We opted to wait on covering the most promising tablet device to arrive for Android until it hit shelves. Now the wait is over and you can pick up this 7″ 1024 by 600 multi-touch tablet from T Mobile or Sprint for $399 with a two-year contract. Alternatively you could pay $600 to own the device contract-free from Verizon. That’s $30 less than the cheapest of the 3G iPads unsubsidized, and close to $220 less if you opt to get help from a carrier. The device should even arrive at AT&T and U.S. Cellular in the near future. But is the Galaxy Tab comparable to Apple’s tablet in terms of features? Find out more on the next page.

Outside of being smaller than the iPad, the Galaxy Tab has a few note worthy tricks that the first gen iPad’s missing, including: a 3-megapixel back camera with flash and DVD-quality video capture, plus a 1.3-megapixel front facing version for video chatting. It weighs only .84 pounds and overall is far more portable than the iPad. In terms of speed, the Tab features a 1GHz processor, which is plenty of power to run the latest Froyo build of Android — otherwise known as 2.2 for you non super geeks — along with Samsung’s proprietary TouchWhiz 3.0 layer on top. The Tab also provides enough oomph to run Flash 10.1 for some online video goodness, although Hulu is unfortunately blocked. 16GB are on board the device, plus buyers have the option to expand the space by another 16GB through a mircoSD slot. The battery life is rated at a decent 7 hours, but it’s a good deal less than the iPad’s ridiculous 10+ hours. Last but not least, DNLA sharing and streaming is also supported for you home networking enthusiasts looking for a bit more flexibility when it comes to sharing content like movies and music between computers, TVs, and other compatible devices.

Problems arise however from the fact that Android in its current form still isn’t optimized for the tablet experience. Samsung has definitely gone the extra mile to add apps that work with the bigger screen including an Email, Calendar, Messaging, Readers Hub (for eBooks) and a Media Hub app for music, movies etc. After that though, you’re left with the short comings of the rest of the Android App Marketplace. Some popular titles like Angry Birds, Facebook, Pandora, Twitter, and Amazon’s Kindle app reportedly work well on the larger screen. Most others don’t. Subsequently, it’s on Google to take the necessary steps required to beef up Android to support the slew of tablets coming to market that all run the OS. In the meantime, Apple’s certainly got the upper hand in providing the best tablet experience from the software side of things.

The Bottom Line: The Galaxy Tab is hands down the best Android tablet out there and even despite it’s Google-related handicaps, it finally presents the iPad with a decent level of competition. Given some more time on the software side, it soon could be the best thing on the block…granted Apple doesn’t release something better bore then. For all the details you could possible want on the device, be sure to check out Engadget’s review.

Buy Now: T Mobile $399 w/ 2 year contract | Sprint $399 w/ 2 year contract | Verizon $599 no contract