Samsung Galaxy Tab A: Live At Best Buy

Screenshot_2015-05-04-17-30-51

I am shocked to discover it’s not crap at all!

More later. Wish I had my damn camera for video proof.

Same-day update after the break.

I didn’t want to do a separate post, so I’m adding to this one.

I have to confess I’m a bit excited by this tablet. I know that everyone who can afford Retina-class screens has dissed the Tab A series. I can’t speak to the other tablets on the low end that Samsung has produced, but I think the new Tab A series raises the bar for what’s considered “low-end.” And yes, I know the prices are more than “low-end,” but still.

When you buy cheap, you get crap; it’s that’s simple. And crap is exemplified in spades with that Trio tablet I’ve looked at more than once. If people say the Tab A series is too expensive, well, they should see how really expensive that US$99 Trio tablet is by comparison.

US$99 will buy something that is likely to drop dead — one way or another, through substandard battery or substandard components or substandard USB port — within a month, as users have testified. Think of the per-day cost of that.

For a little more than double that price, a Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 buys peace of mind. Something isn’t going to suddenly drop dead and leave a buyer feeling like a sucker. The per-day cost would be minimal in comparison.

But it’s not just the build and component quality. It’s the speed.

Let me preface this by saying the tablet I nano-fondled was likely in demo mode all day. I cleared out everything that was running but anyone will confirm the best way to have a clean slate is with a total reboot — which I didn’t do (because if the tablet was password locked, I didn’t want to drag over a sales clerk).

So, coming out of demo mode, there was a wee bit of sluggishness to begin with. But that cleared up fast and the tablet was speedy.

Unfortunately, the Google Play app wasn’t tied to a demo account, so I had to use the APK Downloader site to snag Foxit PDF to try. I also tried the monster-sized full version of The American Magazine; Surface Japan; and The People of the Abyss (see the Google Books PDF Test page).

I again verified that Foxit has a text rendering problem. Click the image at the top of this post and see how low-res the text is. No other PDF app that I’ve tried does that. I think Foxit is being a bit coy, using a low-res proxy image to speed up page turns. That’s an unfortunate cheat because a reader must pinch-out to get cleanly-rendered text. That’s just not how a PDF reader app should do business.

As it was, I was surprised by the speed of the rendering in all three test PDFs. But again, keep in mind that I think Foxit is really cheating here.

But it got me excited.

As a point of comparison, here’s the iPad Mini 2 with Surface Japan:

The Tab A 8.0 with Foxit was a hell of a lot faster than that! But let’s keep in mind that Foxit seems to display a low-res proxy image. I need to try a PDF app that will do a full-resolution rendering of text.

I wanted to try other PDF apps, but I was pressed for time today. I downloaded FB Reader because someone mentioned in a past Comment that it did PDFs. Well, it was a pain to download. When it finally installed, it said a PDF plug-in was required and tried to fetch it via Google Play — which it couldn’t do, because no demo account was tied to the app. Thus: FAIL.

Using APK Downloader is a royal pain. It tends to pop up an ad or spawn a separate ad tab. Very, very irritating.

It didn’t help matters that all of the tabs required a Refresh if I bounced out of the browser — I was using Chrome — and popped back in. I didn’t have large tabs open, so this was disappointing given the 1.5MBs of RAM.

The camera is not as good as I was led to believe by early reports. If you don’t enlarge an image at all, it looks beautiful. The moment it’s pinched-out, all hell breaks loose with pixelation. I’m not at all sure it’s any better than the one in the Note 8.0 I tried earlier. Samsung better not pull that with the upcoming S2 tablets!

Video from the camera looks stunning, however, even when taken inside a Best Buy.

Overall, I liked what little I got to try.

And like I said, I think Samsung has raised the bar for “low-end.” I know that tablets from China have Retina-class screens for the same price Samsung is asking. But none of those brands have Samsung’s global-class quality and I really doubt they’d outlast a Samsung tablet (cue the Comments that say otherwise!).

Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be a default PDF viewer built into this tablet. When I tapped on a PDF file itself, I was given the choice to open it in Foxit or Drive PDF Viewer (what?).

Oh, there’s one big problem. And I don’t know what to do about it.

There’s no Menu button on the Tab A series! There’s a physical Home button flanked by a Multitask button on the left and a Back button on the right.

It turns out Foxit needs a Menu button!

Screensnap of the same version of Foxit via a Samsung Galaxy SIII:

Screenshot_2015-05-04-20-07-50

I couldn’t find any way to call up that menu on the Tab A 8.0!

And that Menu leads to …

Screenshot_2015-05-04-20-08-55

… a whole bunch of Settings that are inaccessible. (Unfortunately, none of those Settings affect text rendering!)

So… that’s a problem. Does anyone know how to get around it?

Anyway, if I needed a Triage Tablet — and so far I don’t — I’d buy it and I wouldn’t feel like I was throwing away money.

1 Comment

Filed under iPad Mini Clones

One response to “Samsung Galaxy Tab A: Live At Best Buy

  1. fm

    Radaee PDF viewer is the engine used in FB Reader. Radaee PDF seems to have its own separate app someone released (green black icon). It does have user adjustable quality, low, medium, or high. Not sure how to actually zoom into the page, even though it says to pinch zoom in/out. Quality is good and pretty quick.

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