That difference between this and the 10.1 doesn't sound like much on paper, and if you stack them up it doesn't look like much either. But, in the hand, you notice it. It just feels slightly more balanced, slightly more palmable than the bigger one. It isn't as nice to walk around with as a 7-inch tablet -- still our favorite size for tableting while strolling between gates at the airport -- but it is a noticeable improvement in the hand compared to the 10.1.
Though smaller, the 8.9 still packs 1,280 x 800 pixels in its 16:9 PLS TFT LCD, so you're giving up size but gaining pixel density. You are, however, gaining both compared to the 8-inch Archos 80 G9, which makes do with just 1,024 x 768. The three megapixel camera around the back and two megapixel unit up front appear to be the same as the one that came before, while the power button and volume rocker are positioned in their familiar locations -- the upper-left.
That 8.9-inch display impresses, not with the stunning contrast of Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus displays but still managing to look quite good. As mentioned above the pixel density is slightly higher than on the 10.1, which does give text and other high-contrast shapes a slightly smoother appearance. Viewing angles are good and, overall, this is definitely a top-notch panel in here. Still, we have to wonder why Samsung stuck this with a TFT screen while reserving its especially stunning Super AMOLED Plus display for that mythical no-show, the Galaxy Tab 7.7
Performance and battery life
The 8.9 features the same 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM as its 10.1 inch predecessor, so no surprise, then, that performance here is similar to what we saw on the 10.1 -- though not necessarily identical. Quadrant gave us an average of 2,341, which is surprisingly higher than the 1,800 or so the 10.1 puts down. Linpack Single 26.846, though Linpack Multi wouldn't give us consistent enough scores to warrant inclusion, and Neocore also refused to cooperate. Nenamark netted 38.1, Nenamark2 18.1 and Sunspider clocked in at 2,295, just a tick slower than the 10.1's 2,200. It boots from cold in 35 seconds.
Real-world impressions back up the benchmark findings. The 8.9 feels exactly the same to use as the 10.1. In back-to-back testing of the two occasionally the 10.1 would load an app slightly more quickly, sometimes the 8.9, but neither had a conclusive advantage over the other. Unless you had them both sitting side-by-side you'd never tell any difference, and even when we did we had to be really paying attention.
When it comes to longevity the 8.9 does not disappoint -- though it doesn't quite
live up to its predecessor. The 10.1 (with a 7,000mAh battery) scored a very impressive 9:55 on our intensive video rundown test, almost matching the 10:26 of the iPad 2. The 8.9, with its 6,100mAh battery, managed 9:21. That's well more than the seven hours managed by the Archos, and plenty enough for all but the most punishing of flights.
Not to sound like a broken record, but the camera assemblies here appear to be identical to what we saw on the 10.1 -- that is to say, it takes acceptable shots, but you won't be retiring your DSLR. Nor your compact, for that matter. See for yourself in the pics below.