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Last Updated: April 30th, 2012

While we're all waiting around for the Galaxy Note 10.1 to arrive and blow us away with its S-Pen powers on a Photoshop-equipped tablet, Samsung has set a couple new tablets loose on the market. Headlining on price, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 competes head-to-head with the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire. This tablet's advantage: Android 4.0. At $250, it's the cheapest way to get the full Android experience.

When we first heard about a $250 7" Android tablet, it wasn't from Samsung, but ASUS. Since then, ASUS has grown suspiciously quiet on the subject of its cheap tablets (perhaps because of a change in plans?), but Samsung has taken up the mantle. The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 boasts a middle-of-the-road spec list when compared to some of this year's other tablets, but still manages to be one of the sleekest tablets I've used.

Note: I errantly described the display as an AMOLED screen in the video above. It is actually a TFT display.

Hardware

The seven incher is made of a sturdy plastic backing and feels very solid. While it's a tight fit, the tablet is easily pocketable, and very easy to hold. It actually feels a little lighter than the Kindle Fire. Inside, it's carrying a dual-core TI processor and 1GB of RAM underneath a 1024x600 TFT display. On paper it doesn't sound like much, but the display is actually surprisingly crisp and easy to read, even in sunlight.

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The device uses Samsung's proprietary connector for charging and data transfer, and includes 8GB of built-in storage, expandable via an SD card. The 3.2MP rear shooter, as well as the barely-video-chat-worthy front camera are only moderately useful, but this slate does have one stand out piece of hardware: an IR blaster. More on that in a bit.

Software

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Android 4.0 makes another tablet-based appearance on this slate and, while we're happy it's here, it does raise some interesting questions about Android's tablet UI. While the right size for a tablet is largely subjective, Android's tablet UI is fundamentally designed to put more info on the screen than its phone counterpart. While it's not universally bad (several people I showed this device to loved its size), there is a certain sense of diminishing returns when the OS is working to add more info to the screen and the device is giving you less of it.

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Part of the problem is very likely due to the comparatively low-res 1024x600 display. Certain UI elements seem to be bound to a certain width, not necessarily a certain percentage of the display. This results in some rather unbecoming layouts, as in Google Talk, shown above which gives about five characters worth of space to the left panel, but a huge percentage of the screen's space to the right side of the panel.

While it may be true that other 7" tablets will display Android's tablet UI more elegantly, it's still worth pointing out: Android simply does not scale down very well if you keep the tablet interface. Manufacturers might be better off using Android's phone UI for devices with too low of a resolution to scale properly.

That being said, the device is still buttery smooth. Since it's Android 4.0, all your apps that you know and love are here, including the Kindle and Nook apps. While the Kindle Fire and the Nook Color are the primary competitors for a tablet like this, it hurts the argument for either of them when you can get many of the same services on both. Except, on the Tab, you can also get everything else you'd expect from a full Android tablet for $50 more.

Speaking of things you get with this tablet, Samsung is also running a promo with Dropbox. Current or new users who sign in with the bundled Dropbox app on this tablet will get a bonus 48GB of storage, in addition to the 2GB that comes standard with an account, for a whopping 50GB of online storage. Unfortunately, unlike Dropbox's other space boosts, the extra 48GB will disappear after a year. Still, that's more space than you could fit in the microSD card slot, which is only expandable to 32GB.

TouchWiz

Samsung has also added a few new features on top of the stock 4.0 experience. In general, we're not big fans of manufacturer skins, but this time around, it's a net positive. For starters, Samsung's floating apps make a comeback. In the center of the Status Bar, the Tab has a pop-up menu with shortcuts to a series of apps that float about the UI. Just like AirCalc and OverSkreen, these apps stay on top of whatever you're doing, allowing you to truly multitask. The calculator, in particular, is a most welcome addition, but Samsung also includes floating app versions of Alarm, Email, Music Player, S Planner, Task Manager, and World Clock.

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One other great addition feature: if you long-press and drag an app icon on the home screen or in the app drawer, a bar of icons appears at the top. Most notably, on the left is a button for more info. Drag the app to the info icon and it will take you directly to the app's info page usually found under Manage Applications in settings. If you've ever needed to force stop, or clear the data/cache from an app, this is a welcome addition as it makes finding this page much, much easier. [Update: Thanks to Adam Powell for pointing out that this is actually part of the stock launcher. Of course that would come from Google.]

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The screenshot button cozying up with the multitasking button.

Samsung has also added a persistent screenshot button to the status bar, right next to the multitasking button. In all honesty, this seems like a pretty horrible place for it, as I found myself accidentally pressing it more than once. What's more annoying is every time you take a screenshot, you get immediately taken to an annotation page where you can write notes on your screenshots before saving them. On the other hand, when you want to take a screenshot, you can just tap this button, and even write notes on your screenshots before saving them! It's a mixed blessing that's only really obnoxious when you trigger it accidentally.

Smart Remote

While this app isn't technically a Samsung exclusive, the Tab 2 is one of two Samsung devices that supports IR blaster functionality in the Peel Smart Remote app. If you missed it on the Tab 7.0 Plus, here's the deal: your tablet is now your universal remote control. The app has support for a ton of codes for a variety of manufacturers of TVs, DVRs, DVD players, and other home theater boxes.

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In addition to consolidating all of your controls, the app also gives you access to your cable service's catalog (where available) and lets you browse what shows are on right now. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a search box, but you can select what types of shows you like and browse the categories. Tap a show and it will give you a description of the episode that's on right now and even the option to change the channel right to it.

The app is basic, yet still manages to cover most of your channel surfing bases. While Google is trying to kill channel surfing entirely, Peel manages to turn the desperate and lazy search to find out what's on into a rather pleasant experience for the first time. Which is crazy since we've been doing this for decades now. As surprised as I was that I'd be including this sentence in this review, you could probably throw away your remote controls and use this tablet instead.

Camera

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Poor Sandy looks washed out and dull in the Tab's camera.

This camera is nothing to write home (or on the internet) about. The front camera does a decent job of video chat, largely because none of us expect decent quality when video chatting. The rear camera, though, is another story. At 3.2MP, this camera ranks among some of the lowest of the low end. Photos taken with it are bordering on worthless. While "the best camera is the one you have with you," we wouldn't suggest leaving your house with just this tablet if you think you might take any pictures.

Battery Life

For moderate usage, this tablet holds up extremely well. The device lasted all day with intermittent casual browsing, video playback and IM/email work. Video playback was a pretty substantial battery drain. The Tab may keep you entertained on a domestic flight, but if you intercontinental travel-sized chunks of time you need to fill up, you might be reaching for a charger before the end of the day. That's still a minority of users, though. As with most tablets, this device lasts longer than most smartphones.

The Bad Stuff

"When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all." These words ring exceptionally true with this tablet. My job is a simple one: make sure this device does what it says it does and find things that are wrong. With the exception of the previously mentioned size issues, and the obviously horrible camera, there's little about this tablet that stands out as noticeably bad.

That being said, any tablet is only going to be as good as its ecosystem. Android, as a whole, has gotten a lot better over the last year in regards to tablets. The selection of tablet-oriented apps, however, is still lagging. Facebook's app still only has a phone layout (which actually works better on this screen, but still could could be improved). What's worse is that many apps don't take into account tablets of such a low size/resolution. Take a look at the top navigation bar for Flixster's app in portrait mode, for example:

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Because this app expects to have more room, text gets cut off and the interface just looks weird. While little things like this don't make the device any less capable, it does make the experience as a whole feel incomplete. It's not nearly as bad as it was. I bought a Xoom the month it came out and I've watched the app environment grow up as time goes on. Life on Android tablets is way better than its ever been. However, 7" tablets (especially the low-res ones) and 10" tablets are, in some very tangible ways, different beasts. In fact, for some situations, they require different considerations from developers while designing their apps, so it may be a while before Android fully catches up with itself in the app department.

Wrap-Up

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Samsung is certainly giving the other budget Android tablets a run for their money. At $250, the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire are both cheaper, but $50 is a small price to pay for the full Ice Cream Sandwich experience, an IR blaster that turns the tablet into the most advanced universal remote you've ever used, and 50GB of free Dropbox space for a year. It's not the best tablet on the market, but it's not supposed to be, either.

If you're looking to get an Android tablet on the cheap, but don't want a specialized device that's tied to a non-Google ecosystem, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is the way to go. Just don't be surprised if you're waiting patiently for a few apps to make good use of your new tablet's extra space.

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/contest.chris Contest Chris

    All Tabs from Samsung hv tht screenshot button

  • Princesation

    How does this compare with the Asus Pad?

  • http://twitter.com/GooseberryFool Ryan

    "
    The seven incher is made of a sturdy plastic backing and feels very solid. While it's a tight fit..." Oh my...

  • Seth Daniel

    Will it connect to an ad-hoc network?  Specifically a tether from a phone for internet?

  • Skillit

    That's a great tab, if only weren't for the Nexus Tab rumors I would be getting on of these bad boys...

  • Chap O

    Any word when this will be available in the UK? A search on Samsung's website says 'from March', which is from an old press release and is obviously not true any more.

  • Katavic

    This thing will sell. Alot! And I really like IR blaster

  • http://twitter.com/80TheHammer Chris Webster

    You should have mentioned to not buy a budget/7 inch tablet until Google+Asus announce their tablet. I would have bought this in a heartbeat if it weren't for the beast that Googus is going to put out (hopefully) soon.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      I linked to that rumor in the second paragraph but, truthfully, that's all it is. While the WSJ doesn't exactly wildly speculate that much, we really don't know for sure what it's going to be. The rumor implies that Google will sell the tablet itself and, as the Nexus One showed us, that's not always the best route. Plus, this Tab has the distinct advantage of existing. ASUS may have announced a $250 7" tablet at CES, but that doesn't guarantee that this is what Google/ASUS are going to announce. In fact, there's no solid info saying that Google and ASUS will announce anything. Or, if they are, when. Sure, Google I/O is coming up, and it does seem like Google is going to focus on tablets a bit more heavily, but even the WSJ's own report on this is vague at best.

      If you'd like me to say I can't guarantee you'll be disappointed in a couple months by a new device, sure. That's always a risk with Android. But when it comes down to recommendations right now, I always choose the solid tablet that I know exists over something that somebody told someone might exist, maybe, in the future, but I don't know when we'll hear about it. If at all.

  • Simon Belmont

    I think Samsung could solve the screenshot button problem. They could make it something you need to long press instead of just tap.

    That would eliminate the accidental screenshots. Just food for thought.

  • Leonardo

    Hey, I thought there was a SIM card slot?? Is it only for the 3g + wifi version? How much is it if there is 3g + wifi?(still the same??) Where can i buy it??

  • Idle Time

    At $200+, there's an added good option.  Do I want to upgrade my phone or get a tablet?  Hmmmm....

  • Erik Neu

    "The device uses Samsung's proprietary connector for charging and data transfer"...I see this as a HUGE--and very unnecessary--negative. Why, Samsung, why?! Micro USB has been the standard for what, almost 2 years now? My family has 5 Android phones, 1 Kindle, and a few other things and they all, glory be, use EXACTLY THE SAME CHARGER. This is a deal-breaker.

    • crew

      Its because micro usb cannot support enought juice to power the tablet and battery sufficiently. Thats why manufactures either add a separate ac/dc jack or go propietary which is the smarter choice.

      • shonangreg

        I charge my ThinkPad Tablet (10-inch Tegra-2) using its micro-USB connector and the 2amp port on my Buffalo USB power mini-brick http://www.yugatech.com/toys-gadgets/buffalo-4-port-high-power-usb-charger/  It will charge overnight from 20% or so to 100%.

        And are we sure this "proprietary port" is not really an MHL port anyway?

        • bccbryan

          My HP Touchpad (running CM9) has a micro usb charger. It came with a 2amp wall charger.

      • rhackenb

        Is the charger dual voltage (110/220)?  I want to take this to Turkey with me in a couple of weeks and will probably buy it if all I have to do is plug it into a European plug adapter (US straight pins to European round pins).  Almost all my electronics equipment work like that.  If this can't do it, it's a deal breaker.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

          The charger supports 100-240v. It actually has a removable plug piece, so you may be able to get a proper European plug to use so you don't have to go through an adapter. Not sure if that will be any cheaper.

  • Chetan Garge

    cooooooool

  • https://steamcommunity.com/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

    To me it looks like a GB rom with the green battery indicator at the bottom.

    Is it really ICS in the About section?

  • npike

    Doh - totally bought the Acer Iconia A100 7" the other day on 1saleaday!  Maybe I can pawn it on craigslist so pick up the galaxy tab 2 7" :)

    I knew I should have waited!

  • Freak4Dell

    This should be a good seller, and I'm considering one, but I want to see more details surface about the Nexus tablet first.

  • Brian J Geraghty

    what are the odds there will be any accessories for this i.e. a keyboard if I wanted to use it for note-taking or the like?

  • raindog469

    This seems to be essentially the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus, with half the flash taken out for $150 less. (Maybe the case is different too, haven't seen one in the wild.)

    A word about the IR blaster: while it allows Samsung to describe the device as a "Universal Remote", the Peel app described in the review is so far the ONLY way to access the IR features. I was envisioning something like the touchscreen remotes by Sony et al., that live up to the term "Universal Remote" by letting you put away all your other IR remotes. But this doesn't even try to give you all or even most of the buttons of your TV and cable box remotes, let alone your stereo components. It's designed to present you with an array of shows, and let you change channels to those shows. And that's all. This is as much as "universal remote" as a McDonalds cash register is a scientific calculator. No programming the DVR (or even managing its menus), no changing video source on your TV, there's no way that I could find to even manually change the channel by number.

    I paid an extra 80 bucks or so for the GTab7+ over the HTC Flyer, largely because of the "universal remote" features. At $250 it's an easier pill to swallow, but for those of us who mainly watch shows on the DVR or services built into our TVs like Netflix or Youtube, it's as useful as a urinal in a convent. I'm still hopeful that someone will come up with a real universal remote app (or even a QWERTY keyboard app to control my Samsung TV's built-in apps would be nice -- this won't even do that) but unless you're one of the few people who's techie enough to buy an Android tablet yet non-technical enough that you actually still primarily watch live TV, you will feel burned.

    • 96006

      The peel app was indeed a letdown. However, there are other apps that work great for this. Take a look at TouchSquid. It's an extra $20 for the full app, but it works great with the Samsung IR blaster.

      • raindog469

        Wow, last time I looked at Touchsquid they didn't have support for Samsung IR.... it might just be worth the 20 bucks for the basic version of their app, to finally have proper remote control functionality. Thanks!

  • raindog469

    This seems to be essentially the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus, with half the flash taken out for $150 less. (Maybe the case is different too, haven't seen one in the wild.)

    A word about the IR blaster: while it allows Samsung to describe the device as a "Universal Remote", the Peel app described in the review is so far the ONLY way to access the IR features. I was envisioning something like the touchscreen remotes by Sony et al., that live up to the term "Universal Remote" by letting you put away all your other IR remotes. But this doesn't even try to give you all or even most of the buttons of your TV and cable box remotes, let alone your stereo components. It's designed to present you with an array of shows, and let you change channels to those shows. And that's all. This is as much as "universal remote" as a McDonalds cash register is a scientific calculator. No programming the DVR (or even managing its menus), no changing video source on your TV, there's no way that I could find to even manually change the channel by number.

    I paid an extra 80 bucks or so for the GTab7+ over the HTC Flyer, largely because of the "universal remote" features. At $250 it's an easier pill to swallow, but for those of us who mainly watch shows on the DVR or services built into our TVs like Netflix or Youtube, it's as useful as a urinal in a convent. I'm still hopeful that someone will come up with a real universal remote app (or even a QWERTY keyboard app to control my Samsung TV's built-in apps would be nice -- this won't even do that) but unless you're one of the few people who's techie enough to buy an Android tablet yet non-technical enough that you actually still primarily watch live TV, you will feel burned.

  • rhackenb

    How good is the GPS and what is the technology (SiRF?).  Is it sensitive enough to pick up satellites from inside a car or a plane?  Also, what is the cheapest way to store maps onboard for when you don't have wifi?

    • 96006

      I don't know the underlying technology, but the location aware apps are accurate enough to tell me where I am in my house at all times. So the GPS seems to work inside just fine. Also, google maps now lets you store up to 4 large areas for offline use. This means you get maps and directions without internet connections for the saved areas. I can store the entire metropolitan area where I live in just one of the 4.

  • bukcar

    for Video reference : http://youtu.be/zxvoT3Vgkkw

  • spydie

    I cannot get it to connect to either of my Mac computers for file transfers, etc.  I downloaded the android.com/filetranser program (I actually already had it on one of my Macs because I have Samsung G-Note and it works fine) but it cannot find the 7" tablet.  So I tried it on my wife's Mac, same problem.  My Windows 7 laptop finds it fine.  Anybody know why this new tablet won't connect to a Mac?  I have two other samsung devices and they both work fine.

  • CeluGeek

    I bought this tablet three days ago and it's a really good tablet for its price. Performance is smooth and its size and weight scream "take me with you wherever you go".

    The only oddity I've found is the USB hookup to a computer. I've connected the tablet to three Windows 7 computers and in all three I got the warning "This device can perform faster if connected to a USB 2.0 port", even though all ports were USB 2.0. If you are transferring a file or two you won't notice the difference, but it took me SEVEN hours to transfer 12 GB of data -- and it only took me 7 hours because I canceled the transfer and moved the micro SD card to a Sharp FX Plus smartphone and finished transferring the remaining 5 GB from there.

  • http://twitter.com/shamus_carter james kendall

    I love my tab 2 7.0 it;s grown on me i love that they rolled out jelly bean and it dose feel much nicer with JB then ICS. the longest i have goten for battery life is about 4 days with wifi on screen on auto brightness and screen time of about 2 and 1/2 hours.

  • poppy seed

    i love this thing, except... the charger itself. it breaks soo easily. i have already bought a new charger for this thing and already the second one is in the trash. i can still plug it in but i wont charge, gonna need to find a new way to make this work