Samsung is one of few companies still making premium Android tablets, and it’s getting pretty good at it. The company announced the new Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ at its Unpacked event yesterday and based simply off the specs, these are very impressive devices. Not only are they the first 5G tablets in the US, but they sport roomy displays with 120Hz refresh rates. They’re also powered by Qualcomm’s recently announced Snapdragon 865 Plus CPU, promising plenty of power for productivity. The Tab S7 is smaller and uses an LCD screen, while the 12-inch S7+ is clearly the higher end model. I got my hands on a Tab S7+ for a quick spin, and so far, I’m impressed.
Samsung’s design game is stronger than ever, at least when it comes to its tablets and laptops. The Tab S7+ is very well made and feels like the Rolls Royce of Android tablets (although that isn’t saying much since there aren’t many of them around). Its sleek lines and brushed metallic finish lend it an air of class that’s enhanced by the absolutely arresting 12.4-inch AMOLED. The device feels pretty heavy, though, at 575 grams (1.26 pounds).
Snap on the new keyboard case and the Tab S7+ gains a bit more weight, although it’s still lighter than most laptops. I’ve had issues with Samsung’s keyboard accessories in the past -- they were cramped, shallow and very finicky. The Tab S7+’s keyboard is a vast improvement. Because previous Tabs were 10-inch slates, there wasn’t a lot of room for Samsung to squeeze in a full keyboard. This time around, the keys are well-spaced, offer plenty of travel and are a pleasure to type on. Samsung also added a new row of dedicated function keys at the top and I was able to take quick screenshots by pressing the second last button.
The keyboard cover also features a wider trackpad than previous generations, and now supports multi-finger gestures. I haven’t used the Tab enough to say that all of the actions work well, but two-finger scrolling to pull up the apps drawer on the DeX desktop was effective. I’m hopeful that the keyboard, which will cost you extra (Samsung hasn’t shared how much yet), will make it much easier to multitask on the Tab S7+.
But just as important as a good keyboard is good multitasking software. Samsung has been trying to improve its DeX desktop interface for Android for years, adding things like resizable windows, a dedicated keyboard shortcut to activate it and multi-window support over time. On the Tab S7+, DeX automatically launches when you attach the keyboard, which makes sense. I can’t say much about the software here, in part because Samsung cautions this isn’t a final version. From the brief time I’ve spent with the Tab S7+ though, I’m underwhelmed -- there still aren’t buttons to close windows, for example, or an easy way to return to the desktop home page. Perhaps these are things Samsung will address by the time the Tab S7+ launches later this year.
One of my favorite things about Samsung’s tablets is the S Pen, because it makes note-taking and drawing so easy. The improved 9ms latency didn’t feel like a significant improvement, though, and I already found previous generations of the S Pen smooth and responsive. When I doodled a smiley face and wrote a quick list on the Tab S7+, there was a cute, but not really helpful, sound effect like writing with a lead pencil on paper.
What is helpful are the new Notes features like being able to import a PDF and annotate it or pull in audio recordings. I wasn’t able to test these out during my short time with the Tab S7+, but I remain impressed with the Notes app’s ability to recognize my truly awful handwriting and index it so I can quickly find the exact list I need.
I haven’t pushed the Tab S7+ very hard during this quick test period, but it was fast and responsive while I had it. The Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset is clearly very powerful, though I’m not sure if the 6GB of RAM Samsung provides in the base model is going to be enough for serious multitasking. That’s less RAM than the 8GB that the Note 20s start with, too!
I’m not a fan of taking photos with tablet cameras, especially not an unwieldy 12-inch monster like the Tab S7+. But if you really need it, the S7+’s dual rear cameras took clear, colorful shots. And as expected, the AMOLED screen made things like a 1080p trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet look rich and inviting, with details like broken tiles on the ground appear especially crisp. The trailer’s music also sounded rounded from my brief preview, thanks to the quad-speakers.
There are a few more things I didn’t get around to fully testing for this hands-on, namely 5G connectivity and gaming with Xbox game pass. Since this preview unit doesn’t run final software yet, there are a lot more things about the multitasking environment and DeX that I can’t comment on either. But so far, this peek at what the Tab S7+ has to offer has been promising. It has a bombastic specs list (though the 11-inch model is less impressive) and a beautiful build, which might make the $849 starting price easier to swallow. Before you go splurging on it though, you should stay tuned for a full review for the verdict on things like battery life and prolonged real-world performance.