Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 Reaches Out Into Space

Samsung today unveiled the Galaxy Tab 2, updating its 7-inch model and its award-winning 10.1-inch Android tablet with features that the CRN Test Center believes make them even more versatile than their elders.

For starters, Tab 2 devices will include an SD card slot, greatly simplifying the movement of files to and from the devices and expanding their storage capacity by 32GB. The company told the CRN Test Center at a confidential hands-on briefing on Monday that the SD card slot was among the most requested new features.

Even more far reaching, the new Galaxy Tabs will now be equipped with an infrared emitter, enabling the tablets to take the place of any number of existing remote control devices, including those for televisions, cable set-top boxes, DVD/Blu-ray players and other home entertainment components. What's more, a new version of Samsung's Smart Remote software, which itself is based on Peel Technologies' Smart Remote, learns the media consumption patterns of its users and taps Internet data to display what's on a user's most-watched channels in real time. It also categorizes available television content for easier access based on content.

At a confidential briefing earlier this week, the CRN Test Center saw Smart Remote working well in the confines of the demonstration, but we were unable to configure our review unit for controlling any of our test television sets. However, the software to its credit popped up a dialog box asking for all the particulars of the equipment that it failed to control, and sent the data to Samsung for processing.

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Galaxy Tab 2 devices now run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on a 1GHz dual-core processor with 8GB standard in the 7-inch and 16GB in the 10.1-inch unit. Both include a 3MP rear camera and 1.3MP front camera.

NEXT: Speed, Power Performance

Following the event, Samsung provided the CRN Test Center with a 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2, and we've been duly impressed for two days now. The form factor is comfortable, the 1024 x 600 pixel screen is bright and crisp, Ice Cream Sandwich is intuitive and well-designed, and its apps are fast and responsive. And despite all of its high-performance hardware, the 7-inch unit ran continuously from a single charge for more than 10 hours, during five of which all power saving features were disabled (the default).

Also impressive is TouchWiz, Samsung's Android-environment overlay. We're not generally fans of vendor-specific OS add-ons because they often alter the environment's personality and can lead to fragmentation. Samsungs' does neither. Instead, it adds a taskbar to apps from which other apps can be quickly accessed, edited and dismissed. For instance, if an email you're reading requires the creation or change of an appointment, two taps on the screen overlays your calendar for editing. Another tap dismisses it. These so-called mini-apps include an alarm clock, calculator, music player, planner and task manager and can be added or removed.

TouchWiz also adds navigational control to the Android desktop. For example, while the five-panel (default) desktop can be paged with finger swipes as usual, it can also be scrolled using a scroll bar that appears when the page indicator is long-touched. A third option displays the pages -- with as many as seven pages total -- as mini-panels that can be reordered by dragging and accessed directly with a touch. Activate this function with a two-finger twist on any panel.

Long-touching a blank portion of any panel shrinks the panel and brings up a dialog for adding Widgets, shortcuts and folders, and for changing wallpapers. When deciding where to place objects on a panel, dragging the object near the edge of a panel brings up the next panel.

The Samsung 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 will begin shipping on April 22 at a list price of $249. The 1280 x 800, 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab 2 will list for $399 and be available on May 13. With each new Galaxy Tab 2, Samsung also includes a one-year DropBox subscription with 50GB of online storage, a $99 value. With their solid performance, intuitive interface enhancements, competitive pricing and extras, Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 tablets are a solid reseller value and worthy of strong consideration.