The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 may technically be a new tablet, but almost everything about the hardware is suspiciously familiar. I’ve been playing with the new 7.0 for almost a day now, and if not for the fact the tablet lacks an LED flash and is running an updated OS, I would swear I’ve been testing last year’s Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus.
That’s just how similar the two devices appear at first glance. Shoot, even their names are easily mistaken for each other.
The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, which goes on sale Apr. 22 for $250, looks and feels like an identical twin of Samsung’s previous entry in the 7-inch tablet space. A quick peek at the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0′s spec sheet confirms that, indeed, there’s little difference between the two devices.
Both tablets feature a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 7-inch, 1024 x 600, AMOLED touchscreen. Likewise, both tablets include a 4000mAh battery and a microSD card slot for expanded storage, and weigh in at 0.76 pounds. And both tablets come pre-loaded with the Peel app, which allows owners to use the tablet as a TV remote.
The new 7-incher’s 3MP rear camera and VGA front-facing camera are also holdovers from the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. This camera combo still snaps photos that are a bit darker and muddier than what’s found on most smartphones today.
So is anything new and noteworthy in Samsung’s latest release? Yes, but you have to scour the data sheets to find these distinctions.
Last year’s Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus was 0.39 inches thick, and came with 16GB of built-in storage for $250 on a two-year data plan through T-Mobile. The new Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, meanwhile, is 0.41 inches thick, packs 8GB of storage, and sells for $250 — contract-free and Wi-Fi only.
Really, the most significant difference between the two tablets can’t even be found in hardware: The new Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 runs on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), while the older 7.0 Plus ran on Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). Thankfully, Samsung’s alterations to Ice Cream Sandwich are minimal, and while they don’t add much to the user experience, they don’t horribly detract from it either.
Samsung’s skin of Ice Cream Sandwich puts foldered apps into an actual folder icon, complete with a raised tab, à la what we’ve seen on desktop operating systems for decades. Google’s default OS implementation, meanwhile, places apps into a folder that looks like a circle filed with app icons. Is one better or worse than the other? Not really. They do the same thing, just in a different style.
One Samsung change I didn’t like is an added on-screen button for screen capture; it sits right next to Ice Cream Sandwich’s three existing buttons. I don’t see the need for a dedicated button for such a one-dimensional (if not obscure) feature.
Compared to larger tablets, web browsing on the cramped real estate of a 7-inch screen isn’t ideal. Nonetheless, the 7.0′s display is bright and looks good. It’s not as brilliant as the Super AMOLED screens found in Samsung’s best smartphones (the Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S II). Nor can it match the sharpness of Apple’s Retina display in the new iPad. But Samsung’s “regular” AMOLED technology still delivers a beautiful picture.
Web browsing on the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is far from ideal. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired
We’ll need some extended time with the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 before we’re ready to publish a final review, but our first impression is that the tablet’s contract-free $250 price tag is its best feature. At this cost, prospective buyers are likely to cross-shop the new 7.0 with so-called “bargain tablets” such as the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, each of which sells for $199, and is a bit heavier and thicker.
The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 pairs up well against these bottom feeders, and costs only $50 more. It’s got beefier specs, higher-end materials, Google’s latest operating system, and access to the full Android Market. We’ll cover all these elements, plus Samsung’s new IR blaster remote control features, in our full review.