As far as product launches go, the 10-inch Galaxy Tab 2's debut was relatively discreet. Announced with little fanfare, it's not even on display in Samsung's booth here at Mobile World Congress; you'll have to talk your way into a private room if you want a shot at getting hands-on.
And we can see why: with a 1280 x 800 display, 1GHz dual-core processor and 3-megapixel rear camera, its specs are nearly identical to what you'll find in last year's Galaxy Tab 10.1. Sure, it has a redesigned back cover and ships with Android 4.0, but otherwise, it's the same tablet. But with the new Galaxy Note tablet replacing the original 10.1 as Samsung's premier 10-inch tablet, the new 10.1 could be the budget-friendly option its predecessor wasn't. So does it hold promise as a mid-range tab? It'll be impossible to say until we know the price, but watch our hands-on video after the break and decide for yourselves just how much you'd pay for this thing.
We guess Ice Cream Sandwich adds a few calories, because the 10.1 has expanded in size from 8.6mm to 10.5mm thick, putting it roughly on par with the new Galaxy Tab 10.1 Note. (That's a jump from .33 to .41 inches, for all you Americans reading this.) If you do a side-by-side comparison, the difference in thickness and weight (588g vs. 565g) will be obvious, though on its own it still registers as relatively thin (it's no Thrive, anyway).
Flip the device over and you'll see that Samsung has traded the first-gen's semi-glossy white plastic for a matte silver cover. As fond as we were of the old design, we're pleased this budget tab doesn't pick up any fingerprints, and seems fairly resilient to scratches too (imagine how many hands this lone pre-production model has passed through!). Either way, the build quality hasn't changed: it feels well-made, though not as premium as the various aluminum tabs we've been testing. Then again, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is no longer a premium device, and based on some conversations with Samsung PR, it sounds like it won't be priced like one either.
Need more proof this isn't a high-end device? The proof is in the product tour. Around back, you'll see Samsung's removed the LED flash that used to accompany the 3-megapixel rear shooter. Suffice to say, a different approach to cost-cutting than removing the camera altogether, which is precisely what Acer did with the 10-inch Iconia Tab A200.
But! Samsung did add a microSD slot this time around, which seems like a perfectly fair trade for what wasn't a great camera setup anyway. At the entry level, the tablet comes with 16GB of internal storage, with the higher-end configuration packing 32GB.
Otherwise, the list of sockets and buttons should be completely unsurprising: Samsung's proprietary charging connector, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a volume rocker and a power / lock button There's also a SIM slot and 3G radio, which supports HSPA+ (850, 900, 1900 and 2100MHz) with theoretical download speeds as high as 21 Mbps.
The display, too, should ring familiar to anyone who's handled the original 10.1. You're looking at a 1280 x 800 PLS panel -- the same one used on the first-gen 10.1, as well as the 10.1 Note. Though it can't compete with the non-pentile Super AMOLED Plus display crowning the Galaxy Tab 7.7, it's still quite bright, and the viewing angles are suitable enough that we were able to watch YouTube videos with the tablet placed flat on a table. Likewise, you should be able to rest it on your legs while watching movies, though darker bits (say, the dim audience in an Academy Awards recap) might be tougher to make out.
Software and early performance impressions
Inside, you'll find 1GB of RAM and an unnamed dual-core 1GHz processor. (Samsung won't confirm it's the same Tegra 2 chip used in the original 10.1.) In our brief hands-on, we found the tablet was nimble enough at opening apps and responding to swipes, though it stumbled when we fired up the browser. As you can see in that video up there, scrolling through pages is a stuttering affair. Expect some jagged rendering when you pinch to zoom, too.
Software-wise, you're looking at Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.3, to be exact), with Samsung's TouchWiz UX skin layered on top, of course. Sammy hasn't made any significant changes to the UI recently, so we'd encourage you to check out our reviews of the 7.0 Plus, 8.9 and 7.7 to get a better feel for the customized interface.
The new 10.1 will ship in the UK starting in March, and will later make its way to an untold number of other markets (ignore that part in the video where we say we know nothing about availability -- yours truly just misspoke). For now, we don't know the price, and it's also unclear which countries will get a choice between this and the higher-end 7.0 Plus. We're also waiting to test battery life, and all that. Still, with the 7.0 Plus going for $300 in the US, we're cautiously optimistic the 10.1 could be quite affordable. If that's the case, this could be quite the contender in the budget 10-inch category
Joseph Volpe contributed to this report.