of widgets and shortcuts, one of the staples in Android’s operating system, and these can be used in either portrait or landscape modes. Many of the apps included with the Tab have been designed for the 1280×800 resolution, such as Gmail, Talk, and Market.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v is fast enough, but it’s not without its bugs. We’ve seen live wallpaper crash a couple of times, and some of the apps just aren’t made for the larger tablet form-factor.

The Facebook app found on the Market is one application that hasn’t been updated for the tablet OS yet.

Google also looks to have added a mobile “Movie Studio” editing system with the Tab 10.1v, but it too feels like it wasn’t finished, resulting in an interface that’s not only slow, it’s also more complicated than it probably should be.

That said, the Galaxy Tab 10.1v makes the best effort on a tablet we’ve seen outside of Apple, and if these bugs can be fixed, it’ll make an impressive slate for anyone that doesn’t want to head down the iPad route.

At the moment, you’ll have to go to Vodafone if you want some of that Android 3.0 Honeycomb love. Samsung told us yesterday that it’s regular Galaxy Tab 10.1 and smaller 8.9 inch model won’t be heading out way until Q3 this year (at least July or August).