Those anticipating Samsung’s release of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 don’t have much longer to wait, assuming they live near the Union Square Best Buy location in New York City, that is. That single retail store will be the first and only outlet for Samsung’s thin tablet on June 8. Samsung also detailed the official pricing for its tablet: A 16 GB model will cost $499, while the 32 GB version is $599. Both have Wi-Fi, but no mobile broadband capability. On June 17, the Tab arrives for sale at other Best Buy locations, Fry’s, Amazon, Micro Center, Tiger Direct and Newegg.
The tablet is very similar to the limited edition device handed out last month to all attendees of Google’s I/O developer event, based on the specifications. One key difference is that Samsung will ship the Galaxy Tab with Honeycomb 3.1, confirming our report from last week. The limited edition currently runs on version 3.0.1, but is expected to see a software upgrade to Honeycomb 3.1 soon. That should help correct some of the early instability and performance issues I saw on early Honeycomb tablets that were seemingly rushed to market.
I’m still reviewing the limited edition of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, but I’m already comfortable saying it has the nicest hardware when compared to other Honeycomb tablets I’ve used: It’s thinner and lighter than the iPad 2, but provides a larger screen with a higher resolution. But software is the other half of the equation and so far, the Galaxy Tab offers a very similar experience to the other Android tablets on the market. Samsung says that will change, however.
Along with announcing the tablet’s availability, Samsung promises a future software update. That will bring the company’s TouchWiz user interface and “mini app tray” to the Galaxy Tab, which will be a differentiator from the stock Android interfaces other tablets use. The update will also include access to the media ecosystem Samsung has quietly built for smartphones, tablets and even iPod touch competitors; customers can purchase or rent television or movie content or buy e-books through Samsung services. Enterprise features will also arrive with the update, including encryption of user data, VPN services and enhanced Microsoft Exchange support.
The single location launch is a bit odd, although I suspect Samsung is trying to drum up excitement, and perhaps even lines, for its new tablet. So that aspect isn’t surprising, although it’s probably disappointing to people who don’t want to wait until June 17 for the device. What does surprise is that Samsung is launching the device without the software bits that make the tablet a Samsung device. Until the software update arrives, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is basically a lighter, thinner version of most other Honeycomb tablets.
Update: Verizon Wireless today announced a 4G version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with an integrated LTE radio. The device will be available “in coming weeks” and will add $30 to the up-front cost of Samsung’s Wi-Fi models; each will require a two-year data contract.