Samsung takes on the iPad with its new Galaxy Tab S2

Just days after announcing its thinnest smartphone to date, the Galaxy A8, Samsung has just announced its thinnest ever tablet in the form of the Galaxy Tab S2.

At only 5.6mm thick, the new Galaxy Tab S2 is 1mm thinner than last year’s Galaxy Tab S, and even thinner than Apple’s 6.1mm thick iPad Air 2.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Samsung’s latest tablet comes in two sizes; an 8 inch and 9.7 inch model, both with a 3 x 4 aspect ration, which is much more reminiscent of the iPad’s dimensions than those of its widescreen predecessor.

The new tablets are not only super thin, but also extremely light, weighing only 265g and 389g respectively. They also have a 2048 x 1536 pixel super AMOLED display that, while lower res than its predecessor, is designed to provide bright, vibrant colours whilst also being easy to read.

As well as being slim and easy on the eye, the Galaxy Tab S2 is also fast and powerful, with loads of memory. It has an octo-core processor running at 1.9Ghz/1.3Ghz, and 3GB of RAM, with either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, which can be increased to up to 128GB via micro SD. There’s also a 8MP rear camera and 2.1 MP one on the front.

With its sleek design, altered dimensions and improved specs, it’s clear that Samsung is taking on the iPad, and the Galaxy Tab S2 may be its biggest rival yet.

Available in either black or white, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 will go on sale in August although the price has yet to be divulged.

What do you make of Samsung’s latest tablet? 

Google Nexus 7 Review

Back on the 27th June Google announced they were adding a new device to the Nexus line up, this time a tablet, called the Google Nexus 7 which is built for Google by Asus and was set to be the epitome of an Android tablet experience.

Asus Google Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7

Historically when Google release a new Nexus device, it is the first device to run a new version of the operating system, such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus which was the first device to run Android v4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and this time when Google wanted to release its newest version of the OS, 4.1 Jelly Bean, they decided a phone wouldn’t suffice, a tablet was in order.

Now it goes without saying really that when a new Google device launches, pre-orders and sales are always strong and the Google Nexus 7 stood up to the test too, with Google halting UK sales for the 16GB version online to begin with and stores selling out as well. Because of this I had to wait a little while to get hold of one. Since the boss didn’t get a unit to review and return, I thought I’d just go out and personally get one, so I opted for the 16GB variant, my view on internal memory is go big or go home!

Prices really are affordable. Asus were tasked to build to a budget when manufacturing the Nexus 7, something Google would not budge on as they wanted this device to not only be kickass but at a cost anyone could afford, and what a sweet price bracket they have dropped the tablet into. The 8GB variant is £159 direct from Google and the 16GB variant is £199 and just to add an extra incentive, when you first sign into your Google account (gmail) on the Nexus 7 you’ll get £15 of Google Play Credit to spend in the Google Play store on apps, books or movies, as well as a copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon on Google Movies, a nice little kick back to save precious memory on the device itself if going for the 8GB. At the time of publishing if you log into one or more gmail account on the Nexus 7, that account also gets the £15 credit. This additional account does need to also be in your name, not a mates, sadly.

On the topic of variants, the Google Nexus 7 comes in two forms, an 8GB and a 16GB version. Now 8GB doesn’t seem a lot but this is for a clever reason on Google’s part. They are trying to promote their Books, Movies and Music options which store your content on the cloud and not on the device itself, rendering the large memory redundant, however not all of us want to have our content on the cloud which requires an internet connection to play, so the larger memory option proves beneficial.

Nexus 7 sideview

Nexus 7 sideview

The device itself looks great. it is really thin and light, and makes my Motorola Xoom feel like a brick, though this is due to the Google Nexus 7 having a 7” screen, much smaller than the Xoom’s 10.1” screen, and the Xoom having a metal build over the Nexus 7’s plastic build. That said the build quality is exceptional and feels so nice in the hand, with bevelled edges and the patterned back panel which reduces finger marks and has a nice non slip feel to it. The Google Nexus 7 weighs in at 340g which is a nice weight for the tablet. It’s heavy enough to confirm to you the strong build quality, but not so strong it would be uncomfy to use for long periods.

The screen is a real joy to look at. It is a 7″ 1280×800 HD display (216 ppi) back-lit IPS display with scratch-resistant Corning glass meaning it handles videos and apps with high-level graphics really well. There have been a few issues appearing with some devices where the Corning glass screen comes away from the device, but I have not found this with my unit. Don’t worry though as this is covered under warranty, so just follow the procedure to return if you find an issue with yours, when you get one.

Briefly touching on the packaging the box isn’t much to talk about, it is not much bigger than the tablet itself, upon removing the sleeve and lifting the lid off it uncovers the tablet in all its glory. I couldn’t help but be reminded of unboxing an Apple iPhone 4S, the Google Nexus 7 takes an awfully similar approach to boxing and displaying. I hope Apple didn’t take a patent out on packaging too, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had. The contents of the box aren’t much to write home about, being just the tablet, USB lead and power plug. There’s no cover, screen protector or fancy gifts it is very basic but then to get the price down to its juicy number there had to be some cutbacks. I was slightly disappointed to not see a set of headphones included, though this isn’t something any tablets come with, I just personally feel it would have added to the portability of the unit.

Google Play on the Nexus 7

Google Play on the Nexus 7

The Google Nexus 7 is a feature rich little beauty. I’ve already touched on the screen resolution and quality and the light weight of the device. Deep down in the belly of the tablet are a set of lovely features which make the spec list sing and scares off rivals such as the Amazon Kindle Fire stateside and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 over here in the UK. Powering the device and keeping it ticking over sweetly is a quad-core Tegra 3 chipset clocked at 1.3GHz courtesy of the good guys over at Nvidia and a battery life of “all day” according to Google, or 10 hours playback in reality, of course depending on how bright you like the screen and how many graphic-heavy apps or games you are running but do expect the 10 hours on video playback to be near capable. Tried and tested, and in glorious 720p it is great to watch films on.

Of course this excellent battery life and powerful CPU are only achieved thanks to Google’s newest version of the Android operating system, Jelly Bean, and the clever trickery they have done with this OS adding in some really clever features, and Project Butter.

Project Butter is Google’s attempt to quash lag time when using a device. It’s main advantage is it lets the CPU and graphics run parallel instead of interfere with each other and now all runs at 60 frames per second letting everything run faster and smoother now, which can be perceived both in reality and thought. Without getting too technical, it also pre-renders pages and menus for you, and learns where you will touch the screen next after the first touch. So if you hit a certain part of the screen, Android will know the most likely place you will next hit the screen next. It does this as when you touch the screen, it has to send a signal to the processor to action your command, whereas if it knows where you’ll touch, it’s already sideloaded that command to it doesn’t have to load it. All this makes the user experience great, and everything run so much smoother. Google’s attack on lagginess has really paid off. The Nexus 7 runs as smooth as butter.

A lot of people have already questioned why the Google Nexus 7 doesn’t have a rear-facing camera and it’s simple really, it’s a tablet not a camera. For one, it is cumbersome to use a tablet to photo, even a nice small light one like this, but second to put the camera unit in is costly, and so to keep the tablet at this sweet price point, some corners had to be cut, although I do feel even if it was a higher price bracket Google would leave it out, as it’s not needed. I see tourists  in London taking photos of Big Ben with an iPad and it just looks awkward. The Google Nexus 7 does has a front-facing camera for your video calling on Skype or other app, and is a good quality being a 1.2mp snapper, though again I don’t feel it’s massively needed, video calling isn’t a widely popular way to communicate.

Google Now on Jelly Bean

Google Now on the Nexus 7

Another new feature to Android v4.1 (now v4.1.1) is Google Now. Google Now gets you just the right information, just when it is needed. For instance, if your device is synced with all your other Google services, such as Calendar and Maps etc, it will show you a card telling you your appointment is at 10am at “this address” and also how far away you are and how long it will take to get there. A Weather card always appears, which you can swipe to dismiss. With Google’s new voice search function, you can simply ask it a question like “How tall is the Eiffel Tower?” and it will respond “The Eiffel Tower is 324m tall”. It also remembers your routine, so if you travel to the office at a certain time each day, it will give you a card with your travel details each day when you need it, before you leave.  It works beautifully well, and is arguably better working than Siri at performing many tasks.

In summary the Google Nexus 7 is a cracking little device, and I personally feel it offers up the best Android tablet experience I’ve used to date, even more appealing than the Asus Transformer Prime I’ve played with, but this knocks the spots off all rivals as it’s tech spec under the hood is rich, and comes at such a pleasant price.

Google Nexus 7 back

Nexus 7 Back

Yes there are a few niggles with the device, like it’s plastic build quality and that some users have found the Corning glass to come away from the device, but the latter hasn’t affected many users and the fact the build quality is exceptional makes the use of plastic no bad thing. Some people have to gain more of a sense of reality when it comes to just how much of a device can be made at a £159 price tag, for the 8GB variant.

Memory sizes may snag a few people. I personally also have the 16GB Motorola Xoom with a 32GB memory card and very rarely have I ever used the card, so the 16GB Nexus 7 suits me fine, however I do feel I could manage quite comfortably with the 8GB, if I made more effort to use Google’s Play services, such as Movies and Music which store everything on the cloud and so frees up space on the internal memory. One little disappointment is the lack of a memory card slot, however as mentioned this is with Google trying to steer customers subtly towards their cloud services. I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to adjust, I can’t remember the last time I saved Excel or Word docs anymore, in favour of Google Drive where a project or blog can be picked up on any device.

 For the money this is the perfect device for people of all ages, be it for a child’s Christmas present or Grandad’s first tablet. The £159 price tag for the 8GB on Google is very reasonable, as with the included £15 Google Play Credit, and £199 for the 16GB also. I don’t feel the extra £40 justifies the memory increase, as there is no other benefit the units are otherwise identical, and with hindsight I would probably have opted for the 8GB. Most retailers other than Google only offer the 16GB and for £199.99 but you may find they can ship it quicker than Google themselves. I have used Currys in the past and never had an issue with the delivery times.

I am 100% sure if/when you get your hands on one you will enjoy the Google Nexus 7 and will forget I even mentioned the gripes I had with it, as the more I use it I do.

It’s Prime Time for a New Tablet

Asus Transformer Prime

2012 is the prime time to buy a tablet as technology has leaped forward vast amounts and you can really get a top device such as the new Asus Transformer Prime which pushes all the boundaries.

This isn’t a review as sadly we can’t get our hands on it yet, but the Transformer Prime has everything. It’s the thinnest tablet to date packed with Androids Ice Cream Sandwich operating system and running on a Tegra 3 chip which is quad-core, as well as a full USB port to plug peripherals in such as a digital camera to import pictures or a PS3 controller for games. The Prime has an 8MP camera and the cherry on is the detachable keyboard and a whopping 18hr battery life. The device is Wi-Fi only, so nowhere to put a Sim Card in, but this doesn’t stop you using it anywhere, with the likes of Three’s Mi-Fi dongle which gives you Wi-Fi on the go, anywhere. As long as you have a 3G signal for that to connect to.

Just to pick up briefly on a couple of those highlights, the detachable keyboard is the same size as the tablet and very slim, with a full track pad and click button, making this more of a mobile NetBook than a tablet. The Camera puts out some high quality images as I’ve seen through test shots but honestly, who needs a camera on a tablet!? If you’re looking to become the next David Bailey, you’re not going to be taking pictures with a Tablet, and it’s not the worlds most portable gadget for quick snaps. That’s what a phone is for.

The quad-core processor is a mammoth chip with serious power. We’re talking a Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset, with the CPU being quad-core and clocked at 1.3GHz. This all helps the Super IPS+ LCD screen and runs Ice Cream Sandwich without a seconds hesitation.

Simply put, this phone should crush the iPad and if enough people stop to give it a look, could be a competitor in the sales department too. Side by side, the screen is better, it’s cheaper and the Prime’s Tegra 3 chip handles movies and apps better. I just hope soon there are as many apps on the Android Market as there are on Apple’s App Store. With 32GB or 64GB (your choice depending on your budget) and the capability of taking a 32GB MicroSD card, there is plenty of room for all your apps and content. If I had the Transformer Prime, I would fill it with videos as that screen lends itself to clarity.

Ultimately I can’t speak highly enough of this device, and we’ve not even met each other yet. I’ll stick to the Motorola Xoom. For now.

Gary Cook

Motorola Xoom Review

After months of saving and deliberating whether or not to buy an iPad, I didn’t. Let’s face it, you want a tablet to be your one-stop access point for all your Google searches, quick game plays and videos. Since I already own an iPod Touch (2nd Gen) and an iPhone 4, I really couldn’t see what I was going to gain by getting another iOS device. Sure, there are over 120,000 iPad specific apps, but big deal, it’s just a big iPod touch.

Motorola Xoom

Motorola Xoom

This left me with quite a dilemma. A load of cash burning a hole in my pocket and an aching need for new tech. My only option was to look around at Android tablets as they offer something different. More practical and customisable, with home screens and  widgets, letting you put everything you need right in front of you, displaying the info then and there, without loading separate apps.

After taking up nearly an hour of some poor blokes time in my local electronics store I came to a conclusion. Either the Acer Iconia A500 or the Motorola Xoom. I weighed up the pros and cons, and am now the proud owner of the Motorola Xoom.

My first impressions un-boxing it were that it was an incredibly well built device. Weighty enough that it feels like a quality piece of hardware, but not too heavy that its a chore to hold it in your hands. Now for some technical bits. It has a 10.1″ screen, which is bigger than the iPad, and a screen resolution of 800×1280. So it has a bigger screen than the iPad 2 and a better screen resolution. 1-0 Motorola.

So start up takes only a few seconds. It locates and connects to my home Wi-Fi with my password, and login into my Gmail account which fire up Mail and other applications. This is my first experience of actually owning and Android device, after testing several phones and slowly being persuaded towards those little green robots.

Out of the box, the Xoom ran Android 3.0 Honeycomb, which I immediately updated to 3.1 (Honeycomb). This was a simple task of going into “Settings” and going to “About Tablet” and “System updates” where it checked and installed the latest release from Motorola which also came packed with 3.1

The obligatory next steps are to set up all my other accounts. So straight to the market I went and downloaded TweetDeck, Twitter, Facebook and a few other choice social media apps. Logging in was a whiz and I could add the widgets to any of the 5 home screens giving me intstant feeds to each of these.

I was very impressed with the Android Market, which has a different design on tablets than the phones. Much simple and cleaner looking. Just better to be honest.

How I have both several work email accounts and personal accounts, and the Xoom copes with them all perfectly. Hotmail works perfectly, and Gmail accounts of course work, with more focus and attention to detail here, such as better layout and sorting options.

I’ve downloaded a few games to see how the Xoom performs with graphics and sound, being that this is a 1GHz dual-core device, with 1GB of RAM, I was expecting the results to be good. Angry Birds was downloaded, as was Air Control, both on a medium level for graphics, but with sound and heavy emphasis on touch control made them ideal choices. The Xoom suffered no lag or delayed loading times, and game play was smooth and fluid.

A big thing on my list of “must-haves” for a tablet is a good media player. Now I know the Xoom doesn’t have a decent video player built in, but there are several good options from the Market. More on that later. The music player is the most polished and advanced version Android have put out to date, with a really nice album cover view9 that scrolls diagonally across the screen, and tap to view album tracks and details. I was a little disappointed in the quality of the speakers, considering this has two on the back, playing in stereo. They sound great and deliver a really nice clean sound, they’re just nowhere near loud enough for my liking. I’m not expecting B&W Zeppelin quality, but a bit louder would have been nice. I travel a lot, so its not a major issue as I’ll most likely be using headphones anyway. All basic music controls are present, such as loop, shuffle, skip and pause etc, and there’s a really handy widget you can stick on a home screen so you don’t have to keep loading the app.

For a video player, I hit up the Market and chose MX Video Player, which seemed the best choice, and also downloaded and additional Codec (ARMv7) which optimises the player for the Xoom. I set both of these apps up for automatic downloading so I can keep them updated.  Watching films on the go is a big thing for me, and now you can now buy DVD ‘s which a bonus digital copy, it’s great to have a device which utilises this extra facility. Video playback is really good quality and capable of 720p files.

I must now take a moment to discuss it’s faults. Let’s face it, all gadgets have them and nothing is perfect. What we should be concerned about is the severity and the impact these faults have. After over a month of pretty solid use, and being thoroughly tested by tech-head friends and family, not to mention 6 and 10 year olds, its held up pretty well. Very minor screen lag, but I’ve only noticed this when web browsing, and put it down to slower internet connections.  The Market is where I have the biggest gripe, mainly due to its frequency to crash. This is a new look store for Honeycomb, so can only assume it’s almost a beta style version that’s offered up.

The brightness adjust on the screen is also an issue. Auto-brightness is just shocking, and really doesn’t do a decent job when outdoors, and you need to manually bump up the brightness. Not a massive issue, but just one of those things that stops the device from being brilliant.

In summary, I’m really happy with it. If the faults could be rectified, which I’m sure with the next OS update to 3.2 they will be, it will be the perfect device for me. It’s decent screen size and clarity make me reach for it more and more over my laptop, and it’s build quality and metal design justify its weighty feel. One month in, I can already see it has a place in my life as a gadget, toy and a utility. It is saving my phone battery as I make for the Xoom to browse the web and email more, instead of the phone, and have even taken Android in a way I never thought possible. As an Apple loyalist, I expect things to work, but as an Android tablet user I just shrug my shoulders if it doesn’t, without a care or a worry, because I know one day, after an update or two it will. It has instilled a different attitude for OS’s in me. And I like it.

Ultimately, I cannot recommend the Motorola Xoom enough. It’s ease of use and simplicity, coupled with it’s top line hardware make it hard to beat, and difficult to pass up in favour of something else. Chances are if you’re in the market for a tablet, you might be looking at this device, what I’m saying is look no further. This is the tablet you want, this is the tablet you need in your life.

I guess the only dilemma is there’s also a Motorola Xoom 2, which features similar specs but has a different processor, an ARM Cortex A9 instead of the Xoom’s NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual Core chip, and also comes out of the box with Android 3.2 instead of 3.0 (both Honeycomb) but can be updated, or even rooted to run Ice Cream Sandwich, and 2 HD cameras, front a rear as oppose to the standard Xoom which has HD rear and SD front facing camera. But if I’m honest, I don’t see the point in cameras on a tablet, its more of a web tool, and the £50 price difference for such tiny changes isn’t cost effective.

If you can’t quite stomach the prices of these tablets, but don’t want to lose out on what Android tablets have to offer, have a look at the Andy Pad, which is a really nice little device, and hell, it’s Android too so you know what you’re getting in terms of software before you even look at the hardware.

Happy tablet shopping :-)

– Gary (aka the Gadget-Geek) Cook 

 

 

 

 

 

Win an Andy Pad Pro with Gadget Stylist

UPDATE:  The Andy Pad competition has now ended and the winner will be announced in a few days. We’ll be running a new competition soon so please keep an our on the GadgetStylist Blog for more details.

If you want a tablet computer but don’t have the cash to buy the latest iPad or Galaxy Tab you’ll love this competition.

Andy Pad Pro Competition

Gadget Stylist has teamed up with the lovely folk at Andy Pad to celebrate the launch of the fun and incredible value Andy Pad android tablet. We’re giving away an Andy Pad Pro worth £169 to one lucky punter.

The Andy Pad Pro is a fully featured Android tab that is perfect for the casual tablet user and ideal for sofa-surfing or keeping the kids entertained. It has a 7inch screen, 16GB internal memory and runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread.  This means you can enjoy many of the app’s available on the Android Market and it comes with Dropbox, Evernote and Facebook Apps pre-loaded.

Unlike the iPad its web browser supports flash and you can expand the memory up to 32GB of storage. There’s the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and even two cameras built-in. andy-pad-pro-features

An Andy Pad Pro could be yours with our fantastic competition. The rules for entering are pretty easy.  All you have to do is retweet the following message:

Win an Andy Pad android tablet & read gadget news at www.gadgetstylist.com/blog via @gadgetstylist #GSAndyPadComp

Copying and pasting that text directly into Twitter will work fine.  You’ll have to follow us too so that we can get in touch if you win. You can follow us quickly and easily by clicking the button below:


And that’s it.  Don’t be selfish though – share the comp with your friends too by clicking the Facebook Recommend button above and adding a comment, or by sharing the web address below.

http://www.gadgetstylist.com/blog/andy-pad-competition/

The competition will run until November 18th 2011, with the winner being chosen the following week. We will then get in contact with you via Twitter and send the Andy Pad Pro to you within 28 days.

Good luck to all and happy tweeting!

Read our full Terms and Conditions below.


Terms and Conditions

  1. No purchase is necessary to enter the competition.
  2. The winner will receive an Android tablet Andy Pad Pro.
  3. Entrants must be 18 years of age or over and must currently reside in the UK.
  4. Employees of GadgetStylist and Andy Pad and their immediate relatives are not eligible to take part in this competition.
  5. Andy Pad are responsible for providing the prize and GadgetStylist does not bear any responsibility should Andy Pad withdraw the prize during the course of the competition.
  6. The competition starts on October 25th 2011 and ends at midnight on November 18th 2011.
  7. A winner will be selected at random and announced on November 21st 2011.
  8. The winner will be notified personally via Twitter (and may be required to provide evidence of eligibility).
  9. To enter the competition entrants should tweet the following message. Win an Andy Pad android tablet & read gadget news at www.gadgetstylist.com/blog via @gadgetstylist #GSAndyPadComp
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  16. Prizes unclaimed after 28 days will be deemed to have been forfeited and GadgetStylist reserves the right to either choose another winner, or to re-offer the prize in any future competition administered by GadgetStylist.
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