We’ve said it before, but it won’t be long before Samsung has a Galaxy Tab in every possible size. More than any other tablet maker, the company is trying on all sizes with consumers to see what sticks. Until now, our favorite has been the Galaxy Tab 8.9, but with LTE and an AMOLED screen, can the Tab 7.7 take the cake?
Look & feel
The Galaxy Tab 7.7 follows the design philosophy of its predecessors, but it’s somehow both thinner and lighter than the Tab 7.0, which isn’t particularly thick or heavy itself. At only 8mm, it’s the thinnest tablet we’ve reviewed yet and weighing only 12 ounces, it’s just about the lightest as well. Though we haven’t been complaining heavily, Samsung has upped the build quality with this model as well, using actual metal for the majority of the back plate.
Like the other Galaxy Tabs, the 7.7 LTE has a premium feel second only to Apple’s iPad. This is a high quality tablet that feels like a high quality tablet. Unfortunately, this quality is also reflected in the price, which isn’t exactly low ($700 without a contract).
Oh, AMOLED. Sweet, sweet AMOLED. Though AMOLED has become the big hot thing in smartphone screens, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is one of the first tablets to veer from LCD and give it a try. The experiment is a success so far. This is one of the most vivid displays we’ve seen. The blacks are extremely dark and at full brightness, the screen doesn’t quite have the pixel density of the third iPad, but it’s not far off. This is one of the smallest screens with a full 1280×800 pixel screen (equivalent of 720p).
As a result of having a full 1280×800 pixels to work with, Android Honeycomb doesn’t look cramped here, though everything does display pretty tiny on the 7.7-inch display. The iPad is full of huge icons and big menus, but Google’s OS is comfortable with tiny text and small icons in some places. If you have bad vision, this may not be the tablet for you.
(Side note: Our unit came with a pretty horrid dead pixel that always shines bright blue. If you encounter issues like this, please be sure to contact Samsung support.)
Supposedly Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is on the way, but for now, Galaxy Tab buyers have to deal with Android 3.2 (Honeycomb). Honestly, there isn’t a huge difference, but ICS does have some nice enhancements in the Settings menu and in its UI (user interface). Mostly, 3.0 and 4.0 are the same, especially after Samsung tacks on its TouchWiz UI, but we do hope an upgrade is coming soon. If you don’t know much about Android on tablets, check out our rundowns of Android Honeycomb and the Android 3.2 update. And if you want to know what you’re missing, check out our Android ICS rundown.
Samsung’s usual suite of apps are preloaded including Netflix, Photo Editor (not a bad editor, though simple), My Files, S Pen Memo, Samsung Apps store, Samsung Music Player, and the Samsung Media Hub. Verizon has also loaded this up with its usual bundle of apps: Blockbuster, Amazon Kindle, Verizon Backup, VZ Navigator, and a couple other games. Most of these apps seem to be unremovable, which is a shame as almost none of them are essential.
Note, that like all Android tablets, the Tab 7.7 is limited to the apps available in Google’s Play Store (formerly Android Market). Most of these are not built for tablets and it shows. In contrast, the iPad has quite a robust library of more than 200,000 tablet-only apps.
Mostly standard specs here. The Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE runs on a 1.4GHz dual-core processor, Mali-400MP graphics processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB internal storage (11.5 accessible), a 3.2MP rear camera with LED flash, and a 2MP front camera. There is also a microSD slot, a proprietary Samsung charging port (no USB), an audio jack, bottom-facing stereo speakers (tinny, but no more than usual, fairly loud), and an infrared sensor. Common features like Bluetooth 3.0, accelerometer, gyroscope, and GPS are, of course, also included.
Though we’re beginning not to really trust the Quadrant benchmark, we’ve been getting varied scores from 2500 to 3400 for the Tab 7.7. This compares to about 1900 to 2500 that we usually get for dual-core tablets.
As is the case with every tablet except the third iPad, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 has crappy cameras. The 2-megapixel front camera is a bit nicer than the iPad’s VGA camera, but not by a whole lot. The rear is just bad. It takes seconds to auto focus, if it does so properly at all, and shots usually come out too bright, too blurry, or lacking in some other fundamental way. The rear camera feels about as good as phone cameras were 2-3 years ago, though that’s a shot in the dark. Either way, if you somehow want a good camera on your tablet, the new iPad is your best bet. The Tab 7.7 has a rear camera, which is better than nothing, but not by much.
This has got it! 4G is a bit expensive, requiring a monthly plan from Verizon, but if you need a connection and don’t have nearby Wi-Fi hotspots, it is an option. The model we reviewed does not have a Wi-Fi only option, which is why it approaches $700 (LTE adds about $100 to the price). This tablet does have Wi-Fi access as well, of course. It can also act as a mobile hotspot, assuming your plan allows it.
Today, in Manhattan, we’ve been achieving speeds of about 8-10 Megabits per second down and 1.2Mbps up.
We’ve been using the Tab for half a week now and the battery life has been good, especially for an LTE-capable device. This is partially thanks to the low-power AMOLED display and the decently sized 5100mAh battery, but Samsung is doing something right. We estimate that we’re currently getting more than 10 hours of battery life, perhaps significantly more than the new iPad. AndroidHeadlines has run tests and found that it attained 12:42 hours for them, compared to the iPad 3’s 9:37 hours. We can’t disagree. Good battery life.
The Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE is not for everyone. At $700 without a contract (and $500 with), it’s one of the most expensive tablets out there, yet it’s also on the small side with a 7.7-inch screen. There is something you give up when you approach the 7-inch screen size – it’s just not quite as capable as an 8-9-inch tablet, but out of all the small devices we’ve tested, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 may be the best (if you want a bit larger, try the Xyboard 8.2 and then the Galaxy Tab 8.9). It is super thin, super lightweight, has an amazing AMOLED screen, industry-leading battery life, and a resolution that’s high enough to make a small 7.7-inch screen into a fully operational Honeycomb tablet. Hopefully an upgrade to 4.0 is on the way, but if you have the cash and really don’t want a large iPad, this may be a good choice for you.
- Fantastic battery life
- Gorgeous AMOLED screen
- 7.7 inches is a good screen size
- Samsung TouchWiz UI looks great
- 4G LTE connectivity
- Super thin and super lightweight
- Great construction
- Crappy rear camera
- Android 4.0 upgrade pending
- Expensive ($500-$700)
- Android tablet apps are sparse