Look and Feel
The most surprising thing about the Tab 8.9 4G is its weight. I touched on the subject at the start of the review, but it really is surprisingly light. Weighing in at just 453 grams, it really is a great weight to lug around with you. I'm used to lugging around my third-gen iPad and it really begins to blur the lines between tablet and proper PC/tablet/laptop or whatever words you'd like to use to justify its weight and size. The Tab 8.9 4G feels like the benchmark of tablet weight.
I took the Tab 8.9 away for the weekend on a family holiday and it fits into my bag snug because of its size and is light enough to hold in one hand and just walk around the house using it. Using it vertically, it just feels like an oversized phone. I'm quite surprised of the difference in use between an 8.9-inch tablet compared to the 10.1-inch of the iPad. I can't use enough words in this review to say just how great it felt to use a tablet of this weight, coming down from the brick that is the iPad - a job well done by Samsung.
Aesthetics are important and aesthetics come down to personal opinion and taste. The looks do their job, but they aren't a huge selling point. The silver trim isn't the best; I would prefer something darker, like black maybe. I think the silver is overused and I think Samsung could've done some more work on the physical design of it.
Samsung have the hard task of making their tablets physically attractive to drag customers away from the tablet with a fruit logo on the back of it. Once you're over that, you're going to turn the Tab 8.9 4G over and see that it's white. The white, at first glance, feels out of place. But, Samsung have done some stylish things on the back, where the top of the unit itself (where the camera is placed) has a silver trim, whilst the rest of the rear of the Tab 8.9 4G is white.
[From top to bottom: Samsung Galaxy S II, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G and Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch 2011 Edition]
Samsung's Galaxy Tab 8.9 sports an 8.9-inch screen with a resolution of 1280x800, which means that Samsung didn't compromise on screen resolution when dropping down from the Tab 10.1 and it's slightly bigger screen with the same resolution. The resolution lets you throw a bunch of widgets and icons onto the screen and measuring in at just 8.9 inches, it doesn't feel cramped thanks to the resolution bump.
The Tab 8.9's size also makes it easier to hold it in landscape and type with two hands, without your hands feeling like they're going to stretch apart and break. I don't have the biggest hands, I'd go as far as saying I have average-sized hands. The Tab 8.9 feels comfortable in landscape, for typing or gaming, which is another benefit of its 8.9-inch size versus the 10.1-inch of most slates.
So what do we have here? We have something that feels great to hold in a single hand, with a screen that also matches the feeling of the weight. It seems Samsung really wins in these departments and after a while of use, I'm sure you'll agree, too.
There are a few downsides to the Tab 8.9, the first of which is it doesn't feature an SD card slot, meaning that whatever sized flavor you purchased it in, is it. Unlike the company's smartphones, there's no way to throw in a microSD card and expand that storage up by 16, 32 or 64GB.
One of the smaller annoyances was that Samsung have decided to opt for a proprietary connector to charge the device. I really don't like this at all, especially when their Galaxy smartphones sport normal microUSB connectors. microUSB connectors are a perfect way of doing things, as a user can have more than one device, but have the same cable charge them. This means you can just have a handful of the same cables and use the same cable and power adapter to charge them all. Samsung's decision to use a proprietary cable on their Galaxy Tab 8.9 (and other Tab's) is just weird and I sincerely hope they flip this decision around when it comes to future Tab's.
There's no HDMI, unfortunately, which means you won't be hooking up the Tab 8.9 to your TV or monitor for big-screen gaming or showing off some pictures or video. Not that this is a selling point, but Samsung want and need to stand out from the iPad's shadow. These types of things are great selling points at the retail level, especially since most people looking to buy a Tab 8.9 most likely have a big-screen TV at home or at least a PC monitor with an HDMI connection.