Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

 
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Published: November 10, 2011 11:00 PM
By Romain Thuret

NB: The Galaxy Tab 8.9 adopts pretty much the entire spec of the bigger Galaxy Tab 10.1, that we have tested, but in an 8.9-inch format. You still get the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core processor clocked at 1 GHz, 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage.

In this test, then, we'll look in detail at the design differences implied in the smaller format, the quality of the PLS screen and the extensive mobile plus experience with the 3G module that's included here. For more details, we refer you to the test for the Galaxy 10.1.



The Galaxy Tab 8.9 3G with 16 GB of storage is on sale for £548, while the wi-fi only version comes in at £441.

Offers from various operators are available for the 3G version tested here.
 


Design

Obviously more compact and lighter than the 10.1-inch model (432 grammes against 545 grammes), the Galaxy Tab 8.9 is pretty much the ideal compromise between being a highly mobile product and a more sedentary tool that's easy to manipulate and carry around. It's not as wide as the 10.1 either and this makes it more attractive to use in portrait mode, both in terms of internal navigation in Android and on the Internet.


The SIM card slot is situated under a cover on the upper edge of the screen. Insertion/removal of the card can only be carried out with the help of a pen, folded piece of paper, witch's nail or some such instrument...


As always, Samsung is using its 40-pin proprietary connector for connection to a computer or adding a dock and you can't extend the memory size.
The connector also allows you to add connection accessories to the Galaxy Tab, such as USB 2.0 adaptors.

Screen

A PLS screen, which is Samsung's IPS derived technology, means we were expecting a nicely balanced result, in the image of what you get on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. And that's what we got! We were a little disappointed with the contrast on this screen, however, with an average of 882:1, as against 1081:1 on the 10-inch.

The viewing angles remain very wide and without any apparent problems and the colour temperature is much improved, more homogenous and with an average of 7681 K, as against over 10,000 K for the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The average deltaE is also better, at 6.7 as against 8.8 for the bigger model. We're not yet at the same level as the iPad or the BlackBerry PlayBook, but the Galaxy Tab 8.9 doesn't do badly at all, with a very balanced display all said and done.
The PLS is now a definite feature in the mobile screen landscape and does better, in several respects, than its direct competitor, the IPS (iPad, Asus Transformer, Motorola Xoom...)

To finish the review of the screen on another good note, the LED backlighting is still as powerful at 330 cd/m2, which is one of the best on the market (along with the Tab 10.1).

Interface & Navigation

NB: for a full review of the Android 3.1 system in TouchWiz on the new Galaxy Tabs, check out the full review of the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

There are no great differences with the 10.1 model here. It still uses the giant TouchWiz interface that very much resembles the Galaxy S II but adapted for tablets and coming with plenty of surprises and interest: exclusive VOD type content for children (Dora the Explorer), MTV and video gaming (Game One)


During testing, we did nevertheless note that the tablet did struggle slightly when coming out of 3D games or during multitasking. Note also that version 3.2 of Android still isn't available for the Galaxy Tabs (confined to 3.1 for the moment).


We couldn't but mention the excellent handling of 3G connectivity on the Galaxy Tabs. Apart from it being rather awkward to insert the SIM, as well as the fact that you have to restart the tablet for it to recognise said card, the mobile connectivity is a delight on this 3G version. Network connection is often better than on the Galaxy S II (that we once again tested simultaneously) in areas where the network is weak!

Multimedia

NB: for a full review of the multimedia possibilities on the new Galaxy Tabs, check out the full review of the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

The Internet is even more legible on this smaller screen as it has the same definition. There are no problems with making out characters whether in portrait or landscape modes and browsing is rapid and fluid, even with pages including Flash.


When it comes to multimedia, with the exception of Archos and its 2010 Internet Tablet and the 80 G9 and 101 G9 recently tested here, the Samsung Galaxy Tabs offer more extensive video and audio playback codec support than any other tablet.
You will however have to forget HD 1080p (Nvidia Tegra 2) but this situation should change on the next model, the Galaxy Tab 7.7, which will work with a Samsung Exynos 1.4 GHz processor (update of the very good Galaxy S II processor).

When it comes to the audio quality in general, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 gives good power both through the headphones out and the speakers and will suit all usage (video, gaming, music, Internet). Don't expect detailed sound rendering however.
Contrary to what you might expect, housing the speakers in the lower edge doesn't suffocate the sound as there's enough resonance within the structure of the tablet to avoid such an outcome.

The camera is however still pretty mediocre. The Galaxy Tab 8.9's 3 Megapixel sensor was never going to set the world alight. Low on detail, a flash which burns and poor contours mean that even on the tablet's own screen the results are very average.

As with the Galaxy Tab 10.1, you won't want to use the camera here except as a last resort.

Battery life

The Tab 8.9 manages 8 hours on average, either for video playback or mixed usage with wi-fi off (7H30 with wi-fi on). Samsung chose well with a 6100 mAh battery, which is 900 mAh less than on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. With 3G on, you can expect it to last 1H30 (or even just 1H) less. Our 3G usage was concentrated over a fairly small length of time and was quite intensive.
The standby feature is very good indeed and approaches the performance of the iPad / iPad 2 - in 36H without activity, you lose just a handful of battery points. A good showing!
4/5 Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 DigitalVersus 2011-11-11 00:00:00

Pros

  • Practical format both for mobile and sedentary use
  • Good overall screen quality / almost perfect media player
  • General responsiveness of the tablet is good, with just a few slowdowns
  • Compact and light / Decent battery life for mixed usage, even with 3G
  • Good 3G network connection

Cons

  • Single proprietary connector
  • No memory extension
  • Mediocre photo/video sensor

Conclusion

Like the Galaxy Tab 10.1-inch, the 8.9 has numerous advantages: an impressive media player, nice and compact, very light, plenty of exclusives in the interface. The fact that you can't extend the memory and that it uses a proprietary port mean it doesn't quite get a five star rating. The 3G is excellent.

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