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Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 review – can it STILL deliver satisfying performance?

There was a definitive moment for Android’s ascension as an OS for tablets and that was the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 slate. The 7 incher enjoyed and enjoys huge popular (and critical) success, being the first tablet outside the Apple ecosystem to cause some sort of gadget hysteria. But is there enough soul and brains in this 7 inch tablet to deserve a place in history (and your bag)? Stick around and find out from our review of the Galaxy Tab 7.

Warm up, a spec sheet, of course

  • CPU: 1 GHZ Cortex A8 with PowerVR SGX540 graphics
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Storage: 16 or 32 GB
  • Display: 7 inch capacitive touchscreen, 600 x 1024 pixel resolution, Gorilla Glass, support for multi touch
  • Cameras: one in the back, LED Flash, can record 720 x 480 video and take photos with a 2048 x 1536 resolution. One in front for video calling
  • Connectivity: Wi Fi, blue tooth, 3G
  • Ports: USB 2.0 port, audio jack, TV-out, SD card slot
  • OS: Android 2.2
  • Features: HD playback support, TouchWizz UI, Thinkfree Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF), Google Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Picasa integration, Adobe Flash 10.1 support, digital compass, gyro sensor, accelerometer, proximity sensor
  • Battery: Li-Po 4000 mAh (7 hrs movie playback, up to 28h of talking time).

Hardware

Tablets tend to look the same these days and Samsung tried to distinguish the Galaxy Tab from the horde of bland, plastic finished tablets. The front and the back of the tablet look and feel different, with the good point that the front facing part is more solid and looks better– and considering you’ll be using that side more, we can only applaud.

But let’s start with the back- there’s a simple plastic finish with the logos of Samsung and the carrier you might choose. It looks decent and feels rather tough. On the front, you have a metal finish going around the screen, which feels very solid and has a good grip.

The screen has great viewing angles and lively colors

The screen has great viewing angles and lively colors


Screen

The display of the Galaxy Tab has a 1024 x 600 resolution, which is a very decent resolution for a 7 inch device. The viewing angles are especially good; when we’ve tilted the screen, colors continued to look good and the screen was not suddenly covered in a black shade. The colors of the screen might put off some of you; the default settings cause the colors to be very saturated and if you have, let’s say, a picture taken in the forest with some friends wearing clothes of different colors, you might get a little dizzy from all the colors and shades. But this is easily fixable from the settings menu and you can find the right fit for you.

Nevertheless, don’t expect to see much of the screen if you’re in a very bright room or out in the sun; the glossy display gets all flared up and there’s no way of actually using the tablet in these conditions. In terms of responsiveness, the screen is like a squirrel on caffeine. Tapping and selecting items never needs a second gesture in order to launch.

Software

The Galaxy Tab comes with Android Froyo 2.2 and on top of it there’s Samsung TouchWizz UI, which might be familiar to you if you fooled around with a Galaxy S phone. While Android 2.2 is not the newest or best OS for tablets, Samsung managed to tweak it in order to be a decent experience on the 7 inch screen. Also, they developed special apps for this device and did not just splash stock apps on the tablet and see how it works.

There are a couple of dedicated apps, like e-mail, for starters. The app looks pretty much like the mail app from the S phone, but when you rotate the screen to landscape, you get a split design, with the Inbox on the left and the selected message on the right. It works fine and really takes advantage of the bigger screen- the icons are not cramped up and everything is well adjusted. There’s also a messaging and contact app, which allows you to send MMS and SMS to friends.

down the only road I've ever known

down the only road I've ever known

It looks pretty much like the mail app- friends on the left, message on the right and it works equally good. The media hub is an app granting access to movies, trailers and TV shows (for a fee, of course). The problem is not the functionality, but the fact that the library is kind of limited to very new releases coming from only a few providers- MTV, Paramount, Universal.

Browsing

The hardware setup allows for some smooth browsing, but the OS is not completely optimized to work with everything the web has to offer (or the web is reluctant to recode itself in order to work on mobile operating systems). And we are of course talking about Flash, which gags the overall performance of the table, while enough sites out there which are heavy on Flash do not support Android. Many Flash games and apps running on Tab are just modified apps for smart phones and this shows- there’s a need for dedicated apps for the Tab if it’s to shine as a multimedia platform.

Performance

The Galaxy benefits from a strong hardware hardware lineup, comprising of a Cortex A8 single core processor and 512 MB of RAM. Sure, it’s no Xoom or iPad 2, but for a 7 inch tablet running Froyo, it’s more than enough. Streaming HD videos from Youtube or playing it straight from the flash memory runs smooth and if you turn off Flash, you’ll get an overall boost in performance. Gaming is also very smooth, and the accelerometer is very responsive when you’re driving some cars, for example.

Multitasking is fine, but the system has its limits, though. Running two very intensive applications, like a game and a high res video at once will bottleneck the tablet. Take it slow and do things one at a time and you’ll get some fine performance. In terms of battery life, the Galaxy Tab can go on for about two days of modest use, like browsing the web and reading some e-books. However, it will deplete faster if you’ll watch many videos and leave the 3G module on, it won’t last for more than 6 to 7 hours.

the TouchWizz interface gives easier access to what's essential

the TouchWizz interface gives easier access to what's essential

Camera

The Tab has 2 cameras, a 3 MP camera in the back which comes with LED flash, and a 1.3 one in front for video calling. The app serving the 3 MP camera is pretty standard, packing settings for mode, flash, exposure and everything you need to take pics. The app screen also lets you change from camera mode to camcorder, as well as getting into the picture gallery. Everything you need is on one screen and you don’t have to mess with sub menus to set everything up.

For a 3 MP camera, quality is not too bad, but don’t expect something stellar. There’s less detail in the pictures than what you get from 5 MP or, recently, 8 MP cameras on tablets- it’s all damp and a little mediocre, but if you’re taking pictures for their sentimental value, you should be just fine.

As for the video recording part, it’s kind of the same- the 30fps rate will deliver relatively clear images, but with less detail than most mainstream devices can deliver nowadays. As for the 1.3 MP camera in front- is there something to say? It will get you through some video calls, but make sure the ambient light in the room it’s just fine, or you won’t see too much of the person chatting with.

Conclusion

The Galaxy Tab 7 inch tablet is a solid buy even now, when the Galaxy 10 inch is soon to be released and most tablets have dual core chips and bigger screens. It catches a little of the magic of the 7 inch format, with its “grab-able” design and lively screen. Although not perfect in terms of functionality (on the other hand, neither is the iPad 2), the tablet can deliver kind of everything a tablet has to do- video playback, some gaming, solid connectivity (you can go for different 3G data plans from all big carriers) and decent autonomy.

If you’re not one of those early adopters, who always buy only the newest gadgets and change them three weeks later, the Galaxy Tab is still a good buy. About that- it might be wise to wait a little more to buy it, as the price keeps going down, as the tablet is, in absolute terms, a generation “too old”.

Pros

  • battery life
  • design
  • good viewing angles

Cons

  • performance decreases when using Flash
  • modest cameras
  • multitasking might freeze the tablet




About the Author
Mark
Mark is an Editor here at TabletBite.com. Based in London where he studies Screenwriting and Production, he blogs about technology as a hobby. He's mainly in charge with news here on the site, but he doesn't mind publishing some guides, tests and editorials from time to time as well.


Last updated: March 21, 2011 | Published: February 21st, 2011
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One Comment

  1. akpadhi

    Good focused review Mark. Thanks.


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