Update: Check out our Samsung Galaxy Tablet review.

It’s the year of the tablet. There’s no doubt about it. After CES and the horde of tablet announcements, netbooks can kiss their collective asses goodbye. There’s a new low-end computing device in town.

Though realistically, we’ve had multi-touch tablets for nearly ten months now, but besides for the iPad, every other player in the tablet field is new. Taking that into consideration, here’s our first look at the Samsung Galaxy Tablet.

The Samsung Galaxy Tablet is, for all intents and purposes, a Samsung Galaxy S phone that’s larger and lacks the ability to make phone calls through a service provider. The hardware is the same, the software is the same, and only the size of the screen and battery are really different. After just a few hours of use, that’s disheartening, and really gives merit to what Apple COO Tim Cook said recently, that Android Tablets are “vapor“, and really no different than Android phones. The same could be said about the iPad vs. iPhone, though there are differences in the operating systems and capabilities. Right now with Android 2.2 (Froyo), there are no differences between phones and tablets. That’s set to change with OS 3.0 (Honeycomb).

That means that for now, and perhaps permanently if the Galaxy Tablet will not be upgraded to Honeycomb, this tablet is just a big Android device. Considering the high price and requirement to buy a 3G model, I immediately asked “why bother?” Especially if you already own an Android phone. Once again, the same argument can be posed for iPhone owners purchasing the iPad.

Still, there is something special about the form factor. The 7″ screen is small compared to a laptop, netbook or the iPad, but the device as a whole feels more like a Kindle than a tablet. You can hold it with one hand comfortably. You can type on it with two hands like you would on a phone, with your thumbs. This is vastly different from the iPad, which is so big that you must hold it with just one hand and use the other to type, or set it down on a surface to use both hands. The iPad is too large to type with your thumbs and just a tad too small for full-hand typing, but the Galaxy is comfortable held vertically or horizontally.

While I’m not surprised that the tablet doesn’t have a SuperAMOLED screen (especially after a Samsung engineer said they were running low), the bigger 600×1024 display is comfortable to use and read on, though the form factor is a bit weird compared to cellphones and other tablets. The widescreen format has never been made so small, generally reserved for 12″ laptop displays at the smallest. It makes viewing web pages when holding the Galaxy odd because the pages go across fully, but they are so limited going down.

I’m both impressed with the form factor and somewhat disappointed that I could do all of the same on most of today’s Android phones, but as I continue testing the Samsung Galaxy Tablet, I’ll publish a full review of how the device works, with recommendations.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.