Samsung announces Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1

We go hands-on with both models; due out in summer, they’re the first to feature a custom version of Android 3.0.

Samsung announced two new Android 3.0 Galaxy Tab tablets Tuesday boasting both are the world's thinnest. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 are 8.6mm thin (or 0.34-inches) which is about 0.2mm thinner than the Apple iPad 2.

Read Techworld Australia's Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 review

Samsung introduced a Galaxy Tab 10.1 for the European market at Mobile World Congress, but the 10.1 model introduced Tuesday has slightly different specifications and was thicker (10.9mm). Samsung's new Galaxy Tabs blow the Motorola Xoom -- the only shipping Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet to date-out of the water, 12.9mm thick (or 0.51-inches).

The slim design is what stands out most about the silver-hued chassis of this pair of new Galaxy Tabs. The U.S. Galaxy Tab 10.1 weighs 1.31 pounds (595 grams, 5 grams lighter than the Vodafone version), while the Galaxy Tab 8.9 weighs 470 grams (1.04 pounds). The Tab 10.1 matches well with iPad 2's 1.33 pounds (601 grams) weight for the comparable Wi-Fi only version, and it's significantly lighter than the Xoom's 1.61-pounds (730 grams). Surprisingly, Samsung has not announced carrier affiliations as yet, but a clue for future directions comes in the fact that the new models will support HSPA+ network speeds for up to 21Mbps coverage.

Samsung only announced availability of the Wi-Fi-only models, which are coming this summer.

Tablet Specs

The other specs of Samsung's new tablets are highly competitive-and identical, save for their respective screen sizes and physical dimensions. Inside the tablets pack a dual-core 1GHz processor (the company doesn't mention whose processor it uses), a high-resolution 1280 by 800 pixel display, and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. Both models have microSD card slot for up to 32GB cards. And both will come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB varietals. And both models will have the now-standard accoutrements like a gyroscope, accelerometer, digital compass, ambient light sensor.

They each have a 3.0-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash; the front-facing camera is a highly respectable 2-megapixels. The camera specs are a notable boosts over what Apple's iPad offers (an unstated resolution for still-images, and VGA 640 by 480 pixel resolution for front-facing camera); by comparison to the Motorola Xoom, though, the rear-facing camera is a bit weaker (Xoom's is rated at 5-megapixels). The video camera is capable of capturing 720p video at 30 frames per second.

For business users, the new Tabs both include Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support, and Quickoffice HD Editor for managing office documents via Android. The specs don't specify whether the tablets have any additional security or encryption features, though.

Software Side of Tabs

As with its Galaxy Tab (7-inch) and its Galaxy S series of smartphones, Samsung uses its own interface layer on top of Android 3.0. This runs counter to what we saw at MWC, where the trend for Honeycomb tablets appeared to move away from the customized interface design. TouchWiz UX, introduced here, builds on Honeycomb's framework by leaving the app management screen untouched, and the soft navigation buttons intact in location. But that's about all that's untouched: Samsung has, as with the 7-inch Froyo-based Galaxy Tab before them, completely transformed and optimized the user interface to a pleasing effect. (See our hands-on coverage of the new TouchWiz UX design).

While no pricing was announced at the event, and availability info remains vague beyond "summer," Samsung's new models appear set to transform the Android tablet landscape in the same way that its 7-inch Tab did when it was introduced last fall. The new Galaxy Tabs seem slickly designed, with dimensions and specs that push tablet design ahead-as opposed to many forthcoming tablets, which merely toe the line and have last year's weight and thickness.

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