The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is the latest member of the brand's tablet family, but is it truly capable of taking on the Apple iPad 2?
Update: The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 price has been slashed to £249
What’s the perfect sized tablet? If we are going by sales, it's the one that measures in at 9.7-inch Apple iPad 2. That hasn't stopped Samsung covering all the bases with its Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 tablet - the latest to join the growing legion of Galaxy Tab devices.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is still considered the closest thing to an iPad 2 challenger, but with similar specs crammed into a much smaller body, could the Galaxy Tab 8.9 actually better the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and become one of the leading Android tablets on the market?
Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9: Build
If you loved the look of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, then you'll be happy to hear that the 8.9 is near enough identical in terms of design. Samsung has once again taken the minimalist approach, opting for just on/off and volume buttons as the only physical controls on the device which means, somewhat disappointingly, that there’s no sign of USB or SD card ports.
At 453g, it’s over 100g lighter than the iPad 2 (613g) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (565g) and measures in at just 8.6mm thickness which as a result makes it extremely comfortable to hold in one hand.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9: Screen
Samsung has come up trumps once again with the Galaxy Tab 8.9 multi-touch display, boasting a 120x800-pixel resolution putting it in the same league as the iPad in terms of screen quality. Squeezing in 170 ppi which is more than the Galaxy Tab 10.1, meaning you can expect impressive levels of clarity and rich blacks which make it ideal for watching movies and using it as an ereader.
The capacitive and multi-touch performance was impressive as expected, however we did it find it slightly fidgety when trying to re-arrange app icons around the screen, where it often annoyingly switched to other homescreens.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9: Android Ice Cream Sandwich
There’s no Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on board so you’ll have to make do with Android 3.2 Honeycomb with Samsung’s Touchwiz 4.0 UI overlay. That brings a handful of features including a series of mini apps that can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
Here you'll find applications like a calculator, a task manager and access to your music. Touchwiz also brings screengrab functionality which is good news considering that this is one of the new elements packed into Android 4.0 and something that the Honeycomb OS doesn't offer.
One feature Samsung has been pushing is its App Store which is essentially Android Market for newbies to find the best apps to download. There is nothing that you won't find on the Android Market though so we are struggling to see the value of its presence on the device.
You'll also find the Samsung Hubs (Music, Social and Reader) which breaks down some of the key features of the Galaxy Tab 8.9. The Reader hub particularly stands out offering a user friendly way of finding magazines, books and newspapers albeit through third party applications.
We also liked the inclusion of motion controls which enables you to enlarge copy and manipulate images simply by tilting or panning the device. This is particularly handy for reading newspapers and websites and flicking through images in your gallery.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9: Performance
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 packs the same 1GHZ dual-core Nvidia Tegra processor found inside the Galaxy Tab 10.1 which ensures a similarly slick web browsing and page loading performance. This also means it's well equipped to handle streaming-heavy applications and games.
We tested OnLive and Netflix Android apps over Wi-Fi and found the experience a lag- and buffer-free experience. We've already mentioned how much we love the screen for watching movies (1080p HD quality), but unfortunately we can’t be so glowing in terms of the audio performance from the speakers located at the bottom of device which were loud but generally tinny with music and video playback.
If you feel compelled to pull out your tablet over a smartphone to take pictures, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 features a rear-facing 3-megaxpiel with a LED flash which serves up decent enough snaps that pick up good detail and exposure with a particularly impressive Panorama mode.
The 2-megapixel front-facing camera is suitable enough to cater for all your Skyping and video calling needs, while its 720p HD footage capabilities produced decent footage that was grainy at times and struggled in low lit conditions.
The Galaxy Tab 8.9 hosts a 6100mAh battery which should get you around 9 hours of battery life, and having put it to the test running throughout the day on light use it was around nine hours before we had to reach for the dock connector to charge it up again.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9: Verdict
So where does the Samsung 8.9 rank in the current hierarchy of tablets? Well, we’d say quite highly. It shares so many of the characteristics that made the Galaxy Tab 10.1 such an impressive device, but manages to condense it all into a smaller, more bag-friendly design.
The screen is brilliant and ideal for reading and watching movies, while the Touchwiz overlay helps to separate it from many of the other Android 3.0 tablets currently on the market. We would have liked to have seen some USB or SD card support like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime but Samsung appears to be putting faith in its All Share platform and DLNA instead. Ultimately though, this is another fantastic Samsung tablet that surpasses its 10.1-inch compatriot (albeit with a bigger price tag) and is a great alternative to the Apple iPad 2.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 availability: Available now
Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 price: £249