Holding the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus in my hands, I've got to admit that it has some tricks that make even iPad Pro users like myself jealous. And that starts with a biometric security feature that will also make iPhone owners want Apple to match them this fall.
But even outside of just fighting off Apple's tablets, the Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus look slick and offer a lot of compelling reasons to upgrade. They're shaping up to be top contenders for not just our best Android tablets list, but our list of the best tablets overall as well.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra preview: The ultimate big-screen phone
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Live: Meet Samsung's new AirPods killers
I've had the S7 Plus for a couple of days now, so consider this hands on Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 review to be a taste of what's to come. We're looking forward to running more testing and benchmarks on it to see how it truly stacks up against the iPad Pro. The slates are more or less the same, minus the S7 Plus being the only one with a Super AMOLED panel and a in-display fingerprint reader.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: Release date and price
The Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus will be available in the US in fall 2020 and in select markets on August 21. The Tab S7 starts at $649, while the Tab S7 Plus starts at $849.
For cellular connectivity, you're going to be spending $100 more for LTE and $200 more for 5G. The LTE Galaxy Tab S7 costs $749, while the 5GB Tab S7 costs $849, and the LTE Tab S7 Plus goes for $949, while the 5G Tab S7 Plus costs $1,049.
Just like the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard Folio and Magic Keyboard, the Book Cover and Book Cover Keyboard cost extra. You'll spend $199 (Tab S7) or $229 (Tab S7 Plus) for the Book Cover Keyboards, and $69 (Tab S7) and $79 (Tab S7 Plus) for the Book Cover cases. Both protect the docked S-Pen from falling off.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: Specs
|Galaxy Tab S7||Galaxy Tab S7 Plus|
|Display||11-inch 2560 x 1600-pixel TFT panel (up to 120Hz)||12.4-inch 2800 x 1752-pixel Super AMOLED panel (up to 120Hz)|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus|
|Cameras||Rear: 13MP & 5MP (Ultra Wide). Front 8MP||Rear: 13MP & 5MP (Ultra Wide). Front 8MP|
|Security||Facial recognition, fingerprint reader on side key||Facial recognition, fingerprint reader on display|
|Connectivity||5G (optional), LTE (optional), Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0||5G (optional), LTE (optional), Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Battery||8,000 mAh||10,090 mAh|
|Size||10 x 6.5 x 0.2 inches||11.2 x 7.3 x 0.2 inches|
|Weight||1.1 pounds||1.3 pounds|
The Galaxy Tab S7 and Galaxy Tab S7 Plus have similar internals, so you're not sacrificing performance with your choice for a big slate or a smaller screen. Both run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus, which is expected to be 10% faster than the regular 865 chip. We look forward to seeing how it stacks up against the iPad Pro's A12X chip, currently the fastest processor in a tablet, where it should be putting up a decent fight.
During my short time with the Tab S7 Plus, I found it snappy enough for loading programs and pages, though not especially impressive.
But that's not the biggest performance difference in the Tab S7, as this tablet is the first to market with 5G connectivity. Different Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus models will have different amounts of memory and storage, but they start with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: Design
The Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus look like Samsung took the iPad Pro and shaved its bezels and frame down even further to make an all-screen tablet — which is exactly what we want.
Holding the S7 Plus in my hands, I'm honestly a little shocked by how thin it is. I'm used to the similarly thin 11-inch 2018 iPad Pro, but to see a larger tablet that's just as thin felt like I was staring at an optical illusion.
On the back, you've got a spot for the included S-Pen to magnetically dock and a small camera bump, which we'll get to later.
Both tablets are available in Mystic Black, Mystic Bronze and Mystic Silver — the color tones that Samsung's debuting with these tablets and the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — and use a "textured haze effect" to reduce fingerprints and smudges. The bronze hue is the one that catches my eye, looking like a less played-out rose gold.
When you convert everything to inches, the 0.2 inch thick Galaxy Tab S7 Plus sounds similar to the 0.2 inch thick 12.9-inch iPad Pro. But looking a little closer in millimeters, you see that Samsung's out-thinned Apple, with the S7 Plus measuring 5.7mm thick to the larger iPad Pro's 5.9mm.
The 1.1-pound Tab S7 is a little heavier than the 11-inch iPad Pro (1 pound), while the 1.3 pound Tab S7 Plus is a little lighter than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (1.4 pounds), though Apple's tablet is a bit bigger.
In terms of ports, Samsung's still not giving the Tab S7 a headphone jack. You'll rely on Bluetooth audio for listening, its SD memory port to expand memory and its USB-C with DisplayPort out for charging and expanding your screen.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: Display
Watching a 4K nature video from YouTube, I was impressed by the Tab S7 Plus' 2800 x 1752-pixel Super AMOLED display, which highlighted the brilliant yellow feathers of a toucan, the verdant greens of a tree frog climbing up bark, and the inky blacks of the cracks and crevices of a creek.
Flecks of bird seed were crystal clear on the panel, as were each of the tiny bumps of the pores on the lizards' skin.
This is where it pays to go big. The Tab S7 Plus features the larger of the two screens, boasting a 12.4-inch, 2800 x 1752-pixel Super AMOLED screen with refresh rates of up to 120Hz.
We haven't gotten to measure these tablets yet, but it's safe to say the Tab S7 Plus' screen will be brighter and more vibrant than the Tab S7's 11-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel panel, which isn't AMOLED, though it also offers refresh rates as fast as 120Hz. As someone who uses and loves the iPad Pro, I can tell you that the buttery smooth scrolling that its 120Hz panel provides is a delight that Apple needs to bring to the iPhone 12, and something that all iPad Pro competitors need.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: Cameras
For the Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus, the front-facing selfie cam has become more important than any rear-facing tablet camera ever has, at least in the era of Zoom meetings. And the Tab S7 does pretty well with its 8MP front camera. While my boss told me that I looked like I was using a laptop webcam (never a compliment) to talk to him on Google Meet, that might be more a case of Google lowering the resolution of video than anything else.
When I captured a selfie with the Tab S7, however, it picked up a lot of detail, from my quarantine stubble I should have shaved to the tablet's own reflection in my glasses. Even one of my dress shirts in the background appeared relatively color-correct.
The 13MP & 5MP rear-facing cameras offer solid clarity and color accuracy, which I tested by performing a closeup on a spilled bag of candy, as I could make out the names of each flavor of Starburst.
The only downside is that the Tab S7's rear cameras have a small bump on the back (though it doesn't look as pronounced as the iPad Pro's), and the tablet doesn't rock back and forth if you leave it lying down on a table. This micro-issue is even less of a concern with the S Pen on the back, as the stylus is much thicker than the camera.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: Security
The combination of in-screen fingerprint reader and facial recognition in the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus (the regular Tab S7 puts its fingerprint reader on a side button) makes me wish Apple never got rid of Touch ID. The in-screen sensor works fast, and it even illuminates your fingertip with light, which looks cool.
The Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus also offer facial recognition, using the cameras in the bezels. Meanwhile no iPad has both a fingerprint reader and facial recognition — in Apple's world, you either get one or the other.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: Software
The Galaxy Tab S7 slates run a version of Android 10 with Samsung's own user interface tweaks on top. I'm not a particular fan of their overall design, but I could get used to it, especially with the changes they're making.
Since note-taking is such a huge part of the tablets and Galaxy Note phones, I'm surprised it took Samsung so long to make its Samsung Notes app sync across its phones, tablets and even its PC app. There's also an ability to record audio and embed it within a notes file, so you can hear what was being said while you took specific notes. Samsung Notes also offers to convert handwriting into more legible penmanship.
Unfortunately, I couldn't Netflix or chill with the Tab S7, as a Google Play store alert told me that Netflix "isn't compatible with your device anymore. Contact the developers for more info."
I looked for updates to see if this was something Samsung had patched, but no updates are available. I'd expect this to be solved by the Tab S7's Aug. 21 release date, especially considering how Netflix was a prominent partner at the Unpacked event when the Tab S7 debuted.
DeX mode has the same issue that a lot of iPadOS apps do: not all apps support full screen. For example, when I wanted to test out how Google Meet works on the Tab S7 Plus for my bi-monthly call with my boss, Meet wanted to hog the whole screen.
My other annoyance is that when you search for apps in DeX mode, I wish the top result could be automatically selected on screen, so a click of the Enter key could open it. Instead, you need to use the touchpad or tap the screen.
DeX mode has a lot to like, though, thanks to some clever moves to the row of buttons on the bottom of the screen. The search/Command button is a fast way to search for apps, and it's so good that I wish it worked like this in regular Android mode, though it appears Samsung only expects DeX mode to be used when you're docked with the Book Cover Keyboard.
Another DeX aspect I appreciate is how the apps you're using stay open in both modes, so I didn't have to sign back into the Google Meet call when I transferred between modes.
Samsung's work with Microsoft has provided the opportunity for increased integration and optimization with Office applications in Android and DeX mode, so Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint should work pretty well. And that's a very important facet if the productivity-focused DeX mode is supposed to succeed. True, Google apps sing on Android, but GDocs isn't the preferred word processor for all.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: S-Pen
The new S Pen doesn't just come free, but it feels more substantial and more like an actual pen than the flatter versions Samsung gave to past Galaxy Tab slates. As I doodled in Samsung Notes, I noted the speedy input recognition, which Samsung rates at 9ms, tied with the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil.
I didn't like, however, the sound effect of a pencil drawing on paper that came out of the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus as I wrote on it. It's reminiscent of how cars with quieter engines play fake engine noise out of their speakers.
I still prefer Apple's Pencil (though I don't like how it costs $129 extra), because it's easier to dock and detach that pen on the side of the iPad Pro than the Galaxy Tab S7's S-Pen space on the back of the Galaxy Tab S7 and S7 Plus. Removing the S Pen requires you either blindly try and pull the S-Pen off the back after lifting the Book Cover flap first, or you stand up and look over the Tab S7's back to find it.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: Book Cover Keyboard
When I tested out the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus' Book Cover Keyboard on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I clicked my way to 74 words per minute, not too far from my 80wpm average. Not only is that a respectable speed, but my 96% accuracy rating is a good sign for how great the Tab S7 Plus' Book Cover Keyboard is for writing, as I hit the ground running without having to get used to it.
Another neat Book Cover Keyboard feature is that it automatically converts your Android 10 experience to DeX mode when you dock — which feels like how the Microsoft Surface Go 2 will convert to and from tablet mode when you detach its keyboard. Its touchpad also offers gestures, and there's a full row of function keys. During my time with the Tab S7 Plus, I noted that the window-switching gestures moved pretty seamlessly.
I wish that Samsung could merge its Book Cover Keyboard and its secondary piece, which covers the S-Pen and works as a kickstand, to be one connected part. Because when they're two detachable pieces, breaking the Tab S7 out from the other two is a bit laborious.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: Battery life
Samsung isn't promising all-day battery life, but the 10,090 mAh battery in the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus and the 8,000 mAh battery in the Tab S7 should last a while. We look forward to testing the Tab S7 slates on out web-surfing-based battery test.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, S7 Plus: Outlook
Samsung's been trying to make the Galaxy Tab S-series slates a big deal for a while, and the recent Tab S6 Lite was the first true home run for the tablet lineup. Once we get more time to test this tablet and complete this Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 review, we'll have a better idea if Apple's finally got company in the first class section of the tablet plane.
And while the Tab S7 looks like it will offer speedy performance and a brilliant display, it's just as important that it delivers great battery life, too. The Galaxy Tab S6 only lasted 8 hours and 58 minutes on a single charge, and we hope the Galaxy Tab S7 will enter the double-digits club when it comes to how many hours it will last.