I guess we have Amazon to thank for proving that you don't need a premium tablet to be successful. While Samsung tried competing on the premium tablet front for the last year and will continue to do so, it's finding this strategy to be more difficult than anticipated.
With the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, the company is, thankfully, learning from its mistakes and taking a price cue from Amazon by offering a full-featured tablet for $250. The market isn't stagnant, though, so will Samsung actually have time to capitalize before more powerful and still cheap alternatives enter the fray?
The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 sports a slightly altered design from the Tab 7.0 Plus, but you'd be hard-pressed to notice those differences at first glance, unless of course you're as intimately familiar with the Plus as I am.
The shape and weight are about the same with some slight dimensional differences. The new tablet's outer plastic shell spills a bit into the bezel at the right and left sides and the power/sleep button and volume rocker are more pronounced and feel slightly more responsive. Also, the IR blaster is a bit larger than the one on the Plus.
Aside from that, they're pretty much physically identical. The Tab 2 7.0 is fairly thin, although not Tab 7.7-thin. It's also comfortable to hold, with smooth, rounded corners. Samsung identifies the color that covers the back of the tablet as "titanium silver," which seems apt enough.
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0||Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus||Amazon Kindle Fire||Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7|
|Weight in pounds||0.74||0.76||0.9||0.74|
|Width in inches (landscape)||7.6||7.6||7.4||7.75|
|Height in inches||4.8||4.8||4.75||2.25|
|Depth in inches||0.3||0.3||0.4||0.37|
|Side bezel width in inches (landscape)||0.76||0.74||0.78 (power button side), 0.6 opposite side||0.68|
The microSD card slot allows you to add an additional 32GB of storage on top of the built-in 8GB. Samsung provides 50GB of free Dropbox storage for a year on top of that. The door to the microSD slot is easier to open now and doesn't get stuck as often as the Tab Plus' did.
The 2-megapixel front camera from the Plus has been replaced with a VGA one here, but the rear is still rated at 3 megapixels, albeit sans an LED. Thankfully, each camera is located in the upper left corner when you hold the tablet in landscape, thus allowing them to avoid unwanted fingers creeping into the camera frame when taking a picture.
Equidistant from surrounding dual speakers on the right sits a dock connector, and the left edge houses a headphone jack and microphone pinhole. The ambient light sensor sits about an inch away from the front camera on the bezel. However, the ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the tablet's brightness when auto brightness is turned on is calibrated too sensitively. When typing, my hand would occasionally cover the sensor making the screen darken. This was so consistent (and annoying) that I was forced to turn off auto brightness on the tablet while I used it.
Sadly, as with most Samsung tablets, there's no HDMI port, requiring you to purchase an adapter if you'd like to play video from your tablet on your TV.
Possibly the biggest selling point (other than its price) of the Tab 2 7.0 is that it ships with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3 to be precise) installed, making it the first Samsung tablet to do so.
Samsung's TouchWiz UI skin is of course included and comes with custom Samsung apps like Music Hub, Media Hub, and Game Hub, a built-in screenshot app, and the Mini Apps tray located on the bottom of the screen. Tapping it brings up a tray of apps consisting of a calculator, notes, calendar, music player, and clock. However, the most useful of these is still the task manager, though which you can quickly kill any app running in the background; this comes in handy when apps become otherwise unresponsive.
The basic look and design of ICS are retained, just with a TouchWiz skin and a few extra shortcuts for quickly turning off Wi-Fi, GPS, screen rotation, and so on.
Peel's Smart Remote app
The IR blaster found on the Tabs 7.7 and 7.0 Plus makes its way to the Tab 2 7.0 and, in conjunction with Peel's included Smart Remote app, helps turn your tablet into a remote control for your TV. Peel can take the place of your cable or satellite channel guide and display a list of shows currently playing locally on your cable or satellite provider's channels. Go to the currently playing tab and click on a show, and your TV switches to the appropriate channel. Peel does a great job of holding your hand initially through a step-by-step setup wizard. The setup only requires that you know your TV's manufacturer's name, your cable/satellite provider, and your ZIP code. Thankfully, Peel spares us from having to know any more detailed information; however, be aware that Smart Remote does not work with regular monitors, only TVs or monitor/TV combos.
Once it's set up, you can browse shows by category, mark shows as favorites, or prevent shows you'd rather not see on the list from showing up again. Thankfully, Smart Remote now syncs with over-the-air listings, but its accuracy as to which shows and channels were available to me left a bit to be desired.
Navigating the interface took some getting used to, but was easy enough to pick up; however, I took issue with the method by which cable TV screen menus are controlled by the interface. Peel went with a swipe interface that requires you to flick the screen in one of four directions to highlight different menus. While this method works and after some time could be gotten used to, I would have much preferred more-direct directional controls.
As I learned with the Tab 7.0 Plus and Tab 7.7, Smart Remote's accuracy is very closely dictated by the information cable and satellite providers choose to release. So, while the Smart Remote guide might indicate that "Law & Order" was on right now on Channel 12, selecting it didn't always take me to the appropriate channel. In addition, sometimes the channel wasn't available to me or there was a different show on the channel at that time.
While Peel's Smart Remote is still missing some features, it's well-implemented overall. However, I'm still waiting for Hulu and Netflix integration, and an actual search feature would be useful. Also, while I found that the remote reliably functions from 10 to 20 feet away, performance is definitely more reliable within 8 feet. Also, the tablet does not handle obstructions like coffee tables as well as my normal remote does, requiring you to be much more precise when aiming it.