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Samsung Galaxy Tab 2: The First Must-Have Android Tablet

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) doesn't cost much more than the ultra-popular Kindle Fire, yet this 7-inch tablet comes loaded with iPad-like hardware and the latest Android operating system, a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich. Here's hoping the Galaxy Tab 2 launches a new breed of affordable yet capable Android tablet.

Looking for an inexpensive but capable tablet that does a lot more than the Kindle Fire? Check out the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 with 7-inch screen. It's the first Android tablet that's priced like a Kindle Fire but offers iPad-like features. With any luck, the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) will launch a whole new category of affordable Android tablets that can compete with low-end iPads.

Here's how.

It's cheap

The Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) Wi-Fi-only model with 8GB of built-in storage and a 7-inch screen costs only $249.99. That's only $50 more than the Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire owns 54.4% of the Android tablet market, according to comScore. But the Kindle Fire is a custom device with limited features and functions compared to more general-purpose tablets such as the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. That's how Amazon can sell the Fire for $199 and grab a larger share of the market.

Unlike the Fire, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 provides rear- and front-facing cameras, GPS, and flash-storage expansion. Previous Android tablets with this many features typically cost almost twice as much. The $150 to $250 price range appears to be the sweet spot for grabbing the attention and credit cards of people who might not want to spend between $499 and $829 for one of the third-generation iPads.

Smaller screen: mostly a plus

Back in 2010, Steve Jobs dismissed tablets with 7-inch screens as "dead on arrival". And yet the Kindle Fire's quick rise to popularity shows that some consumers prefer smaller tablets.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (top-right). Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (bottom-left).

A tablet with a 7-inch screen is harder to touch type on in landscape mode. On the other hand, thumb typing in portrait mode is much easier than on a larger tablet or even on a smartphone. I hacked an even better solution by hooking up my old Stowaway Bluetooth folding keyboard, which lets you prop up the tablet.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 and Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard.

The Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) has a 1024-by-600-pixel resolution, the same as most netbooks. However, it offers only 60% of the resolution of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which has a 10.1-inch screen with a resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels. This means far fewer Android widgets will fit on one screen. You'll have to use multiple home screens to house all your widgets.

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