Monday, May 16, 2011

Galaxy Tab 7 home user review

I bought the Samsung galaxy tab (3G version, 7' screen size) couple of weeks ago and start playing it around ever since. In summary, I really enjoy using it.

The unit I'm reviewing was used mostly in WIFI. I don't use the unit for phone call or sms (I already have a dumb phone) but mainly for web browsing, ebook, occasional msn, games, music and YouTube. There are no technical spec provided in this review, as a home user doesn't really care much about the spec. Seriously. However, I do care about whether this device able to handle the stuff we're are looking for. (e.g. playing video without a need to convert the format or resize the resolution)

I love the sound quality. The default music player is superb that comes with equalizer and effect. My preference music setting is Rock equalizer with Wide/Sound Clarity effect. For classical music, choosing classical equalizer plus concert hall effect is awesome. The player also comes with 5.1 channel surround sound but I guess that is for the TV output using the HDMI accessory. Unfortunately the earphone comes with it is average quality and the bass output was rather flat. I recommend get a portable headphones (such as Koss Portapro) for better sound experience.

A side note, do be careful when delete files in the disk while your music is playing. This is because the media scanner will stop the music and re-scan the media again. Furthermore, the stock earphone sometimes will automatically plays music when I pull them out from the jack. I'm not sure why but that's rather inconvienent. Sometimes I have accidently press the earphone call button and music player starts playing. This can't be turn off in the music player setting. Errrrggg.
Update: If you are serious on getting good quality sound out from the tab, get the PowerAMP Music Player app music player (tweaking required) from android market. I have tried the app for one day and I already love it. It really changes the sound and music to a new level.

Screen (video and reading)
Viewing angle is great and text is crisp and clear. Video playing is great (with general avi format) with bookmark and subtitle support. Screen is also superb for ebook and web page reading. Anyway, like other tablet suffers, finger smudges all over the screen after few pages turned and links tapping. Furthermore, the screen is reflective type (will become annoying in bright area) and it can be solved with an anti-reflect screen protector.

There is one cool app which is the Digital Frame where I can turn the tab into a desk frame. it can show the clock, photo or playing music. of course it should always connected with the charging cable else it will run out battery fast.

Typing (Blogging, messaging and web browsing)
Portrait typing is easy and pleasant. Landscape typing wasn't that comfortable as the key is bit too far for my 2 thumbs to reach (but increase in accuracy). However, typing on screen lacks of physical key feel thus it's easy to make mistake. No fear, the keyboard comes with spelling correction. However, it was not always foolproof.

Position the cursor in a statement is hard because setting the cursor just beside "I" is hard to pin point using index finger. Highlight, cut and paste a statement require some effort to get it right. At this point, I'm missed the mouse I used for document editing in laptop.

The keyboard comes with 3 types.The Samsung basic keyboard, swype, and the Diopen Chinese input keyboard. Now not only i can type in English but in Chinese as well.

Update: Typing using swype is a joy because it uses gesture for input. It's like drawing on the keyboard screen and your text just pop up. For me, I think it's kinda fun. I also recommended it to my friend with a samsung phone and the first time he try it, he was hooked. Anyway, I will made swype as mandatory for my future phone purchase. No swype, no phone.

Blogging is a joy as once the idea comes along, pick up the tablet, press the power button and I can start writing straight away. No need to hold the idea until I get to my laptop, where sometime the idea slipped away. Writing/blogging can be done on every minute if the mood is right because there's no need to stick at the desktop/laptop.
Synchronization between tablet and laptop is must for me (I hate connecting cable to laptop) when editing my article. Therefor, I relied on Dropbox (which is a great app) to do the synchronization between laptop and tablet for me.
Internet messaging now can be bring around with you to where you go, as long you have 3g connection setup or in a WIFI hotspot.

Web browsing does not have the same experience as a laptop and I always do my web surfing at home using laptop whenever possible. Tablet browsing has some lag and it gets bad when multiple tab are opened and flash content is loaded (always set the flash plugin in demand mode or disable it). Nevertheless, it still perform much better than using my dumb phone, plus web page text still readable using landscape position without resize the text or zoom in. (Get Opera browser for better performance. Please note that some web pages will not show properly but most of the popular website shows just fine.)

Battery life
It can last for a day for heavy used. Light usage may extend the battery for 2 days. Nevertheless, this is a charge daily device because I guess no one wanna leave a tablet half charged when taking it out for a spin. Beside that, I recommend to get a usb extend cable because the default cable is short. Having a extend cable will allow me to use the device while charging comfortably.

The Galaxy Tab comes with ThinkFree office (full version), which I think it's essential for any office document reading (including pdf viewing support) or writing. However, editing office document in the tab was not as smooth as in laptop. Furthermore, there are no spell check, thus editing your final work is better take place in the office site in your desktop.

Other standard app such as ebook, memo, alarm clock, calendar, contacts (if you're using the phone function), browser, YouTube, music and video player are user friendly and easy to use.

There are no games included but you can download the Need for Speed Shift for free from Samsung app, which is a very good driving game in my opinion. There are more games available in the Android Market but limited (probably due to different screen resolution compatibility). Nevertheless, gaming on a flat screen surface is rather weird for me because I prefer using a game pad with buttons. Therefore, I don't recommend tablet for serious gaming but thumbs up for Sudoku or Board game which fully utilize the screen surface.

Other app that I recommend install as follows:
1. Opeara browser offers for more performance compare to the default android browser. Dolphin browser for more add-on and feature. (Opera still my favorite choice)
2. Quick Setting and Quick Battery for easy access to system menu
3. Colordict dictionary + dictionary files for word searching
4. Adobe reader for pdf ebook reading but go for ezpdfreader if you can afford 0.99.
5. Taskos for easy manage todo list
6. Catch note/Springpad for better note taking with online sync.
7. Ebuddy for online chat
8. Dropbox for synchronization between laptop and tablet9. Jota text editor for text file editing. Better performance than writing in ThinkFree word document.
10. Viber (text and voice call) and Whatsapp for text messaging using wifi.
11. GPS essential to replace Google maps for navigation.

Purchased Apps
1. Gingerbread Keyboard works much better than default keyboard and comes in black theme, which helps save battery life (Unfortunately, Swype is better which I found it out later).
2. ezPDF for reading pdf files. It has bookmark and remembers setting that you have set for reading earlier. Works much better than Adobe reader plus it supports Colordict so you can search words while reading. Best pdf reader ever.
3. Switch Pro for better power control widget.
4. Juice Defender Plus for extend the battery life
5. PowerAmp that comes better sound quality and control for music player 
6. ADWLauncher for home screen customization.
7. Beautiful Widget, well the app name explains itself. 

GPS Navigation
 This is where the downfall of mobile GPS and Google Maps. First, GPS is sucks for mobile because of the slow respones and coordinate lagging. Second, Google Map is nice but it requires data connection (to get the online map) to work. Therefore, you need 3G connection plus GPS working along and this going to suck the battery life fast (required car charger to fix this). In addition, Google Map does not allow to save location. Therefore I need to search back the location again every time if I need to go back to the same place. For the time being, let's hope Google can fix this in future (as in full function navigation device) to compete with GPS device out there. By the way, the Navigation app does not work in Malaysia.
When they first launch this product, it was bloody expensive. With the same price at that point of time, I can get a gaming laptop. After the price has finally come down over a year, it cost around the same price of a average smartphone. There's even a wifi version which cost much cheaper than the 3G version making them even more affordable to get. I wanted the 3G version because I might need the connection when I'm on an oversea trip to look for more info on a spot if there are no wifi around.

Finally, I think Galaxy Tab 7 is great buy. It gets the job done for surfing the web, writing my work, playing some casual games, listening to music and viewing videos on the go. Although the new and more improved version of Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10 just around the corner but I think the 7' screen is what makes it stands out.

Update: Gingerbread firmware has finally released. You can grab them from Kies software.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Avoid prepaid broadband

Half hours of online surfing gone because Maxis has just suddenly cut off my line while i was in the middle of online game with my colleague. I have paid my hard earn money of RM 3 for 2 hours of prepaid internet access and what did i get is just only 1 and 1/2 hour. I also checked the data cap and it still within limit (< 100mb). I can't believe it, also embarrassed, as my colleague couldn't believe it either.

Lesson learned. Prepaid 3G broadband seems not reliable in Maxis. I heard DIGI also having some problem with 3G connection sometimes. Anyway, luckily i got the cheapest package as i was wondering of getting the 10 dollar package for 2 day access. :-P