The iPad 2 enjoys the benefit of being one generation ahead of everyone else. But what happens when the competition catches up? Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the first second-gen Android-based tablet. Can it hold its own against the iPad 2 in our testing?
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Successful products are one part innovation and one part timing. Apple got both halves of the recipe just right with its iPad. Introduced in April 2010, the original iPad was a refreshing take on mobile computing that stripped away the familiar keyboard and incorporated a power-friendly hardware architecture. While the iPad wasn’t particularly slick or slim (compared to today's standards, at least), it benefited from being the first tablet. That's a massive advantage, especially when you take into consideration Apple's understanding that it needed huge developer support right out of the gate. And when tablet-curious buyers ask if a new contender is an iPad 2-killer, then it's clear which company is setting the standard.
Although Google's Android-based tablets are increasingly garnering accolades, it's hard to go head-to-head against Apple while playing a game of catch-up. The first Honeycomb-based tablet (Motorola's Xoom) debuted in early February 2011. That was almost a year after the iPad. Fortunately, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 narrows the timetable significantly. It's the first second-generation Android-based tablet, and it follows Apple's second-gen offering by just a few months.
Tablets released prior to the Xoom didn't really compete in a meaningful way against Apple's solution. All of them, including Samsung's Galaxy Tab, used Gingerbread (Android 2.3), which Google intended for use on smartphones. Honeycomb (Android 3.0) is a completely different beast because it was created with tablets in mind.
But while Google offers a true tablet experience with its Android 3.0 operating system, it doesn't make its own tablets. Instead, it relies on hardware vendors that use its software on their own interpretations of what a tablet should be. And up until now, that hardware has come across as less refined than what Apple offers. That’s not completely fair, though. Tablets like the Xoom, Iconia A500, and Eee Pad Transformer represent first-generation Android-based tablets, which is why they're more accurately compared to the original iPad.
Plenty of time has passed, though, and the hardware is finally catching up to the software. Samsung has the first second-generation Honeycomb-based tablet in its Galaxy Tab 10.1, and it's one of the best mobile devices we've seen thus far (and that's even compared to the iPad 2). What makes this implementation different? How did Samsung turn thing around? We're putting this tablet through our usual gauntlet of poking and prodding, bringing you the answers.