Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 LTE Review

GALAXY Tab 8.9 LTE Product Image

This review was made possible with the generous support of Pop Radiator!

This weekend I had the opportunity to play with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 with LTE. It’s a great Android Honeycomb tablet with connectivity every where you go thanks to the LTE radio.

I only had the tablet for the weekend, and quite a busy weekend, but I managed to try a few things out. Of course my wife and I checked our e-mail (Hotmail and GMail) and browsed the web (including some Flash), of course we played some a lot of Solitaire, did some navigation, and to see how well LTE was working ran Speed Test on a regular basis.

Screen size

The 8.9 inch screen size is a bit smaller than most Android tablets, that typically have a 10.1 inch screens (except the Sony Tablet S with its 9.4 inch screen size). The iPad has a 9.7 inch screen. The screen is big enough for all the things I wanted to do, and there’s about a one-inch bezel around the screen that makes it easy to hold.

In a few instances though I found that holding the screen in portrait mode was preferable because it meant no up-and-down scrolling, but then the size of the text and images was almost too small to be comfortable. Given the choice I think I would prefer a 10.1 inch tablet for that reason.

Flash

There’s a few web sites I use regularly that depend on Flash for their RIA. In general Flash works very well, and every Flash test site I tried said the Flash plug-in I had was 100% compatible. But in reality the few sites where I absolutely require Flash the experience was not impressive. It probably wasn’t Adobe’s fault, more likely the widgets the web sites choose don’t support a touch interface too well (too small a target area, or too many too close together).

Web services need to move beyond Flash and develop either native apps or build better HTML5 mobile web sites.

Phone vs. Tablet apps

Two of the apps I installed were designed for phones with a smaller screen rather than a tablet with a higher resolution. One simply centered itself in the middle of the screen, which was fine but a bit disappointing that the extra real estate wasn’t used to provide more information. The other app stretched itself out to fill the whole screen, but ended up looking pixelated.

In the end I guess each developer decides how they handle different screen sizes. Apple went through the same growing pains when they introduced the iPad. Hopefully Google their developers over this hump quickly.

LTE

Long Term Evolution or LTE is the next standard that mobile operators are moving towards. Most of the networks are still on HSPA or HSPA+. The promise of these standards is high speed internet access anywhere, from 21 Mpbs up to 75 Mbps for LTE. The reality is about one tenth of that!

I ran SpeedTest.net’s app on a few occasions to see what kind of though put I was getting. I check if I was using LTE or HSPA, but the results are still useful to see how prevalent LTE really is.

Test Connection Download Upload Latency Server
9 Lte 7.56 7.38 29 Mount Royal, QC
8 Lte 9.46 0.91 31 Mount Royal, QC
7 Umts 8.06 2.61 33 Mount Royal, QC
6 Umts 6.20 1.50 52 Montreal, QC
5 Umts 4.09 0.28 60 Boucherville
4 Umts 3.51 0.66 71 Mount Royal, QC
3 Umts 3.00 1.35 59 Mount Royal, QC
2 Umts 6.32 2.99 89 Mount Royal, QC
1 Umts 4.90 1.41 58 Washington, DC
Average   5.90 2.12 54  
Average LTE   8.51 4.15 30  
Average UMTS   5.15 1.54 60  

Note: Download and Upload speeds in Mbps, Latency in milliseconds

As you can see I never achieved the 75 Mbps promise of LTE that the device an theoretically handle. I never achieved the maximum speed promised by any of the standards, but I was happy to beat the HSPA expected average of 3.5 Mbps.

Navigation

Just for the heck of it, I pulled up the Navigation app on the tablet on our way to Sugaring Off. I also had the TomTom VIA 1435 going as well as the Navigation app on my Android Gingerbread phone. In terms of directions all three were spot-on and pretty much in sync – although the three-way spoken directions got annoying pretty fast.

The coolest thing about the navigation app on the tablet is how much more on either side of the route you can see. This is especially great when navigating around town and making frequent turns, you can see much more of the upcoming route and prepare yourself for the next few turns.

The biggest problem I had with navigating with the Tab is the glossy screen makes it very reflective. And on a sunny day it can make it almost impossible to see what’s on the screen. The other problem is the interface isn’t designed for the rapid jabbing a driver usually subjects his GPS to with one hand while driving 120 km/h with one hand on the wheel!

Conclusion

The tablet is a great size, much more useful than a 7-inch tablet but not quite as unwieldy as a 10-inch tablet. The rubberized back makes holding it comfortable and secure. The wireless network access means you make full use of it where ever your are, but the promise of LTE speeds falls back on your provider but the tablet is ready as soon as your network is.

See my complete Weekend with a Samsung Tab 8.9 LTE tablet photo gallery.

Cross-posted on Schultzter’s Blog