Samsung's biggest Android tablet yet is an enormous portal into a galaxy of content.
It's not just smartphones that are getting bigger. As Android handsets push past the 5.5-inch mark -- for many, eliminating the need for tablets in smaller form factors -- tablets themselves are becoming ever larger. In recent months we've seen Apple unveil the iPad Pro, Google pushing the heavy-duty Pixel C as an extension of its Nexus tablet series, and Microsoft continuing to blur the line between laptop and tablet with the Surface 4 and Surface Book. So it's only fitting that Samsung, one of the original players in the Android tablet game, is also prepping a big-screened slate.
The company has taken a shot at bigger tablets before, most notably with the 12.2.-inch Galaxy Tab Pro -- a traditional high-end Tab expanded into a larger form factor. This time around, Samsung's going even bigger, opting for a whopping 18.4-inch portal into a world of content. This is the Samsung Galaxy View, and we've had a chance to preview it ahead of the public launch at the Gear S2 showcase at Westfield White City's Galaxy Studio. Read on for our first impressions.
First things first: The Galaxy View is big. Realy big. As much as it's a tablet, this is a really just a portable, battery-powered monitor that happens to run Android. And portability itself takes something of a back seat compared to the 10-to-13-inch tablets you might be used to. Whether it's your lap, a sofa or a coffee table, you're going to need something to prop this up against. You're not going to be holding it with one hand and operating it with the other. If you try, you'll probably drop it. This is a big, heavy tablet.
Finally, an Android tablet display measured in feet, not inches.
And that's by design as much as anything. While the front of the View is dominated by an LCD panel measuring a little over a foot and a half diagonally, the rear carries a unique hinged stand designed to prop it up in one of two positions. Primarily, it can sit up facing you like a traditional laptop. Or alternatively you can have it facing up at a slight angle, as you might position an iPad to type on-screen. Both configurations work pretty well, though there's no way to fully flatten the hinged back, meaning there's additional bulk when transporting the tablet around.
Fortunately the built-in handle makes lugging the View around easier, and Samsung will also offer a surprisingly svelte first-party carry case. But next to the space-age hinges we've seen from Lenovo and Microsoft in the Windows world of late, Samsung's offering isn't particularly forward-looking. Surely it should be possible to engineer a hinge that works on both these positions, while also not eliminating any possibility of packing this thing flat.
And the sheer size and bulk of this thing makes the upcoming LTE version even more perplexing. For the time being, the Galaxy Views we previewed were Wifi-only, and we think that model will be a better fit for most home-based use cases.
As the name suggests, the Galaxy View's enormous display is its central focus. As mentioned, it's a 1920x1080-resolution panel measuring 18.4 inches, and the display quality is best described as "decent." Samsung is bucking the trend towards astronomical pixel densities elsewhere in the laptop and tablet (and smartphone) world lately, with a density of 120 pixels per inch. And while we weren't blown away by the image quality, it was more than bright enough to produce clear images under the bright lights of Westfield's Galaxy Studio. The lower resolution is also a nod towards the View's likely use cases. Samsung expects you to be watching this thing from further away than a smaller tablet, and consuming content -- mainly movies and TV -- at up to 1080p.
A practical tablet, not a spectacular one.
In contrast to Samsung's smaller Tabs, the Galaxy View is a tough plastic beast. It's not especially thin, but it looks and feels durable, and gives the impression of being able to stand up to the rough-and-tumble of regular use around the home. Don't expect to be wowed by the View's build and materials -- it's practical, not pretty; sturdy, not spectacular. And that's reflected by its feel as well as its heft.
As for internals, you're looking at a 1.6GHz octa-core processor -- likely the same chip running Samsung's latest Tab S2, but we haven't been able to confirm this. That's paired with 32GB of storage, microSD expandability Wifi a/b/g/n/ac support as well as Bluetooth 4.1, and Cat. 6 LTE should you opt for the cellular model. On battery, Samsung says, you should get 8.5 hours of video playback. In our limited time with pre-release Galaxy Views, Samsung's TouchWiz UI ran smoothly and responsively -- though we didn't have the chance to demo any really intensive games on the units we saw.
Hardware controls can be found along the top edge, in the form of a volume rocker and power key, while the right edge houses microSD and headphone ports.
The software itself is a variation of what's available on Samsung's latest phones -- Android 5.1.1 with Samsung's familiar UI layer. Unlike most of the company's tablets, the View uses on-screen keys for home, back and recent apps. But elsewhere it's business as usual, with rounded rectangular icons, blue-green hues aplenty and a design language not a million miles away from Google's Material Design.
A right-swipe from the home screen launches you into a grid of content partners.
Preloaded applications include the usual Samsung and Google offerings, along with other apps like S Console (for use with Samsung's own game controller accessory), and content providers like Netflix and Chef Collection. And Samsung's inked deals to bring even more content to the Galaxy View -- swiping right from the leftmost home panel launches into a grid view allowing you direct access to video from the likes of CNN, CBS, Hulu and Twitch.
But this isn't just a living room tablet. Like Alcatel's 17-inch Xess slate, the Galaxy View also wants to be a digital hub for your family, with a "family group" feature letting you share content using a Galaxy View and your families' various smartphones. Time will tell how well this feature ends up working, but it does show promise for the View beyond existing merely as a portable Netflix platform.
As with any mainstream tablet, the most important factor will be price, and Samsung's not commenting on exactly how much it'll want for the Galaxy View. The value proposition is relatively clear -- a display that's bigger than a laptop and more suited to content consumption. But with mid-level internals, a decent but unspectacular display and run-of-the-mill plastic construction, the company will need to be careful not to price itself out of the market.
We'll find out more when the Galaxy View arrives goes on sale globally this November.