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Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 Review: Samsung's Second-Child Syndrome

Does Samsung's New Galaxy Tab 10.1 Measure Up?

Our chief complaint about the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is its disappointing performance. Last year’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 impressed us with a combination of the Tegra 2 SoC, an incredibly vivid display, and its Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) operating system. Back then, Samsung was pushing forward in a big way. In comparison, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 feels like one feeble step forward and two big steps back.

Yes, the newer Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 enjoys Google's Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system. Under the tablet's hood, however, is an older and slower TI OMAP 4430. This is the same hardware powering Amazon's Kindle Fire, a tablet that also failed to impress up with its performance. The SoC's competitive disadvantage to alternatives like Tegra 3 becomes evident in everyday use, and is impossible to ignore.

Perhaps more jarring is that the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 features an LCD panel that would have been much more impressive a year ago. But in today's tablet market, the newest iPad and Google's Nexus 7 are far more attractive. Before the third-gen iPad emerged, Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 was unquestionably the best-looking tablet. It clearly dominated the Android-based competition with a SuperPLS screen. Although it's comparable to other tablet displays in its segment, the fact that the Galaxy Tab 2 uses a more generic display does not impress us.

Are performance and screen quality deal-breakers? Not necessarily. But we can't help but feel as though the Galaxy Tab 2 isn't much of an upgrade to last year's model, especially with competition from Apple and Google winning our hearts at the 9.7" and 7" display sizes. With that said, Samsung seems to be repositioning its tablet line-up with the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1's introduction. The Galaxy Note 10.1 assumes the high-end position with a $499 (16 GB) price tag, while the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 weighs in $100 cheaper, even with the same built-in storage capacity.

The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 faces strong competition at its $400 price point, though. Apple's iPad 2 and the Transformer Pad TF300 are still compelling alternatives. Moreover, we can't forget the awesome Nexus 7, also armed with 16 GB, selling for a modest $249. Samsung is wielding a knife in this gunfight. The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is a competent tablet. But in today's third-gen market, it's hampered by mediocre performance, a merely acceptable screen, and a price tag that's too high. Sure, the Nexus 7 "only" comes with a seven-inch screen. But if Samsung wants to dominate the budget tablet category with its second-gen Galaxy Tab, the affordable Google tablet could be its biggest competition.