Two Android tablets, different goals

The scoop: Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, by Samsung, about $400.

What is it? This is an upgrade to the original 7-inch Galaxy Tab Android tablet from Samsung, with features such as a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, Android 3.2 Honeycomb OS and support for HSPA+ wide-area networks (although the unit we received was a Wi-Fi only model). Other hardware features include 1GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of on-device storage (depending on model), support for microSD card for extra memory (up to 32GB), 1,024 by 600 WSVGA resolution display, Bluetooth 3.0, 720p video camera recording (back camera is 3 megapixel with auto-focus and LED flash), 2 megapixel front camera for webcam chatting and a video player with 1080p support.

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On the software side, the tablet supports Google Mobile Services (Google Talk, Gmail, Calendar, YouTube, Google Maps, Latitude, Places and Google Maps Navigation), and the Samsung Hubs offerings (Social Hub, Music Hub and Readers Hub). The unit also comes bundled with the Peel Smart Remote application, a great interactive TV guide, as well as built-in IR that lets you use the tablet as a universal remote control for your home entertainment system.

Why it's cool: The device is lighter than a larger tablet, although it's still not as light as a smartphone that you can fit in your pocket. Using this in the living room, though, was a good fit, for controlling the TV or playing a quick game of Angry Birds. The size compares to e-readers like the Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook, making this a good tablet for book reading. The Samsung Social Hub app worked well at combining social feeds from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even email into one overall view, plus I could post an update on one service and have the app update the other social sites.

Some caveats: Users who like larger tablets like the iPad or even the 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab may not like the smaller size of this display -- surfing websites, for examples, likely requires zooming in more than with a larger-screen tablet. Also, the unit we tested was Wi-Fi only, which limits the locations where you can use the device.

Grade: 4 stars (out of 5)

The scoop: Xoom 4G LTE tablet, by Motorola and Verizon Wireless, about $300 (with two-year contract).

What is it? The 10.1-inch display tablet from Motorola recently got a 4G LTE upgrade from Verizon Wireless, providing it with faster network data speeds than before. The device runs on a dual-core 1GHz processor, uses Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) OS and features a 2 megapixel front camera webcam and a 5 megapixel rear camera for photos and videos (up to 720p recording resolution and playback). The tablet features 32GB of internal memory storage, with microSD card support (sold separately) for up to another 32GB.

Why it's cool: Certainly, the 4G LTE network gives you faster data downloads and uploads than previously -- in my tests I averaged 16.12Mbps of download speed, and 5.59Mbps of upload speed. For travelers where 4G LTE coverage is located, this can provide for great productivity in getting files and accessing websites quickly. The larger screen makes it appealing to users who want more real estate for Web browsing and app usage (although I prefer the smaller ones for e-books). Along with the iPad and Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Xoom 4G LTE should be on your short list of tablet choices.

Some caveats: May be less useful for users not in 4G LTE coverage areas. Data costs for 4G LTE access may also turn some users away.

Grade: 4.5 stars

Shaw can be reached at kshaw@nww.com.

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