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Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus

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MSRP: $399.99

The Good The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus (soon upgradeable to Android 4.0) has a sleek design, a high-quality screen, and well-integrated smart remote-control functionality through the Peel app.

The Bad Peel has limited usefulness if you don't have cable or satellite, and the tablet's screen brightness is comparatively low.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is pretty and sleek, with well-implemented remote-control functionality, making it the best 7-inch Honeycomb tablet yet.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

Editors' note: Thanks to the release of recent, high-quality tablets, the overall score of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Plus 7.0 has been adjusted down from 7.1 to 6.5.

As more tablets are released, manufacturers need to continually come up with good reasons for consumers to buy their latest device. Whether they do this through price, features, or a unique design, with a $200 tablet like the Kindle Fire out there, tablets will need a hook to keep consumers interested.

Design
I'm beginning to think it's probably easier to build a thin, 10.1-inch tablet than it is a 7-inch one that's equally as thin. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is actually thicker than its larger brother the Galaxy Tab 10.1. This is likely because a 10.1-inch tablet gives manufacturers room to spread components across a larger canvas, rather than cramming everything into a 7-inch design.

That isn't to say that the 7.0 Plus is some bulky hunk of machinery, however. On the contrary, it's actually the thinnest 7-inch tablet we've yet come in contact with. That said, with such a small design, I imagine it must be difficult to really establish some sort of clear aesthetic difference between 7-inch tablets. There's just not much you can do (or at least, no vendor has yet felt compelled to do anything dramatically different) with 7-inch tablets.

Measurement Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus Samsung Galaxy Tab T-Mobile SpringBoard Acer Iconia Tab A100 BlackBerry PlayBook
Weight in pounds 0.76 0.82 0.88 0.88 0.96
Width in inches (landscape) 7.6 7.9 7.4 7.7 7.6
Height in inches 4.8 4.7 4.8 4.6 5.1
Depth in inches 0.38 0.48 0.4 0.5 0.4
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.75 0.7 0.8 0.8 0.8

From the front, the 7.0 Plus looks very close to the original Galaxy Tab with its glossy black bezel; however, the 7.0 Plus's back isn't boxy like the original and instead slopes inward, creating a sleeker look and feel. Also, Samsung eschews the glossy back of the original, instead going for a less fingerprint-attracting dark-gray matte feel, reminiscent of the Tab 8.9's derriere.

The 7.0 Plus is outfitted with a power button, volume rocker, and an IR sensor (more on that later) 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.


On the far right, next to the volume rocker and power button, is the infrared (IR) sensor--the key to the 7.0 Plus' hook.

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'd like to play video from your tablet on your TV.


The Tab 7.0 doesn't take great pictures with its 3-megapixel camera, but it does take better pictures than most other 7-inchers.

The 7.0 Plus felt comfortable and light in our hands with no annoying little edges or sharp corners, just a really smooth and clean feel. If you're used to holding your cell phone while typing, you'll feel right at home here.

Honeycomb 3.2 comes natively installed on the 7.0 Plus, and, not surprisingly, Samsung overlays its TouchWiz UI on top of it. 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
The Peel app comes installed on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, and launching it essentially turns the tablet into a smart remote control for your TV.

Peel also takes the place of your cable or satellite channel guide and displays a list of shows currently playing locally on your cable/satellite provider's channels. Go to the currently playing tab, click on a show, and your TV switches to the appropriate channel.

The initial setup does a great job of holding your hand 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.


In Peel's card view, tapping on a show changes your TV to the appropriate channel. The number pad allows you to manually go to any channel. In the lower-right corner is a ball you're required to swipe in order to navigate menus on your TV.

Once it's set up, you can browse shows by category, favorite the shows you like, or prevent shows you'd rather not see on the list from showing up again. Unfortunately, if you don't have cable or satellite TV, the app isn't very useful, as it doesn't sync with over-the-air listings. Also, there's currently no search functionality, but Peel says we may see that in a future update.

Navigating the interface took some getting used to, but was easy enough to pick up; however, we took issue with the method by which your 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, we would have much preferred more-direct directional controls.

Also, we experienced an issue in which the shows Peel displayed as airing now were not actually airing. We'd see "Basketball Wives" listed as a current show, but when we selected it, we were taken instead to "Why Am I Still Single." Needless to say, this was very disappointing. Peels says that this is a daylight saving time issue and should clear up in a week. This reinforces the idea that Peel's accuracy is very closely dictated by the information cable/satellite providers choose to release.

While Peel is missing some features, it's overall well-implemented, but we're much more excited about the prospects of it integrating streaming services like Netflix and Hulu in the future.

Hardware features
Instead of going with the tried and true Tegra 2, the 7.0 Plus instead uses a dual-core Samsung Exynos 4210 processor. It also has 1GB of RAM and comes in either 16GB or 32GB storage capacities. Bluetooth 3.0 and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi are included as well.

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

Performance
The 7.0 Plus's 7-inch screen has a 1,024x600-pixel resolution and uses Samsung's proprietary Plane-Line Switching (PLS) panel technology. The screen delivers sharp text and menus, but the brightness is surprisingly low and doesn't hold up well under sunlight.

Tested spec Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus Samsung Galaxy Tab T-Mobile SpringBoard Acer Iconia Tab A100 BlackBerry PlayBook
Maximum brightness 214 cd/m2 364 cd/m2 353 cd/m2 227 cd/m2 587 cd/m2
Default brightness 50 cd/m2 123 cd/m2 106 cd/m2 96 cd/m2 474 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.17 cd/m2 0.35 cd.m2 0.42 cd/m2 0.27 cd/m2 0.48 cd/m2
Default black level 0.04 cd/m2 0.17 cd/m2 0.12 cd/m2 0.11 cd/m2 0.39 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 1,250:1 1,040:1 883:1 840:1 1,215:1
Contrast ratio (max brightness) 1,258:1 724:1 840:1 872:1 1,223:1

Navigating through the TouchWiz interface is just as speedy as on the previous Honeycomb Samsung Tabs, but we did experience freezing, crashing, and hanging frequently in multiple apps.

The picture quality of the rear camera was better than you get from most 7-inch tablets, although still not up to the high standards of the Sony Tablet S or Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. Video frame rate was smooth when recording video and played 720p without a hitch.

Samsung claims the 7.0 Plus is capable of 1080p playback, but none of the 1080p videos we copied to the tablet (some files wouldn't even copy) was actually playable.

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 7.0 7.2

Conclusion
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus offers a lot for its $400 price: 16GB of RAM ($500 for 32GB), a sharp screen, and a streamlined, minimalist design. Its IR sensor and Peel app turn it into a pretty robust remote control, but its lack of current support for streaming services limits its appeal.

The 7.0 Plus is the best 7-inch Honeycomb tablet available today, so if you're looking for a fully equipped 7-inch tablet, this is the one to get.

Editors' note: This review was updated with CNET Labs' battery life test results.

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