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Samsung's Galaxy Tab S7+ Is Simply the Best Android Tablet Around, Warts and All

Illustration for article titled Samsungs Galaxy Tab S7+ Is Simply the Best Android Tablet Around, Warts and All
Photo: Sam Rutherford

Compared to the iPad Pro, sometimes trying to pick the best Android tablet feels like a consolation prize. That’s because while Apple has made major strides in turning the iPad into a proper laptop replacement with iPadOS 13 and 14, it feels like Android tablets have been treading water.

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But that hasn’t stopped Samsung from trying to make a first-rate tablet for both entertainment and productivity with some of the best hardware available on either side of the OS divide. For anyone who can’t or simply doesn’t want to make the switch to iPad, the Galaxy Tab S7+ is the best Android tablet around.

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Like current iPad Pros, the Tab S7+ sports an aluminum body with rounded corners and straight, boxy sides. However, unlike the big iPad Pro, which sports a 12.9-inch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio that’s equally adept at handling both work and play, Samsung’s flagship slate leans more toward entertainment first with its slightly smaller, 12.4-inch 16:10 OLED screen.

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The upside to this approach is that it makes the Tab S7+ just a tiny bit more portable than a competing iPad Pro. With a display that uses an aspect ratio closer to what you get on most streaming services, there’s less room wasted around the edges for letterboxing. But the real highlight feature is the Tab S7+’s screen, which offers support for a variable 120Hz refresh rate that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Tab S7+’s brilliant OLED panel is the most jaw-droppingly beautiful tablet screen on sale today. It just makes everything look better. With a tested peaked brightness of over 550 nits, the Tab S7+’s display is great outdoors too.

However, the downside to Samsung’s game plan is that when it comes to getting work done, the Tab S7+’s 16:10 display doesn’t offer quite as much vertical real estate. That means DeX mode’s task bar eats into your working space, resulting in a screen that can feel a bit cramped at times. While skewing the Tab S7+ more toward fun than work isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, considering its price, sometimes you kind of wish an $850 tablet (or almost $1,100 after you shell out for Samsung’s Bookcover keyboard) was just a tiny bit more balanced.

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When you’re not using the stylus, the Tab S7+ has a magnetic strip in back for storage and recharging.
When you’re not using the stylus, the Tab S7+ has a magnetic strip in back for storage and recharging.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

The Tab S7+’s excellent hardware doesn’t stop there, because Samsung also includes powerful quad speakers that ensure you get an immersive audio experience no matter what position the tablet is in. Furthermore, the Tab S7+’s ability to use both face and ultrasonic fingerprint recognition is proving to be even more valuable in a time when wearing a mask is often a necessity. I wish Samsung had included a headphone jack, though, because while not having enough space to put one on a phone might be a reasonable excuse, I have a hard time believing there’s not enough room for a 3.5mm port on a device this big. And when you’re trying to use this thing to get work done, the freedom to not hog the Tab S7+’s lone USB-C port with a wired audio dongle would be quite valuable. (Yes, I know a lot of people are using Bluetooth headphones, but still.)

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On the inside, thanks to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of base storage (with options up to 512GB), and a microSD card slot, the Tab S7+ has the best performance you can get in a tablet short of jamming in one of Apple’s A-series chip, which is never going to happen for obvious reasons. The Tab S7+ even offers dual rear cameras with a lot of the same features you get on Samsung’s Galaxy phones, including Night Mode and Live Focus Video. And in case you really need 5G connectivity, there will even be a Galaxy Tab S7+ 5G available sometime later this year.

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For 2020, Samsung has also reduced input latency to just 9ms (same as the iPad Pro) while also increasing the Tab S7+'s touch sampling rate to 240Hz.
For 2020, Samsung has also reduced input latency to just 9ms (same as the iPad Pro) while also increasing the Tab S7+’s touch sampling rate to 240Hz.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

The one tiny wrinkle in the Tab S7+’s hardware is its battery life, which varies quite a bit depending on what you’re doing. On our traditional video rundown test, the Tab S7+ lasted 8 hours and 2 minutes, which is fine, but a bit shorter than I expected. I suspect Samsung’s variable 120Hz refresh rate is dragging down its battery life in YouTube a bit, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly.

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In normal use, the Tab S7+’s battery was much more impressive, easily lasting through a whole day of work with the Tab S7+ serving as my primary machine while writing large parts of this review. I also want to call out the tablet’s superb standby time, which generally sucked up less than 5% battery overnight.

Finally, we come to the only place where the Tab S7+ falters: productivity, though much of the blame may lie more with Google than Samsung. Over the past couple years, while iPadOS has gotten comprehensive mouse support, built-in handwriting conversion, redesigned sidebars, and a generally revamped UI, it feels like Android on tablets has been stuck in the mud. So even though Samsung has consistently worked to improve its DeX mode over the past few year—which offers a more traditional desktop interface for getting work done—the end result still feels sort of like a Band-Aid (an admittedly impressive one) on an OS that’s not designed for full-on productivity.

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Don’t get me wrong, trying to work on the Tab S7+ isn’t a total disaster. Simply tapping the DeX icon allows you to boot into a very familiar UI with app icons on the desktop, a handy taskbar down below, and what amounts to a system tray in the bottom right corner. You can also easily multitask by opening two apps side-by-side, and if you’re checking emails, writing a story, or making a PowerPoint presentation, it’s not hard to forget you’re working on a tablet instead of a laptop. Samsung’s Bookcover keyboard also feels quite nice, with a pleasantly stiff but still bouncy keystroke with lots of travel, and a decent-sized touchpad. I also appreciate the dedicated buttons Samsung included to boot into DeX and summon the Google Assistant/open the app drawer, on top of support for a lot of standard shortcuts like CTRL + C and CTRL+ V for copy and paste. The problem with using the Tab S7+ for work are all the little things that make using Android on a tablet feel clunky or awkward.

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For example, even when you have its keyboard attached, you can’t use right-click on the touchpad unless you boot into DeX mode. It’s a similar situation when you’re typing in Google Docs, where the mouse doesn’t automatically change into an I-cursor, which makes it just a bit more annoying to highlight text or fix a typo. And then there are the handful of apps that just default to a mobile UI instead of utilizing a true tablet layout and taking advantage of the Tab S7+’s larger display. So even though Samsung gave DeX a new feature that makes it easier to connect the Tab S7+ to another display to get a true dual-screen experience, sometimes you’re left with a system that just doesn’t measure up to what you get from an iPad Pro.

Illustration for article titled Samsungs Galaxy Tab S7+ Is Simply the Best Android Tablet Around, Warts and All
Photo: Sam Rutherford
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The Galaxy Tab S7+ almost feels like a tale of two tablets. On one hand, it’s the most engaging and gorgeous entertainment tablet on the market, hands down. I can’t get enough of that screen, and its speakers, stylus support, and design deliver an extremely premium experience, even if that means the Tab S7+ is a bit overpriced when used strictly as a mobile video and gaming device. As for productivity, the Tab S7+ can handle that too, and depending on what your workload is, it can even be a respectable replacement for a larger laptop. But if you’re looking for a true hybrid device, despite Samsung’s best efforts, Android just isn’t as good as what you get with iPadOS.

The Tab S7+’s hardware deserves recognition, though, and it’d be nice if Google helped out more by making its OS more supportive for productivity, but the Tab S7+ is still the best Android tablet around, warts and all.

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README

  • The Galaxy Tab S7+’s stylus comes included, but you’ll have to fork over an extra $230 for its Bookcover Keyboard.
  • The hardware on the Tab S7+ is superb, especially its OLED display, which is one of the best-looking screens on the market.
  • Improvements to Samsung’s DeX mode make the Tab S7+ an even better hybrid device, but Android’s relative lack of tablet support still results in some clunkiness.
  • Battery life can go from OK (around 8 hours) to pretty good (upwards of 11 hours) depending on what you’re doing and if you have 120Hz mode enabled.
  • Like it or not, the Tab S7+ is the best Android tablet on the market.
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Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

hippoposthumous
Hippoposthumous

This is more expensive than a Surface Pro 6. I get that apple fans are stuck with an ipad or nothing, but what is the use case for tablet mode android over windows? There must be a use case, but I’m not seeing it at this price point. Sure a sub-500 dollar consumption device makes some sense. But we’re in mid-range convertible territory at 1100 including a keyboard.