What Is It?
Samsung strives to give it’s users choice over the size of their devices, and The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is proof of that idea. What we have here is a Honeycomb tablet with an 8.9-inch screen rather than the 10-inch screens on most other Android tablets. The result is a slightly different tablet with the same features.
The first thing you’ll notice with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is not only it’s size, but also it’s weight. This is a very light tablet, which makes it easy to hold it in one hand, which is good for reading but not much else. The back of the device is all plastic, which makes it light, and makes it so that there’s no rough edges anywhere. The back doesn’t feel too cheap despite the plastic, but after a few days I did notice some areas of the back that would creak or bend just a bit when pressed. It was just near the camera, and usually happened when I was holding it by one hand, but that was the only time the plastic would feel poorly constructed.
The size of the device actually did work well for me. When I was given the device Samsung noted that the size makes it great for reading, and I’d have to agree. As mentioned before the small size and light weight make it easy to hold in one hand, and the 16:9 ratio of the screen makes it easy to not get lost in text, something that can be a problem for me when reading on the iPad. The screen in a bit tall, though, so it can seem somewhat awkward at first. The 8.9-inch screen certainly seems better than the iPad when reading blocks of text like eBooks on the Kindle app, but I think a 7-inch screen is still the prefect size for reading.
The screen size can also make typing a bit awkward. Thumb typing with the device in portrait isn’t too bad, even if it ends up seeming a bit top-heavy. I found typing in landscape nearly impossible, though. I tried to use the Galaxy Tab 8.9 to take notes at New York Comic Con, and there was no way to use the landscape keyboard without setting the tablet down on a table. Sure there’s Swype, but I never found that keyboard useful for me. There’s actually four different keyboard on the Galaxy Tab 8.9: standard Honeycomb, Samsung, Talkback, and Swype. It seems to be use personal preference, but I could only stand using either the standard keyboard no the Samsung keyboard, and neither seemed better than the iPad keyboard to me. That’s both because of the size and the layout of the keyboards.
Of course, the tin and light device is worthless without the software on it. As mentioned before, this is a Honeycomb tablet, but Samsung decided to overlay Honeycomb with TouchWiz. The end result actually works fairly well. The Samsung apps on the tablet are fairly useful, especially the Social Hub (though that’s only because it’s hard to find Honeycomb-optimized Twitter and Facebook apps). In fact, with the exception of the apps, widgets, and dock in the menu bar, there really wasn’t much that makes this different from stock Honeycomb. The small apps in the dock just float over whatever app you currently have open, and can be somewhat useful, but I wish there was an option to put actual apps in their place.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is a great Android tablet, but it’s still an Android tablet. I’m not a huge fan of Honeycomb because of it’s lack of apps and polish. If you like Honeycomb, and want something that’s easy to put in a bag and forget, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 is perfect for you. I have a hard time recommending it to someone over an iPad, but I’d have no problem recommending it over all other Android tablets I’ve seen.