Microsoft Announces Windows 8 Surface Tablet

In a surprise announcement this morning, Microsoft announced it would be manufacturing its own Windows 8 tablet, known as the surface.

The Windows 8 Surface tablet is only 9.3mm thin, with a full magnesium case and weighing 576 grams, this is the first PC product that Microsoft will be offering outside of its traditional PC manufacturing partners.

Along with Windows 8 on board, apps such as Netflix will be preloaded, and it will include expected features such as semantic zoom, which allows a two finger gesture to show the entire Metro layout.

The Windows 8 Surface tablet has a built in stand that Microsoft claims does not add any thickness to the tablet. An optional cover converts into a touch type keyboard for productivity sessions, with the keyboard turning on and glowing when clicked onto the Surface.

Windows Surface Tablet

Microsoft enters the PC Hardware game with Surface for Windows 8.

Ports on the Surface include USB 2, HDMI, front and rear cameras, plus Gorilla Glass 2 protecting the Full HD display.

The Windows 8 Surface tablet will come in both Windows RT, which restricts apps to the Windows Marketplace. The Windows RT model will come in 32GB and 64GB capacities and powered by nVidia ARM processors.

Surface for Windows 8 Pro will be powered by Intel Core Processors and will provide the full computing experience including third party programs. These will be released in 64GB and 128GB capacities, and priced along Ultrabook PC lines.

The Windows RT model will be available from the launch of Windows 8, with the Windows 8 Pro model expected around 3 months later.

 

Windows 8 Release Date Getting Closer with Consumer Preview Launch

This Wednesday in Barcelona, Microsoft will be releasing their Consumer Preview of Windows 8, giving users a taste of what the latest version of Windows will be offering. Although an exact Windows 8 release date hasn’t been announced, the timing of the beta version, as it is more commonly known, does indicate a possible release around September/October this year.

The launch of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at the Mobile World Congress is telling, as it appears to be in line with the ramping up of the Windows environment across many device types. This includes smartphones and tablets in addition to the traditional PC and notebook market. Although Windows 7 has appeared in some touch screen tablets, these have been mostly commercial models and retail versions have not sold in massive numbers. This should change with Windows 8.

The Windows 8 Release Date firms up with the Consumer Preview announcement.

The next big milestone in the Windows 8 development is the Consumer Preview, but how far away is an official Windows 8 release date?

As we’ve already seen on the Nokia Lumia 800 Windows phone, the latest Windows OS for Smartphones is powerful and easy to use. The developer preview of Windows 8 also showed the Metro-style approach, moving away from the traditional desktop environment as we’ve known it for many years. (read our report on the Windows Phone from Nokia here.)

The tile-style grouping of programs and apps works well across the vertical swiping of the smaller smartphone screen, and the horizontal real estate of a widescreen display. How Microsoft intends to lock this down for the Windows 8 release date will be made much clearer as the Consumer Preview is distributed.

The Metro store is also expected to be opened in line with the Consumer Preview. These apps will probably be free previews ahead of the official Windows 8 release date. Apps would then be available to purchase as they are on the Apple App Store and Android Marketplace.

There is plenty of speculation about the final look and feel of Windows 8, including the removal of the iconic “Start” button. If this proves to be true, the Windows 8 release date will mark the end of a love-hate relationship with a desktop OS the world has used for decades. Microsoft could possibly re-invent Windows as a superpower OS integrated into people’s lives in business, leisure and social communication.

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Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Mobile Phone in Action

While at the CES this year we had a quick play with the Nokia Lumia 800 Windows mobile phone. Even in that short period of time, we were very impressed with the mobile operating system that Microsoft had developed, and were eager to get a unit for an in-depth look. The Lumia 800 will be available in Australia for the first time in March. (for more coverage from the Consumer Electronics Show, see our CES section here.)

As we’ve mentioned previously, Window 8 will be the real beginning for Microsoft’s foray into the mobile ecosystem, and if Windows Mobile 7.5 is any indication, it will be a strong contender against Android and Apple, if the total solution is executed well. By that I mean the hardware, embedded OS and app market support. (For our thoughts on what CES may lead to this year, click here.)

For now we have the Lumia 800 to build that case for Windows Smartphone. Here’s what we thought of the phone in our video segment:

There was a lot to like about the Nokia Lumia 800 Windows mobile phone. The physical shape and weight were very comfortable, and I thought the inclusion of the rubber form-fitting case was a nice touch. I actually wouldn’t use the phone without it as it doesn’t take away from the look and does add grip to the daily use.

At 800 x 480 pixels, the 3.7” screen is certainly not the highest resolution, but being AMOLED what was on the screen was easily readable. The Gorilla Glass added further confidence in the robustness of the display.

We also liked the layout of the buttons – all on the right hand side and intuitive once used a few times. The magnetic cover for the charging and connecting port seemed to be a little finicky, but the cover added to the overall design. The use of Micro SIM might make it easy for iPhone users to switch over without the need for a new SIM card. Perhaps that was one consideration when building this phone’s hardware specs.

Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Mobile Phone

The Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Mobile Phone is a strong example of where Microsoft is headed with Windows this year in the mobile and smartphone category.

Instead of widgets, each tile has a dynamic status attached and will display social updates, unopened or unanswered communication, and other software/hardware statuses like Wi-Fi.

Complete customisation can be achieved and would be the key to a successful home screen on the Nokia Lumia 800 Windows mobile phone. All apps can be pinned to the home screen and arranged in whatever order you need them in.

One of the biggest hooks for users will be the People Hub. This is where it all comes together and makes your phone the social aggregator of all your networking tendrils, helping to group people according to their relationship with you and displaying updated feeds for each group that you create.

Microsoft’s search engine Bing will be ramped up further by its inclusion in the Windows OS. They’ve made it easy to access from the lock screen  and different methods of search are instantly available: voice, text or music snippets.  Barcodes and QR codes can also be read using the Bing search.

It was refreshing to use this Nokia Lumia 800 Windows mobile phone. The responsiveness of the OS and the absolute ease of use, along with the social focus, put this phone and the Windows Phone OS in high regard over here.

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It’s by no means perfect yet, and after using it on a daily basis for a short period, there were a few characteristics we found that hopefully will be refined with updates down the track. Being an evolutionary product by nature, the OS is sure to improve over time and with user feedback.

There aren’t any native shortcuts for regularly used settings, like a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi toggle switch. I did find an app on the Microsoft Marketplace though,which was free and seems to work quite well.  There also doesn’t seem to be support for a simple thing such as a screenshot at the moment, which I find myself using all the time.

One of the most noticeable omissions right now is the lack of a function to convert your phone into a personal hotspot so you can connect other internet devices. And Flash has not been deployed on the mobile browser either, although not a huge issue with HMTL5 taking over and the world of plug-ins fading fast.

Over the air updates aren’t active on Nokia Lumia 800 Windows mobile phone yet, either. There is actually an alert that comes to you over the air, but that is only a notice for you to install and use the Zune software on a PC to apply any OS update. Given both Android and iOS both apply updates OTA, this takes a point away from Windows.

These aren’t hardware restrictions, and could all be addressed through system updates. Given that these features would probably be expected on a decent smartphone in 2012, I’m keen to see how quickly Nokia and Microsoft address these omissions.

As a first iteration, it’s the strongest Windows Smartphone offering yet. The focus on the relationship-based groups and social network integration is extremely compelling, and the intuitive and well-designed mobile environment makes it a true competitor in the battle of the ecosystems this year.

Apple and Android, meet your match. Microsoft might be a little late to the party, but they’ve bought a big bag of goodies along to make friends.

How entrenched are you in the ecosystem you currently use? Is the feature set of this Windows Phone convincing enough to move you across? Let us know your thoughts in the comments area below.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 Ends Before It Begins

Toshiba Australia very kindly sent us a shiny new Android tablet to play with and we produced a segment, as seen below, and liked a lot about this new tablet. The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is the thinnest and lightest 10.1” tablet in the market, beating all other tablets on thinness and weight. The AT200 has its own look and feel that separates it from its competitors.

However, late Friday we were informed that as of this week, the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 was going “End of Life” in Australia. This meant no more units would be brought into the country to sell.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Samsung also announced a fairly sizeable price reduction across the board for its 10.1 Galaxy Tab range, which now puts it at $100 under Apple’s iPad, you can read that article here Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Price Drop .

The AT200 was originally pegged at $579 for its 16GB Wi-Fi only model, which would have put it directly up against the iPad, and $100 more than the repositioned Samsung.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 was, on paper, a pretty likeable machine. It weighed only 535 grams and was 7.7mm thin, eclipsing any other current tablet. Like its predecessor, it managed to retain a comprehensive set of connections -– headphone jack, Micro USB, Micro HDMI and Micro SD.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 offered great connectivity and a sharp looking body.

It also had a pretty inclusive set of software on its Honeycomb OS. This included Thinkfree Office, Splashtop for remote desktop access, a file manager, Evernote for spontaneous information gathering and McAfee security. One uncertain factor was when it would be upgraded to Android 4.0.

Our understanding is that the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is still alive and well in other regions around the world, so it appears to be a local decision not to continue this model on this continent. The Australian market is sometimes used as a litmus test for new products and technology for vendors as it’s fairly isolated and we’re a proud bunch of early adopters. This could indicate a subtle shift in Toshiba’s overall strategy in the tablet space.

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So where could Toshiba be heading, given this was a benchmark product in form factor at the very least? My initial guess is a ramp up to develop a strong Windows 8 tablet as part of its overall Windows ecosystem offer.

Toshiba released a touch screen all-in-one model last year, so they now have desktops, notebooks, Ultrabooks, and potentially tablets that would put them in a healthy position to offer Windows 8 across virtually all device types, except for mobile phones. Given Toshiba’s strength in the Australian market, such a strategy could be extremely beneficial.

After all, Android has evolved from the mobile platform whereas Windows has developed from a desktop/server platform, giving it a very different set of development challenges. Given Toshiba’s long history supporting Windows as its dominant operating system, there is no doubt they will come out with a strong offer at the launch of Windows 8.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 cancellation and Samsung’s price move are two significant news events in one weekend for tablets. We are still to see the iPad 3 resolve into a real product from the conjecture and rumour that is feeding the hype before the announcement.

It’s going to be a real interesting few months for the tablet industry.  We will see more Tegra 3 products released, ICS deployed and upgraded on more machines, and the new iPad 3 awake from its secret slumber. In the second half of the year, Microsoft will make its move with partners like Toshiba champing at the bit to get into the market with Windows 8 on multiple hardware options.

Watch the video below or read our article on the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 a Closer Look for more information.

Does Toshiba’s announcement change your mind about Android, and are you waiting for Windows 8 on a tablet?

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

Whether it’s on a smartphone or a tablet, the quality of the online browsing experience is critical to the success of any mobile device. Chrome for Android aims to become the optimum browser for Android devices. However, as we pointed out in our previous article, Chrome for Android comes without Flash support in its Beta state, and none is planned.

This development (or lack thereof in this case) was also commented on by  Adobe. They mentioned continued development of the PC-based Flash product, and their contribution to HTML5. That in effect is a surrender to the market shift away from their long-standing plug-in.

Is it such a big deal that this browser is throwing the towel in so early? After all, even the stock browser supports Flash, and we made a tongue-in-cheek video pointing this out when comparing it to the iPad. Today we could very well re-shoot that video, only this time with two Android tablets: one running the stock browser and the other running Chrome for Android that doesn’t support Flash.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

No, this is not an iPad screenshot, it's a Transformer Prime showing the world that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support.

When we step away from the issue and look at it a little more objectively, Flash is still very much reliant on localised drivers and plug-ins to provide an online experience. In this day and age that combination does seem to be a little old-fashioned. With all things moving to online storage, cloud services and less dependence on the specs of notebooks (take Ultrabooks) and tablets (which are stripped down compared to any PC of note), HTML5 seems to be the best solution.

Chrome for Android comes without Flash support, but will enable HTML5 authors and developers to create rich, interactive environments that will be transferable to any device, regardless of their plug in. After all, why should we need to download an app for Adobe Flash Player  just to see a website in its entirety on an Android device?

The very nature of the functionality of Chrome for Android is to connect seamlessly with your desktop experience. With no plug-ins and instant access to open tabs, the shift is very much in the favor of HTML5, the fact that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support seems to be a short term issue.

Apple did indeed bring this topic to a head. It’s encouraging to see the entire mobile platform converging on a single standard for the benefit of all mobile browser users, regardless of which ecosystem they have invested in.

Chrome on Android Using the Asus Transformer Prime

Earlier this week Google released the beta version of Chrome on Android, fulfilling a commitment to provide a seamless link between the desktop and mobile browsing experience.

Here’s our video showing you some great cross-device activities that, up until now, haven’t been possible, and it’s exciting to see them in action.

At this stage only 12 countries, including Australia, have been given access to the beta version of Chrome on Android, and it is limited to mobile and tablet devices with the Android 4 and above OS. In Australia, that really only gives the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Asus Transformer Prime the opportunity to show off this new browser. We are lucky enough to have a Prime tablet at our disposal, so we can show this off in tablet mode to you.

 

Chrome on Android menu system

The menu for the Chrome beta for Android browser, which includes "Other devices", a hint at the cross-device power of this internet browser.

The intention is for Google to move its stock browser over to Chrome on Android once beta testing has been completed, and if the initial experience is any indication, it’s a good move.

First up, the browser asks for your gmail account details to sign you in, as a large portion of the features involves utilising synching with your desktop browser. If you currently don’t use Chrome and do own a Nexus or Transformer Prime, I’d suggest you move over immediately to at least see what this has to offer.

Once you’ve signed in, make sure you’re also signed in over on your Chrome Desktop browser, because this is where the fun really begins.

Once you use the Chrome on Android beta browser a few times, one thing becomes very obvious – that Google is looking to provide a completely seamless browsing experience regardless of what device you are on. Whatever bookmarks you currently have on your desktop are immediately pushed to your tablet, and any changes you make are also moved across.

Chrome on Android Desktop and Local bookmarks

You can see the bookmarks above for both local and synched content within the Chrome beta browser.

But that’s not all. The synching also brings across your browsing history, so any websites you visit regularly will come up in priority to other search results. It’s uncanny, opening this browser for the first time and it knows what you are entering in the Omnibox.

What’s an Omnibox, I hear you ask? It’s the box in Chrome where you enter the URL, but can also be used for search terms. No more looking for a Google search box, just type right in the omnibox and you’ll get taken to the website of your choice or be presented with a list of options based on your search term. Those that use Chrome on desktop will be used to this feature, but it’s the sudden “awareness” of your new device using Chrome on Android that makes it a little spooky.

 

Chrome for Android Browsing Spooky Geen Android

Does it get any spookier than this Chrome eyed little Green Android?

Synching is one thing, but how about transferring all your open tabs on your desktop to your tablet? When you open a new tab, there are three rectangular buttons at the middle bottom: Most Visited, Bookmarks and Other Devices.

Most visited appears to be a more localised history. Bookmarks are split into Desktop, Other and Mobile bookmarks. Opening the Desktop bookmarks folder presents all the bookmarks from your desktop.

“Other devices” presents the currently open tabs from other Chrome browsers that you are currently signed into. However, instead of just duplicating all the tabs, it shows the pages in a list form so you can choose which ones you want to open. This is a great feature if you are on your desktop searching for movie times or restaurants and want to continue that exploration while you are at large.

Chrome on Android open tabs from desktop

Here you can see open tabs from the Toshiba PC, and a webpage that has been pushed to the tablet.

Another feature is the Chrome to Mobile feature, which ensures the page you were on is sent to your device even if you shut your current sessions down or have to power off your PC. Just install the free Chrome to Mobile app onto your desktop browser, and a small phone icon will now appear on the right hand side of the Omnibox. Press the icon, and a dialogue box will ask you to confirm which device to push to.

The next time you open your Chrome browser on your tablet, the page will be there waiting for you under the “Other Devices” area. This is a much quicker way of sending links, going browser to browser instead of going from the browser, to sending an email, receiving the email and pressing a link that opens in a browser – everything happens within Chrome.

Chrome is known for its “Incognito” option, and it is replicated here, and the overlapping squares and “Spy vs Spy” icon on the left hand side makes sure you don’t forget which browser you are in.

Chrome on Android incognito browsing

Incognito mode opens another window with all incognito tabs gathered, with easy switching between both modes.

The last thing I will mention here is voice search, another icon on the right hand side of the omnibox that, once pressed, will display a microphone for you to verbalise your search request. It seemed to be intelligent enough to pick up the basic phrases we threw at it, but given it is a beta version I’m sure it’s a feature they are working on to be polished by the time the final version is released.

Chrome for Android Browsing Voice Search Windows

Search by speaking is now available. Voice search is a highly competitive domain and Google need to deliver a polished product.

The initial impression of the beta version of Chrome on Android is very positive, and given this is the foundation for their stock browser once users provide feedback and bugs are ironed out, the idea of always-connected, always-on takes another step forward. Web browsing is a huge part of what we do on devices, and to have an uninterrupted experience between the difference physical screens we use is a very compelling reason to move to Chrome, both from a tablet and a desktop perspective.

Have you tried out Chrome beta on an Android mobile or tablet, and what are your thoughts? Are there any other scenarios that you’d like us to test? Let us know in the comments area below.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet

When we first reviewed the ASUS Transformer Prime late last year, the promise of an upgrade to Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich was just that – a promise. When the Prime finally arrived, there was a fair bit of anticipation but also apprehension that the upgrade would come down the pipeline anytime soon.

However, the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, was deployed very quickly and this was probably in no small part due to some issues the Prime was reportedly having, by many users, when in Wi-Fi mode.

And it looks like it was a big coup by Asus – The Motorola Xoom, which announced OS upgrades for its Wi-Fi version of its tablet, was pipped at the line by Asus in getting the Android 4.0 upgrade into the hands of its Prime owners. As such, it’s worth taking a look at some of the new features to be seen on the Prime that are specific to the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich update.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Homepage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

The new Android 4.0 brings more usability and ease of use to an ever-improving tablet OS.

Firstly, tablets running Android 4.0 have taken a leaf from Apple’s book and placed a shortcut to the camera straight on the lock screen. Swipe right to unlock, swipe left to enter the camera. We’ll be posting some samples of both video and image capture off the 8MP back camera in the next couple of days so you can see the quality of the camera – and it is pretty decent, with 1080p video recording.

It looks like the 3G vs Wi-fi debate has Google’s attention, as Android 4.0 now comes with a Data Usage screen in the setting area, where you can track how much bandwidth has been consumed by week, and by which applications. This feature is a great way to monitor your mobile internet usage, especially if you are using 3G tethering.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Data Usage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Keep track of your new Android tablet's data use by week detailing each app's contribution to the overall bandwidth usage.

Speaking of data usage, the Browser has had some changes to it as well. One of the most welcome changes is the ability to request the desktop version of the site you are in if it has automatically taken you to the m.website.com, because it was recognising Android as a mobile browser.

However, with the screen size and flash support, many sites are worth visiting in their rich desktop version. A new touch gesture based browser is also available to trial in the labs area of the browser, keep a look out for a video covering this in more detail to be uploaded soon or better yet subscribe to our YouTube channel at Ritchie’s Room TV.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Lab Browser Screen Shot on an ASUS Transformer Prime

Comprehensive browser options including desktop website version request. A mobile site just looks wrong on a 10 inch screen.

Widgets used to be treated very differently to Apps, in that they would be found in a fairly convoluted way via the home screen and there was no way to see more than a few widgets at a time. Now, the widgets live in the same place as the apps for easy management, with the new Android 4.0 recognising the different formats and placing them in separate categories.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Widgets Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Apps and Widgets, living together in perfect harmony as part of the new Android OS.

As with the last OS update, the App store icon is placed for easy access on the top right hand corner in the apps screen, and widgets are easily size-adjusted to suit your homepage layout. The native contacts app has been renamed and upgraded to “People”, with more social networking integration. This seems a little Windows Phone-ish but is a good upgrade so you can see dynamic feed updates on your friends.

App management has always been a bit of a bug bear for Android. There are a lot of tools on the market that help with task killing, but a native app manager would always be preferable. Now, with the Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich iteration, it’s finally here.

All you need to do to shut down an app is press the recent apps icon on the bottom left hand corner, and swipe an app to the right. That will shut the application down and take it off the recent apps list.

This is way easier than any previous method and beats Apples iOS in terms of simplicity – no extended presses or physical buttons, just home page, recent apps and swipe. You’ll see an example of that in the video below.

If you’ve been using Honeycomb, then you will find the new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich full of practical improvements. It’s not so much a departure as a welcome progression, and shows Android setting itself up as a serious contender in the Tablet OS wars that will explode later this year.

I’m sure there will be further tweaks before then, and we’ll report on them as well. In the meantime, here’s the video that shows some of those new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich features I mentioned above.

 

Do you think you’ll use some of these new features and which ones interest you most? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Video Editing with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

Hi everyone, we’re back with our first post for 2012!

These next couple of weeks are going to be pretty exciting with our attendance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but before we go we still have a couple of features on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 to punch out for your enjoyment.

As with our previous Tab 7.7 work, this is a reader/viewer generated article and video for our audience, all based on the questions and feedback on things you’d like to see demonstrated or shown on the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

We fielded questions from our own site, our Facebook page,  Google+ Page and of course our YouTube channel, and came up with 5 short videos on various aspects of the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 has a basic video editor to add effects to videos stored on locally..

A regular on our Facebook page, Maans Le Roux, asked us about the video editor output on the Tab 7.7. One of the big issues with editing videos on smaller devices is many only save an edited video in a highly compressed format like .3gp.

The video output on this particular app that comes pre-loaded on the Tab 7.7 saves in high definition mp4, so it’s good enough to playback on larger computer and television screens, or upload to YouTube in good quality.

In fact, you can actually select the video resolution to suit different file sizes depending on how you intend to use the video.

One function we couldn’t see was to cut or crop a video’s length on the Video Editor app. This may not have been a final version on the unit we were using, so we’re not judging the app, more showing the basics of how to use the editing app and save the video to see what output formats are available.

Here’s the short video showing the video editor in use and the output selection:

 

Do you use video editing in portable devices, or upload videos straight to YouTube from your smartphone or tablet?

For a more detailed and first look at the Samsung galaxy Tab 7.7  CLICK HERE; for the first Q & A segment in which we compared the Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2, CLICK HERE; for the segment where we used theTab  7.7 as an eBook, just CLICK HERE; and for a look at multitasking on the Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE.

Multitasking With the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

Here we are once again with a reader/viewer generated article and video for our audience, all based on the questions and feedback on things you’d like to see demonstrated or shown on the soon-to-be-released Galaxy Tab 7.7.

We fielded questions from our own site, our Facebook page,  Google+ Page and of course our YouTube channel, and came up with 5 short videos on various aspects of the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

For a more detailed and first look at the Samsung galaxy Tab 7.7  CLICK HERE. For the first Q & A segment in which we compared the Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2, CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we used theTab  7.7 as an eBook, just CLICK HERE.

It's easy to do multiple tasks on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, thanks to the Android platform and the slick Touch Wiz skin.

Multitasking in the Android environment is one reason I enjoy using the Google platform for tablets and smartphones. The ability to switch between open apps in a really simple but intuitive way has been one of Android’s main differences between it and other smartphone and tablet operating systems.

Allesandro Valenti from our Facebook fan page asked to see multitasking on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, among other things, and we’ve created a video to show how easy it is to switch between apps, force close them and even manipulate and control certain functions while staying within a particular environment.

The TouchWiz overlay doesn’t really add or take anything away from the multitasking, and in the video you can see how quickly we can move from one app to another without much effort.

Multitasking situations crop up all the time now in our busy world. You could be reading an online newspaper when an email notification comes through, and you can quickly switch and reply, then return to browsing. Music can be played in the background while doing other things like ebook reading.

How seamless it is to switch between them is the key to a good portable device, and Android have made it one of their key development areas, with notifications and app switching a defining part of the Android Honeycomb environment.

Without further ado, here’s our short video of how multitasking works on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7:

 

Do you think multitasking is an important aspect your your mobile device, and does that factor form part of your decision making? Feel free to leave your comments, and maybe even tips on power multitasking, in the section below. See you there soon!

Again if you haven’t already seen the previous articles and videos on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 you can find them here:

For the detailed first look article of the 7.7, CLICK HERE. For the first Q & A segment in which we compared the Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2, CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we used theTab  7.7 as an eBook, just CLICK HERE.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 – The Best 7 Inch Android Tablet

With the announcement of the Transformer Prime by Asus, and the news still being updated daily about the fate of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in various regions, another tablet from Samsung has been quietly gathering steam and is set to land on our shores in a very short while… the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

First, here’s our new video showcasing some of the rather cool features and design elements of the 7.7. There’s plenty more details and pics below. Also at the bottom of this articles you will find links to more articles and demonstrations of the Galaxy Tab 7.7 so be sure to take a look.

 

The 7 inch Android tablet market has been rather hit and miss so far, with the first iteration of the Galaxy Tab being the only real contender and most of the focus on the 10” category, and for good reason – that’s been the mainstay of Apple’s iPad up till now, and manufacturers have been innovative and creative with their offerings in order to stay relevant and have a chance of competing in that space.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 takes a completely different tact, being lighter and slimmer than, well, any Honeycomb-based tablet we’ve seen so far. Compared to the original Tab which relied on a reworked mobile phone OS, it’s a much more mature product and fits snugly between a smartphone and large screen tablet. This may actually be the product to redefine what a small screen tablet is capable of.

Small, sleek and ready to slip into any size handbag or pouch.

Spec-wise, the Galaxy 7.7 is powered by a dual core 1.4GHz processor with 1GB of RAM, and will apparently come in three flavours – 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. It has N wireless on board, Bluetooth 3.0 and has a built-in GPS.

Samsung’s new 7 inch Android tablet sports a slightly larger screen, at 7.7 inches, but offers the exact same resolution features as its 10” cousins – 1280 x 800. Combine that with the Super AMOLED Plus screen, and you’ve got gorgeous detailed images and bright, rich colours. Because the pixels are so densely packed together, the screen display is second-glance-worthy. The small amount of video files we had played back smoothly in high definition.

Video playback up to 1080p on the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

I really haven’t held a tablet as light as this one. It’s only 340 grams, but it’s hard to describe what that means after holding various iOS, Android and Windows tablets – sure, this one is smaller than they are in terms of size, but the experience of holding one is amazing. I once commented in an earlier article how I’ve injured myself by falling asleep and dropping a first gen iPad on my face while reading… you’re in no danger of self-mutilation or embarrassment here.

Audio is pumped through these stereo speakers either side of the proprietary connector.

Did I mention how thin the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is? We’ve seen the Transformer Prime come in at 8.3mm, but the 7.7 takes “slim” to yet another level – it’s a sliver of a tablet at 7.89mm. To pick it up and rotate its dimensions in your hand is quite the chuckle producer – you don’t believe how thin and light it actually is.

Ridiculously thin... The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is lighter and thinner than pretty much any tablet on the market.

This is definitely a one-handed tablet – your fingers do need to spread, but you can also cup your fingers and hold it for a long time without fatigue. The cool metal backing does equalise with your hands temperature after a while, but put it down and the cold feel of stainless steel will once again greet your fingertips.

That’s a great segue into the materials and construction of this latest Samsung Galaxy Tab. Some other 7 inch Android tablet offerings have been rather thick, and felt a little fragile – squeeze the body and creaks have been heard from lesser machines. The engineering on the 7.7 is superb, we could detect no give between the body and screen; they are almost fused together. The metal back provides a stiffness and therefore top-shelf handling experience.

Maybe it's my long fingers that make this pic look odd... In any case the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is easily held in one hand, piano fingers or not.

Walking around this tiny pocket rocket and you can see how Samsung have achieved this degree of slimness: like the iPad and its own family of tablets, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 keeps ports down to an absolute minimum. All we have are a headphone jack, a micro SD card slot and Samsung’s proprietary 30-pin connector. Where most tablets try to offer a complete solution with inputs and outputs, particularly to differentiate against the iPad, the 7.7 follows its own path and offers instead adapters that can be fitted to connect various outputs.

Blink and you'll miss it... An external port on the Galaxy Tab 7.7, in this case a Micro SD Card Slot.

Is that going to be an issue for users? Based on the interest in the 10.1, which offers the same limited connectivity, no. It’s actually more sensible for this Galaxy Tab to eschew those I/O burdens as it’s probably closer to a smartphone than a tablet in some respects (the screen is actually a larger clone of the Galaxy S II). The option is there but you have to really feel the need in order to go to the effort of purchasing an adaptor.

The brushed metal back provides great rigidity to the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

Like all other HoneyComb tablets, there is a front and back camera setup, with a 2 megapixel camera on the front and 3 megapixel camera on the back. The back camera has an LED flash and 720p HD video recording capability. I think there is an inverse proportional relationship of the number of shots taken on a tablet to the size of the screen. Because the 7.7 is so light, it’s much easier to be spontaneous and shoot some off-the-cuff pics and video.

3MP camera and LED flash... The smaller the tablet, the more this will get used.

There is one black dot on the Galaxy Tab 7.7, but its existence helps give it a gold star for functionality. The black dot (not figuratively speaking, an ACTUAL black dot) on the side of the 7.7 is an infra-red transmitter. There is a program pre-installed on the 7.7 called Peel, and it actually converts the 7.7 into a universal remote control. If you’ve ever found remote controls to be clunky or not really that helpful, Peel may change your view on that.

Now not only do I not have to get up to change the channel, I don't even need to find the remote. She says lazy, I say efficient.

Setting it up is a breeze, and so is the actually use, just point at the device you’ve programmed in and it’s as if you’re using the original remote. But this functionality is a stunner, because you can browsing, reading or playing a casual game, use Honeycomb’s built-in multitasking to switch to Peel, change the channel/volume/input, and switch back to your previous activity, and the 7.7 never leaves your hands.

Software-wise, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 uses the same Touch Wiz overlay that their smartphones use, making the transition for Galaxy phone users a no-brainer. There is improved software such as video editing, image editing and even image management, letting you sort by a range of different criteria such as size, location (if geotagging can be found) or date/time.

Galaxy S II users will find no trouble using the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

The Galaxy also retains the “Hub” areas of the smartphone, and apparently the Music Hub will be available soon as well, but only for music, not for videos. I tried the Social Hub out and I liked its aggregation of my different social feeds in one easy to view panel. Being Honeycomb, this is a live widget that updates on screen so you can snack on bite-sized pieces of your connected world.

Manage all your social feeds into one panel on the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

The 7 inch Android tablet market is not as big as the 10 inch segment, by any means. It looks like Samsung has managed to carve itself a little niche with a product that doesn’t rely on third party programs to succeed, and adds little quirky features like remote control and revamped image/video apps into its sleek shell to give users a true out-of-the-box experience.

As always, I’ll leave it to you, our readers to make the call on whether this really is the best 7 inch Android tablet to date. Are you looking for a 7 inch tablet, or are you waiting for the 10.1 to be released? Are either of them on your shopping list for consideration?

Give us your thoughts and questions and we’ll respond – look forward to seeing you in the comments area!

For those of you who have yet to see and read the other articles on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 can do so here:

To see the Galaxy Tab 7.7 perform as an ebook reader  CLICK HERE. For a Q & A segment in which we compared the Galaxy Tab 7.7 to the iPad 2  CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we take a look at the Galaxy Tab  7.7 while multitasking just CLICK HERE.