When the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 debuted at the IFA technology conference in Berlin last year everyone fell in love with the gorgeous display and the sleek design. I was initially disappointed when the company said they had no plans to launch it in the U.S., but at CES this year they went ahead and made those plans to everyone’s delight.
The Tab 7.7 has almost everything tablet shoppers are looking for. It’s light and thin with an attractive design. The HD display has plenty of pixels. It’s speedy in every way thanks to 4G LTE connectivity and a fast processor. And it lasts long enough on a charge that most people can go all day without needing to plug it in.
Despite all of this, I suspect most consumers will pass on the Tab 7.7 thanks to the price: $499 with a two-year data contract on Verizon Wireless.
In a market where there are so many less expensive tablet choices out there (many from Samsung itself), can the Galaxy Tab 7.7 justify its premium price?
Galaxy Tab 7.7 | $499 | Verizon Wireless
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The Tab 7.7 looks very similar to the Tab 7.0 Plus and the other members of the Galaxy Tab line. The rounded corners, curved edges, and metallic back come together to make a very holdable tablet. The 12 ounce weight doesn’t hurt.
Though similar in size to the Tab 7.0 Plus, it has a noticeably wider stance (7.7 x 5.2 inches instead of 7.6 x 4.8). It’s also a hair thinner at 0.31 inches as opposed to 0.39. The differences between the two have more to do with hardware and specs.
Aside from the proprietary 30-pin port on the bottom, this Galaxy Tab has a microSD card slot (neither the 10.1 or 8.9 models do), a mini SIM slot for the LTE card from Verizon, an IR port, and a headphone jack. The two card slots integrate smoothly into the curved edges and have covers that maintain the overall line and keep dirt out of the ports.
The power button and volume rocker stick out just enough so you can find them by feel, but also integrate nicely into the curve.
I’m glad that Samsung went with the two-tone silver and gray metallic for the back instead of the white plastic. It just looks classier. The only thing that mars it is the raised Samsung logo, which doesn’t have a pleasant tactile feel.
The 7.7-inch Super AMOLED Plus display boasts a 1280 x 800 resolution. This is a lot of pixels to fit in such a small screen.
But, as we saw recently with the Galaxy Note (which has the same res and the same type of screen), high pixel density doesn’t mean you’ll end up squinting at a screen filled with too-tiny elements. Instead, you get the benefit of crisp fonts even at small sizes and the ability to watch 720p HD content with all pixels intact.
Plus, the display is just gorgeous to look at — the depth of color impressed me, as did the deep blacks. Despite a glossy screen, the Tab 7.7 has viewing angles wide enough to share the screen with a couple of people.
Just as with the Galaxy Note, I used the Tab 7.7 with the brightness turned way down, sometimes to 0, with no visibility issues. Out in the sun you’ll want to turn it up, and at 100 percent it’s visible even in strong sunlight.
With a dual-core 1.4GHz Samsung Exynos 4210 processor inside backed by 1GB of RAM, it was no surprise that the Tab 7.7 proved speedy in every aspect. When swiping around the interface, opening apps, or playing games, the tablet responded with a swiftness, never forcing me to wait long.
I loaded up Fruit Ninja and noted no lag or dropped frames; the screen always responded accurately to my swipes. Playing Grand Theft Auto III really showed off the Tab 7.7 prowess. All the visuals came out crisp and clear and the game never showed signs of stutter or struggle.
Since the screen has such a high resolution the size wasn’t too small, even with games that have complex visuals and lots of elements. Gaming on this tablet is a lot of fun.
It’s also a great multimedia platform. Videos look good and play smoothly. And audio from the speakers is much louder and fuller than I expect on tablets of this size. Output via the headphone jack is above average in quality.
The Verizon Wireless 4G LTE connection added to the overall speed. I never had to wait too long for a download and regularly saw speeds above what the carrier promises.
Samsung claims that the tablet’s 5100 mAh battery will last for 12.5 hours on 4G LTE, and my hands-on time with the device almost matched that. I was able to get a little over 10 hours out of the Tab 7.7 with heavy use that included over two hours playing games and over four hours using the mobile hotspot feature in a cafe.
I also noted great standby time. Over the course of two days I used that Tab 7.7 intermittently to check email, play games, surf the web, and read a book. I only had to charge it after 48 hours, and even then the battery wasn’t completely drained.
The Tab 7.7 ships with Android 3.2 Honeycomb with Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface on top. Samsung has not announced any plans to upgrade this tablet to Ice Cream Sandwich.
TouchWiz doesn’t slow the tablet down even though it’s a pretty extensive skin on top of Android. I’m a fan, personally, but anyone looking for the “pure” Android experience should look elsewhere.
TouchWiz changes several of Honeycomb’s visual elements, making the interface less Tron-esque. It also adds some nice utilities like a screenshot feature, a quick app tray accessible from almost any screen, and the Samsung handwriting keyboard.
Since the Tab 7.7 has the right screen resolution, most of Honeycomb looks good, even with the 7-inch display. However, there are a couple of areas where things don’t work out quite right.
The Notification Tray feels a little big on the screen compared to how it looks on 10-inch or even 8.9-inch tablets. Also, Gmail’s nice two-column layout doesn’t fit on the screen when in portrait mode, resulting in oddly cut off emails. This is fine in landscape mode and users can look at just the email without the sidebar. Still, it’s a weird error to encounter.
Even though this Tab doesn’t come with a pen, it still has some features that would work well in combination with a capacitive stylus. The handwriting keyboard, for instance, which you can get to by choosing the Samsung keyboard from the list of inputs. (Users can also choose Swype or the standard Android keyboard.)
Pen Memo, found in the quick app tray, gives the option to type a short note or scribble/draw one.
Other Quick Apps available in the Tab 7.7’s little drawer include Email (which does not hook into the Gmail app, grr), Task Manager, Calendar, Music Player, Alarm, and World Clock. With this version of TouchWiz users can now edit the drawer to take away apps they don’t use, though you still can’t add any app you choose there.
Verizon and Samsung included several non-Google pre-loaded apps. There are a few CRAPPS in the bunch, but most of what’s here is useful.
This Galaxy Tab is one of two devices certified as Samsung Approved For Enterprise (SAFE). On top of the existing encryption in Android, Samsung adds 256-bit hardware-based encryption that applies to both the on-board memory and an SD card. Plus, there’s built-in Mobile Device Management that allows users to lock down a device if it’s lost or stolen.
Samsung’s email, calendar and contacts apps are fully compatible with Exchange ActiveSync (including two-way info exchange). The Tab also has full VPN support for secure connections to the company server.
As with most tablets, the cameras are nothing to get excited about.
The camera can be slow, thus pictures rarely come out crisp. Even when you can hold still, indoor performance is not great.
Outdoor pictures are better, but when taking shots of objects half in sunlight and half in shadow, the shadow elements always get the shaft.
Other than that, the camera app has several useful settings and options: White Balance, Exposure, Scene Modes and more. I really like the ability to choose which of these settings is available to me as a shortcut on the main camera screen.
While the Night Scene mode makes taking pictures in low light possible, if not pretty, there’s no helping this camera once you switch over to video recording. It’s capable of 720p, but when shooting indoors in medium or even decent light, the video is super grainy as you’ll see in the samples below. Outdoor video is better, but since the screen is glossy you may have some trouble seeing what you’re shooting if the sun is aimed right at the tablet.
The front-facing 2MP camera does all right when taking self-portraits (good enough for your social network avatar) and doing video chats. My chat partners said that I looked clear but my colors washed out.
As great as this tablet is overall, the $499 price tag is going to be a big stumbling block for many consumers.
Currently, it’s only available on Verizon Wireless — no Wi-Fi only option — for $499 with a two-year data contract. The least expensive plan available on contract is $30/month for 2GB of data. This includes the mobile hotspot feature (tablet customers don’t have to pay extra). All together that’s $720 plus tax for data over two years.
You can get a 16GB iPad for $499 with no contract commitment.
Some might say that’s not exactly a fair comparison since the $499 iPad is Wi-Fi only. All right then. But the 16GB 4G LTE iPad’s price is $629 and does not require a contract.
You can buy the Tab 7.7 without committing to a contract, but then the price goes up to $699.
Normally I wouldn’t compare the iPad to the Tab 7.7 because they’re in different tablet categories. A 7-inch tablet is not the same beast as a nearly 10-inch tablet. But the cost of the Galaxy Tab makes the comparison necessary.
It’s also much more expensive than other popular 7-inch tablets like the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet ($199-$249), but those devices have modest specs to keep the price down. The Lenovo IdeaPad A1 ($249) is another competitor with better specs than those two, but doesn’t have a hi-res display, a dual-core processor, or even a tablet operating system like the tab 7.7. The upcoming ASUS Eee Pad MeMO is only supposed to be $249 with comparable specs. Since it’s not out yet I can’t make a definitive comparison.
Still, looking at the competition and pricing, the Tab 7.7 is a hard sell.
The perfect buyer for the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is a consumer who wants a smaller tablet because it’s lighter and easier to slip into a small bag or a large pocket than an iPad or even a Galaxy Tab 10.1, yet wants or needs top of the line specs and won’t settle for devices that don’t have everything. This theoretical consumer also needs a fast connection and doesn’t spend a lot of time near Wi-Fi hotspots.
If you are that person, then the Tab 7.7 is for you. Most people are not that person.
In the end, Samsung made a beautiful, speedy, sweet tablet that is apparently so expensive to manufacture that they couldn’t offer it for a price that makes sense in the American market. And that’s a shame, because I think that the consumers contemplating a Kindle Fire or IdeaPad A1 or even an ASUS MeMO would love the Galaxy Tab 7.7. But at this price they’re not going to give it a second look.
|OS||Android 3.2 Honeycomb|
|Display (size/res)||7.7-inches, 1280 x 800|
|CPU||1.4GHz dual-core Samsung Exynos 4210|
|External Storage||microSD up to 32GB|
|Cameras||3MP (rear); 2MP (front)|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth; 4G LTE|
|Ports||30-pin proprietary, micro SIM card slot, microSD,|
|Battery||5100mAh; 12.5 hours (estimated) on 4G LTE|
|Size||7.7 x 5.2 x 0.31 inches|