Samsung's last tablet really did look like a slate that was run through the wrong washing cycle and came out a size 8.9 rather than the 10.1 it started as. The 7.0 Plus, however, is a rather different beast, slotting in somewhere between the 8.9 and the Galaxy Note
both in terms of styling and, of course, size.
It has the same faux-brushed metal backing that Samsung calls Metallic Gray -- despite being far closer to black and not having a hint of sparkle. And still being plastic. But, it does look cool and sophisticated and is far more pleasing to touch than the smooth plastic the company originally put on its 10.1. The non-removable back is perforated to allow the three megapixel camera and its LED flash to poke through, units that appear to be borrowed from the 8.9 and 10.1 that came before.
With Skype installed those looking to make some calls on a comically large celly are certainly welcome to do so here.
That is paired with a two megapixel camera on the front peering through the top-right portion of the LCD's bezel when held in portrait. That's a very different location than on the other recent Tabs, which put the shooter front and center on the top when you're holding the tablet in landscape mode. Why the change? Well, the 7.0 Plus is aping some phone styling here, including a gash in the bezel for a speaker and even a microphone on the bottom. The WiFi-only version we were sent of course doesn't support proper calling, and with Honeycomb it's clearly not meant to be a phone, but with Skype installed those looking to make some calls on a comically large celly are certainly welcome to do so here. The only thing missing is a proximity sensor to disable the screen -- and maybe an invisibility cloak to hide your look of shame whilst holding a 7-inch slate to your face.
So this is a device intended to be held portrait-style, reinforced by Samsung putting its logo on one of the short sides rather than on the long side where it's typically found. This is again similar to the original 7-inch Galaxy Tab, which had its array of four capacitive touch buttons on the same, shorter side. No such buttons here -- Honeycomb has of course nixed that -- but the intent is still the same.
The IR emitter opens the door for the 7.0 Plus to be the biggest, beefiest Harmony there ever was.
The physical buttons here are limited to power and a volume rocker, are also in the same place as on the original Tab -- on the side on the upper-right. However, slotted in beneath them on the same side is something new and interesting: an IR emitter. IR has long-since fallen out of favor as a means of intra-device communication, replaced by Bluetooth and NFC and the like, but it is still the mechanism of choice for controlling home entertainment systems, opening the door for the 7.0 Plus to be the biggest, beefiest Harmony
there ever was.
The standard 3.5mm headphone jack is found up on the top, shifted to the right, but continue around to the left side of the device and you'll find something a little less common: a microSD slot. Through this you can easily add up to 32GB of storage for music or movies or whatever. Pick up the 3G version of this device and you'll also find a tray for a SIM slot.
Finally, on the bottom lies Samsung's proprietary 30-pin connector, flanked on both sides by two tiny little speakers that emit decent sound but at a maximum volume too low to be of much use in all but the quietest of small rooms. Connectivity options on this model include 802.11a/b/g/n at both 2.4 and 5GHz along with Bluetooth 3.0. The 3G model adds on 21Mbps HSPA+ (900, 1900 and 2100MHz) and quad-band EDGE/GPRS (850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz).
While the Galaxy Tab 8.9, the increasingly mythical 7.7
and even the Galaxy Note manage to offer the full 1280 x 800 resolution offered by the big boy 10.1, the 7.0 Plus sadly is asked to make do with a measly 1024 x 600. That's the same as the original Galaxy Tab and, while we wish this device had the resolution to match its bigger (and even smaller) siblings, it is otherwise a very nice display. Colors are rich and bright, contrast is good and, while it can't quite deliver the sort of mouth-watering saturation that the company's Super AMOLED Plus panels can manage, color reproduction seems to be spot-on.
If the stock color temperature isn't to your liking, there are two others you can choose: Dynamic, which is a little too over-saturated for our tastes, and Movie, which tones things down a bit. Whichever you choose you'll have a great looking picture that doesn't go bad even at extreme viewing angles.
Performance and battery life
The Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus uses internals that are quite familiar at this point: a dual-core 1.2GHz processor paired with 1GB of RAM and either 16 or 32GB of storage. Unsurprising, then, that performance was also quite familiar. Despite being quite smaller than the 10.1, this guy blazes through most tasks with similar aplomb. Apps launch promptly and flipping through and examining pictures in the gallery is as smooth as you like. The only occasional hiccups came into play on web browsing, where webpages occasionally got a bit sticky and browsing became sporadically unresponsive. Disabling Flash helped -- as it usually does -- but out-of-the-box surfing wasn't quite all we'd hoped it would be.
When we ran our usual spate of benchmarks, the results almost unanimously confirmed that this is indeed one speedy tablet. You'll see it bested the 7-inch T-Mobile Springboard ($430 off contract) in almost every test, save for the single-thread version of Linpack. Meanwhile, the 7.0 Plus blitzed through the SunSpider benchmark with an average score of 1,679.
But it's in battery life that it really starts to pull away from the competition. In our rundown, which involves looping a movie off the tablet with WiFi on and the brightness fixed at 65 percent, it managed an impressive eight hours and nine minutes. That's really something when you consider the Springboard lasted just six and a half hours and the Acer Iconia Tab A100
came to a wheezing halt in less than five. And in case you're wondering, the 7.0 represents a marked improvement over the original Galaxy Tab, whose runtime was two hours shorter.
For the most part the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus feels like any of the other Galaxy Tabs to use. It's running Android 3.2 Honeycomb, customized with Samsung's TouchWiz interface that adds a number of useful tools to the mix: a task manager, a world clock, a finger-friendly note taking app, a calculator and a music player. They're all accessible by tapping on the little up-arrow at the bottom of the screen. TouchWiz also simplifies the look of Honeycomb a bit and adds some useful toggles to the settings menu that you get when tapping the wrench in the lower-right of the screen.
All standard fare, that, but the Plus does bring something new to the software table: the Peel Smart Remote app. The app typically requires a $100 accessory
to work but, thanks to the IR emitter built into the top of this guy, you can use it like a jumbo-sized universal remote control. To set up the app you're basically asked to turn off all your devices and sit somewhere in their general proximity. Rather than digging through endless lists of obscure product names as you struggle to remember whether you bought the Onkyo SR504 or sprung for the SR604, the Peel app just asks you to remember the brand of your device.
It then starts firing out IR commands with wild abandon, asking you after each one whether your device turned on. Once your TV or receiver or DVD player springs to life, happy day, you're configured! That said, if it never does you're in trouble. The app automatically prompts you to email Peel's customer support and enter the particulars of your device, something we had to do for one of our recalcitrant receivers, and they were quite quick to respond.
This does cause problems in some cases, though. For example, we use a Harmony remote with a Nyko BluWave
IR receiver to control our PS3. That works great for media playback and navigating through the XMB, but there's no way to turn the console on or off with this. And, if you can't turn the device on, the Peel simply wants nothing to do with it. So, watching movies on our PS3 was not something the Plus 7.0 will allow -- at least with this app. But, we can't wait to see what other developers can do.
We also had problems with our TV, an older Sharp LCD that lacks discrete commands for its inputs. With the Harmony you can configure the remote to cycle through the available inputs as you switch from one activity to another. The Peel app, on the other hand, refuses to play nice.