You’ll recall that when I lost my Mac and bought the emergency netbook, I also picked up a Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 inch tablet, on the rationale that, damn it, I was grumpy and I wanted a toy. This is not an excellent reason to buy a piece of electronic equipment, I am the first to note. That said, I’d had my eye on this particular tablet for a bit, so it wasn’t entirely impulsive. I’ve lived with it now for a week and I’m ready to mention what I like and don’t like about it.
First, a general note: I like it. We have an iPad here in the Scalzi household (it’s primarily Krissy’s) and while it’s surely a nice piece of equipment, I’m not in love with its size. A ten-inch tablet is too large for my tastes; unless you’re Shaquille O’Neal, it’s not something you can carry around or use in a single hand, and in other respects it’s also unwieldy. I understand the boffins at Apple have decreed that the iPad is the perfect size for a tablet and that if we have a problem with that there’s something wrong with us, not them. But screw them, they’re just wrong. In my case, a 7-inch tablet is just about perfectly sized: Large enough to give you enough space to see a lot of things, but small enough to operate with one hand. It’s paperback book-sized, basically, and there’s a reason paperbacks are the size they are: Because they make ergonomic sense for humans.
I am using my tablet primarily as a reading appliance, and to that respect it’s been pretty great. Both the Kindle and Nook apps look good and perform well on it, and the screen is a high enough resolution (1024×600) that I can read books without eyestrain (and, because its an LCD screen, I can read it without a nightlight). I’m also trying the Next Issue app, which works like a Netflix for magazines, and it’s for me at least a nice way to cruise through various magazines without them cluttering up my house.
Web browsing is fine — text is small in portrait mode (one needs to pinch zoom) and perfectly readable in landscape. One thing I do like that is that things don’t automatically default to mobile versions of Web sites. I also like that I can access my own site’s backend via the browser, so I can go in and moderate comments more completely than I can do on my phone. The Android 4.0 system means all the Google toys work in a fairly optimized manner, which is especially useful with GMail, which I use. The keyboard in portrait mode is easy to operate with two thumbs.
Although I don’t use it much for video, it handles video just fine; I ran a bit of Serenity on it via Netflix and didn’t have any problems. Haven’t played any games on it so far, but that’s not why I got it, so even if it were to choke on that I wouldn’t care much. The camera is definitely meh, but it’s another function that I did not buy the tablet for, so that’s fine.
Things not to like: It only comes with 8GB of resident memory and half of that’s devoted to apps that I didn’t pick and probably won’t use but come with the thing anyway. This is mitigated by the MicroSD slot and the fact that I just got a 32GB card in that format for $20 (and that it comes with a deal with Dropbox for something like 50GB of space for a year, which does not suck). The power button and the volume rocker button are close enough to each other that I’m always pressing the wrong button. This is annoying. The screen is occasionally less than perfect with touch response (particularly with small type websites), and gets smeary real fast. It’s slightly weird to think the 4.5-inch screen on my phone has a higher resolution than this 7-inch screen.
However, to be blunt, these criticisms for me are blunted by the fact that a) I paid $240 bucks for the thing, which is not a lot, all things considered, b) the tablets closest to it in capability/design — the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire — have similar or lesser specs and are crimped by design in order to keep you in their respective ecosystems. With regards to a), I was not expecting genuinely top-flight specs for what I paid, and what I got for the price is more than satisfactory. With regards to b), why pay for crimped tools when you can get them uncrimped for essentially the same price?
So, for the price and for what I use the thing for, the Galaxy Tab 2 pretty much hits my needs dead on. If you’re looking for a solid, basic tablet in a smaller form factor and for not a whole lot of cash (relatively speaking), it’s worth giving a look.