Tethering with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

Here we are with our final segment on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 – a subject that seems to generate the most discussion – 3G or no 3G?

Creating a WiFi Hot Spot for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

When on the go just create a WiFi Hot Spot on your smartphone and connect right up.

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 one question that keeps on popping up on both the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 and Asus Transformer Prime comments areas are to do with 3G versions of the two models. And the two questions that crop up here are a) how would you choose one over the other, and b) how would you get by with just a wi-fi version if you’re on the road?

Having an integrated 3G model definitely has its benefits from the word go. You can turn it on no matter where you are, and if you have a mobile signal, you are good to go for internet connection and therefore connect to all your apps, content, email, and anything else that requires an online connection.

Because 3G is built-in it’s instant-on, theoretically quicker because it uses it’s own hardware to connect and display online content, and you are not having to change your wireless settings every time you walk into a free wi-fi spot, although you may still want to do that to save on your monthly bandwidth.

And that brings me to some of the drawbacks to having a 3G tablet – it’s another account that you have manage, and if you sign up to a contract you may not use all your bandwidth and therefore waste it, or overuse and end up paying extra. Pre-paid plans do help with this and are much more popular these days.

The alternative to this is to pad your smartphone’s internet limit to a higher level and share that with your tablet, saving you on the cost of the 3G hardware (as there is a price premium for 3G vs Wi-fi only) and keeping your bill to just one that you can monitor and adjust as required.

I did a snap survey and I was very surprised with the amount of people that didn’t realise that “hotspot” activation on their smartphone was something they could do right now, today.

I know many of our readers are more advanced in their knowledge, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to show very quickly how to connect the Samsung Tab 7.7 to a smartphone, using two of the world’s most successful phones – the Apple iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S II.

The iPhone is pretty straight forward, and there are a couple of steps you do need to do each time you want the personal hotspot feature to be activated. However, it does work smoothly and Apple have made it as simple as they could within the menu system they currently have.

The Android software is a little more interesting because you can take advantage of the widget feature that gives direct control and feedback from your home screen without having to open an app or go into a menu setting.

You do have to go into the settings menu once to set up access to the hotspot with password protection, but once that is done it is a simple case of downloading and installing a free hotspot widget that you can then toggle on and off, making it very easy to connect your tablet to your phone within seconds.

Here is the video for the Android hotspot connection feature:

 

And here is the method for setting up a hotspot widget on your iPhone smartphone:

 

And that ends our extensive look at the Samsung 7.7. We will keep answering your questions on this product so please feel free to ask anything that we haven’t yet covered.

Which do you prefer? 3G or Wi-Fi only tablets? Do you hotspot or just use it from non-online activities when you’re away from your home wireless signal?

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; for a look at multitasking on the Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE; and for a quick video editing app look, CLICK HERE.

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 is a Great eBook Reader

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. These are unscripted, off-the-cuff segments to showcase the things that you said you’d like to see.

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

For the detailed first look article of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE. For the first 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 Galaxy theTab  7.7 while multitasking just CLICK HERE.

This second segment is in response to Facebook fan Marissa Cookson’s request to see some eBook reading on the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

Today we look at the Readers Hub and the functionality of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 as an eBook Reader.

eBook reading is something that will come very naturally to owners of this 7 inch Android tablet. It’s the size of dedicated eBook readers, and although it’s not e-ink like the Kindle and other eBook readers, the Super AMOLED screen is actually more responsive and dynamic than e-ink readers could ever be.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of e-ink Readers, being the proud owner of a PRS-T1 which I do use for long reading sessions. But if you’re the owner of a Galaxy Tab 7.7, you’re probably not going to want more than one tablet to carry around. Ideally, a 7 inch can do a little of everything well, including book reading.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is an excellent reader, I am happy to report, and for many reasons. Firstly, without even looking at the software, the lightweight nature makes it comfortable to hold in one hand as a reader for extended periods. From a screen point of view, the real estate mimics that of a large paperback novel so it feels natural while reading.

One of the drawbacks (and there’s not that many for dedicated ebook readers to be honest) is that you do need external lighting in order to read. Here with the 7.7, you are able to read in any environment, lit or not, and adjust brightness settings to your requirements.

From a page turn point of view, the “curl” option gives the impression of a real book page being turned, and the powerful processor made it smooth and responsive to the fingers movement. I actually prefer that visual page turn to a simple fade or switch to the next page, which I find a little jarring (you do have the option for either).

Finally, the Reader Hub itself presents a fair few reading opportunities. Newspapers, books and periodicals are all available for purchase within this hub, and you can build up your collection within each category. Both Kobo and Zinio are huge online publishing companies with a wide reach, and Press Display delivers daily newspapers from around the world. Content availability is definitely not an issue.

If there was one change I’d like to see in the reader hub, I would prefer to have one sign-in for all three formats rather than having to manage separately. Ultimately they are separate companies but it certainly would make it easier to track and manage.

In all, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 succeeds as a reader. Let’s dive into some demonstrations on the new video below. Enjoy! (if the video isn’t showing it’s because we’re just in the middle of uploading now).

 

What do you think of the Galaxy 7.7 as an eBook reader? Would it be one of the major activities you’d be indulging in if you owned one?  Let us know what you think and feel free to leave comments below and as always, we’ll be there to respond.

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:

For the detailed first look article of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE. For the first 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 Galaxy theTab  7.7 while multitasking just CLICK HERE.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 vs. iPad 2

We answer your questions about browsing, book reading, accessories and a few other aspects of the 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, to see more on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 click on this link above.

We fielded questions from 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.

As we did on the Prime, these are unscripted, off-the-cuff segments to showcase the things that you said you’d like to see. Thanks for the feedback as always and it’s a lot of fun to respond directly to your comments.

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

For the detailed first look article of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE. For the ebook demonstration of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we take a look at the Galaxy Tab  7.7 while multitasking just CLICK HERE.

This first one was in response to questions about the browser capability. We pitted the 7.7 against the iPad 2 to see how the browser worked in an online environment rich with video and image content, so what better place than our own site?

Overall the browser on the Galaxy Tab 7.7 worked very well. It sometimes took a just little longer to load a page but hardly worth the fuss really, and really that may have been a connection issue as both devices were sharing the same wireless network.

We did find that the embedded flash video took longer to load on the 7.7 than the YouTube player on the iPad 2 again that could have been the interent connection or the fact that it’s running Flash. The next major difference was the playback on each device. Pressing play in the flash player on the 7.7 started the video right away. However on the iPad 2, you had to “load” the player then press play again on the YouTube player, so a little more clunky to play content within that environment.

Pinch and zoom, scrolling and moving around the screen was smooth and very responsive on the 7.7 and generally speaking, the experience was a pleasant one.

Rather than me tell you all about it in written word, let’s have a look at the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and iPad 2 side by side:

 

What did you think of the comparison, and does it sway you to either product? Feel free to leave your comments below; we read every one of them. :-)

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:

For the detailed first look article of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE. For the ebook demonstration of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, CLICK HERE, and for the segment where we take a look at the Galaxy Tab  7.7 while multitasking 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.

 

 

Question and Answer Time for the Asus Transformer Prime

This time, believe the hype... The Transformer Prime from Asus is a very strong contender in the tablet market and sets new benchmarks in hardware.

What a wild couple of days! When we released the first article and video for the Asus Transformer Prime, it went ballistic and we were dealing with comments and questions from all over the world.

We believe in responding as much as we can to our readers on this website, and we wanted to do something similar for our video presentation.

So with the limited time that we had with the Prime, we took a few questions that seemed to be recurring frequently, and made two videos, calling out the user name of the viewers and answering the question.

In this way we hope to provide another level of interaction for all our visitors, who we appreciate spending time with us. Thanks again for your comments and here’s our off-the-cuff, much more informal videos for your viewing pleasure.

Feel free to ask more questions on this page as well!

This first video addresses some of the questions regarding Flash performance, pinch and zoom, using the browser, the touchscreen experience and other hardware features:

 

The second part of the Q & A details some aspects of game play, using live wallpaper and widgets, testing the screen in sunlight, trackpad performance and how to take advantage of a USB hub given there is only one USB port on the Prime:

 

This next segment shows how to download an image from email, edit it and then tweet it. Nice challenge, and I think we rose to it!

 

We were then asked to show a typical productivity activity, like writing a document, saving it and emailing it. With the keyboard, the Prime makes office tasks very easy:

 

Finally, a frequent question regarded game play. I don’t consider myself to be the most talented of gamers, and I’m sure I had this game, Riptide, on easy, but I couldn’t help some fistpumping (at 1:18) when I came in first. The main thing to notice here is the smooth graphics, instant response from the accelerometer and the water splashes that looked even more realistic in person. Casual portable gaming just took another leap forward:

 

And here is the original Transformer Prime video we released in case you missed it the first time around:

 

Once again, I’d like to thank all of our readers for spending the time to read our words, and for the effort taken to comment. The least we can do is respond in kind.

I hope you enjoyed the videos and we’re here to answer any more questions you may have.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime – First Look

[Update: Now that the embargo has lifted, we have released a further five videos showing various demonstrations of the Transformer Prime. We have collected them in this new article, where you can view and discuss the features we've shown. The videos were based on questions from our audience, whom we acknowledge in the segments. Enjoy!]

Welcome to the first ever Ritchie’s Room TV segment! Here we take a look at the new Transformer Prime from Asus. Read on below for lots more detail and images.

 

The Transformer Prime is easily the most hyped of all upcoming tablets. The original Transformer took the idea of the keyboard dock and integrated it so well that it became much more than simply functional; it melded design and hardware with the Honeycomb platform in an attractive and useful body.

Look strangely familiar? The Transformer Prime takes many design cues from the new Zenbook range from Asus.

The Transformer Prime is the evolutionary step, taking cues from the recent UX Zenbook series to offer an eye catching, metal finish on both the tablet and keyboard dock. There are improvements to its successful predecessor in pretty much every area, with the exception of the operating system, but an upgrade will be coming soon, we are assured.

As a stand-alone tablet away from the keyboard, the Prime is as sturdy as it is slim, thanks to the rigid metal back that offers no chance of bending or twisting. The spun metal pattern immediately invokes the UX21/31 look and feel, and sits very comfortably beside its two larger cousins.

The spun metal casing is a classy touch, positioning the Transformer Prime at the premium end of the tablet market.

The front layer of Gorilla glass provides another layer of protection, without sacrificing image quality or resulting in increased thickness. We tried banging pretty hard on the glass, and although we didn’t go so far as to try scraping a key across the screen, the display feels like it could take a fair bit of punishment.

As it’s been reported widely, the tablet component is thinner (8.3mm) and lighter (586g) than the iPad 2, and in the hand it feels very easy to handle, both in landscape and portrait positions. With Samsung out of contention in many regions, the Prime will be the one of the most likely direct contenders to the iPad 2. In Australia, pricing indications are that the Prime with keyboard will be around $100 more than the equivalent-capacity iPad 2 and will arrive in 32GB and 64GB versions.

Thinner, faster, lighter... the iPad 2 has a real competitor in the Transformer Prime from a hardware perspective.

With slim form factors inevitably comes some compromises, and in this case the outputs on the Prime aren’t as comprehensive as other models in the market. However, given the Samsung 10.1 had only its proprietary connection that necessitated various adapter purchases, any additional ports are more than welcome. In this case, a micro HDMI port and Micro SD slot are fitted alongside the volume controls.

Slimmer than most, but the Transformer Prime retains a good level of on board ports.

The Super IPS+ screen is an absolute winner. When it comes to tablets, particularly the premium models, visual display needs to be absolutely spot-on, and here the Prime does not disappoint. Wide viewing angles allow sharing to an almost side-on position, and the IPS+ feature boosts the brightness to counteract outdoor lighting to make the Prime readable in almost any condition. By the same token, there is total control to limit the intensity of the light when you’re using the Prime on your bedside or darker environments.

The Super IPS+ screen is great in any bright or dim environment.

This is the best performance I’ve seen in HD video playback as well, no doubt thanks to the upgraded processor. The Tegra 3 is the first quad core chip to power a tablet, and the Prime is the first release to boast the inclusion. 720p and 1080p video files that had previous jittered a little (or a lot) on previous models we’ve tested ran very smoothly.

Video playback is superb. This really illustrates the benefits of a widescreen tablet.

The associated sound coming from the Prime is unexpectedly loud and clear. I say unexpected because the grill could easily be missed as another design feature, but the speaker is as effective as anything I’ve experienced so far on tablets. In fact, I found that by holding the tablet in a way that cups the grill actually enhances the audio quality even more.

This deceptively small grill punches out an impressive level of clear audio.

The upgraded memory is also certain to be a contributor to an overall improved Android experience with the Prime. If you’ve ever used one on of the task killer apps on Android, you’d know that there are a lot of processes happening at any one time, so the extra memory will definitely be a boon to multitasking and open app support.

Another upgrade is the back camera, boosted to 8 megapixels and featuring an f2.4 aperture, plus an LED flash. This sounds suspiciously similar to the iPhone 4S camera, and it might actually encourage more photo-taking with this unit. I wonder, how many people use their tablet as a serious or even casual camera? With improved hardware, there might come increased usage.

The Transformer Prime may find increased use in webchat and photo shoots with better camera specs.

From a software point of view, it’s the familiar Honeycomb 3.2 that we’ve come to know and frequently discuss. I’m sure there were a fair few people holding their breath in wild hope that Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich as it is commonly known, would be released in tablet form with the Prime. Sadly, it was not to be, but everything points to an upgrade, possibly before Xmas. We’ll keep you updated on that point.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts... the Transformer Prime.

What would the Transformer Prime be without the second component, the keyboard dock, that gives it the coolest name in consumer electronics? The keyboard has been slimmed down and there is a UX-inspired tapering of the front of the keyboard, to remind us that we’re in Zen-like company. It almost looks like a netbook-sized Ultrabook.

Like the keyboard before it (which is not cross compatible with the Transformer Prime), the new keyboard places some commonly used Android commands as shortcuts on the keyboard, like back, search and home. If you use the keyboard enough, you’ll find yourself using these quite often while the keyboard is connected. Like a premium netbook, the island keys are well placed for regular and long session use.

Like the previous keyboard, Android shortcut keys become second nature after a few hours of use.

The keyboard also follows the tradition of supplementing the main unit’s battery life with its own battery, giving the total package up to 18 hours battery life. As per the original Transformer, the keyboard can feed a charge to the Prime tablet, keeping the tablet running for the good part of an entire day, or a long international flight.

The bottom corner of the display shows the keyboard battery transferring to the main tablet unit.

The keyboard also adds a couple more inputs not available on the main unit: a full size SD card slot and USB port. I think at least one more USB port could have been added, considering the support for USB devices that Honeycomb, and by extension Ice Cream Sandwich, has now integrated into the platform, making it easier to connect more storage devices and other accessories.

No USB port on the tablet but USB-connected hardware can be accessed via the keyboard dock.

To complete this overview, I have to say that as a single unit, the keyboard and tablet combined still feels reasonably light. At just over 1.1kg combined, it can very easily sneak into a large handbag or a small backpack with no issues. With the inclusion of Polaris Office, and the use of Google Docs, this could very well be the mobile productivity device of choice. The Transformer Prime has made a pleasing progression from the debut model.

More than meets the eye... With the Keyboard dock in place, the Transformer Prime is an Android tablet in disguise.

Without the keyboard, the Transformer Prime is the Android tablet we’ve all been waiting for, in form factor and performance. The keyboard adds another dimension of usability because of its tight integration with the Prime tablet and well-thought key layout.

Along with the Motorola Xoom 2, Samsung 7.7 and other unconfirmed models from major brands, the Prime represents the next generation of Android tablets, adding their own flourishes and customisation to the platform. This new generation looks far removed from the first releases of Honeycomb tablets, and with a growing app library, accessory support and software overhaul just around the corner, the tablet market is primed (sorry!) for big things in 2012.

Are you waiting in anticipation for the release of this new Android tablet?

As always, feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

Tablet Update: New Models Expected Before Xmas

With all the interest in the latest iPhone and Ultrabooks dominating the gadget news landscape in the last few weeks, one area that has been rather quiet is the tablet category. The release of the first generation of Android tablets has achieved limited success in the market, and while they may have offered additional features to compete with the dominating iPad 2, it hasn’t yet been enough to compel a large proportion of tablet users across to the Google platform.

By comparison, the combined efforts of Samsung, HTC and Motorola have made Android a force to be reckoned with in the Smartphone market. The introduction of Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, as it is known, may be the catalyst for a shift to the Android platform in large touch screen devices, as 4.0 is designed to be a cross-device platform. This means that Android users can finally experience similar compatibility to both their Smartphone and tablets the way Apple users do now with their iPhone and iPad.

Software and operating systems aside, Android manufacturers have found it a challenge to meet the visual appeal of the iPad 2. One of the defining characteristics of many Android tablets has been the inclusion of multiple ports – HDMI, USB and SD Card Slot – which has hampered the ability of these devices to offer models with similar dimensions, limiting the style propositions that can be achieved.

That may be about to change, with the major tablet manufacturers taking the same design aesthetics that they have with Ultrabooks in terms of slimness and weight while retaining some of the key attributes that they believe offer a credible alternative to Apple’s incumbent.

This will be the first holiday season with Android tablets in existence and with the New Year only a few weeks away, we can expect a few key launches that should reinvigorate the greater tablet market. Here are a few products we will be keeping an eye on and plan to get some hands on time with to share with our readers.

Model: Xoom 2 by Motorola

Google's favourite son, but will it perform as well as its like-minded competitors?

Why it’s important: Google’s acquisition of Motorola may not have affected the current output of Motorola Mobility, but eyes will be firmly fixed on the sophomore release of what was the very first Honeycomb tablet earlier this year. Slimmer, lighter and available in two sizes – 10.1 and 8.9 inches – Motorola intend to take the fight to Apple with more powerful processors, tough Gorilla Glass by Corning and a new pre-loaded app called MotoCast, which enables easy streaming of content from connected PCs and Macs.

Will Motorola’s new owners show parental favouritism by deploying Ice Cream Sandwich before all others on the Xoom 2? We are certainly keen to see the first iteration of Android 4.0 on a tablet, and we’re betting that the Xoom 2 will be one of the first to have it.

Model: Galaxy Tab 7.7 by Samsung

Galaxy Tab, it's been a while... will we finally get to see a new Samsung Android Tablet in the Australian market?

Why it’s important: Samsung’s 10.1 never had the opportunity to display its potential in many countries around the world, and Apple’s public legal action has actually fuelled the fire for interest in Samsung’s tablets, with many customers going so far as buying them from smaller online retailers willing to import them in.

Samsung have a slew of information already available on a public microsite, and the Galaxy Tab 7.7 sounds like a real contender. Featuring a Super AMOLED screen, 1280 x 800 resolution, weighing only 335 grams and measuring an impressively thin 7.9mm, this model may actually see the light of day – and we hear before the end of this calendar year.

Model: Eee Pad Transformer Prime by Asus

Slimmer, lighter, faster, and still the coolest tablet name in the market... the Asus Transformer Prime.

Why it’s important: The original Transformer with detachable keyboard succeeded in melding the touchscreen functionality of a tablet with the day-to-day needs of a netbook or notebook user. The innovative features included a separate battery in the keyboard compartment and Android-specific shortcut keys.

The highly anticipated Transformer Prime will be the first major tablet release to include the Tegra 3 quad core processor, slimming its screen component down to sub-iPad 2 levels of thinness. Improved battery life, Ultrabook-style design, brighter IPS Plus screen, and improved weight means this model will be on a bunch of Xmas wish-lists. We can’t wait to see this in the flesh either.

Expect a lot more detail on each of the above models in the coming weeks, which should reinvigorate an important category of the IT industry.

Are you biting your fingernails waiting for any particular tablet to come to the market?

Acer Iconia A100 Honeycomb Tablet – First Look

In a couple of weeks, Acer will be releasing their latest Honeycomb tablet, the Iconia A100. This model was shown off at their tablet launch earlier in the year, but at that stage only had Froyo (Android 2.2) on board.

Honeycomb now available in bite-sized packages!

I’ve had a chance to look at a sample this week, and although the software is a beta build (as Acer has warned me up front), it was still good to have a play with the latest in major manufacturer Honeycomb releases.

Acer were one of the very first to release a Honeycomb tablet, and they’ve succeeded in setting another milestone with the A100 being the first 7 inch Honeycomb tablet.

The A100 compared to the Samsung Galaxy S II. Note the physical home button on the bottom panel.

Spec wise, it follows other Honeycomb tablets by using the now-familiar Tegra 2 processor by Nvidia. The sample shown here has 8GB storage with 1GB RAM and it appears they will have a 3G variant as well as higher capacity models available. The capacitive screen has a 1024 x 600 resolution, lower than its 10” brethren.

Even though it’s a much smaller model, it still retains many of the inputs and outputs that made the original Iconia a very user-friendly model, with Micro HDMI, Micro SD, Micro USB (see a pattern here?) as well as standard 3.5mm jack for headphones, a pretty comprehensive connectivity suite considering its size.

HDMI, USB, docking port, power and speakers

The A100 is also the first to come with Android 3.2 pre-loaded, which means a few improvements for both end users and app developers. Firstly, this update actually allows apps to be compatible and optimised to different sized tablets, so it’s a welcome update for this 7 inch model. Also, SD card support has been improved, with apps being able to access content directly from the SD card. Sounds sensible, but it has been an issue for some tablets up to this point. Then there’s the app zooming feature, which handles non-honeycomb apps in a much better way to fill the screen without looking stretched or highly pixelated.

Back to the tablet itself, from a design point of view it’s definitely small and light enough to carry in one hand for long periods of time. This size tablet does lend itself more to being carried in a small handbag or even a jacket pocket. Unfortunately the cameras weren’t operational on this model but they are 2MP on front and 5MP on back. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this at a later stage.

Camera and wave pattern on back panel.

Flash content on websites worked well; I visited the video section of the smh.com.au website and was able to play videos directly on the page, one of the big drawcards for Android.

Flash video playback was quite smooth.

Google Body, one of the first Honeycomb apps to appear on the Android Marketplace, presented and responded well to zooming and rotating. The AccuWeather app seemed to have some issues with resizing to fit the smaller screen, but as Acer did explain that this was very much a preproduction unit, I’ll take another look when a retail unit becomes available.

Do 7 inch tablets have a place among all the other mobile entertainment and communication alternatives we have? At the right price in comparison to 10 inch models, I think they do. They are more mobile as opposed to portable, and offer a good screen size for reading, are very easy to carry and hold for extended periods, and are a better gaming/movie watching experience than a smaller smartphone. As with anything else in this category, content is king, and I’m sure we’ll see manufacturers and developers come up with some enticing reasons to use a 7 inch tablet in addition to a smartphone, which many would argue is really a smaller version of a tablet in function.

Full back panel of the A100.

While I haven’t had the opportunity to take the A100 solidly through its paces yet, it is another indication of the diversity that Android can bring to the table when it comes to hardware design and size.

Are you interested in a 7 inch tablet? Would you buy one for yourself, or as a gift for someone else? Feel free to comment below.