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Samsung Galaxy Tab Active

Samsung offers a tougher, IP67-sealed version of the Tab 4 tablet. Here's what to expect from it.
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

On September 4, 2014, Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab Active, which the company called their "first tablet built specifically for business." Samsung says that vertical market customers in retail, logistics and transportation provided advistory group feedback that went into the development of the product. Samsung claims IP67 and a 4-foot drop spec, making the Galaxy Tab Active potentially interesting for numerous customers seeking an inexpensive rugged tablet solution.

Can the Galaxy Tab Active deliver? We have not had hands-on, but judging by the specs and pedigree of the device, that depends entirely on expectations. The Tab Active seems based on the inexpensive (US$250 range) consumer Galaxy Tab 4 8.0, but has been clad in a substantially upgraded housing. As far as the "first tablet built specifically for business," the picture below shows the new Tab Active side by side with a 1992 Samsung PenMaster, a PenPoint-powered 4.8-pound tablet with a Wacom pen. We don't know how many PenMasters were used in business, but it's definitely the Tab Active's ancestor.

But is the Galaxy Tab Active really a feasible solution for businesses that need an 8-inch -class tablet that can take a beating, or is it just a consumer tablet in a case? A bit of both. The guts seem the same as the consumer Galaxy Tab 4, i.e. a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400, a gig-and-a-half of RAM, and 16GB that can be augmented with up to 64GB via microSD card. The 8-inch display offers 800 x 1280 pixel resolution and, of course, capacitive multi-touch. There's Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and 802.11 a/b/g/n. All standard budget Android tablet fare.

The Galaxy Tab Active has a 16.9 watt-hour replaceable battery that's good for about ten hours of operation, and Samsung claims hot-swappability. There are two fairly low-res cameras, 1.2mp in front and 3.1mp in the rear, the latter having auto-focus an an LED flash. The pen is what Samsung calls its C-Pen. It's not an active pen as the one that comes with the Galaxy Note models, but a capacitive one, so no hovering or calligraphy, though the tip is significantly smaller than that of those near useless generic capacitive pens with the broad tips.

The Tab Active's 8.4 x 4.95 x 0.4 inch dimensions are a tad larger than those of the consumer Tab 4's, and at 13.9 ounces it weighs almost three ounces more. That would be on account of the Active's hardened skin that not only provides more protection, but also sports a more aggressive, tougher metallic look (though the backside appears to be plastic or rubber. The Tab Active also has three physical Android buttons rather than Samsung's usual capacitive/physical combo.

What does all that for ruggedness? Well, most impressive is the Tab Active's IP67 sealing. That means the device is totally dustproof, and also completely waterproof down to about three feet. Which means it can handle not only a good downpour, but also a complete dunk into water (for a limited time). The 4-foot drop spec is also nice, but that requires the use of the supplied rubber boot. The specs do not include an operating temperature range, nor any of the other common ruggedness ratings (i.e. vibration, humidity, etc.).

So what does this all mean for users who seek a tougher tablet at an affordable price? First, Samsung hasn't released the price yet. The tech specs are mid-range at best, but that would not detract from vertical market use where leading-edge tech isn't as essential as in the cut-throat consumer market. Having the physical Android buttons definitely makes the device easier to use with gloves or under adverse conditions. The capacitive C-Pen is more precise than garden-variety capacitive styli, but not nearly as precise and fluid as the Wacom-technology S-Pen Samsung uses in its Note tablets. The mildly beefed-up housing should provide better protection and the included rubber boot even more so, but there's no mention of extra protection for the LCD. On the security side, Samsung includes their KNOX enterprise security and manageability platform ( see here).

Those interested in a much more extreme fortification of a Samsung tablet should take a look at Two Technologies' N4, which clads a Galaxy Note 2 into a super-tough, value-added shell (see our review).

See Samsung's press release on the Tab Active here.

Specs Samsung Galaxy Tab Active
Added/changed: Added 09/2014
Form-factor Ruggedized Android tablet
Processor Quad-core Snapdragon 400
CPU Speed 1.20 GHz
OS Android 4.4 ("KitKat")
Chipset Integrated
Graphics Probably Adreno 305
Standard/Max RAM 1.5GB
Disk/drive 16GB (plus up to 64GB microSDXC)
Card slots 1 SDHC/SDXC Card, 1 SIM
Display type TFT LCD
Display size/res 8.0-inch 800 x 1280 pixel
Digitizer/pens Projected capacitive multi-touch/Samsung C-Pen (capacitive)
Keyboard/scale Onscreen
Operating temperature Unknown
Sealing IP67
Vibration Unknown
Drop 4-foot drop (with protective cover)
Size (WxHxD) 8.4 x 4.95 x 0.4 inches (213 x 126 x 10 mm)
Weight 0.87 lbs (393 grams)
Power Hot-swappable, replaceable 3.8V, 4,450mAh 16.9 watt-hour battery ("up to 10 hours")
Cameras Front: 1.2mp, Rear: 3.1 mp AF with LED flash
Sensors Ambient light, accelerometer
Interface USB, HDMI via cable
Interface 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, LTE version available
List price Inquire
Web Galaxy Tab Active web page
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active