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3/24/2011
11:48 AM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Samsung Galaxy Tablet Not Thinner Than iPad 2, But Who Cares

Samsung took a big shot at Apple at CTIA this week, boasting that its 10-inch Galaxy Tab Android tablet is thinner and lighter than the iPad 2. Our photos say otherwise. Regardless, the tablet competition just got hotter.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs set the bar on March 2, when he unveiled the stunningly thin (8.8 mm) iPad 2. Not to be outdone, Samsung re-crafted its Galaxy Tab 10.1, which it had just launched a month earlier at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Samsung's original 10-inch Android tablet, with its grippable frame, is now only 8.6 mm thin. Or so says Samsung.

But something is awry, because the iPad 2 is still slimmer by a few hairs. I don't carry calipers, but I do have a camera!

Casual observers at the CTIA show in Orlando, Fla., this week didn't notice, and neither will buyers. Both tablets are incredibly light and small. Samsung even announced an 8.9-inch display version. With the first Galaxy Tab's display measuring seven inches, Samsung's story is clever and simple: 7, 8.9, 10. The message: Not only are Samsung's tablets just as thin and light as the iPad 2, but they're also just as powerful, their cameras are better, and they come in a variety of sizes. Take that, Apple.

Samsung wouldn't let us turn on the new tablets, leading to some speculation that they aren't exactly real ("prototypes," Samsung called them), what with the June 8 target for the 10.1 and summer for the 8.9-inch version. A Samsung spokesman told me that the tablet's Weight Watchers program began between Mobile World Congress and now ... but one might narrow that timeframe to the weeks after the March 2 unveiling of the iPad 2. A complete hardware redesign in less than one month might be a bit much, even for a prolific company like Samsung. No matter. June 8 is the watch date.

One company tosses a javelin, the next tosses it farther. This might just get fun if it weren't so maddeningly difficult to keep up. Let's review the competition so far.

The latest one-upmanship centers on size. While I don't care whether the iPad 2 or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a couple of sheets of paper thinner than the other, that Samsung would go through such a redesign so quickly shows what's at stake here. Samsung's spokesman said the company doesn't enter a market where it doesn't intend to be No. 1. In response to the pictures directly below (the iPad 2 is the device on the left), there was really no official Samsung response other than to say that the specifications are 8.6 mm. He was at a loss for words. I'll bring my calipers on June 8; meantime, these pictures will have to suffice, at least for those who care about these quibbles.

Samsung Galaxy Tablet vs. iPad Samsung Galaxy Tablet vs. iPad 2

Core hardware is another tablet battleground, though raw compute and graphics performance may matter most to gamers, and possibly to those obsessed with things like 3D content. Nearly every tablet comes with dual-core processors.An exception is the just announced HTC EVO View, which has only a single core, even though HTC also introduced a phone with dual-core processors. (That's the sound of me scratching my head.) Apple uses, ironically, Samsung processors in its iPad 2; Samsung uses the NVidia Tegra 2. The new HTC tablet runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon. Motorola also uses the Tegra 2, as does LG's G-Slate. (LG is also using TI's OMAP 4 dual core in its Optimus 3D, a full 3D, stereoscopic display phone--no glasses needed.)

All of the chip companies make their own performance boasts. The Sprint-HTC phone and tablet announcement this week featured talk of how Qualcomm's Snapdragon uses asynchronous scaling, meaning as processor needs grow, only one CPU has to kick into action until the other one is needed, extending battery life and reducing heat dissipation, according to one Qualcomm executive I talked to.

NVidia told me that Qualcomm's claims are specious. Because the system caches must be synchronized to ensure data coherency, one fast-moving CPU could have to wait for the caches to synchronize. Dizzy yet? NVidia says it boosts performance while preserving battery life by using DVFS -- dynamic voltage frequency scaling. Dizzy now?

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