Samsung is changing its approach to tablets. Rather than compete at the highest end with the iPad or the Transformer Prime, Samsung's aiming for a happy medium: all the features we've come to expect from an Android tablet, without necessarily top-notch performance or specs, for an appealing price. The tactic worked really well with the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, a $249.99 7-inch tablet that outpaces the Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, or BlackBerry PlayBook.
The bigger brother in the Tab 2 line is now upon us in the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. Like the 7.0, it has solid but unspectacular specs (a 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 1280 x 800 TFT display, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, dual cameras), plus Android 4.0, all for a very reasonable $399.99. Of course, even at that price there's competition from the still-on-sale iPad 2, the Transformer Pad TF300, and a handful of others. Does the 10-inch Galaxy Tab 2 find the same balance its 7-inch sibling did, or is your $400 better spent elsewhere? Read on to find out.
Whatever the reason for the new look of Samsung's tablets, it's clearly a good new direction for the company: The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is a much more original-looking tablet than previous Galaxy Tabs, and it's an attractive one at that. The 10.1-inch display is surrounded by a small black bezel that is every bit as fingerprint-prone as the screen itself. Surrounding the bezel is a gray edging that covers the sides of the tablet, and peeks slightly out onto the face as well. As you hold the slate in landscape mode (as the logos indicate you should), there's a camera lens above the display, a Samsung logo below, and long, thin, silver speaker grilles on either side. The Tab 2 will certainly never be mistaken for an iPad, and whether that's legally required or not it's a good thing for Samsung.
The silver back has a brushed metal look, and though it's plastic it's quite smooth without being slippery or feeling cheap. Samsung never uses particularly high-end materials, but it builds its tablets really well, and the Tab 2 feels sturdy and solid, without any bending or creaking to speak of. The sides of the tablet are completely empty, which is a nice look but not entirely practical — I wish the company had carried over its penchant for placing power buttons on the right side of its phones.
Most of the Tab's ports are crammed up on top, save for the standard Samsung dock connector on the bottom. The top of the tablet has a power button and volume rocker, which are located so close to each other that I nearly always pressed a different button than I was aiming for. Next to those are a covered microSD slot that lets you add up to 32GB of storage to the 16GB or 32GB of internal memory, an IR blaster, and a headphone jack. The headphone jack is located right in the middle, which is a bit odd — your headphone cable will always naturally go either on top of the screen or directly underneath it, and it's awkward either way.
The Tab 2 weighs 581g (1.3 pounds) and is 9.7mm (0.38 inches) thick. That's lighter, but thicker, than both the iPad and the Transformer Prime. The differences are tiny, though, and I certainly didn't notice the Tab feeling particularly big or light as I used it. It's a nice, svelte tablet, though because it's so large it's tough to hold in one hand for any length of time; 7-inch slates in general are much better suited to that.