Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (Verizon) review:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (Verizon)

The two speakers on the bottom of the tablet deliver bass-heavy sound that's able to reach high volumes without any distortion, or at least none that my ears were able to discern. However, the Tab 7.7's don't quite get as loud as the Tab Plus 7.0's sometimes boisterous speakers.

Rounding out the hardware features are an ambient light sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, and digital compass.

The Tab 7.7's AMOLED screen is simply stunning, and I'm saying this two weeks after the release of the new iPad. The screen delivers the highest contrast ratio I've yet seen on a tablet screen. AMOLED screens are able to reach much deeper black levels and a higher perceived brightness than the conventional LED technology in use by most tablet screens. As a result, the screen pulses with vibrancy and colors practically pop from the screen.

The resolution is still the usual 1,280x800 pixels most other Android tablets use, but text and color are much clearer and sharper. Much has been said about the new iPad's screen with its superhigh resolution and while overall the Tab 7.7's screen can't best it in quality, it's the most impressive-looking Android tablet screen I've come in contact with.

Tested spec Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus Toshiba Thrive 7-inch Motorola Droid Xyboard 8.2
Maximum brightness 110 cd/m2 214 cd/m2 350 cd/m2 469 cd/m2
Default brightness 51 cd/m2 0.17 cd/m2 141 cd/m2 255 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.0049 cd/m2 0.17 cd/m2 0.45 cd/m2 0.34 cd/m2
Default black level 0.0049 cd/m2 0.04 cd/m2 0.18 cd/m2 0.19 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 10,408:1 1,250:1 783:1 1,379:1
Maximum contrast ratio 22,449:1 1,258:1 778:1 1,342:1

When swiping through screens and navigating menus, I found the screen matches the sensitivity of some of the most responsive Android screens out there, like the one on the Transformer Prime. Also, apps launch without delay and settings menu options appear readily after tapping them.

Web and app download speeds matched most other Android tablets when within 5 feet of our test router and even when up to 20 feet away the signal retained much of its strength; however, I did experience an annoyingly high number of hangs and sluggish performance when using the Honeycomb browser. 4G speed failed to match that of dedicated Wi-Fi, but was still satisfyingly fast, although not quite up to iPad 4G levels.

Thanks to its hardware scalability, I used Riptide GP as a games performance benchmark. Depending on the speed of the CPU, Riptide GP will deliver a noticeable increase or decrease in frame rate. The Tab 7.7's performance in Riptide GP matched that of the Tab 7.0 Plus. Both tablets use the Exynos 4210 CPU, which in terms of speed hits somewhere between the Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 chips. As such, I noticed a frame rate that was consistently higher than you'd see on any Tegra 2-based tablet, but without the added effects the game enjoys when running on a Tegra 3.

I also looked at Dead Space on both the Tab 7.7 and the new iPad. While the two versions of the game appear to be using identical geometry for models and the same level of effects complexity, the game on the Tab 7.7 looks brighter and much more vibrant. This vibrancy however is tempered by the fact that texture color transitions of background objects are anything but seamless and, unfortunately, glaringly stand out compared with the same art on the new iPad.

As mentioned, the Tab 7.7 has a front-facing 2-megapixel camera and a 3-megapixel back camera. Images and video recorded with the front camera looked as if there were a deliberate film grain placed over it, and not in a cool, artsy kind of way, but more of the, "Hey, there seems to be some film grain on this video, can we please get rid of it?" variety. The back camera performed much better, with a smoother and clearer picture that unfortunately saturated colors a bit too much, making everything from skin to plain, gray walls flush with an overabundance of red.

The 720p video playback from outside sources was smooth and crisp; however, try as I might, 1080p video would not play on the tablet.

Since the screen's actual luminance doesn't actually get that high, battery life was thankfully long over a day of normal use. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Samsung 7.7 8.8

From strictly a design standpoint, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is the tablet all other small-form tablets should aspire to. It's thin and light, with two cameras and expandable memory. As full-featured small tablets go, this is the high-water mark with its gorgeous AMOLED screen and Samsung Exynos CPU delivering fast game and UI navigation performance.

The lack of HDMI and dedicated USB ports is disappointing, but not a deal breaker. Unfortunately, the price may be for most. A price of $500 in addition to a two-year contract is a lot for Verizon to ask for, especially when the tablet market is still in its nascent form and no one really knows what the market will look like a year from now. You could plop down $700 for a noncontract version, but no one should be paying $700 for an 8-inch tablet.

I don't recommend signing a two-year contract for any tablet, but if you really feel you just have to do so, this is the one you'd want to choose.

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