Nov 11 AT 8:40 AM Clark Wimberly 11 Comments

Samsung Tab video series: Browsing the web

Instead of rushing out a written review, we thought it’d be fun to do some incremental videos highlighting the main features and interesting bits we’d discovered in our daily use of the Tab.

We’re going to start with what we seem to be using this thing for the most: browsing the web. Check out the video below or read on for more details…

For the most part, browsing on the Samsung Galaxy Tab is an awesome experience. The 7.0 inch TFT-LCD looks simply gorgeous running at 1024×600- text looks crisp, images render huge- it’s a browser’s delight.

Aside from the extra screen real estate (although that really is the key selling point here), the stock Tab browser has a couple of trick features up its sleeve. It’s got a separate brightness control from the device itself, which would be pretty handy when doing a large amount of screen reading. The favorites menu pops in nicely and combines with “Most Viewed” and a history tab for easy navigating. The multi-window view, while not as handy as tabbed browsing, is still pretty slick and totally useful.

The Tab also scores big points for replacing (or supplementing, at least) the default system fonts, Droid Sans and Droid Serif. I can’t even put into words how sick I am of seeing all type rendered in the same two (mediocre) fonts. That’s probably a nerd problem but clearly someone at Samsung was thinking the same thing.

One drawback of browsing on the Tab and its gigantic screen is mobile sites no longer seem appropriate, yet most major sites are still serving them (ourselves included). With a screen this large, being served the mobile site sometimes feels like a disservice and I’m really surprised Samsung didn’t build in an easy mobile/desktop agent switch. I had some success with Dolphin Browser HD, but even it sometimes isn’t able to access the desktop versions of my favorite sites. Don’t get me wrong- it’s a minor annoyance and it mostly lays in the hands of website developers- I’m simply saying I wanted even more of the full web on my Tab.

The Tab is also sporting Adobe Flash 10.1, allowing in-line video playback and the like. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: while Flash isn’t a necessity, it sure is nice to have. Yes, it can load slowly. Yes, it can get clunky. But the bottom line is my device can still access the content, and that’s my main concern when browsing the web. During our tests we hit a number of heavy desktop sites and the Tab was able to render most of them with a passing score.

The Verdict

All things considered, I’d say the Samsung Tab offers one of the best Android-powered web browsing experiences to date. When browsing mobile sites, the stock browser is beyond speedy. When viewing desktop sites, things look awesome. When viewing a Flash heavy site, the Tab makes do. The text is crisp and perfect for reading. The UI is clean and extremely easy to use.

The only downside is the Tab has alerted me to an entire new segment of devices I’ll actually have to code for: Android tablets that don’t suck.

PS: Big thanks to @bigkeivan for the video assist.

Clark is a developer living in Austin, Texas. He runs ClarkLab, a small web firm with his wife, Angie. He's a big fan of usability, standards, and clean design.

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  • http://Website Alexandros

    Did you try it on Opera Mobile (not mini), maybe opera can show it in full mode.

  • http://Website Ben

    You should really try Opera Mobile. It is ULTRA smooth on the Tab, though it lacks flash support.

  • http://Website Ben

    Here’s a link to a video of opera mobile running. Enjoy!

    PS. Flash support is coming down the pipe in following releases.

  • •Rέŧŗħð ʁɛ•

    Sky FIre… The Droid/PC toggle is my <3

  • Alexandros

    Off the topic, but can you do some reviews on the archos 70 and 101? The Tab is way expensive…

  • Mike

    I’ve had my Galaxy Tab for a little over 2 weeks now and I love it to pieces. But the browser I think is a little disappointing when it comes to performance and reliability.

    Particularly sites that embed videos all over the place, the performance comes to an embarrassing crawl. And some sites that are just text and image heavy will also perform below par, which is why I’m happy to have mobile sites served up (including Android and me).

    Plus you probably noticed the rotation effect is a little embarrassing. It appears to create a bitmap of the current screen state which then goes ugly and pixelated as you rotate the tab, and there is a pause during which you can’t interact with it at all.

    Also FYI I was on this site with my Galaxy Tab this morning when the browser froze which rendered the entire tab inaccessible for about 30 seconds. The browser eventually killed itself and released control of the Tab back to me, but yeah this has happened several times on different sites. I decided to compose this comment on my laptop this time.

    I have a tip BTW, in the browser settings, hit ‘Enable plug-in’s and change the option to ‘on demand’. That way embedded videos will just show a place-holder and you activate them with a press. This significantly increases page performance.

    I wanted to try opera mobile but it dies during launch on the tab for some reason :-(

  • http://Website maedox

    I have to say having trouble viewing desktop sites is a huge minus.
    Does it have an about:debug “easter egg”?

  • http://Website Se7en2

    In the Dolphin browser:

    Menu button
    Under Dolphin Settings, select User Agent
    Select Desktop

    I was playing around with one of these at the VZW store and noticed the stock browser going to the mobile Engadget site. I downloaded Dolphin, went to Engadget, and it loaded the mobile site. Made the above change and loaded Engadget again, got the full site. All other sites I surfed to from that point on gave me the full site. Maybe it’s just an issue with the toggle button and you have to make the change in the settings.

    • Clark Wimberly

      The toggle button worked fine on many sites, just not on the NY Times and I couldn’t figure out why. The real point is if it gave me trouble, the average user would likely be stumped.

      Just seems like something Samsung would’ve tried to solve.

  • http://Website Josh

    With the stock browser, did you change the user agent thing by also typing “about:debug” into the address bar, going to the settings, going to the very last setting labeled “UAString”, and changing that to desktop as well as the separate “User agent” setting? That’s what usually solves problems like that in the stock browser at least; I’ve never tested it in Dolphin HD. Also, that’s just guessing that the tab’s stock browser is the stock android browser with just an overlaying UI.

  • http://Website Tobias

    My iPad sent me a text message yesterday. It said “Am I an orphan?”. I responded, “No, you are a very expensive cocktail tray”. Sold the iPad yesterday.

    Disappointed that the Tab does not appear to support a sip client on WiFi.