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Samsung Galaxy Tab S7/S7 Plus review: The only Android tablets to buy
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
What we like
What we don't like
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and Galaxy Tab S7 Plus represent the cream of Samsung’s tablet crop and are two of the best Android tablets to date. These slates, which share most features other than screen and battery size, are meant to entice mobile pros with their high-refresh-rate displays, premium materials and build quality, and powerful performance.
But do these tablets go far enough to take a bite out of Apple’s tablet supremacy? We find out in the Android Authority Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 review.
Design and display: Class all the way
- 253.8 x 165.3 x 6.3mm
- 498g (Wi-Fi), 500g (LTE), 502g (5G)
- 11-inch TFT LCD
- 2,560 x 1,600 (WQXGA), 120Hz
- 285 x 185 x 5.7mm
- 12.4-inch Super AMOLED
- 2,800 x 1,752 (WQXGA+), 120Hz
Samsung aimed high and hit the mark with the Tab S7 and S7 Plus. The design of the Tab S7 bears more than a passing resemblance to Apple’s iPad Pro, thanks to the flat side edges, the size and basic shape of the screen, and even the button, speaker, and port placement. The hardware looks and feels great. Some might call them copycats, though they are clear upgrades to 2019’s Tab S6.
Unlike today’s phones, which rely on lots of glass, the bulk of the S7’s chassis is aluminum. The sides have a polished chrome-like look, while the metal rear panel is flat in both shape and finish. The materials are top-notch and fitted together perfectly. I’d call the smaller Galaxy Tab S7 compact and slim, as well as comfortable to tote around at 1.1lbs (500g). The 12.4-inch Tab S7 Plus is less easy to use (it feels huge), and is weighty to a small degree at 1.27lbs (575g).
There’s lots going on around the outer edge. The top edge of the tablet (when held sideways) holds the screen lock/power button, volume toggle, SIM/memory card tray, and microphone. I particularly like that the power button has a built-in fingerprint scanner (11-inch model only). This serves as a good backup for the facial recognition feature should you choose. It was quick to program and convenient to use. I wish the larger model had a fingerprint reader, too. The USB-C port is on the right edge. Speaker grilles are visible near the four corners. The bottom houses the pogo pin connector that is used to power the keyboard accessory. Basically, it has everything but a headphone jack.
On the back, you’ll notice the slightly raised camera module in one corner and a dedicated magnetic strip for the S Pen stylus. The S Pen adheres to the magnetic strip strongly enough, but I’d still worry about losing it were the pair tossed into a backpack. Thankfully, the (optional) keyboard accessory includes a protective flap for the S Pen.
The Tab S7 relies on an LCD panel, while the Tab S7 Plus is gifted with a Super AMOLED.
The 11- and 12.4-inch tablets use different base screen technologies. The Tab S7 relies on an LCD panel, while the bigger slate is gifted with a Super AMOLED screen. Both offer a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth operation. I found the screen of the Tab S7 to be bright and sharp. The LCD looked excellent and offered solid contrast when compared to the larger AMOLED display of the 12.4-inch model. Viewing angles were very, very good. The 16:10 aspect ratio strikes a nice balance between tablet- and laptop-friendly use. The display of the larger tablet is simply stunning in every way.
The 120Hz panel means content on the screens looks exceptionally smooth. Whether I was browsing the web, watching Netflix, or playing games, the screens exhibited a liquid-y flow that’s easy to get used to. I wish the glass were less reflective and less prone to collecting fingerprints, but these are common complaints about modern touch panels.
Combining the high-quality hardware with the luscious LCD and Super AMOLED displays means the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus are a pair of sultry slates that are easy to desire.
- Snapdragon 865 Plus
- 6/8GB RAM, 128/256/512GB storage
- 8,000/10,090mAh battery
- 45W super fast charging
There’s no questioning the performance of the Tab S7 and S7 Plus. With Qualcomm’s fastest available chip from 2020 onboard, the tablets are processing beasts. Samsung lent us the model with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. Even though we feel 6GB of RAM is the minimum needed for today’s top Android devices, we found it caused no performance issues here. We expect Samsung will opt for the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 when it refreshes its Tab S line of tablets.
The tablets ran a handful of benchmarking apps with no trouble, scoring in the top percentiles and showcasing smooth performance across the board. More to the point, in daily use I didn’t notice any stutters, lagging, or frame drops. These things are top performers, whether you’re battling Fortnite or an Excel spreadsheet.
Samsung promises the Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus will deliver between 14 and 15 hours of battery life while watching video, and that’s what they delivered. I was only able to get the tablets to cycle through battery life a few times over the course of a week, but they always managed at least 14 hours — which outlasts the venerable iPad Pro by several hours.
The 8,000mAh (11-inch) and 10,090mAh (12.4-inch) batteries do take some time to charge. The tablets support charging at up to 45W, but they ship with a paltry 18W charger. That’s aggravating. I found the Tab S7 needed more than three hours to charge fully from dead, while the S7 Plus required close to four hours. Samsung could have at least included a 25W charger in the box. It’s best to leave the Tab S7 and Tab S7 Plus charging overnight. The tablets don’t offer any other fancy charging features, such as Wireless Power Share for accessories.
- Android 11
- Samsung One UI 3.1
The tablet shipped with Android 10 and Samsung’s 10-based One UI, version 2.5, but the slates have since been updated to Android 11 with Samsung One UI 3.0. The tablets were running Android 11 when we evaluated them.
The software experience is a mixed bag. Android tablets often deliver an achingly awkward experience, but Samsung has smoothed over some of the rough spots. You can use the tablet just as you would a smartphone, especially a Samsung flagship. More specifically, the Tab S7 and Tab S7 Plus carry over all the software features of the Note 20 line, which means you have notes that sync across devices, as well as various stylus-based activities.
Not all apps are optimized for Android tablets and it shows.
Not all apps are optimized for Android tablets, and it continues to be the lynchpin that fails the Tab S7 and Tab S7 Plus over and over. Samsung optimized its own apps for the tablet, sure, but the majority of Android apps simply don’t adjust well to the landscape orientation. This leaves them looking and behaving in unpolished ways that detract from the experience. Top-notch hardware only gets your product so far. Things start to fall apart for the Tab S7 and S7 Plus when you dig deep enough into the software.
Then there’s DeX. DeX is Samsung’s Windows-like desktop environment that is more conducive to productivity. The main feature of DeX is that you can run multiple apps at a time in separate windows. However, the windows aren’t the easiest to manage. I particularly like DeX for work time. It’s simple enough to master and is just powerful enough to let me get work done as though I was using a full computer. That said, it’s no Chrome OS, nor is it Windows. It’s limited and sometimes apps don’t know how to behave.
DeX can also cast to other screens for more real estate, be it a monitor or TV set, via HDMI and (now) wirelessly. I found the wireless option didn’t work with my older Samsung TV. A trusty old HDMI cable worked just fine. I don’t see too many road warriors packing these cables, though, and don’t expect too many people to be making use of the casting ability.
The good news here is that it’s easy to toggle between the normal Android experience and DeX. This almost gives you the impression you have two tablets, which makes it easy to separate work from play. Still, the app experience for Android tablets simply can’t hold a candle to the iPad.
Google may be set to revamp the Android tablet experience. We’re hopeful that it does.
S Pen and keyboard
- 147 x 8.2mm
- Magnetic connector/charger
Unlike the Apple iPad Pro (or any iPad for that matter), the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7 Plus actually ship with an S Pen stylus in the box. This is a full-sized stylus that looks and feels like a legit pen. Samsung revised the S Pen compared to the one that accompanied last year’s Tab S6. I found the shape and materials comfortable to hold and use over time and the button worked well. The S Pen slaps up against a magnetic strip on the back of the tablet where it is easily jarred loose.
The S Pen has access to the entire suite of software that’s found on the Note 20 Ultra smartphone. That means the new and advanced Notes app, as well as screen write, live messages, AR doodle, and translate. These are all accessed via a sidebar menu that floats along the right edge of the screen. The S Pen supports the new Air Actions as well, which lets you go back a screen or take a screenshot by drawing squiggles in the air while holding the button down. It takes practice to get these right and I’m not entirely sure they’re useful.
The Samsung Book Cover keyboard is absolutely necessary.
The Samsung Book Cover keyboard is absolutely necessary to complete the experience of using the Galaxy Tab S7. For starters, it provides a protective shell for the tablet. I wouldn’t want to carry the tablet around without one. The rear piece adheres to the metal back panel magnetically. It includes a kickstand as well as a flap for protecting and accessing the S Pen. The other half of the Book Cover connects to the bottom edge. You have to take care to align the pogo pins correctly, but once it’s locked into place it stays firmly attached.
I like this Book Cover keyboard much more than I did the previous iteration. The keys are a more natural shape and have good travel and feedback. More importantly, the trackpad works really well. It’s relatively large, quick, and accurate. It features a dedicated button for taking screenshots, which I appreciate, but there are no function keys for changing the display brightness or speaker volume on the keyboard for the 11-inch model. For what it’s worth, the Book Cover keyboard for the larger 12.4-inch Tab S7 Plus model does include function keys.
Together, the S Pen and Book Cover complete the Galaxy Tab S7, giving it the productivity chops it needs to take on the iPad. It’s a shame the Book Cover isn’t included and that it costs so much more. The smaller Book Cover is $199, while the larger one is $229. There are no current sales on the Book Cover accessory.
- Main: 13MP
- Ultra wide: 5MP
- Front: 8MP
Samsung copy-and-pasted the camera app from its smartphones to the Tab S7. It’s a robust app that actually includes a lot of shooting modes, including single take, live focus, panorama, hyperlapse, and so on. I found the app opened swiftly and was quick to focus and take pictures.
The results leave a bit to be desired. The biggest issue I saw was noise, which is prevalent whether you’re shooting in good conditions or not. (Granted, using tablets for photography still appears to be taboo.) It’s one of those cameras that’s nice to have in a pinch, but I can’t imagine most people will use the main shooters for anything other than spur-of-the-moment shots.
The user-facing camera is more important because it doubles as the camera for video calls. It does a fine job, better than my laptop even. I was impressed with the quality of the selfie camera across the board.
Believe it or not, you can record video up to 4K at 30fps. It’s not the cleanest or most colorful video that I’ve seen, but it’s more than serviceable.
Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus specs
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S7||Galaxy Tab S7 Plus|
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7:11-inch TFT LCD
2,560 x 1,600 (WQXGA)
Galaxy Tab S7 Plus:12.4-inch Super AMOLED 2,800 x 1,752 (WQXGA+)
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7:Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
Galaxy Tab S7 Plus:Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
|Memory / storage|
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7:6GB/128GB
Galaxy Tab S7 Plus:6GB/128GB
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7:8000mAh
Galaxy Tab S7 Plus:10,090mAh
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7:Rear
Ultra Wide: 5MP
Galaxy Tab S7 Plus:Rear
Ultra Wide: 5MP
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7:253.8 x 165.3 x 6.3mm
Galaxy Tab S7 Plus:285 x 185 x 5.7mm
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7:498g (Wi-Fi), 500g (LTE), 502g (5G),
Galaxy Tab S7 Plus:575G (all variants)
Value and competition
- Galaxy Tab S7: 6GB/128GB — $580
- Galaxy Tab S7: 8GB/256GB — $620
- Galaxy Tab S7: 8GB/512GB — $699
- Tab S7 Plus: 6GB/128GB — $780
- Tab S7 Plus: 8GB/256GB — $820
- Tab S7 Plus: 8GB/512GB — $899
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus come in myriad configurations. You can order up as much RAM and storage as you want. The LTE model is no longer available. Samsung has dropped the prices significantly since launch. The starting price for the entry-level model was, for example, $650. It’s now $580. All the models have received price cuts, with the high-end models seeing more than $100 sliced from the price. That makes them a much better deal, though we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that these tablets are now about three months from being replaced by the expected Galaxy Tab S8 family.
More reading: Your guide to the best tablets
There’s still the issue of the added cost of the Book Cover. Adding $199/$229 to the price of the tablet is no laughing matter. There is value there, sure, but it is painful. Where Apple’s iPads benefit from third-party keyboard accessories, there don’t appear to be many for the Book Cover beyond Samsung’s offering.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus have more competitors than you might think. In the premium tablet space, there is the iPad Pro, which more or less owns the category. The iPad Pro is still the most dominant tablet, and deservedly so. It has the app experience that most people want, but Apple’s hardware is expensive. The latest slates from Apple are powered by the M1 chip, have improved front-facing cameras, and the larger version has a new micro-LED display.
Some might consider the Huawei MatePad Pro, but the software story there is even more concerning. While the hardware is top-notch, the MatePad doesn’t have access to the Google Play Store, and app selection is limited.
Then there is the Microsoft Surface family of tablets — most notably the Surface Go 2. The story there is similar to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7: You have to get the keyboard for the tablet to be of any real use. The Surface family is expensive, but it is high quality and offers a full version of Windows. You’ll also need to pay a little extra to get the best version of the Go 2 that doesn’t have an underpowered Pentium chip.
If these are too pricey for you, Samsung has a great option in the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7, which has a low cost and high value.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 review: Should you buy it?
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7 Plus are two of the highest-quality Android tablets you can buy. There’s no question that these slates are appealing as far as the hardware is concerned. With excellent craftsmanship, the metal chassis and stunning displays are something to lust over. Performance is best-in-class, and battery life is absolutely stellar. The cameras leave a bit to be desired, but that’s par for the course on a tablet. Samsung’s own apps look and function great on the Tab S7 and S7 Plus, but the majority of Android apps fall a bit on their face.
As long as you can look past the software shortcomings, these are the top Android tablets to get.