Samsung to take on iPad 2 with sub-$500 Galaxy Tabs

Apple's iPad is finally set to get some real competition—and not just from the iPad 2. Engadget has the scoop on new 8.9" and 10.1" additions to Samsung's Galaxy Tab family of Android-powered slates. Impressively, the 10.1" model is just a little bit thinner and lighter than the latest iPad. The 8.9" variant shares the same thickness as the larger model but is notably lighter at just over a pound.

Despite differences in screen size, both models offer a display resolution of 1280x800. That's a nice upgrade over the iPad's 1024x768 resolution, which doesn't have enough pixels to play 720p HD video in all its glory. Neither the Engadget story nor Samsung's web site details the kind of panel used in the new slates, though. The existing 7" Galaxy Tab uses an IPS panel, so it's probably safe to assume that these new models haven't downgraded to TN screens.

Under their touch-screen displays, both of the new Galaxy Tabs feature "1GHz dual-core" processors suspected to be Tegra 2 silicon. Versions will be available with 16, 32, and 64GB of built-in storage, and you'll be able to add up to 32GB of your own via a microSD slot. The systems also include USB connectivity, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a pair of cameras: two megapixels on the front and three out back. Even the battery life looks good. Samsung is claiming 10 hours of video playback on both devices.

Until now, we've yet to see a big-name tablet challenge the cheapest iPad model on price. Surprisingly, Wi-Fi versions of the 8.9" and 10.1" models will start at $469 and $499, respectively. They'll only offer 16GB of internal storage, which matches the base iPad 2, but the Galaxy tabs sport a higher screen resolution, more camera megapixels, and a wider range of connectivity options. Samsung has also jazzed up the Android 3.0 user interface with some Touchwiz UX enhancements that look pretty slick in the demo video Engadget recorded.

This news comes as RIM reveals that Wi-Fi versions of its 16GB PlayBook will be available for $500 starting April 19. Samsung's latest slates aren't due until the beginning of June, which feels like ages from now considering how long some of us have been waiting for credible iPad alternatives. Soon, my precious. Soon.

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