Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus review

7
When Android 3.0 Honeycomb first came out, it was an OS made only for large tablets. This resulted in devices such as the HTC Flyer shipping with the phone version of Android, and it wasn't until this fall that Android 3.2 came along with support for smaller screens. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is among the first 7-inch tablets to benefit from this, and it's also the true successor to the original Galaxy Tab, with the same screen size and resolution as the original. With updated hardware that puts not only the original Tab but also the more recent 10.1 and 8.9 Tabs to shame, the 7.0 Plus is proof that the 7-inchers are back. Read on for the review. 

Hardware

Design

We tend to ignore anything that has a screen larger than 7 inches here at Pocketables, but the truth is that there are size differences within a certain screen size segment that sometimes makes that decision less than ideal. The 7.0 Plus is almost in its own league when it comes to 7-inch tablets, being both thinner and lighter than pretty much everything else on the market, from the HTC Flyer and the Acer A100 to the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet. At 9.9 mm thick and 345 grams heavy, it's anywhere from 50-100 grams lighter than other 7-inch tablets ane up to 3-4mm thinner. 

To name some examples, the Kindle Fire is 190 x 120 x 11.4 mm and weighs 413 grams while the Nook Tablet is 206 x 127 x 12 mm and weighs in at 400 grams. The extreme comparison is with the Acer A100, which for some reason that beats me is 195 x 117 x 13.1 mm and a ridiculous 450 grams. Even though the 7.0 Plus is both lighter, thinner, and has beefier hardware, it matches (or improves on) the others for battery life – but more on that later. The bottom line as far as physical footprint goes is that Samsung really has a compact device here.

The design of the 7.0 Plus is fairly straightforward. You have rounded off corners, rounded off edges, and a rounded off back. There are no sharp edges anywhere, and that makes the device very comfortable to hold. The 1024 x 600 pixel capacitive multitouch screen is protected by glass while the edges and back are made of very high quality plastic with a brushed metal look. I actually prefer the plastic backing on the 7.0 Plus to the aluminum backing of my iPad 2, as the former is softer to hold, gives a better grip, and doesn’t give me frostbite from touching it. As for the design, I certainly prefer it over some of the more industrial looking tablet that have come out lately. Yes, Kindle Fire, you. And the Toshiba Thrive 7-inch. 

7.0-plus-back
Being a Honeycomb device, the 7.0 Plus has no physical buttons on the front, just a volume rocker and sleep/wake button on the right side. The sleep/wake button is a tad annoying; having it on the right side and so close to the volume rocker means it’s easy to accidentally press it both when you’re going for the volume rocker and when you’re holding the device in one hand. It’s also very soft to press, and that adds to the accidental screen locks that are inevitable with this device. It should have been placed on top and been much harder to press down.

The right side (or top if you’re in landscape mode) also has the IR emitter that the 7.0 Plus has built in, which I’ll get back to later. The left side has the microSDHC slot, the top has the microphone and 3.5mm audio port, and the bottom has the stereo speakers, an additional microphone, and proprietary dock connector that is the same as on Samsung’s other Galaxy Tabs. This port is used both for charging, connecting to a PC, and connecting accessories.

There’s also an additional speaker on the front, placed where you’d put it on a phone. This speaker registers to the OS just like it would on a phone, and in apps like Skype you can switch between it and the main speakers and hold the device to your ear like a phone, utilizing that bottom microphone. Combined with the proximity sensor on the front that cuts off the screen and touch input when you hold it close to your ear, the 7.0 Plus has all it needs to work as a big phone, for the simple reason that it can be a big phone, given that you have the version that is being sold as a phone in some countries. If you have the P6210 WiFi version like I do, or even the 3G/4G version in the US, you will however not have this option. There hasn't been any mods to activate the phone features either, which is a pity for those who look at this and thinks "if the Galaxy Note is good because it's big, this one is even better." Of course, importing is an option.

7.0-plus-dock7.0-plus-microsd7.0plus-rightside

The 7.0 Plus charges using a USB cable and the standard 5V of USB, but like most tablets it requires more than the 500mA output of most USB ports in order to charge at full speed. The AC adapter that comes with it is rated at 10W, which with 5V is 2A or 2000mA, 4 times that of normal USB. This difference between voltage and amperage confuses people, but basically you will never fry anything that charges via USB by plugging it into something else with USB, as the worst thing that will happen is that it charges slowly or not at all.

That being said, Samsung did decide to be a real bitch with the charger. Many companies turn the standardized USB connection into a proprietary solution by making the device look for, for example, a 1k resistor on the data pins of the USB connector before it starts charging. Apple does this, and apparently Samsung does it too. The result is that while both the iPad 2 and 7.0 Plus charge using 10W, 5V/2A AC adapters with a USB connector interface, they both refuse to charge from the other one’s charger for no reason other than that Samsung and Apple has added a completely unnecessary “brand check” to them. While not many people have multiple tablets like me and won’t care that I have to carry around a charger more than should be necessary, this also affects the 7.0 Plus’ ability to use generic USB chargers and external battery packs. Unlike with Apple products, you aren’t likely to find Samsung-compatible chargers and battery packs in every store on Earth, so Samsung has shot itself in the foot with this one. Luckily, there are accessories to help this. 

Under the hood

Then you have the tablet’s “sensors.” I already mentioned the proximity sensor on the front that switches off the screen when holding it like a phone. I’m pretty sure this is separate from the main light sensor that adjusts the brightness of the screen and such, as there are three small sensors visible beside the speaker on the front: camera, light sensor, and presumably the proximity sensor. Internally you have the gyroscope and accelerometer  that senses rotation and movement, and there’s even a setting in the menus that allows you to do such things as moving icons between home screens and zooming pictures by using motion controls. I turned those off though, as I found them a bit silly and unnecessary. Even with it off, the Gallery app has a feature where the virtual stack of photos displayed reacts to motion, giving it a fake 3D look.

Samsung also put a GPS in the thing, which is nice to see on a WiFi-only tablet. Lastly, you have the cameras. The front has a 2 megapixel camera for video chat, while the back has a 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera and a LED light.

As for the things that makes the cogwheels turn, the 7.0 Plus actually doesn’t run on a Tegra 2. It runs on Samsung’s own Exynos chip, which pushes the two ARM Cortex A9 cores up to 1.2GHz instead of 1GHz, which is normal on SoCs like the Tegra 2. The GPU is the Mali-400, which is also quite a bit faster than much of the competition (for some tasks, not all), but more on that in a bit. This chipset is the same as that in the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note (though the latter runs the cores at a higher speed), which means it's quite good. There’s 1GB of RAM, 16 or 32GB of internal storage, and a microSDHC slot for expanding that storage. 802.11 a/b/g/n dual band WiFi and Bluetooth 3.0 are also in there. 

Samsung also gave the 7.0 Plus tactile feedback with a tiny motor that vibrates like on a cell phone. Again, the model I have is the P6210, US WiFi-only model, so keep that in mind as there are models with cellular hardware available, no IR port, etc. 

Tabpluscomparison

Screen

The 7.0 Plus has a 7-inch 1024 x 600 screen, which means that both the physical size and resolution is lower than most Honeycomb tablets. While the resolution is lower, the pixel density is actually higher; 170 PPI on the 7.0 Plus vs 150 PPI on 10.1-inch/1280 x 800 devices and 132 PPI on the iPad. That being said, the Galaxy Note's 1280 x 800 pixel 5.3-inch screen puts this screen resolution to shame, and the same can be said for the Galaxy Tab 7.7's 1280 x 800 display. There are also other 7-inch tablets out there with 1280 x 800 screens, so the 7.0 Plus isn't the best choice if screen resolution is all you care about. I dare say though that 170 PPI is in no way a bad pixel density, and you never feel like it should have been higher. Also, while the 7.0 Plus does not sport a Super AMOLED screen like the S II, Note and 7.7, people who have both the 7.0 Plus and a SAMOLED device have reported that there is very little difference when you turn off the 7.0 Plus' screen power saving option. 

The display is a PLS display, which is another word for “good viewing angles.” Aside from some contrast issues when viewed from the right at a sharp angle in landscape mode, the display doesn’t disappoint in terms of viewing angles. Colors are nice, and even 1/3 brightness has been enough for me indoors. You’ll still face issues outdoors though, as this doesn’t have the near-flashlight backlighting option of the upcoming Transformer Prime.

It's worth noting that the stock Touchwiz launcher for this device is a tad annoying to use as it doesn't exactly utilize the screen real-estate very well. It's designed to auto-rotate and work well in both orientations, which means that you waste a lot of space. It also uses an icon grid that makes everything quite a bit larger than what I would personally prefer. I installed ADW Launcher EX on mine, locked the home screen in portrait mode and set the icon grid to 8 wide and 10 tall. This makes the device feel much more like a tablet than the stock Touchwiz launcher which gives the term "oversized phone" a whole new meaning. 7-inch devices are often the biggest devices you can fit in a pocket or hold with one hand in portrait mode, so I feel that this hybrid system of tablet-like icon density on portrait-only (phone-like) home screens works very well. Drawing parallells to the Galaxy Note is a natural thing to do here, as the 7.0 Plus really is the next step up from the Note in terms of size.

7.0-plus-homescreen

I also want to brielfy mention the Compatibility Zoom feature that is now included in Honeycomb. In theory, it allows high resolution tablets to display unoptimized apps in a zoom mode rather than a stretch mode in order to preserve the look of apps that otherwise don't scale properly. However it appears that this is made for 1280 x 800 screens as it's rarely available as an option on the 7.0 Plus. Not often an issue, but there are times where you run across apps that don't work well on the 7.0 Plus' screen size and resolution.  

Performance

Interface and apps

Honeycomb tablets have been haunted by performance issues throughout the year as the Tegra 2 chips that make smartphones fast as heck are somewhat less impressive when tasked with powering tablets. Clock speed is often what’s highlighted in specs, but that doesn’t really tell the full story. While the CPU in the 7.0 Plus runs at a 20% higher clock speed, the real boost comes from the GPU. For most tasks, it’s a lot faster than what we’ve seen on tablets thus far. It also only has to power a 1024 x 600 screen, whereas the slower hardware of larger tablets needs to deal with 1280 x 800. Altogether, this puts the 7.0 Plus much closer to the S II or Galaxy Note in terms of performance, as they all run on the same chipset with minor differences in clock speed and screen resolution.

Being aware of the chipset is important for software compatibility with this device, as it tends to register as not compatible with both Tegra 2 and Exynos optimized apps. GTA 3 is one example where Market won't even show the app to 7.0 Plus users, even though the game runs perfectly if you sideload the .apk and manually copy the data files for the Galaxy S II instead of letting it download them automatically. Fragmentation is an issue with Android, and it's sad to see a device be locked out of apps that actually work on it because the system isn't able to recognize it as what it is. Ironically, some apps that don't work properly actually lists as compatible in the Market. Splashtop HD was available for it when it first launched, but isn't anymore after I contacted them about a ghosting and color issue that was apparently due to how the HD (tablet) version of the app handles the video stream of the desktop. Since then, the non-HD version has been updated to include 1024 x 600 as an option for forcing the remote controlled PC's resolution (though the Honeycomb notification bar makes it so it still won't display 1:1 with the source PC). Bottom line, be aware of what your tablet is sporting as far as hardware goes, as Android is currently too messy to do it for you. 

The faster hardware compared to older Honeycomb devices is also noticeable in the interface in general. It's for the most part buttery smooth, though there are times where it starts to hiccup. This is normally due to too many background tasks or simply apps that are poorly coded. A single click task killer widget has therefore quickly become one of my most used home screen widgets. As long as the hardware is allowed to concentrate on a few things, the interface experience is very nice. Even the iPad 2 has that issue, so not really the tablet's fault. The auto rotate is a bit sluggish though, but I’m starting to think that’s just Android as even the Tegra 3-powered Transformer Prime shows the same thing in videos I’ve seen of it. I’m starting to think that no hardware upgrade can ever make Android compete with an OS that’s custom built for the hardware.

Moving to app performance, you’ll mostly need beefy hardware for more advanced 3D games like ShadowGun. It handles those types of games just fine, so right now there really isn’t any software on the market that will kill the 7.0 Plus. The only time I managed to make the CPU spike and slow down the system was when I loaded a 1080p video that was encoded in a way that made the hardware decoding not work, causing MX Player to try to software decode it for a few seconds before committing virtual suicide and needing to be force closed. 

Video

If the 7.0 Plus has a limitation for what sort of video formats, bitrates, and resolutions it can handle, then I haven’t found it (with the notable exception above where HW decoding failed). After I threw a 1080p h.264 .mkv file at it and it acted as if it was playing back a 320 × 240 video file, complete with no buffering, instant resume when skipping ahead, and so on, I gave up trying to make it fail on "normal" files. A nice combination of software, hardware, and magic dust makes this a very capable video player, just like the other Exynos devices out there. 

Of course you won’t have any use for 1080p on the device itself unless you connect to a bigger screen with HDMI (which is an optional accessory), but 720p files have a place on it to fill up those 1024 x 600 pixels (even if you still don’t “use all the pixels”). As you can imagine, HD video looks very good on the screen. I remember back in the old days when portable DVD players were the latest and greatest. Huge devices with giant batteries barely provided enough battery power to watch a single movie on those 7-inch 480 x 272 screens. Now, less than a decade later, our 7-inch devices let us watch 8 hours of Blu-Ray rips on devices with more than 4 times the resolution and a fraction of the weight.

Sensor suite

The 7.0 Plus WiFi-only model also has GPS, which means that it has to find the position without using cell towers to triangulate the initial area to look for satellites in (which is what the Assisted/A-part of A-GPS stands for). Still, the GPS is very quick to get a lock and seems very accurate. Since this is an Android device, you already have navigation software built in courtesy of Google, as well as third-party options. Having GPS in the 7.0 Plus makes a world of sense because it’s small enough to be used as a window-mounted GPS, which you can’t really say about devices that are any larger. Samsung isn’t blind to this, and it’s no surprise that one of very few official accessories is a car kit for mounting and charging the 7.0 Plus in a GPS navigation role. Offline maps is key here if you have the WiFi-only model.

The rest of the sensors perform as expected, more or less. I still don’t see much point in zooming pictures with motion control, but I’m sure some people will find a use for that feature, so it’s better to have it than not. The one gripe I have though is the automatic backlight, which always seems to make the screen too dark. I’ve always had my iPad set on automatic and had it function perfectly, but apparently Samsung doesn’t share my and Apple’s idea of appropriate backlighting. I’ve seen others complain about this online as well, so I’m not alone.

Sensors1

Camera

The camera on the 7.0 Plus is…okay. 3.2 megapixels isn’t a lot, but doesn’t really say anything about image quality. The image quality is rather fitting to the resolution though, as it isn’t exactly the best – nor the worst. It’s about as average as they get, with detail and noise levels that are acceptable but not exactly suited for printing. It’s the kind of camera you use to show someone something, not document the family vacation.

The 720p video mode is very much the same way, and neither mode will replace standalone cameras. That being said, the still camera provides good enough photos for scanning documents with software such as Cam Scanner. The LED light (I refuse to call it a flash) helps with that as well. The irony here is that the screen size and ratio isn’t as well suited to read those documents as larger tablets.

The camera quality is a bit of a letdown. While waving 10-inch tablets around to take photos is both awkward and looks stupid, the 7-inch form factor is much closer to an actual camera. I could very well picture myself (pun intended) using the 7.0 Plus to take some quick shots if the camera had been up to the task. I don’t think a better camera would have added too much to the overall cost, and the 7.0 Plus is already a premium device compared to other 7-inch devices, so having a better camera to show for itself would have been nice. As it stands right now, the camera is perhaps the biggest difference between the 7.0 Plus and the Exynos smartphones, aside from size. If you consider only the phone-enabled 7.0 Plus for a moment, it's easy to see the big, bigger, biggest system of the S II, Note and 7.0 Plus, but the camera is what points this more towards the tablet market than the oversized phone market. 

Below is a test video and photos from the camera. 

20111204_111041 20111204_111211 20111204_111340 20111204_111508

Battery

The magic number on the 7.0 Plus is 8 hours. That number will vary greatly depending on what you do, screen brightness, wireless use, and so on, but it’s basically the normal scenario if you sit down and do something like watch a video continuously. Galaxy Tabs of multiple models have been plagued with something called sleep of death, where the tablet won’t wake from sleep and needs to boot up again. This is commonly believed to be an issue with the WiFi not going to sleep properly, so it can be a good idea to set that to turn off completely when the screen is off. In reality though, I've had sleep of death issues both with and without that option turned on. Once you realize that your tablet didn't just die completely, it isn't much of an issue to have to reboot it the once a week or so it tends to happen. 

8 hours isn’t bad for a tablet that’s half the size of 10-inch tablets, and a lot better than some 7-inchers out there. It’s about the same as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, but keep in mind that the 7.0 Plus is lighter, thinner, and has more going on under the hood – which makes the battery life quite impressive.

Software

Samsungdroid 3.2

The 7.0 Plus runs a customized version of Android 3.2. Samsung has given the OS its own touch in the form of TouchWiz and various tweaks and settings, so the experience isn’t identical to other Android devices. It seems like every company has its own UI to put on top these days. Both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet run very heavily customized UIs, and other companies like Asus and Acer have various tweaks on a smaller scale. The Toshiba Thrive 7-inch runs a much more vanilla version of Honeycomb though, for better or for worse. As I mentioned earlier, it's a good idea to swap out TouchWiz for another launcher in order to be able to utilize more of the screen real-estate. That way you get rid of the most annoying aspect of TouchWiz while still having some of the advantages, like a much better notification menu than stock Honeycomb (it has controls for WiFi, brightness etc built right in). 

I also found USB gamepad drivers missing, something that other manufacturers have implemented as they should (Wiimotes work though, along with Classic controllers plugged into Wiimtoes, so there's plenty of ways to get your gaming on). Perhaps the most annoying thing Samsung did was to create Kies, a PC program that is needed to update the 7.0 Plus; over-the-air updates simply don’t work.

Bloatware

Samsung looooves bloatware. The 7.0 Plus ships with a whole range of apps, some of which are made by Samsung, many of which aren’t. The worst thing is that they can’t be uninstalled, so you’re stuck with them unless you root the device. I really have no need for three video player apps, but when Samsung adds another one to the stock Android app and I then download the one I like the best, that’s the result when it won’t let me uninstall the two I didn’t choose. Weather widgets, RSS readers, music players, etc. – the 7.0 Plus is full of them. You might like some, you might not – point is, you should be allowed to choose without rooting. At the very least you can just ignore them, which is good. It's slightly less easy to ignore the mini app tray that pops up if you hit the arrow in the middle of the tast bar, which has a tendency to be accidentally hit when going for the space bar on the keyboard. On the 7.7 Samsung has added the ability to customize this tray with the apps you want, but so far the 7.0 Plus doesn't have that option. 

SmartRemote

One of the included apps that I don’t consider bloatware is SmartRemote. As I mentioned earlier the 7.0 Plus has an IR transmitter built in, allowing it to work as a universal remote. SmartRemote is the software that controls this feature. The app works very differently depending on whether you're in the US or not: if you're not, it simply asks you what brand of device you have rand then tries to see if it works, and then gives you lots of buttons. If you're in the US, it looks completely different and asks you for such things as zip code and cable provider, how you turn on the TV etc. With all of that set up, it basically acts as a TV guide where you see a list of what's available and then control the home theatre indirectly by selecting what you want to watch. While the non-US remote system is sort of a "oh, neat" kind of deal, the US system is bordering on making me suggest that people buy this just as a remote. You can see the drastic difference below. 

Smartremote

Peel-remote-in-us

Google Apps

Unlike some tablets that are either too cheap or too customized, the 7.0 Plus comes with the full suite of Google apps, from Gmail and Reader to Navigation. Samsung has stuffed the poor thing full of its own apps to do a lot of the same things, like its own email app or the third-party Pulse RSS reader, but at the very least they didn’t remove what was already there.

Market and app stores

Google apps also means the 7.0 Plus has Android Market, which is also not to be taken for granted these days. You can also sideload apps via .apk files, which means you can install third-party app stores. You can also use this to load software that's bundled with other tablets (doesn't always work) such as Kindle Fire apps. Samsung also has an app called Samsung Apps that shows off some apps that it feels are good for your new tablet, though this only opens Market and doesn’t contain its own store.

High-performance Kindle Fire?

A few weeks ago I posted on Pocketables' sister site about how someone was running Kindle Fire apps on a first-generation Galaxy Tab. While I haven’t tried the apps on my 7.0 Plus, the same “trick” should work just fine there – and of course you already have the Kindle app. As I said earlier, you can often transplant software from one device to another, but not hardware, so if you want the Kindle Fire experience but in a more powerful package, the 7.0 Plus might be for you. 

7.0-kindle

App capability

Ebook reading is brilliant on the 7.0 Plus because of the excellent size; there’s a reason why Amazon and Barnes & Noble chose the 7-inch segment for their tablet ereaders. Magazine apps and things that are formatted for paper doesn’t suit it as well, as mentioned earlier. Games and such work without a hitch, be it simple things like Angry Birds or more advanced games like ShadowGun.

The 7.0 Plus is in a situation where it can use both tablet optimized apps and phone optimized apps without either looking out of place. This gives you a fair share of freedom and makes you less dependent on tablet optimized apps. That being said, it sometimes shines through that you’re on a smaller device. Web browsing for instance is horrible with the built-in browser as the toolbars take up so much of the horizontal space in landscape mode that there isn’t much left for the actual web page. Third-party apps help this, though, and I've found that portrait mode works pretty well for browsing. 

The weakest app performance you’ll see on the 7.0 Plus is likely with anything that involves drawing or handwriting, simply because you have a much smaller screen to work on. The Galaxy Note has a digitizer pen similar to that in the HTC Flyer, which ironically makes it more suited for such tasks than the 7.0 Plus. Capacitive styli work, of course, but aside from scribbling post-it notes with Samsung’s Pen memo app you’re unlikely to work that way very much.

Multimedia

Since the 7.0 Plus runs Android and has hardware capable of basically anything you can throw at it, it makes for a nice multimedia device. Most streaming services and such have Android apps, and naturally these will work with this device. Music, photos, video, and games are all more than welcome on this device, and the size makes it a more portable solution than bigger tablets. Samsung also includes a few apps to that end, such as Media Hub, which allows you to buy video content, and AllShare, which is a DLNA streamer. You can get these features from third-party apps too, and some fall in my bloatware category, but it’s nice that Samsung is trying to provide a content ecosystem for its devices.

The stereo speakers also hint to this device’s multimedia capabilities. They’re not overly loud, but provide decent sound for what they do. They’re not really stereo though, since they’re both placed on the bottom, which becomes the right side in landscape mode (which is likely how you'll hold the device when watching video or playing games). You would have had to have one on the top and one on the bottom for them to actually provide anything close to stereo.

As for headphones, Samsung ships the 7.0 Plus with some IEMs (in-ear monitors, which are earphones that go deeper in the ear) that also have a remote on the cable. The sound quality is truly awful though, so don’t expect to be using these. However, I have a tutorial for how to transplant the cable from such headphones onto better headphones on my personal site - the tutorial was originally made for Apple headphones, but the procedure is basically the same.

Accessories

Aside from the headphones, cable, and AC adapter that come with the device, Samsung has a few official accessories for the 7.0 Plus, but these are impossible to find right now. There’s the USB kit that I reviewed, a multimedia dockkeyboard dockcaseHDMI adapter, and vehicle mount. Incipio is one of the first major case manufacturers to offer a 7.0 Plus case, and being a fan of the company and desperately wanting a proper case I already ordered one which should arrive sometime next week. 

Accessories for the original Galaxy Tab (P1000) also work fairly well. The HDMI dock has been reported to work (it also works with the 10.1 and 8.9, so no surprise there) as long as you modify the plastic holder slightly (or remove it). The charge adapter I linked to when talking about charging was also originally for the P1000. Keyboard docks and some cases also work on the 7.0 Plus, so you might be able to score a bargain or two. 

Naturally you also have generic accessories such as all those remote control toys that connect to the audio port of Android devices, Bluetooth accessories, etc. It’s worth mentioning that the 7.0 Plus supposedly has aptX support, which is an audio codec used in Bluetooth audio streaming that is vastly superior to what most devices can do in the Bluetooth audio department. This means that aptX-compatible Bluetooth headphones might be a nice investment for 7.0 Plus users – I say "might" as I haven't personally confirmed aptX support nor seen anyone with a P6210 version saying they have. 

Usb-connection-kit-samsung
VS. the cheapos

One of the big questions with the 7.0 Plus is what justifies it being twice the price of devices like the Kindle Fire, Kobo Vox and Nook Color (and almost twice the price of the Nook Tablet). Well, the hardware section of this reviews pretty much lists the reasons for that price difference. The 7-inch market has almost become synonymous with budget tablets in the last few months and people often forget that there's no reason why smaller should mean less powerful. Devices like the Fire are great for the price, but you simply get more of everything with the 7.0 Plus, and in a smaller package. With the ability to load a fair share of Kindle Fire software on the 7.0 Plus, there isn't much to signify buying the cheaper ones if money is no issue.  

Even compared to other $400-range tablets on the market, the 7.0 Plus seems to be pulling ahead. I haven't tried these myself, but reviews I've seen list the snappiness of Exynos and the combination of battery life, thickness and weight as more important than the 1280 x 800 screen resolution that some 7-inch tablets offer. When you see the 7.0 Plus compared with other higher resolution 7-inch tablets, it's easy to understand why resolution isn't always everything. 

To be honest, I think the HTC Flyer/EVO View is the strongest competitor right now. It's at the end of its life, so it's heavily discounted, all the while boosting Honeycomb with a recent update and having that digitizer pen option that's hard to classify as anything other than a massive plus. Age aside, the combination of features and the new price range makes it more of a high end 7-inch competitor than the Fire/Nook Tablet etc in my opinion. 

VS. the Note

The Galaxy Note is hot these days, for good reasons. The thing is a beast and at the top of many people's cell phone wish list right now. It's ironic that it's so much more known than the 7.0 Plus as they are in reality more similar than dissimilar. They sport the same chipset, though the Note's CPU is clocked at 0.2 GHz more per core – which doesn't really affect day-to-day operation much since the GPU is the same. The Note's resolution is higher, but the 7.0 Plus' screen is bigger, which is a minus for portability but a plus for most other things. The Note has a Super AMOLED display, but it's a pentile display which is known to have some issues (not that it's a bad display by any means), and not everyone likes the somewhat over-saturated AMOLED look. They have the same storage options, and both can work as phones if you get the right model of the 7.0 Plus. The Note does have the pen, which for some people isn't an overly useful thing, but personally it's one of the reasons I want it. Finally, the Note has a way (!!!!) better camera. 

When you sum it all up, the Note is objectively the better device. However it's also the more expensive device, and size is going to matter most in this case. I'm using an iPhone 3GS and the 7.0 Plus right now and have been considering selling those to finance a Note. What's stopping me is the fact that I quite like the 7-inch form factor. Resolution is only half the battle when it comes to being a tablet, as the true gain comes from being able to have finger sized buttons without them taking up half the screen. As big as the Note is, it's actually quite small in comparison to a 7-inch device. I suspect that's why it doesn't run Honeycomb. Put simply, the 7.0 Plus is a tablet that's also (in some cases) a phone. The Note is a phone that's also a tablet. Picking between them comes down to whether the phone or the tablet bit is most important. 

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is a premium device in the 7-inch market all the while being a niche device in the phone market (the phone-enabled version, that is). It's packed full of nice hardware and you're never really left wanting something that isn't there, although a digitizer pen and a better camera would of course be good. It's portable yet does an excellent job at home where it can function as a remote control. Through built in DLNA support it can even work as a media server, though frankly the GPU's ability to decode video using hardware means that it's better used with an HDMI dock to power a large screen directly. The original Galaxy Tab was quite an innovation when so long before other Android tablets, and while the market is no longer the same today, Samsung honors the original quite nicely with this updated version. 

 

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.