Editors' note: Thanks to the release of recent, high-quality tablets, the overall score of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 has been adjusted down from 7.3 to 7.2.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 from Verizon features an impressive AMOLED screen with an incredible contrast ratio. The tablet was released the same week as the new iPad with its Retina Display, however, so that's probably why you haven't heard much about it. The AMOLED screen is beautiful, though, but is it a gimmick or does it enrich what could (under different circumstances) be a typical tablet experience?
When the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus was released last year, I opined that building a really thin 10.1-inch tablet was probably a less arduous task than matching that same thinness on a 7-incher. The Galaxy Tab 7.7, with its 0.7-inch larger screen, reinforces that opinion with a thinner and lighter design than Samsung's previous 7-inch effort. Not that I went out on a limb at all by speculating that in the first place. The more surface area you have to work with, the easier it is to spread components around, facilitating a thinner design.
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7||Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus||Toshiba Thrive 7-inch||Motorola Droid Xyboard 8.2|
|Weight in pounds||0.74||0.76||0.88||0.86|
|Width in inches (landscape)||7.75||7.6||7.4||8.5|
|Height in inches||5.25||7.8||4.8||5.5|
|Depth in inches||0.37||0.38||0.4||0.35|
|Side bezel width in inches (landscape)||0.68||0.75||0.75||0.75|
Aesthetically, the Tab 7.7 is like the cooler, slicker cousin of the Tab 7.0 Plus. You know, the one that gets invited to all the cool parties? The Tab 7.7's smooth aluminum back is simply much more visually striking than the Tab 7.0 Plus' plastic, dark-gray hind part, and the sleek metal gives the Tab 7.7 an additional bit of sexiness over its (likely jealous and hate-filled) big brother.
Beyond that, the two tablets house many of the same features, including a power button, volume rocker, and IR sensor on its top; a headphone jack and mic pinhole on the left side; dual speakers and a universal connection port on the right; and a microSD card slot on the bottom. The Tab 7.7 has a SIM card slot on the bottom as well.
The left side of the bezel houses a 2-megapixel camera, with an LED flash-supported 3-megapixel camera in the top-left corner on the back. As with Samsung's other tablets, there's no HDMI port, requiring you to purchase an adapter if you want to play video from your tablet on your TV.
The Tab 7.7 ships with Honeycomb 3.2, and Samsung has yet to officially announce a date for an Ice Cream Sandwich update. Not surprisingly, Samsung overlays its TouchWiz UI on top of Honeycomb. TouchWiz brings with it many custom Samsung apps like AllShare, Media Hub, Social Hub, and Samsung's own curated Android app store called Samsung Apps.
My favorite feature of TouchWiz, however, is 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 the task manager, which allows you to quickly kill any app running in the background; this comes in handy when apps become otherwise unresponsive.
Peel's Smart Remote app
Last seen on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, the Peel app comes installed on the Tab 7.7, and launching it essentially turns the tablet into a smart remote control for your TV. Peel can also 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. At least, that's how it works in theory.
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 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 and 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.
I learned with the Tab 7.0 Plus that Smart Remote's accuracy was very closely dictated by the information cable and satellite providers choose to release. So, while the Smart Remote guide may indicate that "Law and Order" is 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.
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 in order 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.
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 I'm sure I could find some use for an actual search feature. Also, the "8-foot maximum distance from your TV to be functional" rule should be extended. This is probably more of a hardware issue, though.