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Tech Report – Samsung Galaxy Tab

This week sees the arrival of the first serious competition for the iPad, which has had the tablet computer market pretty much to itself since it launched in April. Sure, there have been some attempts to enter the fray – HP and Lenovo have further cannibalized the netbook market, and Dell gave us the Streak – but there has been nothing to remotely threaten the iPad’s dominance.

Now, here comes the Galaxy Tab from Samsung, an altogether much more impressive device.

The Samsung Galaxy brand has quickly established a reputation for style and reliability in the highly competitive smartphone market. Just this week, Samsung announced that it had already shipped three million Galaxy S phones to the U.S. since it launched the line in July. Samsung has now combined the same quality engineering and the already-proven Android platform to come up with a top-notch tablet.

The first thing you notice about the Galaxy Tab is its compact size. It measures  7.5 by 4.7 inches, and is just half an inch thick. This gives it a considerably smaller screen size than the 10-inch iPad.

Although Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, has already questioned the usefulness of a 7-inch tablet, it doesn’t seem to have hurt Amazon’s Kindle in the eReader market. In fact, the smaller size and weight of the Galaxy Tab make it much easier to hold for a long period of time if you are reading a book or watching a movie. And the Galaxy Tab is much more portable than the iPad, easily slipping into a coat or jacket pocket.

The Galaxy Tab is literally stuffed with features. There is the gorgeous multi-touch screen; the multiple home screens allowing endless customization;  super-fast web browsing and instant access to Maps, Gmail and all the other integrated Google programs; front and rear facing cameras, turning the Galaxy Tab into a huge point-and-shoot digital frame; video chat; the instant hotspot feature. The list is almost endless.

You also get access to 100,000+ apps in the Android Market, although most of them still need to be reworked for the increased screen size. Unlike the iPad, the Galaxy Tab also supports Flash, making millions of web-based videos accessible and easy to watch.

The good news is that the Galaxy Tab will be available from all four major carriers. T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint will start selling them this week, and AT&T will likely have them by the end of the year.

The bad news is price, a problem that the Galaxy Tab shares with the iPad. A Galaxy Tab from T-Mobile will cost you $399.99 but requires a two-year contract. A stand-alone Galaxy Tab with no contract will cost you a cool $599.99, plus the month-to-month data fees which could be around $40 per month depending on usage .

As usual, price is unlikely to deter the early adopters. And, if you like the Android platform and the smaller screen size, you won’t be disappointed. However, if you are prepared to wait, then you can be sure the 4-carrier line-up will work in your favor and produce some aggressive early-2011 discounting.

Either way, the tablet market just got more interesting – and a whole lot more competitive.  

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