Samsung Galaxy View Review: The Tablet That Wants to Be a TV

Consumer Reports has typically found most products that promise to do several things tend to do none of them very well. We expected to find the same issue with the new Samsung Galaxy View ($600), a TV and tablet hybrid.

The first thing you'll notice about the View is its 18.4-inch screen, which makes it either a gigantic tablet or a relatively small TV. The second thing you'll notice is its integrated stand with a built-in handle, which lets you position the device in an upright position with a horizontal orientation, like a widescreen TV. The stand also swivels so that it can fold close to, but not completely, flat, as shown in the photo above.

Our TV expert, Jim Willcox, and our tablet/computer expert, Donna Tapellini, checked it out.

Jim's Take: It's Not a TV

For my evaluation I took the View home and used it throughout my house. I also gave it to my wife and son to see how they'd react. Based on almost two weeks of daily use, we all felt it was a fun device to have around, but also a somewhat puzzling one. One thing seemed clear, though: It is really more of a tablet than a TV, albeit one that's optimized for streaming TV content.

When you first power up the View and complete the initial registration process, you'll see a TV-centric home screen that displays all the TV-related video apps—including Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, among others—arranged in a rectangular grid. Some popular apps, including HBO Go, aren't visible on that first screen. Unfortunately, the main screen isn't customizable, as it is with many streaming media players, so you can't reorder the screen with your favorite or most-used apps first.

Local TV service providers—just Comcast, DirecTV, and Time Warner Cable for now—are located in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. This allows you to access the programming you get from these services, with certain limitations. Samsung says that more TV service providers will be added as options in the future.

While it has a TV feel to it, there's little you can do with the View that you couldn't also do with a conventionally sized iPad or Android tablet. Also, it doesn't come with a remote control, so it operates more like a tablet than a TV.

Most of the TV apps were ones that were also available on those other devices, and in fact, a few notable apps, such as Amazon Instant Video and Prime Video, weren't listed as available. (I was able to download the apps from the Amazon store.) Plus, whenever we played TV shows and movies, the services were optimized for display on a tablet—i.e. a mobile device—not a TV. Since the View is an Android tablet, you can access other apps via the Google Play app store.

Connections Are Lacking
Another issue is that the View lacks any TV-type connections, or really, any connections at all. The device communicates using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There's no HDMI input for connecting with other devices and source components, so it can't be used as a monitor. Also, the View doesn't have a built-in TV tuner, so you can't get over-the-air broadcasts. Samsung says that it's evaluating official support for an outboard TV tuner in future software updates. The View does have a microUSB port, plus a microSD card slot for adding up to 128GB of memory. There's also a headphone jack, and a slot for connecting the power cord.

When I tuned into my DirecTV account, I wasn't able to access any of the local broadcast channels that are available in my home. Apparently this is due to DirecTV's contracts with broadcasters. There are some workarounds, such as downloading each of the networks' apps, but again this is more like using a tablet than a TV.

While it may not be a TV, it's clear that in some ways the Galaxy View is optimized for use as a one.

For one, it's way more comfortable having the View upright on its stand rather than held in my hands; the large 18.4-inch screen was unwieldy otherwise. When I tried to use it on my lap to watch TV shows or videos like I would normally do with my 10-inch iPad, the device was just too large to be comfortable. And it seemed gargantuan to my 11-year-old son, who's used to an iPad Mini.

Also, the stand's pivoting design limits you to only two positions: upright, or tilted at an angle. The View never folds completely flat. And when you switch positions, the stand tends to snap back and forth between the two pretty aggressively—my son seemed worried that his fingers might get crushed during one of the transitions.

One other thing my son noticed: The Galaxy View, at nearly 6 pounds, is pretty heavy for a tablet. It was no big deal to move the View from one room to another, but we'd hesitate to throw it in a backpack for use at a coffee shop.

Since there's no Ethernet jack on the View, you need to have both decent broadband and a good router to get the best picture quality. I had no major issues with video streaming via Wi-Fi in my house, other than some occasional buffering during videos in rooms that were farthest away from my router.

As for picture quality, the View's 1080p LCD screen ably displayed HD content once the signal locked in, which generally took a few seconds. But there are several tablets now with higher-resolution screens that can provide more detailed images. We did note that the viewing angle on the Galaxy View was fairly wide, leading us to believe it might be an IPS panel, so two people could watch shows without the image degrading.

Donna's Take: It's Not a Tablet

What’s wrong with a giant tablet? In theory, it sounds kind of fun. A big screen for racing around the sand with "Beach Buggy Blitz"; viewing great-looking photos on magazine pages and reading without squinting because you’re trying to squeeze a whole page onto a 7- or 8-inch screen; watching movies wherever you want, on a luxuriously large display.

With that in mind, I thought the View could indeed make a great tablet. But the idea behind a tablet is still portability, and with this device too many issues get in the way of that critical quality.

The built-in stand creates some of those issues. You can either stand the View up at a slight angle or lay it down on a table, also at a slight angle. I’ve been spoiled by the multi-position stand found on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, which not only offers several options for propping the device up, but also folds flat against the tablet.

And there are other problems with the View’s stand. I tried using the device holding it with both hands on my lap—and I immediately caught my fingers between the stand and the display. That hurt! In addition, the stand isn’t removable, and because it doesn’t fold flat, it’s hard to pack the View up to take out of the house. Two features of the stand that I did appreciate: the built-in handle for carrying the View, and the textured back of the stand, which makes it easier to grip.

There’s no doubt that it’s fun playing some games using the View’s large screen, but it lacks an accelerometer so you won’t be able to play games that require you to tilt the display, such as to steer a car in a racing game. The games generally looked good, but when I ran a benchmark on the View, its score was well below that of the top tablets in our tests. I didn’t notice that much with the games I tried out—"Smash Hit," "Angry Birds," "Beach Buggy Blitz," and "Dots." But that lesser performance could show up in other games.

It’s possible that you could look at the View as a computer, though it has somewhat limited functionality. Yes, you can run Microsoft Office apps on the Android operating system, but if you’re a Windows or Mac user it’s likely there are other applications that you need that aren’t Android-compatible. It does have Bluetooth, though, so you can use use a Bluetooth keyboard as an input device.

In addition, the View simply isn’t powered like a full-fledged laptop—it uses the same processor that powers Samsung’s Chromebook, which means it’s good for Web-based apps but not more demanding applications.

That leaves movie viewing. It’s great to be able to watch as many episodes of "Girls" or hours of Twitch feeds as I want on a big screen in my home office. But I can do that just as easily with my laptop—there's no need for yet another device in the house.

My take: If you want a tablet with a really big screen, you might like the View. But this device stretches the definition of the category, and not necessarily for the best. Keep in mind that you can pick up a more portable Android tablet—like Samsung's own Galaxy Tab S2 8, which tops our tablet Ratings—for just $400.

But It Is a Lot of Fun

Hey, it's Jim again. We've been somewhat critical of View so far, but we have to acknowledge that having it around our homes was a blast. My son thought it was cool that he could be watching a Minecraft YouTube video in his room, get called down to dinner, and just bring the View down to the kitchen table without missing a minute of the action. Of course he could do the same thing with his iPad Mini, but he liked the action better on the View's bigger 16:9 screen and the stand let him situate the View upright more easily. The sound from the View's built-in speakers, while not great, was markedly better than the sound on his Mini. And once he got the hang of the handle—and past the fear of it snapping shut on his fingers—he found it easy to carry from room to room.

For me the View was a bit more of a novelty, since we already have large-screen TVs in several rooms of our house. However, I liked using the View while I cooked. It was easy to move it from one kitchen counter to another and to pause what I was watching, swipe to the tablet screen and click on to the Internet to check a recipe. I did wish the View came with a remote control so I didn't actually have to touch the screen, and for changing the TV's volume when I wasn't right next to the device.

My favorite use for the View was to take it downstairs to my small woodworking shop, which isn't wired for TV. For the first time ever I was able to catch a football game while working on one of my electric guitars, and easily click to instructional YouTube videos when I got stuck on wiring schematics.

The Bottom Line
So the big question of course, is whether you should buy a Galaxy View. Unfortunately, both Donna and I thought its $600 price was too high, especially in a world where $500 can get you a 50-inch 1080p TV. Samsung must have agreed, as we noticed just before posting that you can now get the View for $500 as part of a promotion that runs through the end of this month. But that still seems like a lot.

That said, if you have the discretionary income, the Samsung Galaxy View might be an interesting option for bringing entertainment, especially movies and TV shows, into rooms where you might not want a permanent TV. If Samsung can get the price down to about $350 and add an HDMI input, we think the Galaxy View will have considerable appeal.

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