Here’s where the Tab nearly matches the iPad.
Its screen is a long 1024 x 600, nearly the exact aspect ratio as most widescreen movies. The iPad’s 1024 x 768 pixel, 9.7-inch screen, however, is less oblong, so widescreen movies are displayed letterboxed. As a result, despite its screen being three inches smaller, widescreen movies on the Tab are nearly the same size as they are on the iPad (extra credit if you can identify what film the still image in the comparative picture is from).
The Tab’s problem when compared to iPad is a narrower screen viewing angle. If you’re off around 45 degrees, the Tab’s screen starts to polarize, while the iPad’s remains clearly watchable.
Because it can fit in your pocket, the Tab actually works better as a music player than the iPad, which has to be carried in a bag or backpack. The problem is, no one yet makes Android-specific earphones with inline controls, which means you’ll be constantly lifting it from your pocket to pause or skip tracks.
The Tab operates exactly like an Android phone, only larger, without the phone, of course, and with only three home pages. There are about 60 or so Tab-optimized Android apps, but we could see no immediate difference between optimized or non-optimized apps.
The biggest functionality issue that springs from the Tab’s size between smartphone and a larger tablet is its touch keyboard. In portrait mode, you can comfortably thumb tap, even more comfortably than on even a 4-inch smartphone touch keyboard. That means e-mail (and since Tab runs Froyo you get a convenient unified in-box) is a joy to check and answer correspondence. But the Tab is too wide in landscape mode to thumb tap, and without some sort of angled case, it’s hard to touch-type or hunt-and-peck when lying flat. While fine for occasional e-mail or messaging correspondence, the Tab is not the laptop replacement for extensive e-mail upkeep that the iPad is.
As you can see from the other iPad comparative pictures, you simply get a lot less on the Tab’s screen.
The Tab’s long and skinny screen may work fine for movie watching, but this shape works against it for nearly every other application, especially Web surfing.
For one thing, the Android browser thinks the Tab is a smartphone, so it automatically accesses mobile-optimized versions of sites such as The New York Times, CNN and ESPN, rather than either the full or iPad-optimized sites. While its long screen gives you a nice long list of headlines and the perfect column width for reading articles, it’s not taller than the iPad is in landscape mode. And in landscape orientation, the Tab is pretty much useless for Web browsing, just like smaller smartphones.
Even though the iPad’s pixel density of 132 pixels per inch is not as technically dense as the Tab’s 169, text on the Tab seems less distinct than on the iPad.
Access is snappy, though, at least for the aforementioned mobile-optimized sites, which leap fully loaded in two or three seconds. Non-optimized pages, however, take a sluggish 20 to 25 seconds to load.