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Review of Samsung Galaxy S Wi-Fi 5 Mini Tablet
Many years ago the world of portable media players was in disarray. Seasoned users are familiar with products from Archos. Their PMP came equipped with high capacity hard drives and featured proprietary OS, though Linux experiments took place as well. Four years ago best PMP were produced by this company. They even tried to play with Android, but the resulting tablet happened to be weird due to "raw" software.
Philips, Creative and other companies also had their PMPs. You can guess when the segment was dead, but I think the emergence of iPod Touch and similar models made heavy players with large screens redundant. These were niche products aimed at a small audience, but if you leave the gaps in the market they will be filled pretty soon. Nowadays we see attempts to resurrect the PMP segment. For instance, Dell Streak 5 is still a multifunctional player with developed communication capabilities, albeit the manufacturer positions it as the tablet. Another example is a mini tablet Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 5, which boasts an impressive screen, the support of numerous audio and video formats and fully featured Skype. It lacks 3G, but the main drawback is the absence of a hard drive. It makes the gadget heavier, but such modern day PMPs can rally become invaluable for travellers.
The model is easily soiled due to the glossy back and the glittering front. The looks are strict, while the screen protection has a chrome like rim. The picture is completed by the grilled speaker at the top and the microphone at the bottom. The battery cover cannot be taken off and the back also hosts a camera with the flash and two speakers. In terms of sound reproduction Galaxy S WiFi can be labelled a mini system courtesy of powerful sound, but the quality is not comparable with that of dedicated music systems. You can easily send the radio signal to the speakers and enjoy. The top has a microSD card slot. The dimensions are 141.3 х 78.2 х 9.9 mm with the weight of 200 g.
The front panel has an auxiliary camera. The tablet looks decent, but that's it. It is a typical work horse. I am sure Sony would have invented a particular design and Apple would have added aluminium. Samsung merely produced an everyday device, which is too easily soiled.
Unlike the model No 4 the light sensor was inexplicably ditched and the automatic brightness does not work. The proximity sensor is also missing, so if you use Skype it is possible to press a control with the cheek. The TFT screen has 5" and the resolution of 800 х 480. In general the screen is bright, offers good contrast and is pleasant to watch video or photos. Viewing angles are good too. Multitouch is well supported. In the sun the display performs rather predictably – you cannot see anything and efforts are required to achieve success.
On the side you have a volume rocker, while the top has place for the turn on button. When you hold the gadget in the right hand this button is located precisely under the thumb, which is convenient. On the downside we have two sensor buttons under the screen, which is typical of Android. Home button is ordinary and could have been a little bit larger. Sensor controls are less convenient than hardware ones. You have to struggle with the Menu and arrow buttons and it is difficult to get accustomed completely. The majority of users will be more or less satisfied. We get buttons and they work relatively well.
As far as I understand so far you can buy only a 16 GB version, but the memory slot supports cards of up to 32 GB, so the storing capacity can be boosted depending on your requirements.
A detachable 2500 mAh Li-Ion battery allows for up to 7 hours of video playback, but it is reasonable only when you have a lengthy travel or have nothing better to do. Due to the lack of 3G the tablet does not behave like Android smartphones, so data transfer is only possible if you have WiFi coverage. It is clear, but the usage scenario is different. With Galaxy S II you will think twice before reading a book in the traffic jam if you do not have a car charger. The tablet gives you 2 hours of music playback, the same amount of time for reading and several TV series a day. Add gaming and web surfing and you can go strong for three days with one charge. If the use is more intensive you can rely on two days of operation, but it is up to you to decide.
The tablet uses Android 2.2 (2.2.1 to be more precise), which is tried and trusted Froyo. It will be updated to Android 2.3. All software details have been described in a dedicated review.
Among peculiar features we can mention the radio with a special interface. It works only with the headset, while the icons bear signs of the company style. Installed apps icons are displayed in a proprietary way too. Skype has been preinstalled and the tablet can be used as a phone, because the speaker and the microphone are located in predictable places. To be on the safe side the Qik feature was added too: "If you have a Galaxy S WiFi 5.0 mini tablet with the WiFi access you can instantly share your photos or video, make video calls, listen to podcasts or talk to friends or relatives via Facebook and Twitter". You will be able to read more about the app soon, but the majority of users will be happy with Skype alone. There is a link to Samsung apps store, but it is not clear why you need it, because Android Market is still here. Another special menu item is AllShare, which is a better looking DLNA. You can easily play the files from your PC or vice versa. Settings are basic and in this case we just get a popular version of an old feature. Mini Diary is a photo journal where you have to select the city first and then create notes with pictures, remember time and set icons for weather. In the main menu you have links to Skype and Qik guides. Latest version of Google maps, GPS and the word processor ThinkFree add some substance. In fact after taking the tablet out of the box you will be ready to go, because many apps are already there.
There are special widgets as well: the counter of active apps, which can close down unused ones, is one of them, while wireless interfaces management panel is also handy. In the main menu you can also access files browser, where you can select and play music files. Surprisingly, the standard player is opened in this case. In comparison with Galaxy WiFi 4 my sample also boasted Second TV app (I could not understand whether it was a remote or software to connect with Samsung TVs ) and Samsung Drive&Walk (based on Route 66) navigation app. Similarly to a smaller tablet you still get a task manager to shut down unnecessary apps and see the current memory status.
In the box we find decent headphones with the playback controls panel and a microphone, but you can replace it with another model if you wish. The sound quality is good and SoundAlive is also supported, but I am not a fan of various sound effects and prefer the sound as is. The full list of formats is displayed on the screenshot. In fact the model is pretty much omnivorous and you can listen to almost any sort of music and download movies. SoundAlive feature can be activated for video and it really pays off especially if you use close headphones.
The tablet has loud speakers and can be used as a mini system. The player is unusual and has buttons to start the Shuffle mode, repeat one or all tracks and select a track piece to play. The volume can be controlled with the help of buttons or directly from the player. At the top on the left you see equalizer presets – eight to choose from and two customizable. You can play with the equalizer, add volume and clarity. At the bottom side of the display you see links to audio and video players. All key features were moved here and rightly so. When the player is on the notifications menu you see the playback controls panel, which is a good addition.
The tablet is rather speedy courtesy of a 1 GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM. Apps start quickly and to see on the screen the menu of active applications just press Home and hold it. You can also go to apps dispatcher from there. Active apps are displayed beside the RAM and processor load counters for every piece of running software. For example, radio takes up to 7.08 МB of memory, but hardly requires any processor efforts, while Angry Birds give you completely different results (59.74 MB of RAM and the processor works quite hard especially when you start the game). Task manager works well. You can close all apps or disable the ones you do not need at the time.
We receive WiFi (802.11 b/g/n) and Bluetooth 3.0 support. GPS is pretty standard, but Bluetooth 3.0 can still be found only in the most modern devices. If you often transfer data wirelessly you will benefit from the offering.
There is nothing special in this 3.2 MP camera. It has no flash, but offers autofocus (press and hold the virtual button). There are geotags and different settings for various conditions. Maximum video resolution is 720 х 480, but the autofocus does not always work well. For a general device the recording quality is decent and videos look fine on the tablet screen.
I should say that you can learn more if you try and fine-tune the tablet for your everyday needs. It is worth mentioning that I did not use the tablet for music and initially intended to turn it into a portable video player. Galaxy S WiFi 5 can be well used for navigation as its 5" screen is better than iPhone. On the other hand the camera is good enough only if you have nothing else instead. You can use Skype with ease even if you hold the device near the ear. The only issue is the chance for erroneous pressings. Impressive operation time, support of numerous formats and TouchWiz interface complete the lineup. Even users without any Android experience can handle the gadget well. Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 5 will cost around $460 and will appear in shops pretty soon. The price is right and by autumn it will be even more pleasant. I would recommend it to those who need a multifunctional device for ravels with a larger screen, popular OS and does not want to charge it every 8 hours. This working person's helper has no clear weaknesses and boasts a nice price tag. It is a niche product, but I am sure it will find its proud owners.
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Published 01 June 2011
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