Apple iPad 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1: Tablet showdown

Which is the better tablet: Apple's iPad 2 or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Software and performance

The iPad 2 runs Apple's iOS 4 operating system, though it will soon be upgradeable to the latest iOS 5 version. It offers a familiar swipeable home screen enhanced by folders, and the consistent Apple UI look and feel extending across all of the standard applications. If you have never used an iPad before, you can expect a device that is easy to pick up and use, a well-populated App Store, and excellent multimedia capabilities. Web browsing is fast and efficient, and the iPad 2 is also a great device for viewing photos, watching videos and listening to music.

Though the streamlined iPad experience has won many fans, Apple's closed platform means the iPad 2 doesn't offer the same flexibility as Android tablets like the Galaxy Tab 10.1. In particular, the iPad 2 has an inferior notification system to Android tablets, and Apple doesn't allow you to customise and display live widgets on the iPad 2 home screen. By the same token, the iPad 2 interface and overall user experience are far more polished than what is currently on offer from Android tablets. The iPad 2 feels both faster and smoother than any Android tablet we've tested.

iPad 2 If you've never used an iPad before, you can expect a device that is easy to pick up and use, a well-populated App Store, and excellent multimedia capabilities.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 runs the 3.1 version of Google's Android operating system, and will be upgradeable to future versions of the Honeycomb platform (including the now-available 3.2). However, the key software feature of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is not Android, but Samsung's own TouchWiz UX user interface. This software is implemented on top of the Android 'Honeycomb' platform, making the Galaxy Tab 10.1 among the first Android tablets to run a customised version of Google's Honeycomb operating system.

Samsung's TouchWiz UX overlay brings a number of new features to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 including a "quick panel" that adds a handy set of toggles in the notifications window, a suite of basic "Mini Apps" that apps appear as an overlay on top of the screen, and Samsung's own set of widgets: AccuWeather, a Bookmark widget, a Buddies now widget, a digital clock that allows you to set an alarm with one touch, and Samsung's Social Hub, which aggregates e-mail, instant messaging, contacts, calendar and social network connections. These Samsung widgets are resizable, so you can fit them on the screen as you wish.

Both the 3.1 version of Android and Samsung's own TouchWIZ UX overlay are an improvement over every other Android tablet on the market, but we still feel the Galaxy Tab 10.1 lacks the polished and slick feel of the iOS platform.

Internals and cameras

The Apple iPad 2 is powered by a dual-core processor called the A5. Apple claims the processor doubles the speed of the iPad and makes graphics processing up to nine times faster. Apple hasn't specified the amount of RAM the iPad 2 has, but it is generally assumed to be 512MB.

The Apple iPad 2 also includes two cameras; one facing the front of the tablet, the other rear-facing. The rear camera records 720p HD video, and takes still photographs, but both cameras have low specifications — the front camera is VGA, while the rear camera is just 0.7 megapixels. Both cameras can be used with Apple's FaceTime video chat application, which debuted on the iPhone 4.

On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet has a significantly better 3-megapixel rear camera on its rear that also doubles as a 720p HD video recorder, and a 2-megapixel front camera for video calls. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 can also claim to be a more powerful device than the iPad under the hood — it is powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor and has a hefty 1GB of RAM. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 also has one other significant advantage over the iPad 2 — its Web browser can display Flash video content.

Other features

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 doesn't have a full sized USB port, or even a micro-USB port: both charging and connecting the unit to a computer via USB is achieved through the included, proprietary cable, much the same as the iPad 2. The main disadvantage is that you'll need this included Samsung USB cable to charge and synchronise the tablet and can't use any old micro-USB cable. However, on the plus side, the proprietary connector charges the Galaxy Tab 10.1 much faster than a standard micro-USB port could.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 doesn't have a full sized USB port, or even a micro-USB port: both charging and connecting the unit to a computer via USB is achieved through the included, proprietary cable, much the same as the iPad 2.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 does not have a HDMI-out connection, so it can't be connected to a high definition television or projector. Samsung however sells an optional HDTV adapter that includes a HDMI-out connection, while its multimedia dock accessory for the tablet also includes HDMI-out.

The iPad 2 lacks a full sized USB port, or a HDMI-out connection, but users can purchase an Apple Digital AV adapter ($45) accessory that allows the iPad to be connected to a television via HDMI. Unfortunately, iPad users will also need to purchase the optional iPad Camera Connection Kit ($35) to connect either a digital camera via USB, or a full sized SD card slot.

Battery life and availability

Samsung promises 9 hours of video playback time before the Galaxy Tab 10.1's battery runs out. The iPad 2 offers a slightly better figure of 10 hours.

The Apple iPad 2 is available through Apple retail stores and select authorised resellers. The iPad 2 is slightly cheaper than the original iPad, starting at $579 for the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi version.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 was initially expected to launch sometime in August, but the lawsuit by Apple has meant Samsung has been forced to postpone the unveiling. "A Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 for the Australian market will be released in the near future," the company said in a recent statement. Pricing and carrier details have yet to be announced.

What do you think about the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1? Let us know in the comments below!

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Tags samsungSamsung Galaxy Tab 10.1Google AndroidtabletsApple iPad 2

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World

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