A Look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 in 2014 [Review]

A few months ago, I got a great present from Midland – a Galaxy Tab 2 10.1” Wifi (Wireless, no cellular 3G) tablet. Even though Midland himself said it was a bit slow, I wanted to check it out anyway as I’ve never owned a true tablet. After installing CyanogenMod to make the tablet run as fast as possible, here are my impressions as well as some app recommendations.

Web Browsing: this is the worst aspect of using the device. I use Firefox, which is well regarded on Google Play, and also what I use on my laptop. Whether you are browsing multiple tabs or just a single one, loading web pages feels much slower than on the same connection with a PC. Firefox tends to forget which websites I’ve opened and sometimes will erase my session completely even when I have not closed the browser, leading to much frustration. In general, while a normal user who tends to open 1 page at a time and read casually will not have a problem with the Tablet, it’s an inadequate experience for me.

I use Firefox along with the AdBlock and LastPass extensions. I suggest paying for the LastPass Premium service so you can access its mobile app – LastPass lets you save your passwords in the cloud and can help you manage your passwords across desktop / laptop PC’s, mobile phones, and tablets. Because of this, I only remember critical passwords from a few sites, otherwise letting LastPass store the rest and making it convenient for me to login to websites wherever I am. AdBlock removes ads from websites. Although I do like ads from time to time, since the Note is so slow at web browsing, every little bit of speed helps.

Apps: If your favorite sites and services have good Android apps, this will take away much of the pain from the spotty web browsing experience. Using Facebook, Twitter, etc., works great on the large 10” screen. The app experience is not necessarily incredibly fast, but I have never felt it to be slow, at least not in comparison to the web experience. As I have been traveling a lot recently, TripAdvisor is a prime example of a website that is terrible to use on the tablet but is quite good on the app side. However, instead of having one general TripAdvisor app that you can use for any location, TripAdvisor only has apps for specific cities. This is great if you are going to a city (Frankfurt, Bangkok, etc.) that does have a specialized app for it, but obviously terrible if it does not (Saigon).

For news, I use Feedly. It does not match the PC version because I cannot enable the Android app to mark an article as “read” if I swipe past the headline. Thus, if I go into Feedly every couple of hours, I will continue to revisit articles that I did not want to read. This has really discouraged me from using the app.

Typing is not a great experience because of the screen dimensions, regardless if you use an alternative keyboard (the tablet can lag at times when using Swiftkey, making me slow down and create more mistakes) or the standard one. This tablet won’t be a go-to device if you are hoping to write long WordPress blogs on it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1Comic Books: I always imagined that this would be the main reason for owning a tablet, at least for me, and I’ve been proved right. My reading of digital comics has really been extensive this year- likely more in the last 3 months than in any 1 year period for the last 10 years. ComicRack makes reading comics anywhere anytime super convenient just as the Amazon Kindle made reading books did.

Media Player: (Movies, Music, Photos) I’m a bit disappointed you cannot use Amazon Prime streaming on non-Kindle Android devices. Otherwise, YouTube has an excellent Android app. I use MX Player to load movies from memory cards. Smugmug has a great app which will download your photo library to your Android device automatically, making it easy to see or search your photos wherever you go, regardless of your data connection. When I am back in the US, I may try some music radio apps like Spotify or Pandora. For now, all I have loaded is Hype Machine, which I have used on the PC, but not yet tried on the tablet.

Books: I think the Amazon Kindle app is solid on the Android. I still prefer reading on a Kindle device as it’s easier to switch pages and read with one hand, but if you only have this tablet, you will enjoy reading on it as well. Adobe Reader is a surprisingly solid app for reading PDF’s.

Games: I haven’t tried much in games. From what I’ve seen of Ha playing, world favorite Candy Crush works great on it. In general, I don’t like playing games on a touch screen or mobile device.

As for the physical device, it feels pretty standard. The resolution is relatively low for today’s devices, but this doesn’t bother me much. All the buttons work fine, and the tablet is not too heavy. I added another 32GB SDHC card to supplement the internal 16GB and a Tech Armor screen protector which makes fingerprints less obvious but also dulls the screen slightly. A complaint I have is regarding the unit’s battery charging. I am not sure how to charge the tablet via USB (meaning I cannot plug it into my computer to charge it), and even when I charge it via a power outlet, it just takes too long – I think it would take at least 5 hours to charge the tablet, which is essentially an overnight charge. iPhones and my laptop (Lenovo x230) get charging done, it feels, within 2-3 hours.

The Tablet 2 is nearly two years old today, and since then Samsung has issued some amazing new replacements, at least in terms of their hardware specifications. If you are able to get a Tablet 2 in good condition for around $100, I definitely recommend one, particularly if you do not need it much for online web browsing.

Trips on the Autobahn and First Impressions of Germany (Frankfurt, Muhlhausen)

I was in Germany for 6 days visiting my wife’s relatives and this has been my first trip to Europe. First stop: Frankfurt, Germany’s financial hub, and then Muhlhausen, a small town of 30,000 in the German countryside (it is literally in the woods near castles). Some early thoughts of my experience:

1) You can get a Porsche taxi. The one below was parked, oddly, at an elementary school.

2) Mettbrötchen / Mett is really damn good – it’s raw ground pork on bread, for breakfast.

3) People park their cars ON the curb. This concept will be super familiar with Vietnamese but unheard of for Americans. As a plus, this does free up space on the road, but reduces sidewalk space.

4) The vast majority of the cars being driven are from German carmakers – BMW, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Audi. Must be 90%, and a count watching cars showed 24 consecutive German cars passing me by. Smart (that’s a car company) cars are super small 2 person vehicles that are allowed to park perpendicular to parking spaces.

5) Frankfurt is a good looking city. It’s got the old-European town feel like (as seen on TV!). Perhaps that’s boring to Europeans though. it’s also consistently clean, at least in the areas that I walked around (financial district, area around the Mein river). Muhlhausen, however, is a real old European town. From the places and homes I visited, Germany in general is really clean.

(Frankfurt and the Mein River)

(Downtown Frankfurt)

(Dom Römer Area)

(Muhlhausen City Center)

(Muhlhausen City Center)

6) Some roads are somehow one-lane two way roads. In case there is oncoming traffic, you either have to back up or with some roads, there is a place you stop on the right hand side so the other car can pass by.

7) While the Autobahn was not the super racetrack freeway I envisioned (in my dreams), Germany still seems like a great place to drive. The Autobahn feels like Highway 5 in California. Perhaps it’s just been too long since I drove a car consistently, but I feel like Germans drive fast.

8) I thought that all 1st world Europeans were fluent in English. This is not so true, at least for spoken English, though Germans do study English in school.

9) Germans neighbors commonly greet each other (“Allo!” for “Hello”, “Cheers” for “Goodbye”) in the mornings – I do not feel like this happens in the US, and it certainly doesn’t happen in Vietnam.

10) Chipotle exists here. As does Footlocker and Gamestop. (I hung around a Frankfurt mall) Starbucks exist but nowhere with the density you will see in the US, or even Tokyo.

For more of my photos from Germany, see:

http://ispithotfire.smugmug.com/2014/Frankfurt/

http://ispithotfire.smugmug.com/2014/Muhlhausen-Germany

The Wedding Invite

Huy and Ha Wedding

This was for our (me and Ha) wedding reception a couple of days ago. As it was booked on very short notice (several weeks), we were unable to invite friends from outside Vietnam, or even all of our friends in Vietnam, but it was still a good time.

A Grand Opening Preview of McDonald’s Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City

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Yesterday, Ha and I had the opportunity to eat at the first McDonalds in Vietnam. It’s not open to the public yet, and won’t be until February 8th. But from what I’ve seen, it’s absolutely worth checking out, whether you’re a McDonalds / fast food fan or not. The location is in District (Quan) 1, 2-6 Bis Dien Bien Phu, Puong Da Kao (Ward) in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

It’s complete with McDonalds staple, the drive-through, a first in Vietnam. I didn’t get to try the motorbike drive-through, but I want to. Maybe that sounds weird, but as an American living in Vietnam, I can tell you that McDonalds is completely different from any other restaurant, fast food or otherwise, in Vietnam right now. If you live in Vietnam, it will feel completely misplaced, and that’s a good thing. From the sheer size of the restaurant (don’t worry about parking space) to its great wifi (inside joke for my friend Hai Do) to its children’s playground to its prominent arches sign that you will see from very far away, you feel like you’re in an amusement park in the middle of the city.

Ha and I tried a good number of items, a few of which I’ve never had at any McDonalds. In total, we had:

  1. McRoyal with Cheese (Quarter Pounder – remember Pulp Fiction?)
  2. McPork (not sure if these exists in the USA, it’s not a McRib)
  3. McFlurry
  4. French Fries (they are the same ones you know and love)
  5. Apple Pie
  6. Ice Cream Cone (priced at 10K VND, about $.50)
  7. Chicken Wings (I don’t think they are the same as Mighty Wings in the USA, but they are excellent nonetheless)

Yes, that’s a lot of food and we could not finish everything. Everything was excellently delicious however, and the entire experience was very polished.

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I can’t wait until I can pick up a Happy Meal toy. But in the mean time, I picked up an adult “toy”, the awesome McDonald’s Vietnam t-shirt shown above. You can pick up your own once it opens. They’re also selling nice travel mugs, a special grand opening pin (got one of those as well; you can see it, albeit not clearly at the bottom of my shirt), and two other shirt options. And because these items are unique to Vietnam, not generic McDonald’s, they make excellent Vietnam souvenirs and gifts if you’re traveling through. (I especially like the French Fry pocket holder shirt, ask about that one)

Get more info on McDonald’s and the Grand Opening through its Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/McDonaldsVN