Android Phones

Galaxy Tab 7.7 – A Full Android Competitor to the Kindle Fire [Hardware Review]

April 17, 2012 | by Ben Crawford

Android Devices, Android Phones and Devices, Featured post, Reviews, Samsung Tablets, Tablets

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Evaluated version: Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (Honeycomb)

Pros: Light and thin, beautiful screen, powerful

Cons: Expensive, not future-proof, Honeycomb

I’ve owned an Amazon Kindle, and I loved the Galaxy Tab 10.1, so the merging of a small form factor and Samsung’s hardware seems like an awesome idea. With Amazon’s Kindle Fire selling by the boatload, it is about time one of the big-time manufacturers attempted to cram a true Android experience into a reading-sized area. The regular tablet size, around 10 inches, are fine for playing games and web-browsing, but I think that a smaller tablet around 7 inches like the Fire can excel as well. They are perfect e-readers with a very worthy bonus of viewing comics, the web, and games in full color. The small area even helps the pixels-per-inch, but the hardcore Android enthusiast may find the small screen trade-off not worth the smaller specs.

Hardware

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is light and thin. It could be comparable to the 2nd generation Kindle in terms of weight and size. If you’re looking for an e-reader, there’s nothing worse than feeling the device you’re holding instead of being able to relax and enjoy a book. As an Android tablet, Samsung gave this little device specs to compete with most tablets out today if not future-proof. A slightly overclocked 1.4Ghz dual-core processor with a screen beautiful enough for all your new Instagram pictures, the Tab obviously blows other e-readers out of the water.

The Tab flies from playing Temple Run to streaming your Google Music to flipping the pages of the newest Game of Thrones book. If you thought this tablet would be a lower-specked device, you don’t know Samsung very well. There is nothing this device can’t do in comparison to its older brother the Tab 10.1, however, unfortunately to keep the Tab this thin, there is no HDMI-out or even a USB port (unlikely anywhere) which could have set it apart even further. Instead, there’s just the volume rocker, power button, the power input, a SIM slot for Verizon’s LTE, and thankfully a mini-SD slot. However, the sleek brushed silver look gives the Tab 7.7 a futuristic look and feels good in the hand. And, unlike other devices (iPad), the back of this won´t get scratched the moment you put it down.

Screen/Camera

The screen, like on most Samsung devices, is gorgeous. The super-AMOLED Plus screen could light your way in the daytime, and the blacks strike a beautiful contrast with every other color on the screen. Reading is a joy with the Amazon Kindle app, Perfect Viewer, ezPDF, or whatever you use for your daily reading. Compared to the Fire, the Tab 7.7 seems to have less glare or halos around words. This could easily be my terrible eyesight, but words were crisp in every app I used. Riding in the car, where I used to couldn’t read billboards without feeling semi-nauseous, is helped by these great screens. E-ink is still the best for reading, but hi-res with the AMOLED display is the next best thing.

The camera leaves something to be desired with a mere 3.2MP back camera. You can argue that the smaller tablets should be better shooters, but I don’t think any tablet is really meant for picture-taking so the low megapixels didn’t bother me very much. The Tab comes with a front-facing camera as well though it’s nothing special.

Software Performance

The Tab 7.7 ships with Honeycomb (I assume it will be upgraded to ICS sometime soon) with a Touchwiz coating. While I generally dislike Touchwiz, it didn’t really get in the way of the Android experience. To me, it was merely a different color scheme and different app icons instead of a full-blown skin for Honeycomb. With that said, I don’t care for Touchwiz’s ‘Windows XP-ish’ color palette, especially compared to Honeycombs neon nature. Luckily, that’s all cosmetic and changeable, and the Touchwiz interface doesn’t slow this device down too much. There is a small amount of lag when moving screens, but getting in and out of apps is quick, and the software is as fast as anything Samsung has made (barring the Nexus with 4.0). Samsung and Verizon have thrown their own apps onto the device, but if I left them alone, they didn’t seem to bother me.

The radios looked and fared quite well when I drove across the country. I used the Tab to Bluetooth my Google Music to the car with a reliable LTE/3G signal. The GPS locked on quick as well while driving and using Google Maps. These radios did look better than my Galaxy Nexus, and streaming was more reliable with the Tab, but I think the signal bars were a bit misleading. Where I showed 1 bar with my Nexus, there were 3 or 4 on the Tab, and neither were lightning fast in these situations.

App Performance

Thank goodness Temple Run came out while I was using the Tab. It was the perfect way to test the Tablet’s performance. The small tablet is easing for holding, thus making it easier to turn in Temple Run than bigger tablets, but not quite as sensitive as a phone. The graphics were vibrant green and gold, and I didn’t notice any slowdowns in the game (after the app got updated). As I mentioned, I used the Tab mostly for reading, but that was certainly a waste of good power for this Tab. Every other app I ran was quick and fluid, no stuttering on web-pages or hiccups on Twitter. I can honestly say it was a very comparable experience to using the Tab 10.1 or my first gen Asus Transformer.

Final Thoughts

I’ve mentioned that I used this like I would an e-reader because that’s what this tablet should be. It should be competing against the Kindle Fire and Nook Colors of the world instead of the Transformer Prime, iPad, or Galaxy Tab 10.1. While it can semi-compete with these devices in terms of performance, it can’t outdo them and will inevitably get lost under the mound of great big tablets. That’s why, for it to succeed, the Tab has to compete against the e-reader market.

Unfortunately, it is not priced competitively against the Kindle Fire or other e-readers. This is another classic example of having a great product, but not releasing it to the right crowd. For double(!), the price of the Kindle Fire, you are getting stuck with a 2-year agreement, and probably a limited data plan. None of these factors equal competitive as the higher-end Android fans will gravitate toward something more power like the Transformer Prime, and the budget-conscious people will see the low price tag and clout of the Amazon Kindle Fire. So while I can wholeheartedly recommend this device to any user for a myriad of reasons, the price is sure to push people away from this awesomely sleek device.

You can get the Galaxy Tab 7.7 at Verizon for $499.99 on a 2-year contract or $699 for month-to-month.