Editors' note: Thanks to the release of recent, high-quality tablets, the overall score of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 has been adjusted down from 7.3 to 7.2.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 from Verizon features an impressive AMOLED screen with an incredible contrast ratio. The tablet was released the same week as the new iPad with its Retina Display, however, so that's probably why you haven't heard much about it. The AMOLED screen is beautiful, though, but is it a gimmick or does it enrich what could (under different circumstances) be a typical tablet experience?
When the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus was released last year, I opined that building a really thin 10.1-inch tablet was probably a less arduous task than matching that same thinness on a 7-incher. The Galaxy Tab 7.7, with its 0.7-inch larger screen, reinforces that opinion with a thinner and lighter design than Samsung's previous 7-inch effort. Not that I went out on a limb at all by speculating that in the first place. The more surface area you have to work with, the easier it is to spread components around, facilitating a thinner design.
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7||Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus||Toshiba Thrive 7-inch||Motorola Droid Xyboard 8.2|
|Weight in pounds||0.74||0.76||0.88||0.86|
|Width in inches (landscape)||7.75||7.6||7.4||8.5|
|Height in inches||5.25||7.8||4.8||5.5|
|Depth in inches||0.37||0.38||0.4||0.35|
|Side bezel width in inches (landscape)||0.68||0.75||0.75||0.75|
Aesthetically, the Tab 7.7 is like the cooler, slicker cousin of the Tab 7.0 Plus. You know, the one that gets invited to all the cool parties? The Tab 7.7's smooth aluminum back is simply much more visually striking than the Tab 7.0 Plus' plastic, dark-gray hind part, and the sleek metal gives the Tab 7.7 an additional bit of sexiness over its (likely jealous and hate-filled) big brother.
Beyond that, the two tablets house many of the same features, including a power button, volume rocker, and IR sensor 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. The Tab 7.7 has a SIM card slot on the bottom as well.
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 want to play video from your tablet on your TV.
The Tab 7.7 ships with Honeycomb 3.2, and Samsung has yet to officially announce a date for an Ice Cream Sandwich update. Not surprisingly, Samsung overlays its on top of Honeycomb. 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's Smart Remote app
Last seen on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, the Peel app comes installed on the Tab 7.7, and launching it essentially turns the tablet into a smart remote control for your TV. Peel can also 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. At least, that's how it works in theory.
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 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 and only TVs or monitor/TV combos.
Once it's 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, but its accuracy as to which shows and channels were available to me left a bit to be desired.
I learned with the Tab 7.0 Plus that Smart Remote's accuracy was very closely dictated by the information cable and satellite providers choose to release. So, while the Smart Remote guide may indicate that "Law and Order" is 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.
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 in order 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.
While Peel's Smart Remote is still missing some features, it's well-implemented overall; however, I'm still waiting for Hulu and Netflix integration and I'm sure I could find some use for an actual search feature. Also, the "8-foot maximum distance from your TV to be functional" rule should be extended. This is probably more of a hardware issue, though.
The Tab 7.7 houses Samsung's 1.4GHz dual-core Exynos 4210 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. It has 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi support, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, and GPS.
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 tolevels.
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)|
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.