Jumat, 08 Maret 2013

#6: Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7-Inch, Wi-Fi)

I have a Kindle Fire and do enjoy using it (for the most part) -- love the form factor, enjoy the apps that I can get for it and am very pleased with the Kindle eReader app and ability to share books across all our Kindles. But when we were offered an opportunity to check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 a few days early, we jumped at the chance. The Kindle Fire is great at what it does, but its custom Android O/S, non-standard Web browser, limited selection of apps, lack of expandable storage and lack of Bluetooth support leave me cold.

*Browser Issues*

I've experienced multiple issues trying to browse web sites with the Kindle's Silk browser which work fine on the Galaxy Tab 2 and other full-fledged Android devices. Although Flash videos can be played on the Kindle Fire (if you enable Flash in the Silk browser's setting menu, which is OFF by default), Flash-based games on the Web such as Words with Friends and Bejeweled Blitz (both on Facebook) are painfully jittery and sluggish on the Kindle Fire. The native Words with Friends app does work well on the Kindle, for the most part, but not the web browser-based version. But Flash support on mobile devices is spotty at best so this is not the worst flaw in the Kindle. Also, the content management system we use on our web site is able to load pages (articles) on the Fire, but unable to scroll within large text input windows. The same problem does not occur on the Galaxy Tab 2's browser. The Silk browser is able to access many web sites properly, but when it fails, there isn't much you can do since updates to the Silk browser have been few and far between.

*App and content space*

The Kindle Fire and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 each come with 8 GB of internal storage on board. Some of this is used for O/S and system files which leaves even less available for apps and media content. The Kindle Fire has no expandable storage, as it is designed to work in "The Cloud." In other words, they expect you to store music and movies on an internet-based cloud storage area for access when you want it. The big caveat here is that the Kindle Fire offers only WiFi access (no 4G support) so if you do not happen to have a WiFi hotspot or home network handy (like, for example, on a long distance car trip), your cloud-based content is completely inaccessible. I filled up the Kindle Fire's internal storage within the first six weeks of ownership. If I want to install more apps or add local content now, I'll have to remove some from the device. These apps and content are still available to download later from the cloud, if I wish to do so, but this really isn't convenient. The Galaxy Tab 2 also lacks 4G support (in its current version) but its standard microSDHC slot allows you to expand the on-board storage up to an additional 32 GB, which is plenty of room to move your movies, music and additional content to be stored locally without requiring access to the internet.

*Bluetooth Support*

When I am taking notes at an event or meeting, there's nothing like a full sized QWERTY keyboard. With the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, you can connect just about any standard Bluetooth keyboard and happily start typing away at full speed. With the Kindle Fire, since it lacks Bluetooth support, you do not have this option. Also, when you want to listen to music, movies or apps on the Fire without bothering those around you, you'll need to plug in a pair of standard headphones (with the jack awkwardly placed on the bottom of the device instead of the top). With the Galaxy Tab 2, not only is the jack placed more logically at the top, but you can also use Bluetooth 3.0 stereo headphones for high quality sound without the wired tether.


The Kindle Fire lacks an on-board camera while the Galaxy Tab 2 includes both a front and rear-facing camera. Admittedly the camera on the Galaxy Tab can't really compare with a real digital camera (particularly indoors) but having the camera available on the Galaxy does allow you to snap a quick pic when the real camera may have been left at home, or participate in Google+ Hangouts (not an option on the camera-free Kindle).

*Limited App Support*

Amazon's Kindle Fire, like Barnes and Noble's Nook Tablet, is not compatible with the Google Play Store app market without rooting the device (not for beginners). To install apps on the Fire, you have to use the proprietary Amazon app market which has a limited selection of apps. There's no access to cool apps like the Logitech Harmony app, or the Samsung or Panasonic remote control Android apps for their TVs and Blu-ray players. The list of Android apps you can't get for the Fire goes on (and on... and on). And speaking of remote apps, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 comes pre-loaded with the Peel app which uses the Galaxy Tab's integrated IR port (another option not available on the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet) to control an entire home theater or multimedia system *without* any additional out of pocket expense. It's there; it works; it's great! Also, if you want access to the Amazon app store from the Galaxy tablet, you can do this by downloading and installing the Amazon apk. I've done this and have been able to access my Amazon-purchased apps on the Galaxy tablet.

Overall, I'd say the Kindle Fire is great for people who like to read Kindle books, who are satisfied with a smaller selection of apps, who like streaming movies and TV shows from Amazon Prime (as I do) and who don't need the extra flexibility of a full-fledged Android tablet. But for those who do want those extras - Bluetooth, cameras, expandable storage, Android O/S 4.0 - the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 provides an excellent upgrade for a minimal amount of additional cash. Highly recommended.

You can read our comprehensive reviews of the Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 and Nook Tablet on Big Picture Big Sound.

2013 update: This review was written in April, 2012 and is based on a comparison to the first generation Kindle Fire which was the only Kindle fire that was available at that time. The Kindle Fire HD does address *some* of the limitations of the Kindle Fire including adding a front camera, mic and Bluetooth headset support but there's still no access to Google Play Store unless you root the device. Also, there is still no extended storage option (e.g., microSD card) on the Fire or Fire HD as there is on the Samsung tablet.

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