Is it a TV? Is it a tablet? As far as Samsung is concerned, its enormous new Galaxy View is a little bit of both. We took one home for some hands-on time on our own turf, and after a day the View seems to have struck a decent balance between the two. Don't get us wrong: it's still a little silly and will continue to inspire endless Twitter jokes, but the View has the chance to carve out a curious (and possibly lucrative) new niche.
Unlike other super-sized tablets we've seen lately, the Galaxy View isn't a device meant to help you get things done. In fact, it's quite the opposite — it's a smart screen that's basically been designed to make goofing off and watching videos as simple as possible. In fact, being productive on the Galaxy View is pretty damned impractical unless you've got it standing upright and paired with the keyboard. Otherwise, the simple process of shooting off an email will probably require you to (comfortably) cradle the View on your lap and cope with an enormous on-screen keyboard. Once you fire breeze through the usual Google account sign in, you're dropped into a grid of content services whose apps you can download from the Play Store for quick access. Shortcuts to all the usual suspects — Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Twitch, Crackle and AOL On — are here, and joined by yet more lifestyle content providers like Lifetime, PBS Kids, ESPN and the History Channel. It's an eclectic mix, sure, but it does bring a little something for everyone.
Actually watching stuff on the View's 18.5-inch screen is pretty good too. The display buffs reading might moan about the display only running at 1080p, but really — there isn't a ton of Ultra HD content available yet, and sticking a crazy pixel-dense screen would've meant saying goodbye to the View's $599 staring price tag. It's a big screen and you're not going to be pressing your face right up against the glass, so most of your content is going to come across crisply and brightly. Speaking of your content, the View comes with either 32 or 64GB of storage, and there's a microSD card slot on the back of the curvaceous screen. You can also use the microUSB port on the side (the only bit of wired I/O to be found) to link up additional storage devices or use the View as a secondary display with the right kind of adapter. Samsung designers sort of bristled when the possibility was brought up; as far as they're concerned, the View is first and foremost a streaming machine.
Samsung's also looking at the view as a sort of television that moves with you, thanks to a handle carved into the swiveling stand. The last gadget I owned with a handle was an ancient blueberry iBook so picking up the view and walking around the office with it was a neat little blast from the past — you'll definitely feel the View's 5 pounds digging into your fingers after a while, though. The version of the Galaxy View I've been playing with doesn't have a 3G or LTE radio inside (we're told that's coming soon) so its chops as a travel companion are pretty limited.
That said, no one seemed to bat at eyelash at me while I carried this thing through Penn Station in the middle of the night, though I can't say the same for when I used it to read an Oliver Sacks book on a commuter train into New Jersey. On the upside, reading a book with a two-column layout on the View is like reading two sheets of A4 paper side by side — it's actually sort of lovely. The View is best suited for short trips around the house, and a little overnight experience bears that out — it feels a little silly bringing a gigantic from my bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen, but it feels surprisingly at home in each of those spots. There's no denying that the Galaxy View is an odd little duck, but the idea of a streaming media-centric screen isn't all that outlandish.