Video: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Hands-On

This is the one.

Recently re-tooled, made skinny and lighter (566g) than the iPad 2 (603g), this is the first anticipated Android Honeycomb tablet. Sure, the Asus eee Transformer has been getting some great press, but mostly for its low cost. The Galaxy Tab 10.1, launching in July in Canada, will sport either a white plastic backing or a more metallic-looking silver (though still made of plastic).

Upon first impression, the tablet disappears; it is a wide screen with a modest bezel and a small 2MP camera staring back. Around the side, Samsung simplified: no microSD slot, no USB. Less is more. Charging, HDMI and USB connectivity is done with the proprietary slot on the bottom. Around the back the design is more of the same: the chrome around the side expands to a thin line that encompasses the headphone jack, 3MP camera and LED flash.

Clearly a cost-lowering maneuver, the 3MP camera replaces the original 8MP sensor of the gargantuan-seeming Galaxy Tab 10.1v, but everything else from that first version seems to be in tact. The upgrade to Android 3.1 has done wonders to the overall smoothness of the OS, and though our test unit doesn’t have it, the shipping version will include TouchWIZ. Rather than a full skinning, tablet TouchWIZ will mostly be about value-add widgets and custom Samsung apps.

But can the first real Android-based iPad competitor really make headway in the marketplace? Unlike Asus’ Transformer, which undercuts the iPad 2 by $100, the 16GB and 32GB versions of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 are being released in America at $499 and $599, respectively, identical to their iPad equivalents. It will come down to two things: how well Samsung markets Honeycomb as a differentiator of iOS and how Canadians embrace the Galaxy Tab brand.

Samsung is hoping with TouchWIZ to extend your stay on the homescreen. With the expansion of scrollable widgets in Android 3.1, they are taking full advantage of Honeycomb’s five homescreens. Even with the announcement of iOS5, Google still runs circles around Apple’s ability to disseminate information quickly from the homescreen. Now we see vendors like Samsung capitalizing on that open space. News, weather, stocks, Twitter, books, YouTube. This information is all available without opening a single app.

But the real triumph here is the hardware. No seams, no creaking. This is the first 10.1″ tablet you’ll be able to comfortably hold in one hand. And since it’s narrower and thinner than the Transformer, the Xoom, the Inconia, it doesn’t feel wrong holding it in portrait mode.

When it is released in July it will have a ton of momentum behind it, both from reviewers, Samsung fans, and the company itself. And it’s clear Samsung is not competing against Asus, Acer, Motorola, LG, Toshiba et al. It is competing squarely with one product, the iPad, and we can confidently say it will compete.