06
Aug
wm_quicksettings
Last Updated: January 17th, 2012

It has been nearly a day since Samsung pushed the TouchWiz UX update to retail Galaxy Tab 10.1 units across the country, and having spent most of the day playing with it, I want to share my thoughts on it with all of you.

Before we get into the details, though, I want to address one important thing: root access. My Tab 10.1 was rooted (stock ROM and kernel) with ClockworkMod recovery before the update started rolling out, so I was naturally hesitant to pull it for fear of losing root privileges. After doing a bit of research, I decided to go ahead and pull the stock update just to see what happened. Much to my surprise, once the update finished installing, I still had root access and ClockworkMod recovery. So, if you've been on the fence about pulling the update because you didn't want to lose root -- go ahead and pull the trigger.

With that out of the way, let's get into the actual review.

The Installation Process

The installation process was pretty quick and easy. It took about ten minutes to download the entire 188MB file, which is not too bad considering Sammy's servers were probably hammered with users across the country pulling the update at the same time. The actual installation process took about 20 minutes, most of which went at a fairly stead pace. At one point I thought it had stalled completely, as it stuck at 77% for several minutes (during which I panicked), but once it hit 78% it was fine again.

The initial reboot after updating took an agonizingly long 5-6 minutes, and after unlocked the device I noticed an immediate difference. Not just an aesthetic difference, either -- I could feel the difference. Navigated between homescreens was noticeably more fluid, as was switching pages in the app drawer. There was no lag whatsoever - it was sooo smooth, but more on that in a bit.

The Software

Now for the meat-and-potatoes of the update: TouchWiz UX. This is the first major overlay to hit Honeycomb tablets, and as such, has had much controversy surrounding it. Some users looked forward to the update and all of the added features it would bring, some based their opinion entirely on previous experiences with TouchWiz for phones, while others look toward the future and feared that an added custom interface could potentially hinder other updates - like Ice Cream Sandwich for example. While I can't tell you what the future will hold, I can say one thing: TouchWiz UX is far from a hindrance or annoyance -- actually, it's quite the opposite.

Navigation Bar and Notification Area

One of the first things that you'll notice about TouchWiz UX is the updated navigation bar. It still offers the same functions of stock Honeycomb: back, home, app chooser, and the notification area. It also brings a feature that wasn't mentioned much before the update was released: native screenshots (no root required). To grab a screencap, simply hit the icon to the right of the app chooser, and bam -- screenshot saved. While I realize that this feature may not appeal to everyone, I can see myself using it on a daily basis. I have but one gripe about the screenshot tool: the icon. It looks more like a "maximize" icon, and less a screenshot tool -- but that's not much of a problem once you realize what it does. Still, though, I could see someone hitting this instead of the app chooser on a regular basis, which could get quite frustrating.

wm_miniapptray wm_SC20110805-155916 wm_SC20110805-160109 wm_SC20110805-160121

To the right of the screenshot tool, in the middle of the navbar, is one of my favorite things about TouchWix UX: the mini-app tray. This serves as an area to provide quick access to some commonly used tools, all without navigating away from the foreground application. A quick tap on the arrow reveals icons for a Task Manager, Calendar, World Clock, Pen Memo, Calculator, and Music Player. While I'm not entirely certain why I would need quick access to the World Clock, the rest of the shortcuts prove to be quite useful. For example, if you're sending an email and need to check a date (believe me, this happens to me all too often), instead of navigating away from Gmail or Email to access the calendar, you can simply using the mini-app. It pops up in the foreground, an when you're finished, just tap the "X" in the upper-right.

wm_SC20110805-155900 wm_SC20110805-160923

The addition of the Task Manager mini-app is one that I feel is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, if an app is acting up, you can quickly launch the task manager and kill it. However, I'm not certain how I feel about the inclusion of the "end all" button on the Active Applications tab or the "Clear memory" button on the RAM Manager tab -- but that's a different story for a different day.

wm_quicksettings

Continuing to the right you'll find yet another one of my favorite features: the notification area and quick settings panel. This is such a useful feature, I can't believe that Google hasn't incorporated something like this into stock Honeycomb by now. Inside of the quick setting panel you'll find a power widget, providing easy access to Wi-Fi, Notifications, GPS, Sound, Rotation, Bluetooth, and Flight Mode toggles, as well as a brightness slider and quick link to the Settings menu. It so convenient and useful, I already can't imagine life without it.

Applications, Live Panel, and Other Updates

The customizations go much further than that though, Sammy also threw in several proprietary apps like Samsung Media, Music, and Social Hubs; eBook, Memo, Pen Memo, Photo Editor, and My Files, an excellent file browser. While I haven't had much time to check out the Hubs, I have spent some time using the file browser - something that Honeycomb has natively lacked since it's inception. My Files is a very simple, yet functional file manager, offering most of the things that you need to explore and edit files on the built-in storage of the Tab.

wm_SC20110805-161810 wm_SC20110805-160551 wm_SC20110805-221314

A few stock Honeycomb apps have also gone under the knife and emerged with new faces, namely the Calendar, Email (not Gmail), and Browser. While the first two are going to take some getting used to, the latter is a much needed improvement. The Browser is now much more stable, faster, and offers advanced features like printing, something that I've longed for since I got my Galaxy Tab. As for the Calendar and Email apps, they're not bad per se, just different. I've yet to dig into each of them to see what changes (aside from aesthetics) have been made, but let's just say that the adjustment is going to take some time.

wm_SC20110805-160332

This update brought some new widgets called Live Panels along for the ride, and honestly, what can I say about them? They're widgets. They have the same look and feel of the other features in TouchWiz UX, but using them is purely optional. I opted to stay with the widgets that I was using prior to the update, as I found Live Panels to be much too large for my taste.

wm_SC20110805-160523

From an aesthetic aspect, one of the most drastic changes that came with this update is the Settings menu. It shed its sleek black-and-blue Honeycomb look for a coat of white and some new cartoon-y looking icons. Much like the updated Calendar and Email apps, it's not bad, just different.

Performance

One of the biggest speculations about this update is that it would slow the tablet down, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Out of all the changes that I expected to get from this update, the performance boost was a nice surprise. Don't get me wrong - the Tab was pretty fast and fluid before, but there was a certain amount of stutter when swiping between homescreens or the pages of the app drawer, but those are now things of the past. This is by far the smoothest experience I've had on any Honeycomb tablet, with absolutely no lag at all. Every aspect of the tablet is affected by this; everything from transition animations to web browsing and gaming.

Conclusion

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 was a great tablet when it was first released. It's sleek, lightweight, and capable. With TouchWiz UX is becomes an even better tablet, and the one of the best parts of the update is that it's very unobtrusive. If you don't like the mini-app tray, simply don't use it, just enjoy the added performance benefits. I don't feel that this update hinders the use of my Tab at all, but rather enhances it, adding functionality where there used to be none.

To answer the question in the title, is TouchWiz UX better than stock Honeycomb? For now, I would, without hesitation, say yes. Of course, there is the question of whether or not this will delay future updates -- but only time will tell.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • liams

    Mind if I ask what weather widget you have there?

    • Cameron Summerson

      It's Beautiful Widgets with the Vos-Neon skin.

  • Stang68

    Just waiting on it for my LTE Tab 10.1 :(

    • Cameron Summerson

      Indeed. We pinged Sammy yesterday, but unfortunately, there is no word when it will be coming the either the LTE Tab or the I/O Tab. :/

  • http://www.joesteiger.com Joe Steiger

    What root method did you use?

  • Cliff

    Great write-up. One thing about the browser that I noticed is that someone FINALLY added the option to have your homepage display your most visited sites. I’ve been asking why that hasn’t be an options since chrome came out. Why Google hasn’t added this to their stock browser yet is beyond me. I’m loving the performance boots from the update though, and the added functionality is great too. The only complaint I have is that I wish Samsung had stuck with the stock honeycomb theme. Especially with the browser; I really don’t like that white background where the tabs are.

    • Scott

      Umm.. thats there with stock, under settings->labs

    • Cameron Summerson

      Thanks. When I first fired up the browser, I was a little shocked by the look of it. The one thing I don't understand is why they left a little white bar along the top, it's not practical use of screen real-estate. All-in-all, though, I really like the browser modifications.

  • http://twitter.com/mikeGsays GarciaM25

    I hear what you're saying, and even quoted you on XDA, but I'm definitely not interested in losing all the magnificent things Google did with the stock vanilla Honeycomb. Namely, the Black Task Bar, Taskbar Icons, Taskbar Clock, and Settings Menu (what were they thinking???). Just like you said, the device is fast and fluid already, so I'll wait until someone modifies it to look EXACTLY like vanilla Honeycomb before jumping back to this - yep, I had it a few days before release and went right back to my CWM backup of vanilla 3.1 because of how unsightly it is!

    • Cameron Summerson

      I actually like the grey much better than I expected I would, but I do prefer black. The settings menu is actually a moot point for me, as I don't spend a lot of time there anyway.

      Also, happen to have a link to the XDA thread?

  • Bryson

    Where did you get that wallpaper from?

  • JDC

    All in all, I like the update. My update also hung for a while at 77% and then resumed without an issue.

    The only real issue I had was with my hosted Exchange account. The email program was slow and buggy and none of the contacts or calendars were recognized. I removed the Exchange account altogether and added it back in and that fixed everything.

    I do think that I liked the stock email app better. If Samsung gave us the option to switch between the stock and the touchwiz email programs I would be ecstatic. Maybe once I use it more I will like it better.

    The Swype keyboard is a nice upgrade as well, although that isn't enabled by default. I had to manually change that in the settings.

    I like the added eBook reader. I have a lot of PDF's of books, so that makes it very convenient to read them now.

    I took a quick look at the browser, but honestly, since I started using Dolphin for Pad and I haven't looked back since.

    105 for the high in Wake Village? That's hot!

    • Cameron Summerson

      I agree. I prefer the stock Email app, as well as the stock Calendar (although Sammy's version has some nice features about it). Honestly, I wouldn't mind having both.

      ...and yeah, it's too damn hot here.

      • jonhern

        you should be able to install both, just find an APk for the stock app or extract it from a stock honeycomb rom. I ran the stock and sense email apps when I had a sense rom on my evo just fine, just extracted the email app from an asop rom and installed it like any other app.
        I hope someone ports the mini app tray to the xoom, would love that part of it.

        • JDC

          Pardon my noobness here - but do I need to root it to do this? I'm actually not opposed to rooting it. I'll have to do some reading about this.

    • aibiluv

      Please i do have a question about the battery life and the charging.

      How long can the tab last with movie playback.

      secondly how long does it take to charge?

      and thirdly could it be charge with your computer/laptop

      • Cameron Summerson

        I'm not entirely sure how long the battery will last if constantly playing video, but I get around 9-10 hours of normal use.

        I've never actually timed how long it takes to charge, but it is pretty speedy up until 90%, at which point it slows to a crawl.

        And no, it won't charge via USB.

    • aibiluv

      Please i do have a question about the battery life and the charging.
      How long can the tab last with movie playback.
      secondly how long does it take to charge?
      and thirdly could it be charge with your computer/laptop

  • http://www.lateseptemberdogs.com dontbenotrock

    Bucketheadland huh? Guitar nerds UNITE!

    • Cameron Summerson

      +1. I actually wondered if anyone would notice that, haha.

    • chris

      Haha, I'm more of a John Petrucci guitar nerd, personally! But I can definitely appreciate the greatness of BH!!

  • aeneas

    I still have issue with my email widget looking soo different from my gmail widget. Makes my homescreen look a lot less together. I would have also liked the ability to customize those tray icons, even if that meant losing the ability to sit on top of an app. Last thing is the power widget, notifications, and email widget frame and rows are all so large they look kind of childish. Makes me miss the clean professional look of honeycomb.

    • http://twitter.com/mikeGsays Mike Garcia

      That's EXACTLY my point - the TW UX is very "Preskool" looking, like "My First Tablet" and whatnot! I really enjoy having something that looks very cutting edge and technical, especially when rubbing my 10.1 in the face of iPad owners, the suckers they are....

  • Josh Z

    The best part is that you can change the font all over. It makes the tablet that much better. I think you should mention it as its a pretty big deal. As well as the new gestures and battery saving mode.

  • Zach Voss

    great article! definitely want to buy one now. Does verizon have these on display at their stores?

    • Cameron Summerson

      The LTE Tab 10.1 doesn't have TouchWiz yet. No ETA on when that update should come, either. =/

  • smark

    The update looks good so far. A few things I noticed:

    1. The new browser can`t open the links on the pictures on the following site news.orf.at. Anyone noticed something like this?

    2. The haptic feedback on the android keyboard does not work anymore even though I selected it.

    3. I also don`t like the gray bar on the top in the browser. :-)

  • Zack

    Great Article and loving the new update just like others have said wish they stuck to vanilla really enjoyed the tron look :(

  • aj

    Just updated mine, the increase in speed and fluidity is pretty amazing. I was NOT expecting that. I'm actually really digging this update. Just a few hours ago, I was really kinda loathing the idea of touchwiz, but this isn't ANYTHING like touchwiz for phones. It's pretty damn cool.

  • Aeneas

    How do I change the overall font? I must be overlookingit...

    • Cameron Summerson

      Settings > Screen > Screen display > Font Style.

  • thefebs

    Can you root after you've installed TW 4.0
    Using theroot method you linked to above

    • Cameron Summerson

      Yep. Should work perfectly.

  • Frustrated

    Am I the only one who thinks my tab is SLOWER now with the update? Everything just seems jerkier now, and don't even talk to me about the new comic theme. My tab is a joke now!

  • Dede

    Dear Frustrated,

    You are not the only one. I jusy baught the wifi-3G version last 2 weeks for my wife. It is laggy, not as smooth as ipad or my S2. I am very disappointed. I read so many good things about the tab before buying it but once we got it, it sucks man. Even running the 'kids song machine' also lags and delay.. Anyone can share the reason behind this?

    • cyc

      Hi Dede,

      i have the same problem while running kids song machine too, have you found the root cause?

  • cameraz

    You, and every other reviewer, leaves out the one reason why I will not update to Touchwiz: It removes support for high-profile video. This is a serious deletion and one I hope they address with another firmware update.

    • Dede

      But once it is updated, i cant do anything right?

      • TC

        I have the same issue. Did you figure out a way to fix it? From what I have heard if you do the download and it messes up Samsung pretty much acts like they don't know what your talking about. Did you have that problem also?

  • TC

    I just recently downloaded the Touchwiz update and I hate it. I feel like my tablet is useless now. The lag is horrible and the screen freezes. I wish I would have stayed with the stock version, but I didn't know any better. Is there anything you can do to fix the lag or other issues. Very disappointed would like to have stock version back, I didn't have these issues before the update. I loved my tablet now its junk. Any suggestions on fixing the issues or a way to go back to stock? Thanks

    • Cameron Summerson

      You could always root it and run a stock Honeycomb ROM.

      Otherwise, there may be a way to flash stock 3.1 via ODIN, but I'm not entirely sure.

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