IFA is one of the largest consumer electronics trade shows in the world, and it’s also one of the most unique. The annual show, held this week in Berlin, has a knack for announcing new washing machines, sewing machines and kitchen appliances alongside the latest smartphones, smartwatches and tablets. Here at Engadget, we’re primarily focused on the latter (though who doesn’t love a free fruit smoothie sample from time to time?), and there’s a lot to cover. Let’s head straight into what new gadgets and devices we can expect to see announced at this week’s event.
Before 2011, very few companies launched smartphones or tablets at IFA. Only a handful of phone makers bothered showing up with new devices, and in most cases they were mid-range at best. That all changed after Samsung launched the Galaxy Note at the show — and turned the practice into an annual IFA tradition. Now, as the company prepares to release its fourth large-screened flagship phone in as many years, several manufacturers have followed and now use IFA as a launching pad for the latest and greatest gadgets.
Samsung has made it no secret that it plans to follow precedent and announce the next entry in the Note series, thanks to a series of teasers leading up to this week’s unveiling. It’s done a fantastic job of preventing major leaks, however; nobody knows for sure what it looks like, because the company’s managed to keep images and specs of the Note 4 close to its chest so far. Chances are, Samsung won’t be ready to ship the device for a few more weeks, which would follow the same pattern set by the Galaxy S5 this spring.
The rumor mill is pretty dry for other Samsung phones. We’ve seen recent reports that Samsung has filed a trademark with the USPTO for something called the Galaxy Note Edge, but we can’t take this as a guarantee that the company will introduce such a product at IFA. We’re also excited to see the Galaxy Alpha, which is a sleek device with a metal frame that was officially announced a couple weeks ago.
Whereas Samsung has done a fantastic job at keeping quiet about its upcoming Note phone, Sony’s the complete opposite. Unless the company has something new up its sleeve, we’ve likely seen its entire holiday roadmap. At IFA, plan on seeing the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact: As you might expect, the former is the flagship, while the latter is a smaller version. If the rumors are true, the Z3 Compact will be just as close in specs to its larger brother as the Z1 Compact was. This is fantastic news, because it means that users who prefer smaller screens won’t be forced to endure midrange hardware.
Microsoft Devices — y’know, Nokia’s phone division — will also come to Berlin with at least one or two smartphones. The company hasn’t been shy about showing it off internally to employees, as we’ve heard several reports indicating that Stephen Elop has been proudly talking up the devices at recent town hall meetings. The higher-end of the two is the Lumia 830, which will be the most affordable PureView-branded device. If the leaks are accurate, we can expect the 830 to look similar to the 930 and come with a 10MP camera. There’ll also be a “selfie phone,” presumably the Lumia 730, which will focus on bringing a solid front-facing imaging experience to mid-tier buyers.
LG’s already announced most (if not all) of its product lineup, which includes the G3 Stylus. It’s a less-expensive version of the G3 that comes with a 5.5-inch qHD screen and — you guessed it — a stylus. We may also see the Gx2, a followup to a device that landed exclusively in Asia last year, and a couple of low-end L-series devices designed for emerging markets.
IFA will house several other manufacturers, so there will be plenty of other smartphones on display. Acer, ASUS, Alcatel OneTouch, HTC and Lenovo will all be there, so be on the lookout for some of their wares. Lenovo’s made the most noise from this group, thanks to its Vibe X2 teaser mocking Apple’s iPhone event invites. (And yes, that is indeed a lollipop in the teaser.)
Smartwatches have been around in at least some capacity for several years — it all started with Microsoft SPOT and has continued on through Sony, Pebble and others — but people didn’t seem to notice or care until Samsung came out with a “mainstream” product known as the Galaxy Gear. The Android-based watch came out alongside the Galaxy Note 3 at last year’s IFA. It’s amazing how much can change in twelve months: Samsung is showing off its sixth watch, LG will have its second on display, Sony will have two more and ASUS will join the party with its first.
Both Samsung and LG officially announced their watches last week — curiously, within just a few minutes of each other — and the two devices are completely different from each other. The Samsung Gear S is a Tizen watch that comes with a curved display and built-in SIM slot, so you can either pair it to a phone or use it as a phone. On the other hand (wrist?), LG’s newest Android Wear watch steers closer to a truly classic look thanks to its circular display. It’s called the G Watch R, and despite the clunky name, it’s got enough chops to give the Moto 360 some tough competition.
Sony hasn’t made any announcements yet, but the leaks for its watches, the Smartwatch 3 and SmartBand Talk, are just as prominent as the company’s phones. The former is a squarish Android Wear watch, while the latter is a fitness band with E-Ink display and a mic. Finally, ASUS’ first watch will be an Android Wear device called the ZenWatch, and the company will reportedly sell it for under $200, which will be aggressively priced against its competitors.
VR and everything else
A few months ago, we broke the news that Samsung was working on its very own virtual reality headset called the Gear VR, and reported that it would likely launch at IFA. Sure enough, plenty of leaked images and renders have followed; given the number and strength of the rumors, we’d be surprised if Samsung didn’t release the product at this year’s show.
There’ll also be a few tablets, but they seem like much more of an afterthought. Sony’s leaked Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is a horrible name, but looks like a good 8-inch tablet; Huawei’s got a Mate 7 tablet inbound; and per tradition, ASUS will have at least one or two tablets there.
Finally, expect to see some news on the chipset and Chromebook fronts. For the former, Intel is planning to introduce hardware — likely tablets and laptops — running its new Core M chipset based on Broadwell architecture. Additionally, Qualcomm teased a new HTC smartphone with a 64-bit processor inside. As for Chromebooks, at least a couple new models from Acer and Toshiba will pop up, although we wouldn’t be surprised to see a few other options showing up.
As always, these are simply a few products we expect to see at the show, and let’s face it — events like this hardly ever go exactly as planned. There’ll be new TVs and Smart Home products, and we’re sure a new washing machine or two. We’ll be liveblogging Samsung’s and Sony’s product launches, and we’ll be there to cover everything else that happens in Berlin, so keep our event page bookmarked!
If I had a lot of money – and I don’t – but if I did, I would probably still not get this, but each to their own. Samsung just announced the Gear S Strap with embedded Swarovski crystals, a swanky take on Samsung’s latest smartwatch, the newest addition to Samsung’s “Swarovski with Samsung” range which includes the likes of a Samsung Galaxy S5 with crystals embedded in the back cover. The Gear S Strap also employs the use of something called “Crystal Fine Mesh” which is apparently the latest thing from Swarovski.
The newly announced Gear S was already a pretty stylish thing, so unless you’re swimming in cash, this might not be the smartwatch for you, though Samsung is interestingly mum on pricing in its press release. Apart from the crystals, there don’t appear to be any differences in the device so you will still get a dualcore 1GHz processor, a curved 2-inch AMOLED display, a 300mAh battery and a 3G modem that will enable mobile data features on the device.
What do you think about the Samsung Gear S Strap? Is this a device you would like to rock? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
The post Sammy Glam: Samsung announces Gear S Strap with embedded Swarovski crystals appeared first on AndroidSPIN.
LG’s not the only electronics maker hoping a scattering of Swarovski will add… something to its products. Not far behind, Samsung now has the Gear S Strap, an accessory ready to pair to its just-announced (and again, just after LG) wearable. If you’re a fan of Swarovski, you’ll be glad to hear it uses the company’s newest Crystal Fine Mesh which, according to Samsung, is apparently already being sprinkled upon “top brands in the fashion industry.” And if you’re not a fan, well, you’re probably not remotely interested or even reading this. It’ll be available in Samsung’s flagship stores next month.
IFA 2014 is almost upon us and the usual suspects are looking like they are able to unleash upon the world a whole slew of new and fantastical devices for us to throw our money at. Among the devices, and potentially one of the most anticipated, is the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, the latest device in Samsung‘s lineup that it hopes will be a bit more of a success than the Galaxy S5 was. With Samsung’s September 3rd UNPACKED event just around the corner, it’s not surprising to see the alleged Samsung Galaxy Note 4 IFA 2014 poster make an appearance, albeit a blurry one.
I’m not sure how the photo taken, but perhaps the photographer was undercover, hiding in a fish tank. Whatever the case, it does look like this might just be real deal, with the poster claiming the Note 4 has a Quad HD (QHD) display, something we have been suspecting for some time. It also looks like Samsung has done a good job of minimizing the bezels of the device which will help immensely with keeping the device small even with a 5.7-inch display.
Are you excited for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4′s announcement? Let us know your thoughts.
The post Samsung Galaxy Note 4 IFA 2014 poster gets a blurry spotting ahead of 3rd September event appeared first on AndroidSPIN.
Let’s say you bought a pricey curved TV, only to remember that your existing soundbar is (gasp!) flat. Will you have to live with that geometry mismatch for the life of your set? Not if Samsung has its way. It just unveiled the Curved Soundbar, which it says is the first audio system designed to match curved screens — specifically, the company’s 55- and 65-inch sets. The aluminum-clad device looks the part, of course, although it also promises some better-than-average audio with 8.1-channel surround support and side speakers that add to the immersion. There’s no word on just when the curvy peripheral will show up or how much it will cost, but it’s likely to sit on the higher end of the price spectrum.
There is some good news if you’re not interested in expensive TV audio. Samsung is adding a low-end model, the M3 (below), to its multi-room wireless audio system. The firm isn’t saying just what kind of output you’ll get from the M3 right now, although it’s safe to presume that the smaller speaker won’t deliver quite as much oomph as the M5 or M7. It will, however, add rich Spotify Connect support; you’ll get to stream your tunes through multiple M-series speakers at the same time. It’s doubtful that the M3 will sway you from the Sonos Play:1 or other lower-cost wireless speakers that you might already own, but it’s nice to have another major alternative.
Source: Samsung Tomorrow
Relations between Google and Samsung are already a little tense, but the Korean smartphone maker may just have elevated those frustrations a little further. Extending its existing deal to provide mapping data on Samsung’s Tizen wearables, Nokia (the part that wasn’t sold to Microsoft) today confirmed that it will bring HERE Maps to Android for the first time, giving Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners advanced access to its own Google Maps alternative.
After Nokia jettisoned its smartphone division, the company doubled-down on HERE, striking deals with a few of its former rivals, including Amazon, Jolla and, of course, Samsung. The app itself comes with many of the features you’d find in Google Maps, but also excels in some areas where Google doesn’t. A couple of examples include true offline maps, which are currently supported in 95 countries, and LiveSight, which lets users navigate to landmarks by following virtual signs on their screen. If you don’t own a Samsung smartphone, don’t fret, Nokia says that HERE Maps will come to other Android devices by the end of the year (note: you can still use Google Maps, even on a Samsung handset). The HERE Maps beta will make its way to Galaxy phones when the 3G-enabled Gear S smartwatch goes on sale, which is expected sometime in October.
Google and Samsung have the weirdest relationship. The on-again, off-again nature of their partnership seems perilous at the best of times and this latest move from Samsung probably doesn’t bode well. Samsung has announced that Nokia‘s HERE Maps, previously announced to be available on Samsung’s Gear wearables, will also become available exclusively to Samsung Galaxy smartphones in the form of HERE Maps for Android for free. This is at direct odds with what Google wants, who have previously told Samsung to back off with proprietary apps which try to emulate the function of Google’s own apps. And adding an app from Android’s competitor, Windows Phone poster-child Nokia, which obviously competes with Google Maps, is surely Samsung just asking for trouble.
Regardless of what happens between the tech giants, HERE Maps for Android is definitely being released, and its timed release is scheduled for when the Samsung Gear S is released in October. HERE Maps features some pretty nifty features including offline navigation and Nokia say all of HERE’s features can be utilized without an Internet connection. This is thanks to the downloading of maps onto your phone, of which there are currently more than 200 to choose from.
What do you think about Samsung’s decision to make a Nokia product exclusive for Samsung Galaxy smartphones? Let us know your thoughts.
The post HERE Maps for Android will be exclusively available to Samsung Galaxy smartphones for free appeared first on AndroidSPIN.
As IFA 2014 nears, we’re going to undoubtedly see an increased number of leaks for the devices scheduled for announcement. The lucky leak of the day goes to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 today and we see the device featured in a rather silent video. Of course, we can’t exactly confirm the leak’s integrity given that the device shown is heavily disguised, hiding probably the only thing that might differentiate it from older Samsung devices: a metal frame, which we have seen teased in Samsung’s Note 4 video. We do also see the S-Pen lying around next to the device, but there’s no effort to show it off in this particular video.
Whether this is the real deal or not, we’re pretty certain we have a good picture of what will make up the Note 4 when it is announced on September 3rd at Samsung‘s UNPACKED event. We’re expecting two variants of the device, one with an Exynos 5433 processor, the other with a Snapdragon 805 – which is available to you will depend on your market. We’re also expecting to see a 5.7-inch Quad HD display, for which we’ve had its beautiful wallpaper leaked already.
What do you think about this leak? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.
The post Disguised Samsung Galaxy Note 4 makes an appearance in leaked video appeared first on AndroidSPIN.
Sprint released some news this morning pertaining to the Samsung Galaxy S4 with Spark that resides on their network. Owners of the device will start to see an OTA update coming through that will focus primarily on Wi-Fi calling. More importantly though, the Wi-Fi calling aspect is geared towards international travelers and will allow users to call and text abroad on Wi-Fi networks for no additional cost.
“We are excited to roll out International Wi-Fi Calling as part of our commitment to enhancing the customer experience and expanding the calling reach for our customers,” said Wayne Ward, vice president-Business & Product Development, Sprint. “As this international capability becomes available on more of our devices, Sprint customers won’t have to think twice about calling home while on vacation or away on business. This is one more tool we are giving our customers to stay easily connected with those who matter most.”
The ability will cover you in more than 100 countries around the globe on private, office and public Wi-Fi networks. It is only free to message and call back to the US, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico though, so don’t expect to make reservations at Al Covo in Venice. Sprint plans to add the international Wi-Fi calling ability to more device throughout the rest of this year.
On a side note, Sprint does offer Wi-Fi calling on 11 total devices currently available on the market, but those don’t have the international aspect activated just yet.
The post Sprints Samsung Galaxy S4 gaining International Wi-Fi calling OTA appeared first on AndroidSPIN.
There was a time when Barnes & Noble was so big, so dominating, that even Tom Hanks managed to look like a jerk when he played a book-chain executive. But times have changed, and as people began to order their books online — or even download them — B&N found itself struggling to keep up. After losing a lot of money last year, the company decided it was time for a change: It vowed to stop making its own tablets, and instead team up with some third-party company to better take on Amazon and its Kindle Fire line. Turns out, that third party was none other than Samsung, and the fruits of their partnership, the $179 Galaxy Tab 4 Nook, is basically a repackaged version of the existing Galaxy Tab 4 7.0. Well, almost, anyway. The 7-inch slate comes pre-loaded with $200 worth of free content, and the core Nook app has been redesigned to the point that it actually offers a better reading experience than the regular Nook Android app. But is that a good enough reason to buy this instead of a Kindle Fire? Or any other Android tablet, for that matter?
As you’ve already gathered, this is the same hardware you’ll find on the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 4, which came out four months ago. Since we never got around to reviewing that, though, I’ll do a thorough walk-through here as if it were a brand-new device. What’s funny is that depending on how you look at it, you actually have seen this tablet before: The Nook (available in black and white) has the same textured plastic backing as other recent Samsung devices. As I’ve said about other products, like the Chromebook 2, the leathery plastic and chrome accents go a long way in making an otherwise generic device look more expensive than it is. As a bonus, the textured plastic doesn’t pick up fingerprints, and it’s pretty scratch-resistant, too. During my testing, I routinely tossed the tablet in a bag with pointy items like pens and keys, and it never emerged worse for wear.
The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is a 7-inch device, so of course it’s small, lightweight and easy to hold. At 0.35 inch thick, it’s a little chubby compared to other small-screen slates, like the 8-inch Galaxy Tab S. Even so, it weighs just 0.6 pound, so let’s not nitpick to the point where we’re calling this thing “heavy.” It’s not. And besides, you might even find that those wide, flat edges make the tablet easier to hold.
For a budget device, the screen is actually quite lovely. Sure, the 1,280 x 800 resolution translates to a not-so-great pixel density of 216 ppi, but then again, what more did you expect on a $179 tablet? For the money, you get a bright panel with good viewing angles that’s well-suited for reading and movie-watching. Even at half-brightness, I had no problems using it on a long rail trip, with daylight streaming in through the window next to me.
Flip the device around and you’ll find the usual spate of ports: a headphone jack up top, a micro-USB charging socket on the bottom, a speaker and 3-megapixel camera around back and a 1.3MP one up front. The right edge, meanwhile, is home to a volume rocker, power button and IR blaster — a fairly uncommon feature on a budget tablet. Nearby, you’ll also find a microSD slot supporting cards up to 32GB. It’s a shame that’s not a microSDXC slot, capable of holding higher-capacity cards — you’ll need every last bit of storage space to augment the device’s skimpy 8GB of built-in memory, only 2GB of which is user-accessible.
The way Samsung and Barnes & Noble pitched the device, this is Samsung hardware mixed with B&N’s Nook software. That’s a little misleading: This is a Samsung tablet, with Samsung’s user interface, but with some Nook apps sprinkled in, too. What we have here is the same TouchWiz experience — everything from the icons to the onscreen keyboard to the settings menu is the same as on other Samsung tablets. Likewise, there’s Samsung’s signature Multi Window feature, allowing you to view two apps side by side. It even has Google Play access, so you can download all the apps you’d install on any other Android device — yes, including Amazon Kindle. What’s nice, though, is that unlike other Samsung tablets, this one doesn’t include Sammy’s intrusive My Magazine — big panels that sit to the left of the home screen and can’t be removed. I don’t really like the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook, as you’ll see, but I do wish other Samsung products had this scaled-back UI.
Other than that, the biggest difference is that Sammy pre-loaded the Nook tablet with some key Barnes & Noble applications, including Nook Apps, Nook Library, Nook Search, Nook Settings, Nook Shop, Nook Today (a personalized recommendation engine) and Nook Highlights (useful if you choose to underline stuff as you’re reading). You’ll also find (removable) widgets for your library and the Nook Store — in fact, both were waiting for me on the home screen when I booted up the device.
Additionally, Samsung and Barnes & Noble tossed in some free content — a motley collection of books, magazines, movies and TV shows said to be worth $200. There’s something for everyone here; the flip side is that much of it will probably register as junk. On your bookshelf, To Kill a Mockingbird sits alongside a Danielle Steel romance and the kid’s title Pete the Cat. For film and TV, there’s the pilot episode of Veep, among other shows, as well as The Lego Movie. (Fortunately, the Nook has a parental control feature allowing for different user profiles.) If it’s magazines you’re after, you have a choice of three: Us Weekly, National Geographic and Sports Illustrated. Finally, you’ll get $5 in Nook Store credit. It’s a nice gesture, but it won’t go far: Five bucks isn’t enough to buy most e-books in B&N’s catalog. Again, I’m sure the two companies meant well, but if it were a choice between extra content and a tablet with faster performance and longer battery life, I’d choose the latter in a heartbeat.
What’s surprised me is that this is not a copy-and-paste of the regular Nook for Android app. Whereas the Nook application on my Moto X combines the library, search and store functions into one place, the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook contains different apps for all those things. Whichever you use, the core functionality is the same: In addition to reading content, you can access the store, highlight passages and rate/review stuff. But here, the icons are different, and you don’t always have to drill as far into menus to get what you want (see: font options, search, table of contents). Highlighting text is also easier in the Samsung app than the regular Android one. If anything, the UI feels more similar to Barnes & Noble’s e-ink e-readers, which is funny because that would seem to be an entirely different class of product. Certainly, this is a more pleasant Nook experience than what you’d get on other Android devices. Something to keep in mind if you’re already a loyal Barnes & Noble customer.
Beside the various Nook apps, Samsung installed a few other third-party programs as well, including Dropbox, Hancom Office 2014, Netflix, OfficeSuite 7 (the more robust of the two office programs here) and the game Rayman Jungle Run. You’ll also find a shortcut to Samsung’s own curated app store — you know, should Google Play not be enough. Obviously, this is a bit of a mixed bag, but to each his own. You can at least uninstall anything that doesn’t suit you.
Performance and battery life
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook||ASUS MeMO Pad 7 and 8 **||Nexus 7 (2013)||Samsung Galaxy Tab S ***||Amazon Kindle Fire HDX (7-inch)|
|SunSpider 1.0.2 (ms)*||1,636||607||602||1,109||554|
|3DMark IS Unlimited||2,659||14,171||N/A||12,431||N/A|
*SunSpider: Lower scores are better.
**Average score for the 7- and 8-inch models.
***Average score for the 8.4- and 10.5-inch models.
I only saw the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook for the first time last week, but already I’ve heard Barnes & Noble reps say several times that the tablet is built for reading. To some extent, they’re just stating the obvious: Samsung and Barnes & Noble built a tablet together, and it’s supposed to offer a great reading experience, because that’s what B&N is good at. Duh. But I also suspect the two companies have been trying to keep our expectations in check. Even for a budget tablet, this thing is kinda slow, and I think Samsung and Barnes & Noble both know it. Under the hood, it has the same internals as the regular Galaxy Tab 4 7.0 — a 1.2GHz quad-core Marvell PXA 1088 processor and 1.5GB of RAM, a combination that sorely trails the competition in benchmark tests. The results were so bad, in fact, that I thought at first the numbers might be flukes. Indeed, I ran the tests many, many times, and the results were always far below other tablets, even the similarly priced ASUS MeMO Pad 7, last year’s Nexus 7 and the 7-inch Amazon Fire HDX.
That sluggishness rears its head in real-word use, too. The accelerometer was often slow to catch up as I flipped the device from portrait to landscape mode and back. Web browsing is smooth enough, though the benchmarks suggest you’d have an even snappier experience on competing devices. Cold-booting the device takes a long 24 seconds, forcing you to wait through animated splash screens for both Samsung and Nook. Multi Window mode works, but it can take a second or two for a new app to load if you decide to replace one of the two panes. Even the Nook library — the app that matters most — was often slow to load up my bookshelf. Like other Samsung devices, the Nook was initially slow to minimize apps when I pressed the home button. Luckily, there’s a solution, and it actually has to do with S Voice, of all things: Just go into S Voice settings and uncheck the box “open via the home key.” That way, when you press the home button, the device won’t wait to see if you’ll do a double-press to launch the voice assistant. With that issue, at least, I was able to improve the performance.
The problem, too, is that for the folks buying this, the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook isn’t just for reading. If it were, they’d get a standalone e-reader and call it a day. But if you’re going to get an Android tablet, particularly one with multi-window support and access to the Google Play store, you probably want to do more than just read e-books. You want to download apps. Stream movies. Browse the web. Maybe play the occasional game. The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook can do most of that, but not always smoothly. Another device — even a competing budget tablet — will probably feel faster.
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook||7:34|
|Microsoft Surface 2||14:22 (LTE)|
|Apple iPad Air||13:45 (LTE)|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S (10-inch)||12:30|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8-inch)||12:22|
|Apple iPad mini with Retina display||11:55 (LTE)|
|Amazon Kindle Fire HDX (7-inch)||10:41 (WiFi)|
|Nexus 7 (2012)||9:49|
|ASUS MeMO Pad 8||9:21|
|Kindle Fire HD (8.9-inch)||9:01|
|ASUS MeMO Pad 7||8:36|
|NVIDIA Shield tablet||8:23|
|Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet (2012)||7:57|
|Nexus 7 (2013)||7:15|
Samsung says the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook’s battery can last up to 10 hours. With light usage, that might well be true. But in our (admittedly taxing) video rundown test, the battery died out a few hours sooner. All in all, the tablet was able to last through about seven and a half hours of looping a 1080p video at fixed brightness, with social networks periodically refreshing in the background. Again, your mileage will vary, but it’s worth noting that other devices can do better. ASUS’ MeMO Pad 7 also got about an hour more than the Nook. Meanwhile, the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire HDX managed nearly 11 hours in the same grueling test. Even the 2013 Nexus 7 gets about the same runtime as the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook — and the performance is slightly better, too.
When the original Nook Tablet came out, it was easy to forgive some of its shortcomings, just because the price was fairly low. At the time, $249 was cheap for an Android tablet, especially when flagships routinely sold for $500 and up. This is a different time, though, and while $170 isn’t bad for this new Nook device, it also faces stiffer competition. The ASUS MeMO Pad 7, for instance, has a lower price of $150, complete with an IPS display, double the internal storage, longer battery life, a microSDXC slot supporting higher-capacity cards and a quad-core processor that creams the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook in benchmarks.
Meanwhile, Dell sells the $160 Venue 7, which has a 1,280 x 800 IPS screen and a higher-resolution 5MP rear camera. (I haven’t tested that, so I can’t vouch for the performance.) Finally, it comes with 16GB of storage, and can accommodate memory cards as large as 64GB. It goes without saying, too, that any Android tablet is capable of running the standard Nook app. So far as I can tell, then, the one thing the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook has going for it is Multi Window support, but what good is that if the processor is too weak to handle it?
If you’re willing to spend more, the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire HDX starts at $229 with 16GB of storage ($244 without ads on the lock screen). For the money, almost everything is better: The battery life is several hours longer, and the performance is stronger, thanks to a fairly up-to-date Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM. The screen is sharper too, with 1,920 x 1,200 resolution and a tight pixel density of 323 ppi. You won’t get Google Play access, unfortunately, but Amazon’s own app store has grown steadily over the years, and its digital content selection is just as diverse as Barnes & Noble’s.
Amazon even basically matches B&N on technical support: Whereas Barnes & Noble offers lifetime in-store service for its Nook tablets, Amazon’s built-in “Mayday” feature lets you access live help anytime. Other than the fact that Amazon’s tablet costs $50 more, it’s hard to say why you’d get the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook instead. Because even if having access to Google Play is important to you, you’d still be better off with last year’s Nexus 7. It costs $229, just like the Kindle Fire HDX, and it too has a 1,920 x 1,200 screen. The performance won’t be quite as brisk as the HDX, but it should still be snappier than the new Nook tablet. The battery life is similar to the Nook as well, so you’re not giving up anything in the way of endurance.
This should come as a shock to no one, but the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is only a good idea if you’re already a loyal Barnes & Noble customer. Setting aside the fact that it comes with free content (a gimmick, if you ask me), this tablet is appealing because it offers a better reading experience than even the regular Nook for Android app. Until Barnes & Noble redesigns its standard Android application, this is the best Nook experience you’re going to get, short of buying one of B&N’s standalone, e-ink e-readers.
Even then, that’s a stretch: It’s not like the regular Nook app is so bad that you shouldn’t consider other Android tablets. If you’re not even a Nook customer, then there’s definitely no reason to buy this. Sure, the design is nice, and the screen is bright, but the battery life is short compared to competing devices, and the performance is slower. Adding insult to injury, you get less built-in storage for apps, books, photos and music, and the microSD slot doesn’t accept cards larger than 32GB. For people who just want a budget Android tab, and don’t care where they buy their books, you can do better, even for $179.