Android this week: Galaxy Tab 7.7 tested; Sprint’s nabs $99 tablet; Nexus still Nexus


After spending a full week with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 I purchased from an importer, I’m thoroughly impressed with the small slate. U.S. consumers will see a version with LTE for Verizon’s LTE network in the near future, but my hope is that the Wi-Fi version I bought follows soon; it would be priced less than an full-cost LTE version and wouldn’t require a lengthy data contract.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is Samsung’s first tablet to use its Super AMOLED Plus technology, bringing vivid colors, deep blacks and super-wide viewing angles. It doesn’t hurt that the 7.7-inch screen has a higher resolution than most 720p HDTV sets either: the 1280 x 800 resolution is a treat for the eyes; especially when watching high-def videos.

Of course, the outside of a tablet is only as good as what’s inside. In this case, its Samsung’s Exynos dual-core processor running at 1.4 GHz. And this chip keeps the Galaxy Tab 7.7 humming along quickly.

I ran many benchmarks between this new tablet and several others, including the quad-core Transformer Prime, and found that the new Tab tests just as fast, if not faster.

The Prime is better for gaming, thanks to 12 graphics cores, but for most tasks the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is currently comparable. This may change in the future as more apps become optimized for quad-core chips, however.

A cheaper Android tablet option appeared this week as well. Sprint is selling the ZTE Optik for $99 with a 2-year 3G data contract or $349 without a commitment. This 7-inch slate runs Android 3.2, not Android 4.0, but has a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, two cameras, GPS radio and 1280 x 800 resolution display.

ZTE, a Chinese hardware maker, is starting to make a big push in the U.S. tablet and smartphone market; if it can build quality devices with these low price points, it should do well against the current competition.

Late in the week, some confusion arose around the Galaxy Nexus, Google’s flagship developer phone. Verizon currently sells the Galaxy Nexus LTE in the U.S. while an unlocked GSM version — the one I have — is sold overseas. On Google’s website for the Galaxy Nexus stock software, the Verizon version is now archived. It appeared at first glance that Verizon was taking over control of the Galaxy Nexus software for phones on its network.

Google later provided an explanation that suggests it will still provide the updates for the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, saying certain software signatures on CDMA phones aren’t compatible with the Android Open Source Platform builds of Android. The situation is odd because the Sprint Nexus S, available since December of 2010, is a CDMA Nexus phone and this issue never cropped up. I suspect there’s more to this story, so I’ll be researching and watching for further developments.

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