Friday, April 13, 2012

My First Tablet, Sammy SGT7.7

人在江湖, 身不由己.

That translates to "one has to compromise in this world". Put this into gadget perspective, one might have no choice but to buy a gadget that one dosn't like (the brand) but it matches the requirements.

My friends know I don't buy Korean products. From TV, phone and to any gadgets. But undeniably that Samsung is just like the old time Sony, owning one might make one feels proud, or to the very least one might feel owning one is inevitable and that's exactly how I feel now - I can't run away. Consequently, I finally possess a tablet, and finally I end up with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 P6800...



I was one of the early adopters when it launched in Malaysia and thought of writing a detailed review, but now this product has been in the market for quite a while, I would restructure my post a little to share my user experience on my first Samsung product after N years, than to dive into detailed review. But if you can't find enough details from Google result, let me share with you some duplicate info...



Very standard package with wall charger, data + charge cable, earphone with spare ear buds. No freebies since it's a new and hot selling item. The charger output is rated 5V 2A, so you need to get a similar or higher Amp if you plan to buy a spare aftermarket charger. I would recommend to pay a little premium to get genuine Samsung or buy from a reputable brand (like Yoobao) since the battery is not removable. A cheapskate charger will likely shorten the battery life or even damage the battery and you will have to hand it to the service center. All possible consequences (like Edison C) might follow after that, so pay a little more as insurance to avoid going through the hassle.






The front comes with a camera and speaker (yes, it's a phone), top with a headphone jack and mic hole, rear with camera and LED flash, right with power and volume rocker, left with the normal SIM card slot and micro SD card slot, and the bottom is with dual speakers, mic hole and the proprietary 30-pin connector for charging and data transfer. The overall built quality is really solid especially compare to other Tab tablets and even to my initial tablet target, Asus Transformer Prime. I don't feel holding a plastic thing but a solid unibody (it's not unibody though) light metal device. I must say I attempted to find bone in the egg, and in dilemma to comment such but uncle Sammy really did a good job with this model.

There's one thing I did in the shop before payment...







Before I headed to the shop, I created few bmp files with colors shown above at the native resolution of this tablet (1280x800). I popped in my micro SD card to the device, opened the files and opened my eyes widely to check the screen if there is any impurities, imperfection and dead pixels. This attracted few other sales promoters and customers to came by, thought there's problem with the unit. The sales promoter said I was the first customer doing this. LoL. Well, I do not want to walk back into the shop after X hours, argue for a replacement unit when I found out screen problem at home. The last photo above is actually with a black bmp files opened, not screen off. I must admit that I am amazed with the black level produced by this AMOLED display, you can see the same deep black with white startup logo (unsure if it's a full screen image) during the boot up...


I don't like the vivid and bright colors reproduction from Sammy LED TVs (I am a plasma TV fan), but this AMOLED screen really stands out with its quality display. I find the colors are quite vibrant, natural and ease the eyes for long reading.

Enough praising. Let me begin with the negative experiences:

First, the SIM card or 3G connectivity matter. This tablet seems to be very picky on SIM card. The SIM can be detected but all of the times it would only connect with EDGE. The only time I could connect to 3G/HSPA was the first few minutes after reboot. It's even worst with no network detected when I changed it to WCDMA only...


I popped in other SIM cards, same result and no such problem when I popped the same SIM cards into my Atrix and other phones. I went into the diagnostic mode (dial *#*#4636#*#* in the phone pad) trying different settings but to no avail...



Finally I went to Celcom center for a SIM replacement and voila! It works! Apparently this issue was reported couple of times if you follow LYN Forum. I can't tell if it's hardware related, but likely is software (Honeycomb) related. I would suggest you bring the SIM card and try out at the shop before you pay, it's the safest way making sure the hardware is not faulty.

Next, the SD card issue. If you think getting a big SD card can really expand the storage size, you're only partially correct. In most of the Android devices I experience, the internal storage is usually named sdcard (/sdcard) and the external storage (the actual physical SD card) as sdcard-ext (/sdcard-ext) under the root folder (/). Both are mounted as separate storage repositories and users can change application settings to save data onto the real SD card (sdcard-ext folder) or use the "move-to-SD" feature to move the apps to SD card. Due to the mount (linux terminology) and permission design by Samsung, the SD card is not mounted independently as a separate storage repository (/sdcard-ext), it's mounted as one of the sub folders in internal storage (/sdcard/extStorages/sdcard)...


The real show stopper is that the SD card is read-only to most applications including other file managers/explorers you install from Google Play Store. Meaning that you can't configure applications to save data onto the SD card since the card is read-only. Plus, some applications like PPTV will not pick up the data automatically. For instance, I can create a similar folder structure in SD card (/sdcard-ext/pptv) mirroring the internal storage (/sdcard/pptv), move PPTV downloaded content from internal storage to the SD card, PPTV will pick up and list the content. This is not possible at all with this tablet as the SD card is in sdcard/extStorages/sdcard/pptv. Workaround is you will have to root the device, modify a system file to make it work not as usual (like sdcard-ext) but enabling you and other applications to write to the SD card. The built in Camera apps and Files Manager can write to the SD card without rooting. See, how can Android compete with Apple to become a true consumer device? Such problem is not tackle-able by average consumers and just frustrates the consumers with Android.


Third, Samsung is to be blamed for this - its TouchWiz UX. Unlike iOS, you have the flexibility to change the user interface (or commonly referred as launcher in Android context) with many options available in the Play Store. I am not a fan of UX customizations, so I always keep stock launcher unless I really need additional features from other launcher. The TouchWiz UX is the stock launcher from Samsung and this launcher has a serious bug in this tablet. When you create a folder (shown above) and move multiple apps into it, the apps icon will disappear from the folder if you update the apps in the Play Store. The apps is still installed in the tablet though, you just have to find other means to launch it. Workaround? Use other launcher such as Go Launcher or never use the folder feature in TouchWiz UX.

Last, it's about the speakers. The speakers sound decent and loud (my friends said better than iPad). There is no issue when you holding it in portrait mode, but I find it awkward when I hold it in landscape mode while watching movies/youtube. I clearly hear the sound output from only one side as if it's a mono audio channel since both speakers are mounted at the bottom (when hold in portrait mode). It sounds like a mono channel movie, just like the old time Karaoke VCD that the right channel plays the music whereas the left outputs the vocal. Turn off left channel you can then sing Karaoke. Not a big deal, just personal feeling and I can always use my Bluetooth headset. But maybe it would sound better if the speakers are mounted at the rear.

Come to closing. I think I have no regret buying this Samsung tablet and am quite happy with it, though it's not a "pleasant consumer experience" where I have to sort out few workarounds above (Apple is still the best consumer product). It fits my requirements perfectly and ideal as a companion to laptop. Most important is I am able to perform one-hand operation with it for long time, this is not possible with 10-inch tablets. And it can fit into my cargo pants...


I use it a lot for browsing, surfing, reading, gaming (Shadow Gun, Modern Combat, Angry Birds etc etc), youtubing, Skype and occasionally as portable GPS. I really hope uncle Sammy does not disappoint me with the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich ICS upgrade, and I hope it can last me at least 2 years (that's when I plan to buy a new one). My past Korean products always lasted 2 weeks past the 1-year warranty period.

If you're keen getting one, PC Fair KL is having a good promotion. RM1899 with freebies like leather case, connection kit, screen protector and extended warranty. There are 2 main booths selling this, one by ThunderMatch (ground floor hall 2) and the other by PDA Experts (ground floor hall 5). I would recommend to go with PDA Experts, their customer service is excellent in particular the Mid Valley branch.