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Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) review: Samsung's tablet gambles on 4G speeds

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MSRP: $249.99

The Good The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE (Verizon) includes dual cameras, memory expansion, and fast 4G LTE speeds with no contract.

The Bad $350 is a lot of money for a 7-inch tablet with the Tab 2 7.0's feature lineup. The screen resolution is lower than the Nexus 7's and the back camera lacks an autofocus feature.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE (Verizon) delivers on 4G speeds and features, but is too expensive to recommend.

Visit for details.

6.5 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

Editors' note: Thanks to the release of recent, high-quality tablets, the overall score of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE (Verizon) has been adjusted down from 6.8 to 6.5.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 for Verizon is virtually the same 7-inch tablet Samsung released earlier in 2012, except now with fast cellular-powered speeds. The new version costs $350, $100 more than the Wi-Fi-only version, and that doesn't begin to count usage fees.

Thankfully, two-year contracts have gone the way of the dodo, but the tablet market continues to move on, and paying $350 for a 7-inch tablet of the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0's relatively meager capabilities is not recommended.

Design
The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE tablet from Verizon sports a slightly altered design from that of the original, Wi-Fi-only Tab 2 7.0. The 4G LTE version has a black textured back instead of the smooth silver-gray of the Wi-Fi version, and a SIM card slot now resides above the microSD slot. Other than those minor changes, no significant physical differences are apparent.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (Verizon) Google Nexus 7 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Amazon Kindle Fire
Weight in pounds 0.76 0.74 0.74 0.9
Width in inches (landscape) 7.6 7.8 7.6 7.4
Height in inches 4.8 4.72 4.8 4.75
Depth in inches 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.4
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.76 0.8 0.76 0.78 (power button side), 0.6 opposite side

The Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE is fairly thin, although not Tab 7.7-thin. It's comfortable to hold, with smooth, rounded corners; however, I prefer the feel of the Google Nexus 7's more comfortable leatherlike back.

The microSD card slot enables you to add an additional 64GB of storage on top of the built-in 8GB. The Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE also has both a front-facing VGA camera and a rear-facing 3.2-megapixel shooter without LED flash. Thankfully, each camera is located in the upper left corner when you hold the tablet in landscape, decreasing the chance that unwanted fingers will creep into the camera frame when you're taking a picture.

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The microSD card now supports cards of up to 64GB and the SIM card means you'll actually be connecting to a cellular service. Josh Miller/CNET

On the right edge (or bottom edge if you're holding the tablet in portrait), equidistant from its surrounding dual speakers, 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.

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.

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The dual speakers aren't anything special, sporting adequate song quality. Josh Miller/CNET

Software features
The Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE ships with Android 4.0.4 installed. Samsung's TouchWiz UI skin is of course included and comes with custom Samsung apps like Music Hub, Media Hub, Game Hub, and a built-in screenshot app. No mini apps tray, however (the best thing about TouchWiz) is nowhere to be found.

The basic look and design of Android 4.0 are retained, just with a TouchWiz skin and a few extra shortcuts for quickly turning off Wi-Fi, GPS, screen rotation, and so on.

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The tablet's hot-spot feature can provide Internet access to all your devices. Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

The settings menu now features a Mobile Hotspot feature, providing an easy way for wireless devices to connect to a Wi-Fi network facilitated by the tablet's 4G LTE cellular connection.

Peel Smart Remote
In conjunction with Peel's included Smart Remote app, the IR blaster 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 Peel is 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, though its accuracy as to which shows and channels were available to me left a bit to be desired.

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The IR blaster (kind of Samsung's tablet claim to fame) returns and along with the Peel software transforms the tablet into remote control for your TV. Josh Miller/CNET

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 implemented well 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. And the tablet does not handle obstructions like coffee tables as well as my normal remote does, requiring much more precise aiming.

Hardware features
The Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE houses a 1GHz dual-core OMAP 4430 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage. Tablet mainstays like 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi support, Bluetooth 3.0, and GPS are included as well as a gyroscope, accelerometer, and digital compass.

The two speakers on the bottom of the tablet deliver typically "OK, I guess" tablet-quality sound that gets a bit staticky and distorted if you increase the volume too much.

Performance
The Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE uses the same PLS-based panel tech all Samsung tablets have made use of so far, running at a resolution of 1,024x600 pixels -- a resolution I consider middling for a 7-inch screen, as some tablets, like the Nexus 7, run as high as 1,280x800 pixels and look considerably sharper doing so. The Tab 2 7.0's screen clarity isn't bad, but it doesn't reach the pixel-dense heights of more advanced 7-inchers.

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The PLS panel used here failed to impress. Josh Miller/CNET

Also, either there are different tiers of quality when it comes to PLS panels, or Samsung really didn't devote much time or effort to calibrating the Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE's color. Compared with, say, the 7.0 Plus, its screen looks noticeably greener and colors appear washed out.

Tested spec Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (Verizon) Nexus 7 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Kindle Fire
Maximum brightness 454 cd/m2 288 cd/m2 379 cd/m2 424 cd/m2
Default brightness 174 cd/m2 190 cd/m2 150 cd/m2 147 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.27 cd/m2 0.28 cd/m2 0.31 cd/m2 0.45 cd/m2
Default black level 0.15 cd/m2 0.18 cd/m2 0.12 cd/m2 0.15 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 1,160:1 1,055:1 1,250:1 980:1
Contrast ratio (max brightness) 1,681:1 1,028:1 1,222:1 963:1

When swiping through screens and navigating menus, the screen matches the sensitivity of the average Android screen, but doesn't approach iPad or Transformer TF700 levels of ultrasensitivity. Apps launch without delay and settings menu options appear readily after tapping them.

In Web and app download speeds the Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE matched most other Android tablets when within 5 feet of our test router and even when up to 20 feet away the connection retained much of its strength. Scrolling through Web sites was smooth with much less clipping of assets than on the Wi-Fi version we tested, which ran a slightly earlier version of Android 4.0.

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The back camera gets a slight upgrade from 3-megapixel to 3.2-megapixel. Or they could be the same camera and Samsung was just rounding down with the previous tablet. Here you can also see the textured back. Josh Miller/CNET

4G LTE speeds virtually matched what I saw under Wi-Fi, downloading a 258MB file from the Google Play store in 170 seconds, 10 seconds longer than it took over Wi-Fi. Devices connected to the tablet via its hot spot achieved a similar level of speed.

Thanks to its hardware scalability, I used Riptide GP as a games performance benchmark. Depending on the speed of the tablet's CPU, Riptide GP will deliver a noticeable increase or decrease in frame rate. The Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE's TI OMAP 4430 CPU performed well, delivering a good frame rate at the default resolution. In comparison, the game on the Nexus 7 looked sharper, ran more smoothly, and included the Tegra 3 screen-splashing effects.

In 2D games like Angry Birds Space, I didn't notice any performance difference from the Nexus 7 aside from sharper text due to the Nexus 7's sharper resolution.

As mentioned, the Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE has a front-facing VGA camera and a 3.2-megapixel back camera. The front VGA camera was of the typically low video-chatting quality I'm used to at this point. The back camera fared better, producing decent picture quality, but with washed-out colors. It's not a bad camera per se, just not the first thing you'd reach for if a photo op popped up.

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Google Nexus 7 on the left; Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE (Verizon) on the right. Josh Miller/CNET

Playback of both 720p and 1080p (downsampled) video from outside sources was smooth and crisp.

Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE 8.4

Conclusion
The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE for Verizon is essentially the same tablet Samsung released earlier in 2012, only now with 4G LTE speed at its disposal. The price has been raised by $100 to $350 in addition to monthly usage fees. Thankfully, now that Verizon has done away with subsidized tablets, there are no annoying two-year contracts to speak of.

Still, $350 is still a lot to pay for a 7-inch tablet, especially since the release of the $200 Nexus 7, which has a better screen, faster performance, Android 4.1, and NFC capabilities.

The 4G LTE counters with dual cameras, memory expansion, and of course a 4G connection and hot-spot capabilities; however, $350 (plus usage fees) is too high an investment. A starting price of $280 to $300 would have been much easier to swallow, especially since Verizon will continue to siphon cash from your pockets every month after you've paid that initial fee.

While the original Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is still a good investment at $250, $350 is asking too much for a 7-inch tablet of the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 4G LTE's relatively meager capabilities.

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