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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Excellent display and hardware
Slim, portable design
No AMOLED display
Necessary keyboard cover costs extra
Some hiccups from Android
Despite some Android-driven software hiccups, this tablet makes a really compelling case against the iPad.
We purchased the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is one of Android’s best entries into the tablet space. Prior to its release, the non-Apple tablet market has struggled with some identity crises: software issues, lack of adoption from developers, and somewhat unexciting hardware.
The Galaxy Tab S7 (and its larger counterpart, the S7+) seems to have finally perfected the Android tablet problem, providing a truly premium competitor in the hardware space to the iPad Pro, as well as providing a few software tricks that might just make it a viable laptop replacement. I picked up the base-level unit in Mystic Silver, along with the Samsung-designed keyboard cover to see just how good of a premium tablet this is.
One of the most important barriers to cross for the premium tablet space is making your device look and feel as premium as something like an iPad Pro. The Galaxy Tab S7 is extremely well-designed, opting for a fully aluminum, unibody design with a large, glossy glass screen and very small bezels on the front. There’s no front button here, a volume rocker on the side, and a sleep/wake button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor.
One design touch that is interesting is the shiny outside edge of the construction because rather than featuring a high-gloss texture, it sports a machined, brushed surface. This gives the sharp, squared-off edges an extra little design nod. I also really like how simple the official keyboard Book Cover looks, with a faux leather texture and an ultra-slim, magnet-attached profile.
When it comes to mobile tech, Samsung is one of the few brands that just inherently understands how to make devices that feel premium. That fact is present, in spades, on the Tab S7 and Tab S7+. The sturdy aluminum build with brushed, textured sides feels great in the hand, while the Gorilla Glass that covers the display should provide decent protection against scratches and slight dings.
You won’t find any IP rating here, which is true of most tablets that aren’t billed as rugged devices. I also want to note that because the slate is about 0.25 inches thick, the slimness might yield even less durability if you’re just tossing it in your bag. For this reason, I strongly recommend a case of some sort. Though most of the Samsung cases are slim, they do feel like they’ll provide a decent amount of drop protection.
One of the biggest differences between the Tab S7 and the Tab S7+ (arguably the only difference of any consequence) is the display. Where the Tab S7+ sports a 12.4-inch screen, the S7 has a smaller 11-inch screen, making it the more portable device. However, the S7 doesn’t offer an AMOLED panel like the S7+, but instead goes for an LTPS TFT LCD.
On the surface, this means that technically the Tab S7’s display is less premium. While it’s true that an AMOLED panel will give you much starker blacks and more vibrant colors, Samsung has done a really nice job with the LCD panel on the standard S7. With a resolution of 2560x1600, the pixel density is actually reasonably sharper than the iPad Pro, and thanks to 500 nits of brightness, this display looks every bit as vibrant and sharp as its bigger brother’s AMOLED screen.
The screen sits at 16:10, making it feel very narrow when you hold it in portrait orientation, but feels very fitting when watching widescreen video like movies or TV shows. If you want the most premium screen you can get on a tablet, you’ll need to go with the Tab S7+, but this LCD panel is sharp, bright, vibrant, and accurate and will certainly feel plenty premium.
The other standout feature on this class of tablets is the presence of a 120Hz refresh rate. The latest iPad Pros feature this tech (they call it ProMotion) and both Tab S7s offer it. This functionality makes your videos run more smoothly, and it makes all the actions you take on your tablet feel much more seamless. That’s because the amount of times the screen samples (or refreshes) movements and inputs is much higher than an average smartphone. Even the latest iPhones go with a 60Hz refresh rate. When you combine this with the low latency of the redesigned S-Pen, you also get a super-smooth drawing and note-taking experience.
If you’ve ever set up an Android device, these steps will be pretty familiar, especially if you already have a Google account to log into. There will be the option to “clone” another tablet or phone, allowing you to pre-download apps, import contacts, transfer photos, etc. If you opt to just start from scratch, you’ll be dropped right into the OS, free to download whatever you want, though you will have to manually log in.
In true flagship Android fashion, there’s a litany of options to make your experience more personalized. I recommend setting up the biometrics (the S7’s fingerprint sensor is on the side button, and the face recognition works nicely) and customizing your S-Pen features. I also recommend perusing the side menu options, because it’s here that you can set up some app favorites, including some multitasking pairs that allow you to automatically open sets of apps in split-screen mode.
The Tab S7 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865+ processor—essentially the fastest mobile chip on the market outside of Apple’s proprietary Bionic series tablet chips. To be fair, in raw shootouts, the iPads’ A12X chip does do better on raw CPU scores. For instance, Geekbench puts the Tab S7 around 900 on single-core and over 2700 on multi-cores. These are respectable numbers, to be fair, but the iPad Pro routinely gets over 1,000 on the single-core score and more than double the S7’s number with multi-core.
The story isn’t (and shouldn’t be) about benchmarks in a vacuum. It’s about how the tablet feels in everyday use. The Tab S7 is extraordinarily snappy during typical usage. Things like web browsing, YouTube, and general productivity tasks all feel every bit as fluid as you’d expect on a standard laptop or on an iPad Pro. This is thanks both to the top-tier Snapdragon processor and the 6GB of RAM that comes standard in the base version (though you can bump it up to 8GB with higher-spec models), but also the 120Hz display.
In a lot of ways the high-refresh display will smooth over the stutters you’re used to with slower screens. I’ll get into the graphics processing in the gaming section later, but the Adreno 650 seems perfectly capable of handling almost any pressure I tried to put on it. The unit I have comes with a 128GB capacity, but both the Tab S7s can be configured as high as 1TB. This feels a little superfluous because every Tab S7 also comes with a microSD card slot for storage expansion.
Most high-end tablets these days come with an expectation that you can use them for at least basic digital design work. That, in most cases, means using a stylus for sketching. The iPad Pro line does have excellent pen compatibility, but they require you to buy the Apple Pencil separately (which will cost you an extra $129).
One of the biggest selling points of the Tab S7 is that it comes bundled with the S-Pen, and thanks to less than 9ms of latency from the pen and the 120Hz fluidity of the screen, it feels impressively responsive and smooth. The pen itself is larger than the counterpart that comes on the Galaxy Note series, but quite a bit smaller and lighter than the Apple Pencil.
If you pressed me on it, I would say that I prefer the feel of Apple’s stylus because it is slightly thicker and slightly heavier. But, the extra Bluetooth functionality on the S-Pen (using it as a shutter remote for the camera or a way to play/pause music) makes it a more compelling productivity tool. I also like that it magnetically snaps on to the back to charge and is covered safely by the keyboard case rather than just precariously sitting on the side in your bag like on the iPad Pro.
Cameras on a tablet have become the butt of a lot of jokes, and it is true that it looks silly holding up a giant tablet to take a selfie at a national park. In the case of the smaller Galaxy Tab S7, I actually think it’s less cumbersome to take pictures. Because it’s an 11-inch screen, it isn’t the largest tablet in the world, and because the aspect ratio is pretty narrow when holding in portrait mode, it actually feels less awkward to hold it out for some quick pictures.
The rear cameras available are a 13MP standard wide-angle system alongside a 5MP ultrawide. They’re similar in quality to what you’ll find on past generations of Galaxy phones, and because Samsung’s photo software is included here, you’ll get bells and whistles like pro-level controls, Night Mode, and more. Samsung has gone with an 8MP wide-angle lens on the front which is actually really solid for video calls. And because it’s positioned on the top-middle bezel when the tablet is in landscape mode, it’s placed much better than on most tablets which end up on the side when you put them in landscape mode.
If the AMOLED panel is the chief selling point on the Tab S7+, then the battery life is the standout feature on the standard Tab S7. That’s not by coincidence either because the Tab S7 uses LCD technology, and that LCD is much smaller, so the battery doesn’t have to work nearly as hard to keep your viewing experience great. This may seem odd because the 8,000mAh battery in the Tab S7 is smaller than the 10,000mAh offered on the Tab S7+. But because the LCD is so much more efficient, even at reasonable brightness levels, I was able to easily get the 15 hours of use out of the tablet that Samsung promises on its websites.
The other thing to consider here is the fact that Samsung has included its Super Fast Charging functionality via the USB-C port. Though, because there isn’t a 45W charging brick in the box, you’ll have to provide your own to get those speeds. I was easily able to get a full recharge (from nearly zero) with just about 2 hours plugged in.
The main reason that the market hasn’t adopted Android tablets nearly as fervently as iPads is because Android tablets use Android phone apps that are retroactively co-opted for the tablet experience. Unlike the Apple ecosystem, where many developers have created iPad-specific experiences, Android apps are phone apps and sometimes feel stretched, and in some cases won’t even open in landscape mode on a tablet. This is something you can get used to, but you’ll have to wrestle with the lack of developer optimization in tablet mode.
Where Samsung has tried to bring some value is the DeX platform. What was originally designed as a way to dock your Samsung phone to use with a fullscreen monitor, sees new life in the tablet format. If you have the Samsung keyboard cover, you can use a function key to launch right into DeX, which basically just puts a Windows/Chrome OS- style skin over the Android experience.
While the larger Tab S7+ feels just a bit on the pricey side, the Tab S7 finds itself firmly in the mid-tier of the tablet space.
This gives you the taskbar you’re used to and the ability to open apps and browsers into overlapping windows just as you would on a laptop. While there are certainly some glitches to overcome (some apps don’t recognize keyboard shortcuts and text selection, and some software won’t even let you resize the window), I was very surprised at just how “laptop-y” the Tab S7 feels in this mode.
I was able to function perfectly well for a full workday using only this Android tablet, which should be the case for most users unless they need specific desktop-only software. It’s a nice way to bring the best of all worlds into your tablet experience, without sacrificing a satisfying tablet experience.
Mobile gaming has come a long way, but it still feels like the lowest common denominator, rather than something to really focus on. The iPad combats that with excellent processing power and a solid screen, letting you play more immersive games on a tablet than you would on your iPhone. Android does have some options on the Play Store that will give you a great tablet gaming experience (Call of Duty Mobile is a well-optimized example), and even though the Snapdragon 865+’s benchmarks aren’t as good as the iPad’s, you’d be hard-pressed to see a performance difference here.
The Tab S7 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865+ processor—essentially the fastest mobile chip on the market outside of Apple’s proprietary Bionic series tablet chips.
In short, the Tab S7 plays any mobile game nearly flawlessly. What I find to be the most impressive aspect of the Android tablet gaming equation is the presence of Xbox Game Pass and Stadia. These two subscription-based gaming platforms both offer Android app support. I don’t have an Xbox One, as I went with a PS4 last-gen, but because I can connect my DualShock 4 controllers to my Tab S7, I can stream Xbox exclusives through the cloud with amazing titles like Halo and Gears of War, using my Android tablet, controlling it all with a PlayStation controller.
This bizzarro combination works surprisingly well, with very few graphical stutters, as long as you have reliable Wi-Fi. And because Apple is very strict about what gets on the App Store, you likely won’t find the XCloud app on your iPad any time soon. A definite win for the Tab S7 line.
There are some exceptions from larger brands like Speck and Incipio, but if you want a Pogo-connected keyboard cover, you basically have to purchase the official Samsung Keyboard Cover. I added this accessory to my Tab S7 even though it costs about $200, and it really has enriched my experience with this tablet. First off, it protects the front and the back with a premium-felling, leather-esque shell which also has a flip-up covering to keep the magnetically attached S Pen from falling off in your bag.
When propped using the kickstand in laptop mode, the keyboard actually is a joy to type on—though I must say that my massive fingers had trouble navigating the smaller Tab S7’s keyboard (the Tab S7+’s larger real estate feels more natural). One drawback here is the trackpad included on the keyboard, as it has a chunky click and a sporadic registering of gestures like scrolling. For this reason, I recommend an external Bluetooth mouse and turning off the trackpad as it will vastly help your DeX experience.
The Tab S7 is extraordinarily snappy during typical usage. Things like web browsing, YouTube, and general productivity tasks all feel every bit as fluid as you’d expect on a standard laptop or on an iPad Pro.
Without a headphone jack, you’ll also need some Bluetooth headphones to get some tunes going, though the AKG-tuned quad speakers on-board are actually pretty great. Finally, if you want more storage, there’s a microSD card slot, which might be an additional accessory expense you’ll need to plan for.
While the larger Tab S7+ feels just a bit on the pricey side, the Tab S7 finds itself firmly in the mid-tier of the tablet space. The tablet itself, in the base, non-5G configuration, runs right around $650, and can often be had for $100 cheaper. It comes with the S-Pen, which makes it an even better deal compared to the $700 iPad Pro that requires you to buy the Apple Pencil separately. Overall, I think this is a really great deal for a snappy tablet that feels very premium.
While the Tab S7 line often gets put alongside the 2020 iPad Pros, I think the more recent fourth-gen iPad Air is a more apt comparison. The prices are more comparable, the designs are very similar, and even the processing power is in-line—though you’ll probably get better multi-core performance on the Tab S7. If you need better tablet app adoption or just need the Apple ecosystem, the choice there is obvious. But don’t sleep on the value you can get with the Galaxy Tab S7.
Take a peek at some of the other best Samsung tablets you can buy.
The best mid-tier Android tablet, hands down.
Samsung has made it clear that the Galaxy Tab S7+ with its AMOLED panel is the premium option here, whereas the Tab S7 is the premium-to-mid option. The screen isn’t as rich, but almost everything else, from top-tier processing and a premium build quality to excellent speakers and great battery life, is here in spades.
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