SAMSUNG unveiled the Galaxy View tablet at IFA in September and we, along with most of the watching world, believed that the South Korean firm was joining the productivity tablet race with a competitor to the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4.
Well, more fool us. The Galaxy View is indeed a plus-plus-plus-size tablet, but it's actually a media-focused machine designed more for watching Netflix than crafting spreadsheets.
It's surprising, but less so in hindsight. Samsung has always been keen on visuals with the glossy, high-res displays of products like the Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Tab S2, and a tablet like this, essentially a miniature TV, is a reasonably logical next step. That said, is it actually any good? We went hands-on to find out.
This is one truly gargantuan tablet. Full measurements weren't given but it incorporates a huge 18.4in display and a non-removable stand, which pivots to slant the tablet at high and low angles. This is attached at an outward-curving bump about halfway up the Galaxy View's back panel, which also means that it can't be laid flat.
Evidently, this is something that needs to be placed on a table, not held up by hand. The stand does include a carry handle, and the hinge feels strong enough to comfortably take the weight, but it's still heavy enough that we wouldn't want to lug it around, even in the included carry case. It's easily as heavy as a large laptop, and with that stand it takes up more space than one as well.
Perhaps it's just us being used to flat, easily portable slates, but the Galaxy View's general design seems a bit, well, awkward. The fact that the stand can't be removed means that it's always flapping around, adding bulk and threatening to trap our fingers whenever we wanted to move the device around. Also, other than the front panel, which is made from glass, the entire thing is constructed with cheap-feeling plastics that are a far cry from the premium metallic bodywork of Samsung's smartphones and more recent tablets.
As for connectivity, there's a standard microUSB port and a microSD slot, as well as Bluetooth 4.1. Some form of display connectivity, like mini HDMI, might have made sense here, but at least the Galaxy View is big enough to be watchable from a good few feet away.
The Galaxy View's screen is 18.4in diagonally, but it has a relatively low pixel density of 119ppi owing to the 1920x1080 resolution.
These specs aren't technically bad, but they are somewhat out of character for Samsung, a firm which has adorned its mobile devices with some gloriously high-res screens. The Galaxy View, by contrast, is clearly lacking in sharpness when viewed up close, particularly where text and small images are concerned. This is perhaps understandable for such a large display, but considering Samsung's impeccable standards, we can't help but be a little disappointed nonetheless.
One thing Samsung has got right is the colours. The Galaxy View doesn't use Samsung's Super AMOLED tech, but does show off some nicely vibrant hues, bright whites and inky blacks. In fact, it's actually balanced better than the top-end Galaxy S6 Edge+ phablet, which often looked oversaturated.
Operating system and software
The Galaxy View runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, seemingly foregoing the more recent Android 6.0 Marshmallow. We asked Samsung representatives whether it was likely to be updated, but there are no plans yet.
Android Lollipop is, at least, the second-best choice. It includes multi-user support, a battery saver mode and optional hardware encryption, all of which are just as potentially useful here as they are on a smaller tablet.
Samsung has, of course, added its TouchWiz UI. We tolerate this more than certain other custom skins - looking at you, Huawei - because it doesn't interfere too much with stock Android's features. However, it also comes with several proprietary apps which serve little function other than clogging up storage.
One of the few wholly positive additions is a neat grid-based menu for video services. It's an all-in-one launcher for YouTube, Netflix, Twitch and the like which might well come in handy for idle channel surfers. The Galaxy View also comes with a suite of Microsoft Office apps pre-installed, which is convenient although slightly incongruous with its status as an entertainment-focused device.
We didn't get a chance to run benchmarks on the Galaxy View, but it could run Implosion, a 3D action game heavy on flashy visual effects, at a solid frame rate. Indeed, with a 1.6GHz octa-core processor, Samsung's gigantic tablet boasts plenty of on-paper power, even if it can't compete with the firm's speedier smartphones.
Likewise, it can open and switch between apps fairly swiftly, and doesn't slow down when multitasking. The Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro are being packed with top-of-the-line processors and, in the former's case, vast amounts of RAM, but the Galaxy View does at least seem to cope with the tasks for which it was designed. It will be interesting to see how it compares with, say, the Galaxy Tab S2 in the speed stakes.
Battery and storage
Despite the screen undoubtedly drawing a lot of power, Samsung said that the Galaxy View will endure up to 8.5 hours of video playback from a full charge. That's hardly an amazing achievement, though, as we'd expect most 8in-10in slates to last nine hours at least, and that's without a honking great lump sticking out of their backs where a bigger battery could go.
Arguably, battery life isn't quite so important for a device like the Galaxy View, which is most to likely stay parked in a house rather than taken on long journeys. It would still be ideal if it could last through a few films, or a TV series marathon. We'll have to wait and see.
The internal storage of just 32GB is worrying as well, as it will fill up fast for anyone saving HD-quality films. To be fair, this can be expanded with microSD cards, but that's yet another expense for the buyer.
Samsung has put out some great devices recently but, even with decent performance, the Galaxy View feels like it could break the streak. The non-removable stand is a baffling design choice, making it less portable than a conventional laptop while offering next to nothing in advantages, and the display, while colourful, isn't anywhere near as crisp as we've come to expect from Samsung.
Really, though, the Galaxy View isn't appealing because it neither improves existing products nor fills a particular niche. For big-screen home entertainment on an Android device we'd sooner connect a much more portable slate to our TV, and for watching films and TV around the house, we'd take a flat-bottomed laptop over the warped and weird Galaxy View. µ