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Hands-on review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1New

Alex Fergusson Architects

First Intro | The Good | The Bad | The Very Very Ugly | The Specs | Summary Summary
Review update: Sun shines cruel light on Galaxy

Samsung Galaxy Tab Review: The Very, Very Ugly

So what's the big grouse then? Perhaps you've already guessed?

It's pretty much everything to do with the proprietary connector and whatever you might plug into it. Yes, it works with the charger that's supplied with the Tab, and with the car charger for Satnav operation. And that's about it.

The Galaxy Tab's cursed 30-pin connector looking smart

It is a sign of a certain arrogance having a propriety connector. It restricts the choice of accessories available to the buyer and therefore increases the cost and adds inconvenience. When the cables and accessories supplied for the socket have not been sufficently thought through, the sin is compounded.

Charging OptionsI've solved the wiring problem with some help from Maxtor - and I claim my £5.  A cable with mini USB at one end and two standard USB plugs at the other.

The lead is, of course, special. It's similar to, but not exactly the same as, the Apple iPhone/iPad 30-pin connector. Plugging either cable into the wrong device could cause damage. Because this lead is unique to the Galaxy Tab, it is hard to replace. Much harder than the Apple lead which is common to several devices. It's also too short at just under 1m long so that you can't easily use the Tab while you're charging it, for instance, in a coffee shop. Plug the lead into a PC and things get even worse. The Tab charges very slowly. So slowly, in fact, that if the screen is illuminated, the device charge level actually goes down. To guarantee one hour's internet browsing, the Tab has to charge for nearly three hours connected to a PC. This is just ridiculous. Other devices, portable hard drives for instance, sometimes struggle to get enough power from a single USB socket, but often they supply a special double lead and Samsung could have gone for this option.

Desktop Dock

First, be clear that this dock comes without any cables. The outside of the box says that the product is an HDMI dock, but in fact its socket is mini-HDMI making it very easy to end up paying for the wrong cable as I did. The dock will only work if it receives external power via the aforementioned proprietary Samsung 30-pin lead. While the rendering on an HD TV is apparently sometimes quite good, it can also be very poor depending on a compatibility issue with some hardware. The upscaling of the image from my Tab to two different TV / Monitors was really not good with the icons and text being significantly easier to read on the Tab's own 7" screen than on a 40" High Definition TV.

A few lines at the top and bottom of the Tab screen were also not displayed via the HDMI dock. This partially obscures the Android icons at the top of the home screen and the Windows taskbar at the bottom of a virtual Windows desktop. These problems added together mean that this dock cannot be used for a PC virtualisation set up.

And for those with film viewing in mind, you also have to beware of the special DRM message "HDMI blocked during Protected Content Playback".

The dock also offers an analogue headphone socket, but under certain circumstances especially when your HDMI link is to a monitor rather than a TV, this too delivers nothing. [I'm indebted to Chippy at who persevered finding additional flaws with this accessory that my patience could not handle.]

This product really falls beyond the pale. Even in a market for early adopters like me, it has so many flaws it should have been left on the drawing board and should not be for sale at all.

Keyboard Dock

Let's be honest:: after my frustrating time with the desktop dock I haven't actually bought one of the keyboard docks. My compliments to Carphone Warehouse for stocking the thing, and for displaying and describing it honestly, but the truth is that the same problems are again apparent. Again there are no cables, and the only power input is via the cursed 30-pin connector.

There's also a very obvious issue that the dock only supports the Tab in portrait mode.

It's also clear from its shape that it won't be able to accommodate a larger format tablet later on.

If that wasn't enough, the display model was sadly showing another thing that Samsung would probably have preferred not to publicise: that the Tab keeps losing its link to the dock. There's a button-press sequence to retrieve things but it didn't seem typo satisfactory.

Telephone Support

For those in the UK, telephone support - in very broken English - comes from Cairo. While I know we are meant to be tolerant of these things, it just is not good enough. With technical issues to discuss, a language barrier is a significant problem. I called to try and check whether the PC charging issue on my Tab was truly a feature rather than a hardware fault. It took quite a while to explain the slowness of the charging, after which she put me on hold to ask her colleagues. She then suggested that I should take out and replace the battery. I explained to her that the battery in the Tab was not removable and then gave up.

If Samsung were thinking that this might be a good enough level of service, let me point out the comparison with the Apple iPad. I can walk from my office to my nearest Apple shop where a motivated, native English speaker, who actually uses an iPad, can respond properly.

First Intro | The Good | The Bad | The Very Very Ugly | The Specs | Summary Summary
Review update: Sun shines cruel light on Galaxy

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