Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Android tablet is available and apparently it’s a bit of a hit. I’ve been playing with one for a couple weeks, enough time to form an opinion about it. Even if you haven’t been considering one, it’s something that you’ll want to at least be familiar with if you are curious about the future of tablets and mobile computing. Prior to the Galaxy Tab’s release we had not seen any Android tablets that were attractive enough for most people to consider over the iPad, so this was a big release for the Android community.I’m not an iPad owner, but I do have an iPhone 4 so I’ve been leaning towards Android for the tablet. After getting a first look at the Galaxy Tab I was encouraged, but far from sold on the device. Samsung seems to be on the right path, but I’m not sure Android in its current stake is up to task of running a tablet. The OS is great for phones, but scaling that up to a 7- or 10-inch screen changes a lot, and the last thing I wanted was a device that felt slapped together. I use my phone for tablet tasks (e-reading, RSS, mobile video, etc.) now and the iPhone 4 has the apps I want and a screen I love, so a tablet would have to be really good to win my couch time.Despite my desire for an Android device, the OS isn’t fully tablet-ready. It feels a lot like the worse parts of the early iPad where space wasn’t being used efficiently, apps were not scaling to the large display, and ultimately I was left wondering why I bothered to use a large device. I’m sure things will improve with Gingerbread/Honeycomb, but until that point I’m holding off. Android still seems ideally suited for use on tablets though. It’s lightweight and easy to augment with apps, just like Apple’s iOS, but it’s also highly customizable. The ability to customize is something that I don’t really need in a phone, but that I definitely want to see in a tablet.Size is a big issue with the GTab because Samsung opted for a 7-inch display, not a 10-inch one. Personally, I feel that this is not that ideal of a size. If I’m going to invest in a tablet, I’d like a compelling reason to use it. Those are primarily power, battery life, and screen size. At 1024×600 the Gtab’s resolution isn’t bad, but it’s still not ideal on the web. It’s a bit behind the iPad (1024×768) but the 7-inch screen is what feels considerably smaller. I’m sure some people prefer the portability of the Galaxy Tab over the iPad, but I’d rather have a big screen then use something portable that can feel like an oversized phone. Sure, the Gtab is easy to get from place to place, but I can’t it fit in a pocket, which means I need a bag, and at that point an inch or two in either direction is negligible. That said, the Tab’s screen looks quite nice (I do enjoy using it) and a number of people I’ve talked to actually do prefer the smaller size.The biggest thing for me with a tablet is that is has to be great for the web. I can’t see how this wasn’t number one priority for Samsung, which is why it surprises me that browsing on the Galaxy Tab is jerky and, at times, slow. If you open a page, let it fully load and then scroll up and down you can see the page stop at points, giving it a jerky motion, not the smooth, inertial scrolling I’ve come to expect. Just about every time I used the browser I saw this and it bothered me, like a reminder that this expensive device couldn’t do a basic task as well as what I would otherwise be using (my laptop or phone). That feeling is exactly why people return products, and while slow browsing might not be enough to send someone back to the Sprint store, it is really disappointing.Typing on the Galaxy Tab is OK, but not great. For my hands the tablet’s middle-of-the-road size presents a problem. It feels a bit too big in portrait to thumb type (but that’s what I end up doing) and a bit too small to go landscape and touch type. It’s possible to hunt-and-peck with my forefingers in landscape, but that’s such an embarrassing and slow way to type that I avoid it. With some practice I’ve gotten used to the thumb typing, though I do augment it with speech input (which has yielded some hilarious misinterpretations).Wrapping up, I’ll say this: The Galaxy Tab isn’t as bad as some people make it seem, but it leaves me without a compelling reason why I’d want to buy it. It has a lot of features I like, but it’s not at the point where I use it and I feel genuinely glad that I’m on a tablet. When I downloaded my free copy of Angry Birds and easily integrated with a Google account, I was glad to be on Android, but the bad Gmail app and ridiculousness of using a tablet as a camera reminded me that our phones do things pretty well these days. The battery isn’t that great and the performance is laggy, so the overall feeling was that there is tons of potential but most of it’s unrealized.I think with another iteration or two and a few Android upgrades Samsung will have something solid on their hands, but it’s too early for me. I’m sure other people will get this and love it, but given the price and potential contract involved for the 3G version I can’t recommend jumping in. The GTab does everything, but nothing particularly well, at least not well enough that I’d get it instead of waiting for the iPad 2 or another tablet to launch with a future version of Android. I think Samsung jumped the gun on Android and then was forced to deliver a different form-factor than Apple, which resulted in them developing a product that filled clear gaps of the iPad (woohoo, it has two cameras), but they didn’t have the time or ambition to dial in the usability aspects of the device.samsung_galaxy_tab_05samsung_galaxy_tab_05samsung_galaxy_tab_04samsung_galaxy_tab_03samsung_galaxy_tab_02samsung_galaxy_tab_01This article is based on a Galaxy Tab loaned to us by Sprint.