samsung-galaxy-tab-2-7.0-review

Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 during Mobile World Congress, a 7-inch tablet that sits between the original Galaxy Tab and the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, thanks to the inclusion of ICS. We’ve had our hands on a review unit for several days now and we’re ready to bring you our full review. Is this a worthwhile tablet for $249.99? We’ll address all of that and much more.

Hardware

Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

Samsung first entered the tablet space when it introduced the original Galaxy Tab 7 during IFA in September, 2010. I really liked the size of the device — it was smaller than any other tablet currently available on the market and easily fit into coat pockets or my girlfriend’s purse. I remember taking it to a restaurant and two friends commenting on how they liked it better than the iPad because of its size.

It was also unique because it was eventually offered on Verizon, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, AT&T and T-Mobile with a 3G connection. Samsung followed that device with the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus (and the larger Galaxy Tab 7.7, too), which offers a faster dual-core Samsung Exynos processor clocked at 1.2GHz and a sharper 1024 x 600-pixel display. Now we have the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 — Samsung’s first tablet to ship with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the gate — but it really doesn’t build on any of the devices that came before it. In fact, it’s almost a downgrade. I’ll talk about why in a bit.

The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, in some markets, will support 21Mbps HSPA+ networks. That’s not the case with our Wi-Fi-only review unit, however. It has the same 7-inch 1024 x 600-pixel display as the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus — no Super AMOLED to see here, folks — and the same 3-megapixel rear camera and VGA front-facing camera for video chats that have been in the product family from the get-go. Oddly, it has a slower dual-core 1GHz processor as opposed to the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus’s 1.2GHz dual-core chip.

Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

From a design standpoint, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 looks almost identical to the Galaxy Tab 7.0 plus, but it’s just a hair fatter at 0.39-inches. I love the size, and the slight increase in thickness didn’t both me at all. There’s a headphone jack on the top of the tablet and volume controls, a power button and an IR-blaster for the tablet’s “Smart Remote” functionality on the right side. I ditched my cable connection a while ago so I wasn’t able to specifically test the Smart Remote, but I’ve seen it in action before and it’s certainly a compelling feature. There’s a welcome microSD card slot on the left-hand side of the tablet, which is great for adding additional storage. Samsung’s proprietary charging port and two speakers are on the bottom, and the camera/flash are on the back of the tablet. Samsung ditched the home, return, and menu buttons because those are now included within Ice Cream Sandwich.

Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

So the big question is: why is Samsung even releasing this tablet? The answer is simple: It will launch for just $249.99, which means it’s going to take on the Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook head-on. It also undercuts the new price point of Apple’s $399 16GB iPad 2 by a hefty margin. Considering the hardware it packs, it should definitely be a contender for anyone looking at either of those competing tablets.

Software

Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

As noted above, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, making it the first Android tablet the South Korea-based tablet maker has shipped with Google’s latest OS. It comes equipped with Secure Enterprise Solutions for business users, which means it has added security for enterprise users.

Samsung includes its TouchWiz user interface on top of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Don’t run away just yet: it only adds value and doesn’t get in the way. I like Samsung’s selection of widgets, such as its “S Planner” calendar and the small menu bar that pops up at the bottom of the screen for quickly accessing the calculator, alarm, your email, music player and more. It’s useful and an addition that I think Google should consider adding to future iterations of its mobile operating system.

Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 doesn’t have too much bloatware installed. It comes with DropBox, for example, but Samsung is offering 50GB of free storage for a year, so that’s a bonus. Other pre-installed apps include Samsung’s ChatOn application, the AllShare DLNA app, MediaHub for buying and renting movies, a Memo application and a photo editor. Most users will find several, if not all, of those applications useful.

The device’s dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM managed to handle most tasks quite well, but there was noticeable sluggishness as I installed additional applications. It also handled GTA III: 10th Anniversary Edition quite smoothly, which means you’ll be able to play several of the latest games. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that Game Loft’s Order and Chaos MMORPG is supported at this time. That’s a bit of a bummer.

Overall I really like the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0′s software. Ice Cream Sandwich is leagues better than Honeycomb and anyone looking to steer away from Amazon or B&N’s custom user interfaces will appreciate the nakedness of ICS.

Camera

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I can’t figure out why Samsung decided to include a 3-megapixel camera on the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. I figure it’s to keep the price down, but image sensors are cheap these days and even the most budget friendly smartphones offer at least a 5-megapixel sensor. Pictures weren’t great and I wasn’t surprised. I’ve seen this camera before and I generally haven’t enjoyed using it at all. The VGA front-facing camera was even worse, but at least you can use it for Skype chats … if blurry chats are your cup of tea. But even despite those downsides, Samsung includes a camera, which is something that Amazon didn’t do on the Kindle. I can think of more than just a few users who would pay $50 to have a camera added to their Kindle, and this isn’t the only upgrade the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 offers.

Battery Life

Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

I used the tablet for several hours before bed and then let it idle overnight before using it for an additional two hours the following day for gaming. It’s been on my desk and I’ve been using it to surf the web, check email and chat and it’s currently at 50%. Its non-removable 4,000mAh battery will definitely get you through at least a couple of days of use, unless you’re sitting and playing video games and movies non-stop. It should still get you through long flights and car rides while used purely as an entertainment device.

Conclusion

Yes, I’d buy this over the Kindle Fire. But I’m not the everyday consumer and I want an Android tablet that runs the latest software, which the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 does. Most consumers gravitate to the Kindle Fire because it’s incredibly intuitive and puts books, music, videos and games right at their fingertips. You don’t get that with the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 — it’s a device for Android fans, not eBook readers (even though it serves as an excellent one).

I just don’t understand why Samsung didn’t drop the price of the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus by $100. That tablet, currently available at Best Buy and other U.S. retailers, offers a faster 1.2GHz processor, a thinner body and a better front-facing camera. My gripes aside, $249.99 for the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is a steal for anyone on the market for an average 7-inch tablet. It doesn’t break the bank, but its hardware won’t blow any minds, either.

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Rating - Tablets - 5.5