Australia's first 4G tablet: First impressions of the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G

Is 4G connectivity enough to make the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G worthwhile?

You would be forgiven for thinking that only one tablet in the world exists this week, but that simply isn't the case. Apple may have announced its "new iPad" to predictable fanfare, but we've just got our hands on a lovely looking competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G. Is 4G connectivity enough to make it worthwhile?

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G preview
Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G is Australia's first 4G tablet
HTC Velocity 4G review

Techworld Australia: Australian iPad and 4G: What's the deal?

It's all about 4G

Apple's new iPad has 4G capabilities that won't work in Australia, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G is compatible with Telstra's new 4G network. In fact, it's the first 4G capable tablet to launch in Australia and just the third product to work on Telstra's new 4G network, period. The telco released the 4G USB modem in October last year and then followed that up with the HTC Velocity 4G Android smartphone. Does 4G make the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G a big deal?

The answer is both yes and no, simply because Telstra's 4G coverage is currently pretty limited. It's available in all eight capital cities (5km from GPO) and their respective airports in Australia, along with around 80 regional and metropolitan centres (3km from city centre). Unless you're using your tablet regularly in one of these coverage zones, the benefit of 4G will be minimal.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G As you can see, Telstra's 4G coverage in Sydney is fairly limited right now. The dark blue shade denotes an area where you will get 4G data speeds.

Admittedly, 4G coverage on the Galaxy Tab 8.9 is pretty impressive if you can get it. Running a speed test app in our North Sydney office, we managed to achieve regular download speeds of over 20 megabits per second (Mbps), with upload speeds reaching an impressive 15Mbps. Like all mobile networks, the speeds you manage will depend on a number of factors including network congestion, location, time and content. Given Telstra's 4G network is still in its infancy, congestion is minimal. You're definitely going to get impressive speeds with a 4G device like the Galaxy Tab 8.9.

When you're not in a 4G network zone, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G will simply fall back to Telstra's regular Next G network. Like HTC's Velocity 4G smartphone, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G has dual channel HSPA+ connectivity, meaning its 3G data speeds are likely to be faster than many phones and tablets on the market. Officially, Telstra quotes typical download speeds from 1.1-20Mbps in a 3G zone, though as usual we found real world figures somewhat less.

Just another Android tablet?

4G capabilities aside, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G is really just another Android tablet. We love both the size and display — in our opinion the 8.9in screen is a great balance of portability and size, while the device itself is pretty well constructed. It's a mere 8.6 millimetres thick and weighs only 470g, making it thinner and lighter than the new iPad and the iPad 2.

Like the iPad, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G uses a proprietary dock connector and doesn't have a memory card slot for extra storage. This will disappoint many potential buyers, especially when flexibility has been promoted as one of Android's key strengths over Apple devices.

We think the biggest let down is the fact the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G runs the outdated Android 3.2 "Honeycomb" operating system. That means all of the common complaints about tablets running Honeycomb software apply here. We've only used the device for a few hours but we can already tell you that the unlock screen remains a mess (admittedly this is a Samsung issue), the browser is often sluggish and still automatically switches to mobile versions of many Web sites, the home screen jitters if there are more than a few widgets on the screen, and transitions between screen are choppy. We expect many of these issues to be resolved once Samsung upgrades the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G to the latest Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android, but until it does, we can only judge what Samsung has delivered now.

Price is also an issue. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G comes in 16GB ($720) and 32GB ($840) variants. Comparative models of Apple's new iPad will sell for $679 and $789. Alternatively, Telstra also sells the Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G on a range of data+tablet plans over 24 months, starting from $49 per month. The question is, do you really want to be locked into a two year contract for a tablet? We suspect not.

For the record, Telstra's data+tablet plans for the 16GB Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G are as follows:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G

We'll have a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G up next week. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?