The inadequate 3.2-megapixel camera on the Tab 2's back looks like a cost-saving move too. Most phones beat that resolution two years ago, and many of them can also auto-focus on nearby objects properly. Likewise, the screen's 1024-by-600 pixel resolution already seems like a last-generation component next to the new iPad's fantastic "retina display."
Samsung did not, however, scrimp on the Tab 2's battery. A model loaned by Samsung PR beat quite a few competitors in my usual tests: almost nine nine and a half hours of Pandora Web-radio playback with the screen on, 86 percent of a charge left after 24 hours idle.
I was optimistic–too optimistic–about the Tab 2's Smart Remote app. Most cable and satellite boxes have awful interfaces, and putting a better set of controls on a touchscreen device that will spend much of its time on a coffee table should be a good call.
Instead, Smart Remote (developed by Mountain View, Calif.-based Peel) suffers from the same curse as every other allegedly-universal remote I've tried. Although it successfully ordered around three TVs, it had no idea what to do with a new Blu-ray player and a three-year-old DVD recorder. It could turn on a Roku 2 and a Sony soundbar but couldn't issue basic commands to either.
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I had equally elevated hopes for its its interactive, learning program guide; as you tap star or "x" buttons to express approval or disapproval of shows, it's supposed to recommend others that fit your tastes. At first, I appreciated how this let me choose a specific category of content (not just "Drama," "News," "Comedy" but particular sports); even with my limited set of over-the-air channels, Smart Remote had me discovering new things to watch.
But when I took the Tab 2 to a neighbor with Fios TV, this app showed maybe a tenth of the channels available through an aging Verizon-issued set-top box–even after I reset its settings and repeated its setup routine.
Set aside this universal remote that isn't, and you have a decent, low-cost iPad alternative that doesn't quite jump off the shelf. Two years after the iPad's debut, you'd think competitors could do better than that.
Credits: Rob Pegoraro/Discovery