Android tablets. What's there to say about them in 2020? We have our ultra-cheap Fire Tablets from Amazon, an array of budget and high-end offerings from Samsung, and — well, that's about it. Just about every major tech company has moved on from Android tablets, largely because the operating system never really caught on for the form factor. There were endless options back in the early 2010s, but for the past few years, they've all but dried up.
There's a very good reason for that, but for whatever reason, Samsung remains vigilant in its quest to keep making the darn things. Enter the year 2020, and we're presented with two new flagship tablets for the premium space — the Tab S7 and Tab S7+. They aren't coming out until later in the fall, but Samsung sent me a pre-release unit ahead of launch for a little sneak peek of what's to come. Based on a few days of playing around with the more impressive Galaxy Tab S7+, I have mixed feelings.
Galaxy Tab S7+ Hardware
Let's start with the good, which is virtually all of the Tab S7+'s hardware. This is a premium tablet through and through, and that's something you instantly realize as soon as you pick it up. The tablet has a very sleek and sturdy aluminum body, featuring rounded corners and flat edges. There are four speakers for stereo audio (which get very loud), tactile power and volume buttons, a USB-C charging port, and a glass strip on the back that houses the S Pen.
While it is a bit larger to accommodate the Tab S7's size, this S Pen has all of the same features that you'll find on the Galaxy Note 20. It's comfortable to hold, supports remote gestures, and has that buttery smooth 9ms latency for more accurate writing and drawing. That's the same level of latency you get on the iPad, and it feels every bit as nice on the Tab S7. I'm not much of an artist myself, but jotting down notes throughout the day feels as smooth and responsive as I could ask for.
The Tab S7+ has one of the nicest displays around.
Flipping the Galaxy Tab S7+ over, you're treated to one of the largest displays currently available on an Android tablet. Measuring in at 12.4-inches, the S7+ is an absolute beast that demands your attention. That's a little bit smaller than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with Samsung also favoring a widescreen form factor instead of the iPad's square one. This makes the Tab S7+ an incredible canvas for watching movies and playing games, but for browsing the web or working on Word documents, I feel like it would have benefitted more from a square-er aspect ratio.
In any case, the tech backing that huge screen is what you'd expect from a top-of-the-line Samsung device — Super AMOLED panel, 2800 x 1752 WQXGA+ resolution, and a 120Hz refresh rate. Safe to say, everything you do on the Tab S7+ looks incredible. Samsung is iconic for its industry-leading displays, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking screen than what's offered here.
As for the rest of the specs, you get high-end components in every regard. At the heart of the tablet is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865+ processor along with 6 or 8GB of RAM, in addition to a beefy 10,090 mAh battery. Storage options include 128 or 256GB of space with microSD support, there's an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and you'll be able to get an optional configuration with 5G connectivity.
Galaxy Tab S7+ Software
All of that's great, but despite everything Samsung's done right, there's no getting around the ugly face of the Android tablet experience in 2020. The Galaxy Tab S7+ ships with Android 10 and the latest build of One UI 2.5. Samsung and Google have both done decent jobs at optimizing their apps to take advantage of the larger tablet form factor, but as you start downloading third-party apps from the Play Store, it doesn't take long at all to realize that the ecosystem just doesn't support this kind of hardware.
So many Android tablet apps are literally just stretched out versions of the one on your Android phone, and it makes the whole experience feel like an afterthought. Especially on a tablet with a screen this big, that annoyance is further exacerbated.
This isn't a knock against Samsung at all, but more of a reminder of what it's like to use Android on a tablet. It's an issue you encounter regardless of what one you're using, and as pretty as the Tab S7+'s display is, it feels like a waste when so few apps truly take advantage of it.
Despite Samsung's best efforts, Android tablets are still kind of bad.
Samsung does try to combat this with its DeX interface, which essentially transforms the typical Android UI into something that looks and feels a lot like Windows. There's a lot more you can do with DeX compared to the normal Android layout, and when paired with the Book Cover Keyboard accessory that Samsung's going to sell alongside the Tab S7 series, you end up with a pretty nice laptop replacement.
I've had the most fun using the Tab S7+ in DeX mode with the keyboard cover, with the super flexible hinge and responsive keys allowing for a really enjoyable experience — that is, until you go to use an Android app that doesn't work with DeX. I tried logging into a website with 1Password, got a pop-up that 1Password and DeX aren't compatible, and was instantly taken out of the magic. There's still some work that needs to be done before I'd consider DeX to be a proper alternative to Windows or even Chrome OS, but the idea of having one device with two distinct user interfaces for work and play is an enticing proposition.
Galaxy Tab S7+ More to come
As far as pricing and availability go, sales begin in Fall 2020 with a starting price of $850. If you'd rather get the smaller Tab S7 (which has a few key spec differences), you're looking at a starting price of $650. At the time of publication, it's unclear how much of an upcharge the 5G models of each will come with.
We're holding off on a full review until later in the year when we can get our hands on a retail unit, but as mentioned above, the Galaxy Tab S7+ is a mixed bag.
When it comes to the hardware of the tablet, it's nothing short of amazing. From the display, processor, S Pen, and more, Samsung put a lot of work into ensuring the Tab S7+ is worth its high asking price. Sadly, a lot of that hard work is hard to appreciate when the operating system at its core just doesn't work all that well. I'm hoping I can get a better appreciation for the Galaxy Tab S7+ after I get to use it for a bit longer, but until then, I'll leave you with that.
Best in class
Samsung's latest tablet is right around the corner
The Galaxy Tab S7+ isn't available quite yet, but when it arrives later this fall, it'll be packing a big punch. It offers the best hardware you can get on an Android tablet in 2020, featuring a Snapdragon 865+, 120Hz display, and an improved S Pen. Whether or not that's enough to overcome some software challenges remains to be seen.
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