The process is always the same. New gadget arrives, I use it heavily for a few days, and then slowly settle into the process of figuring out if it in fact serves a need in my life. Things were different with Samsung's massive 18-inch Galaxy View "tablet." I've had it for about two weeks now and I've utterly failed to find a use case for it. On the surface, it's not a bad product, but I just can't figure out why I'd buy one -- particularly at a price of $599.
If you haven't come across the Galaxy View, here's a quick rundown: The 18.4-inch tablet runs Android 5.1.1 with the usual expected Samsung customizations and is meant not as a productivity device, but something to watch shows and movies on. The custom home screen is a big tiled view of media apps similar to Google Play, Netflix, Hulu and the like. Oddly enough, those apps aren't pre-installed, so you'll need to go to the Play Store and grab the ones you want. From there, you can swipe over to the standard Android interface. Given its focus on video streaming, you can't really lay it flat; instead, there's a weird, non-adjustable kickstand on the back that lets you set it up on a desk or counter. For more on the hardware, see our hands-on from a few weeks ago.
Surprise: giant tablets are kind of awkward.
With those basics out of the way, what's the tablet like to actually use? The first word that comes to mind is "awkward." Because it's a giant tablet, you need to be close to get your videos playing, but because it's so giant you naturally want to be a little farther away than your arm's reach. It's not that much of an issue once you have something playing, but it's a bit annoying to keep getting up or sliding closer to the device if you need to pause or change what you're watching. A remote would have gone a long way toward solving these problems.
More troubling than these interface issues is the fact that I simply had no real reason to ever use the View. You see, when I'm at home I typically consume video in one of two ways: on my couch, watching my nice large HDTV, or around the house in quicker bursts on my iPhone or iPad. I still haven't figured out what to do with a video experience bigger than an iPad but smaller than a TV -- and I have a feeling I'm not the only one who would have this problem.
At first, I thought maybe I'd use the View on my desk to watch things in the background while doing some light work, but having to keep reaching up away from my computer to pause the video, adjust the volume or switch to another video quickly got old. Simply hooking up an external monitor to my laptop would have made a lot more sense. It's also a lot cheaper, given that a basic 1080p display can be had for about $100 (read: $500 less than the View).
But I didn't give up. Maybe the View is the perfect TV for a small bedroom? Nope. First off, watching TV in bed is generally a bad idea for your sleep health but beyond that, the problem of not having a way to control the device without getting up made it a dealbreaker. If I want to watch video in bed, an iPad is a much better choice. Or, if I really needed a bigger screen, I could buy a 32-inch 1080p smart TV from Vizio for about $250 and have a much better and cheaper experience. No, an external monitor or dedicated TV isn't as portable as the View, but there are only so many places in my house that make sense for watching video on a large-ish screen.
I'm sure there's someone out there who would find the Galaxy View useful, but I can't imagine how.
Theoretically, the Galaxy View is more versatile than a TV or monitor, but its size and insistence on being used upright significantly limit what you can do with it. Gaming is out, and typing on the screen is incredibly awkward. A Bluetooth keyboard or dedicated game controller might solve these problems, but a smaller device would just be better suited in these cases. What's more, the tablet's uninspired screen didn't make me want to do much with the device -- it's acceptable for watching video from a distance, but the relatively low resolution for its large size didn't make me want to use it for much else.
Maybe the Galaxy View isn't best suited to being moved around your house. Maybe it makes sense if you're traveling? When I go on little weekend getaways, it's nice to have my Netflix queue right at hand. But again, there are cheaper and more portable options for this. I frequently take my Apple TV with me and just plug it into the TV wherever I'm staying, or I just watch things on my iPad. No, the iPad isn't as big as the View, but it's far more portable. And bringing a tiny set-top box and plugging it into the TV makes for an experience just as good as I get at home.
That's not to say that there isn't a use case that might make sense for someone. I suppose I could bring it out on my porch and watch some video on a nice day, though the glare off the glass screen would make for tough viewing). Maybe for those who live in smaller dwellings like a dorm or micro-apartment could use the Galaxy View as a main entertainment option, but it sure would benefit from a remote. I suppose you could take it on a road trip with you, but it's a bit heavy and lot less convenient than smaller tablets with better screens.
No matter how I look at it, using the Galaxy View is a compromised experience one way or another. There are plenty of better and cheaper options for watching video. Ultimately, I never had any "aha" moment with the View and was never compelled to use it unless I was forcing myself to. Most of the time it was in my house, it sat in its box collecting dust while I watched video on devices far better suited to the task.