A year ago when Samsung threw its hat into the proverbial tablet ring – with the launch of Samsung Galaxy Tab – it was widely believed that Samsung had prematurely hashed out a device to compete with the iPad. The Samsung Galaxy Tab wasn’t the best looking device and it certainly fell short of its lofty expectations. The price, its form factor and interface left users wanting. However, a lot has changed since then. The Korean company has since launched a bevy of tablets, in a multitude of sizes. ‘Different strokes for different folks’ couldn’t be truer with Samsung, considering you now have a choice between 10-, 7- and 8-inch devices. And the new kid on the block is the direct descendent of the one that started it all. The $400 Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus comes to market as a cheaper, slimmer, and feature packed tab with a lot of expectation amidst a market that is inundated with options. So does the device live up to its billing? Read on for our full review.
A tablet’s form factor has never been more important; manufacturers are constantly pushing the envelope by make devices slimmer and lighter, and Samsung seem to have taken things very seriously. The Samsung Tab 10.1 is currently the slimmest tablet available, measuring in at only 8.6mm in thickness (if you can call it that), the Samsung Tab 7.0 Plus is a little thicker with a thickness of 9.9mm. This may seem like a lot, but when held in the hand, things feel natural. With a 7-inch form factor there is less wiggle room and the weight of the device never felt like a hindrance.
Being a sleeker device translated to lighter device as well. The original tab weighed in 0.85lbs and the Tab Plus shaves that down to 0.76, which may not seem as much but rest assured it’s a fairly light gadget.
A big complaint with the original Galaxy Tab was the device’s cheap exterior and plastic-ky materials. The Tab Plus has made amends to some extent; although the tablet it still encased in plastic, the back material is given a brushed metal finish that is aesthetically pleasing and nice to grip. The device doesn’t look tacky by any means and at a quick glance you would be forgiven for thinking it is indeed encased in aluminum.
Upon picking up the tab, you will be greeted by a 7-inch diagonal display with a resolution of 1024×600, which is pretty much standard amongst its competition. The screen is very bright and does a good job with colour rendering, and has forgiving viewing angles. If you plan to view some questionable content on your daily train commute, be rest assured your neighbor is going to get a good clear peak. Double-edged sword? The AMOLED panel doesn’t bleed colours like in earlier Samsung phones, and does a fairly good job. Unfortunately the upcoming Tab 7.7 will sport a SUPER AMOLED display with a higher resolution. You just can’t keep up with technology these days.
The Tab Plus runs Android Honeycomb, and with the new software, Google did away with the need for capacitive keys. Besides the volume rocker and the power button, there are no physical buttons to be found on this device. To the top right corner of the tablet you will find the standard 1.3MP front facing camera beside the earpiece grill that lays dead center. To the right on the side, there is the standard power button and volume rocker, both of which are raised ever so slightly. A welcome and intriguing addition is the presence of an IR blaster that we will come on to later on in the review. On the bottom, one will find the standard connector port, stereo speakers and a microphone. Up top you will find the customary 3.5mm headphone jack, and microSD card slot on the left.
The Samsung Tab Plus is the beneficiary of a slew of new innards, from the Exynos 1.2GHz dual core processor to a healthy 1GB RAM and — the soon to be outdated– Android Honeycomb 3.2 software it runs. Google purists may shudder on finding out that the Tab Plus doesn’t offer the pure Honeycomb experience, since Samsung have layered their proprietary TouchWiz UI atop Android. However, this really isn’t a bad thing. In previous tablets and phones TouchWiz was clunky and merely a hindrance, but this isn’t the case here. The UI is rather lightweight and a suite of Samsung specific apps are a welcome addition.
The app plays the part of a content aggregator, bringing together your Facebook, Twitter, Email and LinkedIn content in a no frills hub which is very easy to navigate. Setting up accounts is a breeze and if you don’t want the hassle of downloading third party apps, this will do just fine.
Media hub does exactly what it says on the tin; it serves as hub for a host of rentable, purchasable content. The content is pretty expansive, although the prices are less than favourable. You are probably better off looking for content on Amazon. For browsing through trailers and clips, Samsung’s Media hub will suffice.
The Android Store has recently undergone a number of facelifts to make app discoverability easier, but Samsung felt the need to add a standalone app to aggregate the best apps for tablets – and we love it. Samsung Apps has a slick UI and is constantly updated with the best apps for tablets from a variety of categories. Furthermore, a ‘Friends’ mode allows you to look at what apps your friends are currently using.
This feature is a heavily touted feature on the Tab Plus, and rightly so. Peel serves as a multimedia remote that plays nice with your television and cable service. Using the IR blaster, you can quickly take control of your TV and thumb through cable listings all on your tablet. The Peel remote is painless to setup; specify your television set (supports Samsung, LG, Sony, Toshiba and more), cable provider and you are off and running. Using Peel, you can setup reminders for your favourite shows and even record content if you use a DVR (Tivo, Comcast). While listings weren’t always up to date, the remote does a pretty good job and making your antiquated remote redundant. Peel isn’t perfect, but it does a great job on the whole and future software updates may iron out any creases.
The Tab Plus received a significant spec bump, yet however there are still some nagging issues. When rotating the screen from portrait to landscape there is a significant delay in transformation. Even with no background apps running, this issue seemed to plague the device. Furthermore, when switching between apps we noticed a delay, which was compounded with more apps being run in the background. Given that the Tab Plus is running some pretty solid hardware, this is strange. However when swiping between home screens, the movement is fluid.
The display is a bright and vivid one, yet it feels lacking. The pixel density for this screen is 150ppi but it doesn’t quite cut it when viewing high definition pictures. The pixilation is evident when looking close up, but its not the worst thing in the world.
Tablets are not known for their camera prowess, yet I have some bones to pick with the camera on the Tab Plus. The 3MP sensor does a decent job in bright conditions yet, colours appear faded and washed out. Don’t even bother taking pictures at night –even with the bright LED flash—as the results are less than satisfactory. If you are going to use the cameras for video chat, then you will not have any issues. Just don’t expect a point and shoot replacement here. Camera settings are however plentiful.
Shooting modes include a panorama setting and ‘action shots’ for fast moving subjects. Annoyingly there is no dedicated camera button, so self-portraits are out of the question. The HD video capture is so-so, playback is smooth but panning quickly during capture will yield pixelated results.
Here are a couple of photos taken using the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus with and without the flash.
Straight out of the box the Tab Plus was spectacular in the battery run down test. On half a charge, with some light content surfing the tablet lasted for 5 hours. On a full charge, I was able to go nearly 2 days with light usage without have to run to the nearest plug. With heavy use (video downloads, HD playback and app downloads) the tablet lasted north of 7 hours, which is very impressive for such a slender device.
In my extended tests, watching HD content was extremely satisfying. When watching full HD runs of Luther, playback was flawless with almost no ghosting or lag, thanks mainly to the blistering Exynos processor onboard. As far a media consumption goes, this tablet is quite a gem. Samsung has obviously set their sights on this space, with the inclusion of apps like the Peel Remote and Media Hub.
The Tab Plus is a mixed bag, the screen resolution and minor UI stutters are a tad annoying, yet it provides great multimedia experience on the whole. At $399 its $100 more expensive than the competing Kindle Fire, but the extra money gets you the full Android experience, cameras, and better multimedia functionality.
Samsung have a higher-end 7.7-inch device on the horizon, but for the time being the Tab 7.0 Plus is definitely a significant upgrade from the original Tab and an option worth considering. As far as 7-inch tablets go, this one is sitting pretty on top of the pile.
Check out the Gallery Below for all the Photos and Screen-shots of the device.