The New Galaxy Tab: Is It The Device You’re Looking For?

Samsung’s newest Galaxy Tab is out, and for digital-age bookworms and media enthusiasts everywhere, that’s great news. But despite its power and appeal, neophyte tech consumers have to ask themselves – this is what I’m looking for?

Earlier this year, Barnes & Noble came out with their very own Nook Samsung S2 take on the Galaxy Tab 8, complete entirely with all the specs and the specializations you’d come to expect in a dedicated reading device. But given its price tag, it seems like quite the purchase to make when compared to its eReader competitors. However, that’s because it isn’t really an eReader – it’s a tablet. Which leads us to the next question – is it worth your time?

Are You Looking for a Tablet, or an eReader?

In recent years, the word “tablet” has taken on a new definition. Born in the tech department, today’s tablet is a touchscreen-based computer that receives input directly on its LCD screen rather than through paraphernalia, like a keyboard or mouse. It may or may not also have phone function. Tablets and smartphones have been two ends of a spectrum of mini-computers, both dominating the mobile market. In-between them, you’ll find “phablets” – larger smartphones, akin to the iPhone 6 or the OnePlus One, usually sporting about 5.5″-6″ long screens.

An eReader, on the other hand, is a lightweight device dedicated to reading eBooks. eReaders usually command much less processing power and storage than your average tablet, and they lack the operating system to run a multitude – if any – of the usual applications you’ll find on mobile devices. eReaders also typically make use of what’s called electronic paper, alongside “e-ink” – two extremely low-power screen options that also allow eReaders to typically last either weeks and months of usage in-between each charge, versus the daily charge usually expected in high-tech mobile devices.

There are pros and cons to both – but ultimately, it’s a matter of price and need.

What’s the Difference Between LCDs and E-ink?

The biggest visual difference between tablets and their eReader alternatives is the screen. E-ink screens, or electronic paper screens, were first developed in the 70s. They’ve been largely in-use in budget phones and alarm clocks, designed specifically with a display in mind that mimics the way light reflects on paper. Modern-day electronic paper displays are so qualitative that you can use them to read in direct sunlight without any signs of fading.

There are cons to this, of course. Because of the way e-paper works, it’s susceptible to “ghosting” – that is, seeing an afterimage of the previously-displayed image. To counter this, e-paper screens refresh, restarting themselves for a split second before showing the new image. Newer screens aren’t as susceptible to ghosting as older screens were, but it’s still a concern to some viewers.

Because of the basic tech used to build electronic paper screens, they’re incapable of fluid zooming, scrolling, or other features were mostly used to in usual LCD screens. They also only display two colors – the paper itself, and the black color of the e-ink. There was hope for newer innovations in electrofluidic displays (EFDs) in 2009 as per the University of Cincinnati, but as Engadget pointed out, that dream died.

LCDs, on the other hand, are what make tablets, computer displays and smartphones work. They display information through manipulated liquid crystals, and are far more responsive than electronic paper – thus they were able to compete with, and ultimately render obsolete the CRT technology made popular in the 80s and 90s, which led to the rise of bigger and thinner screens with sharper imaging. Compared to e-paper, however, LCDs are also appropriately more expensive.

Should an eReader Even Run Applications?

eReaders are low-powered and built with cheaper material for a reason – they’re simply designed to emulate books, and not much else. Some have download capabilities and 3G capabilities, but in the end, an eReader is really only there to be used for reading.

Tablets, however, are essentially mini computers. They’re much more powerful than eReaders, and they’re capable of much more than simply reading. They can be used for reading, with additional benefits such as full-color illustrations and better download functionalities – but they can also be used for writing, watching movies, listening to music, communicating with friends and family over social media and VOIP applications, and most are powerful enough to run productivity apps and video games.

If you’d like to read books, is this the product for you? Possibly. But keep in mind that B&N’s Galaxy Tab is a device that’s meant to do much more than be used as an eReader – and eventually, you’ll learn to use it as a social tablet, a tablet for keeping track of the news and your favorite YouTube channels, a tablet for music, and so on.

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