A few short years ago, I remember making regular trips to Best Buy with my dad and getting wide-eyed at all of the Android tablets that were on display. The early 2010s were filled with tablets from so many manufacturers, a lot of which tried weird and unique things. It was an exciting time to be a tech nerd.
In contrast, the 2020 Android tablet market is...sparse.
Amazon kicks out regular updates to its Fire Tablets, Samsung keeps its Galaxy Tab lineup up-to-date, and there's usually a release here and there from companies like Lenovo and Huawei. But that's about it. The tablet market is all but dominated by Apple these days, and considering just how darn good the iPad has gotten, the ultimate conclusion to "just buy an iPad" has a lot of merit.
Even with that being the case, Samsung is determined to keep competing to deliver an iPad competitor with its own proverbial legs to stand on. Its latest attempt comes in the form of the Galaxy Tab S7, which is a very good tablet. And while it isn't free of the issues that continue to plague Android with this form factor, it makes the best of an awkward situation and ends up being surprisingly great — as long as you know what you're getting into.
At a glance
Bottom line: Android as a whole has problems that Google and developers still need to address, but for the time being, the Galaxy Tab S7 stands out as the best Android tablet you can buy. Samsung knocked it out of the park with the hardware, offering a premium design, 120Hz display, blazing-fast performance, and solid battery life. The S Pen is also included for free, touting the same reduced latency introduced on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
- 120Hz display looks outstanding
- Everything is fast and smooth
- Reliable battery life
- Samsung DeX has lots of potential
- Solid value
- Awkward S Pen placement
- Persistent issues with Android apps on tablets
- DeX can be quite buggy
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 What I like
We'll dive a bit deeper into the software situation for the Galaxy Tab S7 later on, but I first want to talk about its hardware. It's a given in 2020 that Samsung makes some of the nicest and most powerful smartphones on the market, and that prowess is on full display with the Tab S7.
|Category||Samsung Galaxy Tab S7|
|Operating System||Android 10
One UI 2.5
2560 x 1600
120Hz refresh rate
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+|
|Memory||6 or 8 GB|
|Storage||128, 256, or 512GB|
|Rear Cameras||13MP primary, 5MP ultra-wide|
|Security||Side-mounted fingerprint sensor|
|Dimensions||165.3 x 253.8 x 6.3mm|
Design-wise, there's not much to complain about. The all-aluminum construction is sturdy and attractive, giving the Tab S7 an immediate sense of luxury. There's no creaking or flexing of any kind, it's wonderfully thin, and the quad speakers allow for stereo sound that's incredibly loud. I've also had no issues with the power button or volume rocker, and if you can't stand the in-screen fingerprint sensor Samsung uses on so many of its phones, you'll be happy to see that the company ditched it on the Tab S7 and embedded the fingerprint sensor onto the power button instead. It's every bit as fast and reliable as I could ask for, so major props all around.
I'd also like to give a shoutout to the Galaxy Tab S7's size, which is just about perfect. Where the massive 12.4-inch Tab S7+ is so big that it's awkward to use, the regular S7 offers ample room while still being easy to manage.
All of that's great, but as with any tablet, the star of the show is the display. Samsung equipped the Tab S7 with an 11-inch LCD panel, touting a 2560 x 1600 resolution and a smooth 120Hz refresh rate. Right off the bat, I'll say that the LCD tech isn't as impressive as the AMOLED setup you get on the more expensive Tab S7+. Colors aren't quite as vibrant and blacks aren't as crushingly deep, but it's still best-in-class for the technology. I mean, it's a Samsung.
The Tab S7 has good colors and viewing angles, everything is perfectly sharp, and that fast refresh rate is an absolute joy. Whether you're browsing Twitter, scrolling through emails, or just navigating your home screens, it gives everything on the Tab S7 an addictive fluidity — making it difficult to go back to a Tab S6 or any other tablet with a slower 60Hz display.
With a 120Hz display and Snapdragon 865+, the Tab S7 absolutely flies.
Also contributing to the Galaxy Tab S7's speed is its internals. The tablet is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865+, and depending on which storage configuration you choose, either 6 or 8GB of RAM. The model I'm testing comes with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM, and I've had zero issues in the way of performance. All of the apps and games I've run are fast and responsive, even with the lower amount of RAM.
In regards to battery life, you shouldn't have any issues in this department, either. Samsung touts that you can expect up to 15 hours of video playback on the Tab S7, and I'd say that's an accurate claim. I wasn't on the tablet constantly during my time with it, but I tried making it my go-to machine for watching YouTube videos, playing games, and doing some mindless social media browsing after a long workday. With that kind of sporadic use, you can probably get through a couple of days before needing to charge up. Your mileage will certainly vary depending on which apps you're running and how you're using the Tab S7, but I don't think this will be a cause for concern. Plus, when it does come time to refuel, you can take advantage of 45W wired charging.
There are two other main things I want to talk about, and that's the S Pen and software.
Just like on the Tab S6, Samsung includes the S Pen at no extra cost with the Tab S7. It works just as you'd expect for drawing and note-taking, though this version has the same 9ms latency that was introduced on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Casual S Pen users likely won't notice that much of a difference, but if you want to use the S7 for serious creative work, it's a big deal.
As for the software, I do have some praises to sing for Samsung. Android at its core isn't great on tablets, but Samsung has done a lot to patch up the experience as much as it can. Calls and texts from your Galaxy phone will show up on the Tab S7, there's a Daily Board UI that turns the tablet into a makeshift smart display when it's charging, and — of course — there's Samsung DeX.
The potential for Samsung DeX is really exciting.
Samsung DeX takes the traditional Android interface and transforms it into something that looks a lot like Windows, making the Tab S7 much more conducive for productivity work. Especially when paired with the official keyboard cover you can get for the tablet, it's a combination that has a ton of potential. It's far from a perfect setup, but I have to give Samsung a tip of the hat for continuing to offer and refine the feature year after year. If you do
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 What I don't like
I suppose that's a perfect segway into this next chunk of the review, and this is where things start to get dicey. While I have a great appreciation for what Samsung's trying to do with DeX, that's not the same as it being a fully fleshed-out thing I want to use on a regular basis.
A lot of Android apps simply don't know what to do when they're asked to run on DeX. Some, like Spotify and Twitter, can be run in fully-resizeable windows or in full-screen mode without a hitch. Others, like Instagram, can only be shown in one set window size with no option to adjust it. And then you have apps like 1Password, which just refuse to run at all when the Tab S7 is set to DeX.
That's a real shame, because at its core, DeX has the potential to be the saving grace that Android on tablets needs. When you exit DeX and just run the Tab S7 in its normal tablet mode — well, it feels like a stretched-out Galaxy phone. This is a problem Android tablets have had ever since their inception a decade ago, and it's a problem that continues to persist to this very day.
The culprit of this is lacking app support, because at the end of the day, there's just no real incentive for developers to spend time and money optimizing their apps for a stagnant form factor. More often than not, this means you're using phone apps that are expanded to fill the entire screen without adding any extra functionality. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of having a large-screen device in the first place, and unfortunately for Samsung, that's not something that's going to magically get better overnight.
This certainly isn't the case for every Android app, and thanks to the rise of foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold 2, we could be heading towards a future where Android apps get the big-screen treatment they're in such desperate need of. For the time being, though, it's still a very real issue that you need to be aware of.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Competition
Looking at the Galaxy Tab S7's competition, there are a few alternatives worth talking about — one of the most appealing being the new iPad Air. It doesn't go on sale until this October, but it's already looking like the new best tablet for most shoppers. It has an all-screen design similar to the iPad Pro, Apple's 5nm A14 Bionic processor, Touch ID built into the power button, and starts at $599. You are getting a less impressive 60Hz display and just 64GB of base storage, but the user experience offered by iPadOS is far and away more enjoyable than where Android for tablets is at right now.
If you're content with owning an Android tablet but want something even more impressive, you could also consider picking up the Galaxy Tab S7+. It's not as good an overall value, but you're getting a larger display and an AMOLED panel which looks absolutely gorgeous. The LCD screen on the Tab S7 is good, but the one on the Tab S7+ is on another level.
Finally, if you're getting ready to spend this kind of money on an Android tablet, it's worth considering a great Chromebook instead — specifically, the ASUS Chromebook Flip C434. It has a 2-in-1 design that allows you to use it like a tablet when you want, and when it comes time to get serious work done, it's a fully-fledged laptop. You also get a full desktop-grade Chrome browser in addition to Android app support, giving you the best of both worlds.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
You want a tablet with a 120Hz display
Fast refresh rates are just as magical on tablets as they are on smartphones. The Galaxy Tab S7 is one of the few tablets out there with a 120Hz display, giving it a unique edge you won't find from a lot of its competitors. The smoother animations it delivers are wonderful, and it makes everything you do on the tablet feel that much faster.
You do a lot of drawing or note-taking
Since the Galaxy Tab S7 includes the S Pen at no extra cost, it ends up being a really interesting option if you want a tablet for media consumption and creative work. You can use the Tab S7 for games and movies when you want to relax, and when it comes time to take notes for school or draw your latest project, the high-quality build and low latency of the S Pen make it a powerful tool.
You want a tablet and desktop UI on one device
As imperfect as Samsung DeX may be, the idea of having one device with two distinct ways to use it is really unique. The Tab S7 operates very differently depending on which mode you run it in, and if you think you can take advantage of both, it's a big benefit of the tablet.
You should not buy this if ...
You want apps to be optimized for the large screen
Android apps generally aren't very good on large displays, and that's something that'll continue to be a problem for a long time to come. If you want a tablet that has a bunch of high-quality apps that take advantage of its big screen, you're better off getting something that doesn't run Android.
You aren't willing to put up with software bugs
Similarly, you should be prepared for some software inconsistencies if you decide to get the Tab S7. As ambitious as Samsung DeX is, its user experience is far from perfect and still has a lot of polishing that needs to be done.
You're comfortable with buying an iPad
Some people really like Android tablets, but if you're open to the idea of getting an iPad, you should strongly consider just doing that instead. Whether you get the iPad, iPad Air, or iPad Pro, you're getting access to a software ecosystem that understands and appreciates large screens.
As talked about throughout this review, Samsung absolutely nailed almost every single aspect of the Galaxy Tab S7. It has an excellent design, screen, performance, battery life, and comes with a powerful stylus right in the box. It's not a tablet I'd consider to be cheap, but it's a really solid value when you consider all of the specs and features it's packing.
This all makes the software situation that much more frustrating. All of the pieces are here for a fantastic device, but when the core software struggles to take advantage of the screen real-estate you're given, it ends up feeling like wasted potential.
That said, I understand and acknowledge that not everyone is as annoyed by the Android app situation as I am. If that sounds like you, the Galaxy Tab S7 is a seriously great buy. You're getting incredible hardware and specs are a reasonable price, and whether you plan on using it for content consumption, creating artwork, or productivity, all the pieces are in place to do all of that.
I'd still recommend looking into an iPad if you're in the market for a new tablet, but if you're dead-set on getting one that runs Android, this is about the best one you can get in 2020.
Bottom line: It's hard to make an argument why anyone should buy an Android tablet in 2020, but if that's something you're determined to do, the Galaxy Tab S7 is an easy choice. Assuming you can overlook the awkwardness of Android on the big screen, you're treated to top-notch specs, loads of features, and a powerful S Pen that's included for free.
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