Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus Hands-on (Video)

There isn’t much to say about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus that hasn’t already been hashed out numerous times in previous reviews, hands-on and articles. Picture the Galaxy Tab 8.9, but shrunk and devoid of cellular connectivity, and you have the 7.0 Plus.

Ok, that’s not entirely fair, but it’s close enough. Picture the original Galaxy Tab — the single-core 7-inch behemoth that emerged as practically the only iPad competitor in mid-2010 — slimmed down, rounded off and much, much lighter.

The tablet runs Android 3.2 Honeycomb, which was released to accomodate tablets such as this one. When the 7.0 Plus was released last year, Honeycomb had yet to be succeeded by Ice Cream Sandwich, and for this the Canadian release of the tablet is somewhat behind. While it is a pleasure to pick up at 9.96mm thick, and at 345g immeasurably lighter than most other tablets (the new iPad, by contrast, is 652g and the original Galaxy Tab was a portly 380g and 12mm thick) there is nothing otherwise remarkable about it. Which is just fine, because as 7-inch Android tablets go it is one of the best.

My first test was using the Galaxy Tab as an eReader, and it succeeds at this task very well. Since it is running Honeycomb, tablet-optimized apps such as Play Reader and Aldiko Reader render beautifully, and the crisp 1024×600 screen is crisp enough not to be a nuisance.

It must be said, however, that the TFT display poorly reflects the capabilities of recent tablet screens, even without bringing the new iPad into the equation. Considering Samsung is outfitting the only-slightly-bigger Galaxy Tab 7.7 with a Super AMOLED Plus HD at 1280×800 resolution, the 7.0 Plus seems dull as a result, its potential largely untapped but is priced accordingly at $349. On the positive, viewing angles are fantastic for a TFT display, with saturation, brightness, clarity and contrast on par with the BlackBerry Playbook’s excellent screen.

The 1.2Ghz dual-core processor and 1GB RAM keeps everything zipping along nicely, though TouchWIZ is the bottleneck here. Everything from screen transitions to scrolling through widgets to opening the app drawer appears to strain the tablet, though realistically the Exynos processor is capable of that and more. In many ways, the Exynos processor is still one of the fastest on the market, and the Tab 7.0 Plus is only the second product in Canada to utilize it.

The Tab 7.0 Plus excels where it counts, though: browsing and gaming. The tab renders web pages effortlessly, and makes even the most graphics-intensive games like Shadowgun look easy.

It also does very well in benchmarks, achieving a 2639 on the Quadrant Standard suite, and 59.53MFLOPS on Linpack multi-threaded.

To say that its oversized nature seems out of place on a tablet is putting it mildly; on the Tab 7.0 Plus, everything just seems really big and unwieldy. You can install a custom launcher such as ADW EX or Go Launcher HD to cure the home screen problem, though, and save yourself the aesthetic eyesore.

The Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus has a 3MP back camera that can shoot 720p video, and a 2MP front camera, both of which are inconsequential as features go. The back camera will do in a pinch, and even though the size of the tablet is far easier to justify the artifice of photography on such a device — certainly more so than on the iPad — it still performs rather poorly, with 1+ second shutter speeds and questionable quality even in the best of conditions.

Besides being a fantastic eReader, a consummate browsing companion and possibly the best 7-inch tablet I’ve used since the original Galaxy Tab, the 7.0 Plus has great battery life. Despite being significantly smaller than most 10-inch tablets, the 4000mAh cell provides about 7-8 hours of regular use over WiFi.

The tablet-specific app selection still trails the iPad by a lot, and the quality of cross-platform apps is hardly comparable. But due to the size of the screen, phone-specific apps work much better at 7-inches than at 8.9- or 10.1-inches, so I found myself gravitating towards this one over the larger Galaxy Tab in most cases, especially with apps developed in the new Holo style.

There’s no word on whether the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus will be updated to Android 4.0, but there is a work-in-progress port of CyanogenMOD 9 for the GT-P6200, and for $349 you’re getting one of the best 7-inch tablets on the market for a decent price. Hopefully it will drop below $300 soon enough, and will then be one of the best values in that size category, hands down.