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- Samsung’s $650 Galaxy Tab S7 is an excellent tablet, and you wouldn’t be making a huge mistake in buying one.
- With that said, I’d still recommend Apple’s iPads if we were having a normal conversation.
- The Galaxy Tab S7’s screen is wider than the iPad’s, which is great for video, but it feels like there’s wasted space when using productivity apps.
- If you need a good simple tablet, you don’t need to spend around $600 — most people will be happy with the standard $330 10.2-inch iPad.
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Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S line of Android tablets are the primary alternative to Apple’s all-dominant iPad, and the Galaxy Tab S7 will please those who are comfortable with the Android operating system.
Starting at $650, the Galaxy Tab S7 is priced like a premium tablet, and it has the design, features, and performance to support that price tag. It’s closest iPad equivalent price-wise is Apple’s latest $600 iPad Air, and Samsung is justifying the extra $50 by including the S Pen stylus, whereas Apple users will have to shell out an extra $129 for the second generation Apple Pencil.
For some users, even those who aren’t attached to Apple’s ecosystem with iPhones and Mac computers, Android tablets aren’t even on the table. As good as the Galaxy Tab S7 is, it doesn’t shift the overall recommendations away from the iPad.
Let it be known that I primarily use Android phones as my daily drivers, so I’m not swayed by losing any functionality or benefits from staying in the Apple ecosystem with an iPad.
- Display: 11-inch with 16:10 aspect ratio, 2,560 x 1,600 resolution at 274 pixels per inch, 120Hz
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
- Cameras: 13-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel front camera
- Memory and storage: 6GB + 128GB; 8GB + 256GB; 8GB + 512GB; storage expandable up to 1TB with microSD card
- Battery: 8,000mAh, 45W fast charger included, rated by Samsung to offer 15 hours of video playback
- Authentication: Side-mounted fingerprint sensor on power button
- Speakers: Four speakers in stereo (two on each side in horizontal position)
- Ports: USB-C
Design and display
The Galaxy Tab S7 is a solid slab of metal and glass, and it looks and feels as premium as it gets with its brushed metal edges and smooth, matte texture metal back. The corners are rounded and the edges are sharply squared, but it’s still comfortable enough to hold and use.
The power button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor is on the top right edge of the Tab S7 if you hold it vertically. It’s a narrow oval button that sits flush against the tablet’s edge, and it works quickly and accurately to unlock the tablet. At the same time, it can be tough to find since it sits so flush against the tablet’s right edge. Muscle memory eventually helps guide you to place your finger in the right place. Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
It’s a decently thin tablet at 6.3mm (compared to 6.1mm for the 2020 iPad Air), and it leans towards the heavier side at 498 grams compared with the 458 grams for the 2020 iPad Air, and even the iPad Pro 11-inch at 471g. Due to the screen’s 16:10 aspect ratio, it’s a fairly tall and narrow tablet when you hold it vertically compared to the iPad, which has more of a square design due to its screen with an aspect ratio of about 4:3.
The Tab S7’s screen is a gorgeous, sharp IPS LCD display that gets bright, and colors and contrast pop in true Samsung style. Just about everything on the screen looks fantastic, and it supports HDR10+. Videos that support HDR look especially good on the Tab S7.
Throw the 120Hz refresh rate into the mix, and navigating around Android and apps is exceptionally smooth. This high refresh rate doesn’t affect video so much, and it’s a mostly superficial feature, but it makes a big impact in making the Tab S7 feel fast and powerful.
Depending on whether you want to use a tablet for watching videos of productivity, the Galaxy Tab S7’s rectangular 16:10 screen could make a difference if you’re considering between the Tab S7 and an iPad. The Tab S7’s screen is similar to a standard computer monitor or TV (16:9 aspect ratio), which makes it better for playing standard 16:9 videos in horizontal mode. Despite a great picture, the iPad’s nearly square-ish screen in horizontal mode isn’t quite as good for videos, as it’ll play videos in a smaller size with bigger black borders on the top and bottom. Antonio Villas Boas/Business Insider
The iPad’s square-ish screen is better suited for productivity than the Tab S7 when used horizontally, as it gives more visible room vertically for apps, nearly all of which are designed to work vertically — we swipe up and down apps more often than swiping sideways. That means you can see more text and content in an app while using an iPad horizontally. Antonio Villas Boas/Business Insider
To be sure, the Tab S7 and its wider screen is still good for productivity, but the iPad’s aspect ratio makes it somewhat better.
Performance and battery life
The Galaxy Tab S7 works and feels like a top smartphone of 2020, as it runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ chip that spins the wheels on phones like the Galaxy Note 20 series. That means it’s fast and responsive, and there’s no issue running power-hungry apps or games.
I tested the 128GB storage model that comes with 6GB of memory (RAM), and a Geekbench 5 benchmark test showed around 950 for single-core performance, and 3,150 for multi-core performance. That’s right in line with other high-end Android phones I’ve tested running the Snapdragon 865 plus chip, like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
One of the main reasons Android tablets get scorn is their comparative lack of apps that are optimized for tablets. Indeed, some Android apps still aren’t optimized for tablets, and it’s easy to tell when you run into one of these unoptimized apps. It doesn’t necessarily ruin the experience — unoptimized apps just look and work more like smartphone apps, so some elements may look out of proportion in relation to the tablet’s large screen size.
As for battery life, Samsung rates the Tab S7 to play 15 hours of video, but it’s not clear whether that’s for streaming, nor is it clear what other settings they used, like screen brightness. Samsung has a page that explains its battery testing methodology, but it wasn’t active at the time of writing.
Either way, it never felt as if battery life was running down too quickly while using and testing the Tab S7, primarily as a video streaming device, as well as video calls and general app usage.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the necessary cables to try out Samsung’s Dex feature. Samsung Dex is Samsung’s own desktop-style Android operating system that works when you connect a Samsung device with Dex to a monitor. You can hook up the Tab S7 with a USB-C-to-HDMI cable, which isn’t entirely common, but available.
If you’re familiar with Samsung’s Galaxy Note phones that come with their own S Pen, you’ll feel completely at home with the Tab S7’s S Pen. You can use the S Pen for taking notes, annotating screenshots and PDFs, drawing, and even as a remote control for media and presentations. Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
Samsung advertises 9 milliseconds of latency between your movements with the S Pen and whatever appears on the screen, which is good and similar to the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil. The lower the latency, the better the feel and accuracy of the S Pen, seeing as there’s no lag when you write on actual paper with a real pen or pencil.
Scribbling notes of the Tab S7 produces great results thanks to the low latency, as well as good palm rejection when you rest your palm on the screen for comfortable writing. Palm rejection isn’t perfect, mind you — there were certainly times when my palm reacted with things while writing a note — but it rarely interrupted taking notes. Still, it’s a little distracting, and Samsung hasn’t perfected palm rejection.
The S Pen pairs and charges its battery by simply placing it on its dedicated magnetic strip on the back of the Tab S7. Make sure to place the S Pen with the tip facing downwards to pair and charge and to get the strongest magnetic hold — I had it on the opposite way around at first, which doesn’t pair, charge, or hold the S Pen very well. It’s only something I discovered after searching online for how to pair and charge the S Pen. Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
The S Pen’s battery charges very quickly, but that’s because it has a tiny battery. Its battery life is quite limited, so it’s a good thing it charges quickly. At the same time, you don’t need battery power for most of the core S Pen features, like jotting notes. It only needs power for the remote control feature.
The Galaxy Tab S7 is a great tablet, but it’s easier to recommend the iPad Air for those looking for a productivity tablet. Apart from the better screen shape for productivity, the iPad Air is cheaper, and you have the option of buying the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil should you want it.
As a general purpose tablet, don’t get the $650 Tab S7 or the $600 iPad Air. Instead, get a cheaper Galaxy Tab A, or even better, a 10.2-inch $330 iPad.
The Galaxy Tab S7 asking price is a lot if you plan on using this as a general purpose and video streaming device, even if you’re getting a great screen. You can get a great experience with something cheaper, like the $330 10.2-inch iPad, or the cheaper Galaxy Tab A tablets.
At $650, the Galaxy Tab S7 with the included S Pen is really designed for those who plan to do more. It’s designed for productivity and performance, even as a lightweight laptop option. Unfortunately, however, video streaming is where its wide 16:10 screen excels more than for productivity. Instead of the Galaxy Tab S7, we’d recommend the iPad Air for productivity, and buying the Apple Pencil 2nd-gen if you want it.
And, it doesn’t really make sense for those who are already entrenched in the Apple ecosystem to get the Galaxy Tab S7— iPhone users will be missing out on the seamless connectivity and features of the iPad and iPadOS. If you’re an Apple user in general, stick to the $600 iPad Air and $129 Apple Pencil 2nd-gen, if you want a stylus. If you’re an Apple user and $730 is too much to spend, the $330 10.2-inch iPad and $99 1st-gen Apple Pencil will do just fine.
As for Android users, the Galaxy Tab S7 is certainly a viable option, at least if you’re a Samsung phone user. Samsung’s ecosystem features like Dex, Nearby Share, Music Share, and ability to call and text from your Samsung phone is great, but again, only if you have a Samsung phone.
Otherwise, there’s no real need to get an Android tablet even if you use an Android phone, as they won’t benefit from Samsung’s ecosystem.
Pros: Gorgeous design and screen, includes S Pen, S Pen is excellent, powerful performance, good battery life
Cons: The wide screen in horizontal mode is less suitable for productivity, expensive, some apps are still unoptimized for Android tablets
This article originally appeared on https://www.businessinsider.com/samsung-galaxy-tab-s7-review