Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 review

An amazing hand-sized tablet that almost beats its big brother

samsung galaxy tab 8.9 review
The Galaxy Tab 8.9 is one of the best Android tablets out there

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galaxy tab 8.9

At the end of our testing period, we realised that the extra inch and a bit is worth the additional cash over the 10.1.

That's really the basic summary - the 8.9 and 10.1-inch models from Samsung are so similar in features and in price that it comes down to a decision about whether you want a bigger screen or less weight.

There's something to be said for the smaller size when it comes to reading ebooks. We read a good portion of the new book on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and noted that it affords just a bit more mobility and just the right screen size for books. In fact, most physical book pages are about the same size as the 8.9-inch screen version.

But the movie Captain America proved to be a stumbling point for the 8.9-inch tab. The intro segment was washed out and gray, while the slightly bigger size of the iPad 2 made the movie more watchable. It's splitting hairs, though - neither tab compares to watching the Blu-ray version on an HD TV.

With the various adapters, you can achieve the same results as an tablet that comes with an HDMI port and a USB port. In fact, it might be a better strategy - using those adapters when you need them - but they are also extremely easy to lose and add to the overall price.

But if you want the best, with the smaller screen, and prefer Android, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is a great buy.

We liked

The bright screen is the main selling point on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 - photos and movies pop off the screen, photos look rich and colourful and games look well-detailed and bright. Most movies and TV shows played smoothly and with rich colour.

As an ebook reader, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is superior to the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The tablet is easy to grasp for long browsing sessions, checking email and flipping through photos, too.

Samsung includes several good apps that might not make the tablet an impulse buy, but do add some value. There's an app that aggregates your social networking feeds, another that points you to the Zinio magazine service, Kobo ebook store and a newspaper portal.

The 1GHz processor was up to the task for several games, including a word puzzle game by Zynga, a pinball game that played smoothly and of course several sessions of Angry Birds HD.

Samsung offers several choice accessories for the Galaxy Tab 8.9, including a USB adapter and an HDMI adapter for connecting the device to your HD TV. There's also a dock and leather case.

We disliked

Most movies played bright and clear, with good contrast and deep, rich tones.

Audio playback was predictably bland for music and movies - the speakers are too small and situated below the screen where music fills an empty void instead of emanating toward you.

Some might like that there's no USB or HDMI port. You can use those connections by adding adapters, but the adapters are easy to lose.

Overall, the price is quite a bit higher than on other Android models. You pay a premium for the exceptional screen, thin design and lightweight form factor compared to thicker, heavier models.

Final verdict

We scored the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 in keeping with our overall impression - that this is one of the top tablets available today.

For some users, it will be the very top end if you tend to read ebooks constantly and don't watch as many TV shows or movies. Another prime user for this tablet is someone who just doesn't want the extra 100g of heft for a 10-inch tablet such as the iPad 2.

John Brandon

John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.