Samsung revamps its smallest Galaxy Tab (November 18th, 2011)
Product Manufacturer: Samsung
Price: $400 as tested
- Fast dual-core processor
- Peel integration with IR transmitter
- Attractive design
- Light weight
- Dim display
- Interface occasionally lags
- Not much cheaper than Tab 8.9/10.1
Samsung has filled its tablet portfolio with a variety of sizes, but the company's first Galaxy Tab was one of the smaller players with a seven-inch display. After going after the iPad with a ten-inch model, and following up with a midsize 8.9-inch variant, Samsung has overhauled its original design as the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. In our full review, we compare the new tablet to its predecessor and its competition.
The Plus edition carries the same overall form as the first-generation model, but the back is now made of the same brushed-gunmetal plastic that adorns the 8.9- and 10.1-inch models. We would have preferred if each of the sizes were produced with a metal housing rather than plastic, which does not feel as solid as an iPad or some of the other Android tablets.
Light weight is one clear advantage for a plastic housing, as the Tab 7.0 Plus weighs less than its predecessor and most of the similarly-sized competitors, such as the BlackBerry PlayBook and Kindle Fire. For those who consider a seven-inch display to be the optimum size for e-book readers, the light build gives the Plus a slight edge in comfort over long reading sessions.
Users can access the power/sleep button and volume control at the top of the right edge. A quick look shows what appears to be a third button further down from the volume rocker, however the button-shape dark spot is actually an infrared sensor/transmitter that is primarily used for a deeper integration of Peel's remote control app.
Display and cameras
The Tab 7.0 Plus integrates the same 1024x600 LCD as its predecessor. The display is not spectacular, lacking the color vibrance of AMOLED panels or the wide viewing angles of IPS technology. We would have preferred if Samsung upgraded the display, improving the resolution or switching to AMOLED. Moving to 1280x800 resolution to match the Tab 8.9 and 10.1, or offering 1280x720 pixels for native HD, would have been a welcome change.
Aside from the color vibrance and viewing angles, the display is also very dim. When we brought the tablet outdoors we thought the brightness settings had shifted, but they had not. Reading when the sun is out, even outside of direct sunlight, is a difficult task.
A three-megapixel camera is fitted into the back of the Plus, providing autofocus and LED flash for low-light shooting. The black bezel surrounding the display contains a two-megapixel camera, which steps up from the 1.2-megapixel sensor of the original. The cameras performed as expected, acceptable for what most users will consider a secondary feature.
Although the Plus shares many features with the first-generation model, upgrades to the internal components enable the device to run Android 3.2 Honeycomb, a proper tablet OS, rather than one of the Froyo or Gingerbread builds that are better suited for smartphones.
Samsung pairs the stock OS with TouchWiz, an interface overlay that is present on the other Galaxy Tabs. We like the custom UI, which provides a range of widgets and improvements to multitasking functionality.
The processor represents the biggest upgrade from the original Tab to the Plus edition, stepping up from a single-core 1.0GHz chip to a dual-core CPU that runs at 1.2GHz. Most operations were noticeably faster with the new chipset, however we did run into several problems with lag and stumbling between apps.
Seven-inch tablets offer a perfect size for an interactive remote control. Samsung and Peel appear to have taken this into consideration and decided to collaborate on the Plus, adding an infrared component to communicate with A/V equipment without requiring a special dongle or network-attached accessory.
The Peel app enables users to control their TV, disc players, A/V receivers or other home theater equipment. The utility also provides discovery features to help find new content, along with social networking integration for sharing with others.
We believe the Peel integration on a seven-inch tablet is more of an attractive proposition than Peel's pear-shaped IR accessory that brings the same functionality to iOS or Android devices.
Despite our complaints regarding the dim display, the Tab 7.0 Plus is one of the best Honeycomb-based tablets in the small size. If we had to pick one Galaxy Tab above the others, however, we would choose the 8.9-inch model, which offers an excellent balance of size and features.
The Tab 7.0 Plus may be the most capable seven-inch tablet currently available, but it may be overshadowed by the Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet and other devices that bring people to expect a small price tag alongside the little tablets. Anyone who is willing to spend $400 on a tablet may want to save a bit more to spring for the Tab 8.9, which costs $470, or any of the $500 tablets such as the Tab 10.1 and iPad 2.