Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 [Review]
Samsung showed us back in 2011 that they are serious about their commitment to keep moving forward with smartphones and tablets running Android. Their first Honeycomb and Tegra 2 powered device – the Sasmung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – was a a promising first step towards a usable Android tablet aimed at the mass market. Although initially plagued with some teething and quality problems such as the newton’s ring issue, most of those problems came to be resolved as the slightly smaller Galaxy Tab 8.9, also running Tegra 2, made its way to the consumers.
It’s now time for their third Honeycomb device; Galaxy Tab 7.7 — a smaller, lighter and slimmer version of the previous two tablets. The difference this time goes far deeper than just the size of the screen, since this is the first Samsung tablet running Samsung’s own dual core Exynos 4210 platform under the bonnet, and as if that was not enough they’ve also fitted it with a Super AMOLED Plus screen – the first ever tablet with and AMOLED screen.
Samsung’s Exynos 4210 is the processor platform also found in the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Note, and is just like in the Note slightly overclocked from 2×1.2GHz to 2×1.4GHz. As usual with Honeycomb class tablets the Tab 7.7 has been equipped with 1GB of RAM, and as part of the Exynos 4210 platform we find the graphics chip Mali 400 which despite its age still keeps up with the competition.
In this review we will take a closer look at both the hardware and the software in an attempt to give you – our readers – a fair and unbiased view of how well — or how poorly — this latest tablet from Samsung performs.
|Specifications||Galaxy Tab 7.7|
(H x B x D)
|196.7 × 133 × 7.9 mm
(7.7 x 5.2 x 0.31 inches)
|Screen and resolution||7.67", 1280x800 pixels (WXGA), 16,7 million nuances, 196 PPI|
|Panel type||HD Super AMOLED>/a>|
|Digitizer||Capacitive, supports up to 10 simultaneous touch points at 60Hz|
|System-on-a-chip||Samsung Exynos 4210|
|CPU||2x1,4GHz ARM Cortex A9 (40nm)|
|GPU||ARM Mali-400 MP|
|Internal storage (NAND)||16GB total, about 12GB free|
|Battery / Battery time||5 100 mAh / up to 9 hours of continuous video playback|
|Rear camera||3 MP, LED, AF|
|Connectors||Proprietary Samsunf 30 pin contact, USB-host via adapter, MHL for HDMI output (requires adapter)|
|Network and wireless||HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbit/s, HSDPA 14.4 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, A-GPS|
|OS / Interface||Android 3.2/Honeycomb with Samsung TouchWiz UI|
|Codec annd container support||MPEG2, MPEG4, h264, MOV, WMV, 3GP/3GPP, MP3, WAV (PCM), AAC+, OGG, WMA - xvid, divx, MKV/h.264/High Profile 4.1+|
|Available in stores||Feb 2012|
|Other / Miscellaneous||-|
In the box
The Galaxy Tab 7.7 comes in a white box with, given the size of the tablet itself, minimal dimensions. This is of course good from an environmental point of view, as less empty air will have to be transported from the manufacturing plant to the retailers and end users. The quality of the box itself is good, which means you get a fairly nice unboxing experience, though the box of our review unit was unfortunately a little banged up.
When we lift the outer lid of the box off we are of course presented with the tablet itself in a compartment in the very top of the box. The screen and back is protected by a thin plastic film. When we remove the upper shelf with the tablet we find the rest of the box contents in their own little molded plastic compartments.
The contents in our (Euro retail) box is as follows:
* Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 GT-P6810 (“Light Silver”, WiFi only, 16GB)
* Wall charger including a 1 meter (about 3 ft) cable (5V, 2A)
* USB cable (1 meter, ~3 ft) with the proprietary Samsung connector in one end
* White headset, in ear (3 pairs of ear plugs, answer/end call button – no media controls)
* Miscellaneous documentation
As usual we cannot guarantee that the contents of our box exactly matches that of your favorite retailer or carrier, or even your region. If the contents of the box is of great importance to you, we suggest you contact your retailer or carrier before making the purchase.
Design, build quality and construction
The front of the device is pitch black and is of course dominated by the 7.7 inch large display, which is almost indistinguishable from the bezel/frame when turned off. Surrounding the screen glass is a frame of what looks like aluminium but most likely is plastic. In any case it feels very sturdy.
The feeling of quality is from the very first moment very high and after but a few minutes of squeezing, bending and shaking we have not been able to make the Tab 7.7 creak or rattle of make as much as a sound. The device is almost as stiff as a piece of think glass, but if we press out finger down right on the middle of the metal back casing id does flex a bit.
Handling the Tab 7.7 is very pleasant thanks to both the materials used; glass, stiff plastic and metal, the low weight (335 grams or 11.8 ounces) and the overall shape of the tablet. The design, with a nicely rounded plastic frame that almost seamlessly transitions into the metal casing of the back, and that also extends to the top and bottom parts of the back where the camera, LED flash and the internal WiFi and Bluetooth antennas are placed.
A slight objection to how slippery the device can get, because of the slippery screen glass, the thin frame between the screen and the edge of the device and the smooth metal casing of the back. Especially the fact that the frame around the screen is so narrow, which gives our thumbs very little to hold on to without touching the actual screen, makes is a bit trickier to hold. Though, thanks to the low weight, it’s not a big problem at all.
The build quality and the fit between the different parts of the shell is quite simply nothing short of fantastic. Using words such as “fantastic” is usually a bit of a hyperbole, but we can only establish that Tab 7.7 is at least a few notches above the current Android tablet competition, with a possible exception for the Asus Transformer Prime with its metal casing which does come close.
The back of the tablet is mostly metal, a brushed aluminium one-piece slightly curved slab covering approximately 80% of the back. By the top and the bottom of the back we instead find plastics, which as previously mentioned house the camera lens, the LED flash and supposedly the antennas (WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS). The plastic itself is of good quality but the transition between the metal casing and the plastic parts is not completely seamless. This is just us being very picky though and not at all a real problem.
|Device||Screen (inches)||Height (mm)||Width (mm)||Depth (mm)||Weight (grams)||Battery (mAh)|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7||7.67||196.7||133||7.9||335||5 100|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab (P1000)||7||190.1||120.45||11.98||380||4 000|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus||7||193.6||122.4||9.9||345||4 000|
|HTC Flyer||7||195.4||122||13.2||420||4 000|
|Huawei MediaPad 3G||7||190||124||10.5||390||4 100|
|Galaxy Tab 8.9||8.9||230.9||157.8||8.6||465||6 100|
|Acer Iconia A100||7||195||117||13.1||470||1 530|
Buttons, connectors, slots and sensors
Tab 7.7 is a tablet of Honeycomb(+) standard and that means that all the usual Android buttons (Menu, Home, Back and Search) have been moved from the device itself to the operating system interface. This not only makes the buttons a lot more flexible as far as configuration, design and function goes, but it also means that you can twist and turn and hold the bezel of the tablet as you like and your fingers will never accidentally push any buttons.
The left side of the tablet (seen from a portrait point-of-view) is smooth and lacks all sorts of buttons, but by the bottom end we find a small hatch for the memory expansion (microSD). On the right side, by the very top, we find the power button (which also acts as the screen lock button) and just below that one there’s the volume rocker (+/-). Both these buttons is of good quality and offers just enough resistance for not pressing them by accident. Furthermore the buttons protrude just enough to easily blindly find them with your fingertips. If they’re made from metal or chromed plastic we have not been able to determine, but then again it does not really matter — metal or plastic, the quality of these buttons are top notch.
On the top there’s a 3.5mm port for headphones and just to the right of it we find the secondary microphone for filtering/reducing of background noise while recording sound or talking on the phone (VoIP only, for the WiFi only device we tested). In the bottom end we find the proprietary docking port, centered, with two small speakers on each side. Here we also find the primary microphone.
On the front, centered above the screen, we find the speaker for phone calls. We find it a bit amusing that a tablet has a phone speaker, but the fact of the matter is that it is fully possible to hold the Tab 7.7 against your ear like a normal phone, unless you have very small hands — but you look a bit ridiculous if you try. Since our review unit lacks a SIM slot and therefore 3G/HSxPA we have not been able to try it out as a normal phone, but phone calls via VoIP (such as Skype) works as intended.
To the left of the speaker for phone calls we find the light sensor that will automatically adjust the screen brightness (optional) and next to it there is a proximity sensor that will shut the screen and touchscreen off as you hold the tablet to your ear while making a phone call. To the right of the phone speaker we find the front camera lens.
Reception and data speeds
Our unit is as mentioned the WiFi only model and does not have 3G/HSxPA. The WiFi connection offers an impressive stability that neither of our reference units Acer Iconia A500 and Motorola XOOM can match. Both the Iconia and the XOOM lose connection to our WiFi router (b/g/n) several times a day, and sometimes fail to reconnect automatically, but the Tab 7.7 has not failed one single time during our weeks with it, except when we did our death grip/maximum range tests.
The maximum data speeds via WiFi (801.11n) is about 32 Mbit/s (4 MB/s) when we by sending large files to and from the device (not sending and receiving at the same time) to max the connection out on our local WiFi FTP network. This is an OK result, but a bit shy of the 40 Mbit/s (5 MB/s) both sending and receiving that the Tegra 2 devices manage. At the bottom end of the spectra we find the Motorola RAZR with a max speed, both sending and receiving, of a mere 20 Mbit/s (2.5 MB/s).
In our range/signal strength test we simply connect the Tab 7.7 along with a reference unit (Motorola XOOM in this case) to our WiFi router and slowly walks away from it, down a long corridor with thick concrete walls in the way. While the Tab 7.7 manages to keep a signal for far longer than the XOOM, we also note that it depends a lot on how and where you hold the device. As long as you avoid the plastic top and bottom of the device the signal is strong, but if you cover the bottom part of the unit with your hand (from a portrait perspective) you quickly lose range and signal strength. In short, the Tab 7.7 is sensitive to the so called death grip.
When we use the analysis program RightMark Audio Analyzer to measure the sound quality if the 3.5mm port of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, using a pair of AKG K 420 headphones, we immediately run into problems with so called clipping, which means the output level gets too loud and distorts the sound, not only in the headphones but also via the line-in on the computer running RMAA. To get an accurate reading with no clipping we have to bring the volume of the default music player, which bears mentioning has all sound effects and equalizer settings turned off, not just one but down two notches.
When we finally get a successful reading without clipping or any other warnings we can see that the Tab 7.7 performs fairly well and about on par with the Galaxy note. We do however note that the Tab 7.7 does not go quite as low in frequency (Hz, bass) as the competitors and that the stereo crosstalk, where the sound from one stereo channel leaks over to the other, is not quite on par with the competition. When we, with out untrained non audiophile ear, listen to music (lossless/FLAC) via Tab 7.7 and our AKG K 410 headphones we have absolutely nothing to complain about — we most definitely can’t notice the problem with stereo crosstalk that RMAA reports.
As usual we cannot guarantee that our RMAA analysis is a fair representation of the audio quality of the device. The results are only to be interpreted as a small indication of how goo, or how poorl, the audio chip in combination with the software is. If you are an audiophile or if the audio quality is of great importance to you we recommend that you bring your favorite headphones to a local retailer and ask for a trial.
RMAA summary, Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
|Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB||
|Noise level, dB (A)||
|Dynamic range, dB (A)||
|THD + Noise, dB (A)||
|IMD + Noise, %||
|Stereo crosstalk, dB||
|IMD at 10 kHz, %||
|Galaxy Tab 7.7||Galaxy Nexus||Sony Ericsson Xperia ray||Sandisk Sansa Clip+|
(40 Hz -15 kHz), dB:
|+0.34, -0.74||+0.59, -0.72||+0.59, -0.26||+0.02, -0.14|
|Noise level, dB (A):||-86.8||-89.8||-89.4||-86.3|
|Dynamic range, dB (A):||83.3||84.3||84.0||86.3|
|IMD + Noise, %:||0.169||0.050||0.441||0.053|
|Stereo crosstalk, dB:||-23.7||-51.8||-48.0||-56.0|
The sound quality via the external speakers by the bottom of the device (portrait mode) is fairly weak and thin, at least compared to the blaring external speakers of the Acer Iconia. This does not come as a surprise though, given that the Tab 7.7 is close to half as thin as the Iconia — there’s simply no room for large speakers. Even if the sound is thin and a bit weak the clarity and quality is good, far better than the Iconia, and even at maximum volume we can’t discern any audio distortion.
GPS and positioning
Because of problems with the Google developed My Tracks app, where the last few versions inexplicably outputs a broken route where the recording stops after just a few 100 meters — at least on our two test units. Because of this we’re forced to skip the recording of our route and instead focus on how we subjectively feel that the GPS performs.
As far as locking the satellites goes, with or without the help of WiFi, is very quick. Even in a fairly difficult suburban surrounding with high buildings and trees we rarely have to wait more than 10 seconds for the app GPS Test finds a good fix of 15 meters (50 ft) or less and at least 10 satellites locked. Wait a few seconds longer and we’re down to 5 meters (16 ft). This is a very good result and a huge leap forward for Samsung who in the past has had a lot of problems with their GPS’es, GPS antennas and GPS software.
As far as the accuracy goes, which we briefly mentioned in the paragraph above this one, we have had very little to complain about except for a few random lateral jumps of 20 meters (65 ft) or so, and then only for a short second before the GPS is back on track. In general the GPS seems to track our actual position well, no matter if we use it while taking a stroll, riding a bike or driving a car. Just like with the WiFi signal we have however experienced some issues with the way we hold and cover certain parts of the tablet. At some point we almost immediately lost all contact with the satellites while holding the device the wrong way. Worth mentioning.
Using the above mentioned app, GPS Test, we could from an urban surrounding with tall buildings lock on to no less than 15 satellites, with an estimated accuracy of 5 meters (16 ft). Compared to the Motorola RAZR on the exact same spot and its 11 satellites and an accuracy of 10-15 meters (30-50 ft) the Tab 7.7 simply outclasses the RAZR. It is however worth noting that the accuracy value is just an estimation by the software and is not to be considered an exact science.
Screen and digitizer
Apart from the excellent build quality, the fit and the nice materials used to build the device the true selling point is the screen. The 7.7 inch Super AMOLED Plus screen uses unlike most AMOLED screens the RGB subpixel matrix, which means that when Samsung says the screen has a resolution of WXGA (1280×800 pixels) they’re not lying. Other AMOLED screens usually have a subpixel matrix called PenTile, which because of its structure in reality offers a resolution that is about one third less — and therefore a lot less sharp. Furthermore the RGB pixel matrix offers less color change while viewed from angles.
After but an hour with the Tab 7.7 we can conclude, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is the best Android tablet screen we have ever laid eyes on and quite possibly even better than the iPad 3 screen, despite its lower resolution. With the exception of the maximum screen brightness in full daylight, which is OK but not more, this screen takes the victory in every single event.
The color reproduction is clear, vivid and powerful and thanks to three different screen settings that regulates the color saturation there’s a setting that ought to be satisfactory for everyone. Our favorite is the “Movie” setting which is the least saturated of the three, and in our eyes delivers the most realistic colors. If you like the colors to pop a little more, even if it’s not quite realistic you have the “Standard” setting which is something in-between and then the “Dynamic” setting which really makes the colors pop in a very typical AMOLED way.
Thanks to the resolution, 1280×800, and the slightly smaller screen than we’re used to on tablets, the pixel density is higher which offers a noticeably sharper screen. The contrasts are as usual with AMOLED screens very good and the black level makes tablets with even the best of TFT LCD screens look grey and washed out. The viewing angles are the best we have ever seen, with the possible exception of the Samsung Galaxy S II which also sports a Super AMOLED Plus screen — although at a lower resolution — and even from extreme angles we only notice a slight decrease in brightness, contrast and shifting colors.
In full daylight the readability of the screen is OK but can’t quite match our reference device the Galaxy Note, which in turn can’t quite match the Galaxy S II. We have not had any major problems using the Tab 7.7 out in the brightness of spring, but in direct sunlight the Tab 7.7 like almost all other screens, AMOLED and TFT LCD alike, become more or less unusable. As usual we find ourselves looking for a shaded area when we have to use the tablet outside when the sun is out.
The digitizer, the touch sensitive surface layer of the screen, is as we have come to expect from Samsung very good. We measure up to 10 simultaneous touch points which is more than enough for all kinds of currently applicable multitouch features. We also measure a touchscreen refresh rate of 63Hz, which quite simply means that the digitizer tracks our taps and swipes of the screen 63 times every second.
Despite the fluent and speedy digitizer we have had some issues with taps and swipes going unregistered by the device. This only happens sporadically and usually during certain scenarios, in some apps, so we assume that this is an issue with software and not the touchscreen hardware itself. In any case, no matter if it’s a hardware or a software issue, it does cause some frustration.
Most frequently the delayed or absent response to our taps and swipes happens when we tap the Home button (could be a Samsung TouchWiz issue) and when we try and swipe through a long website in the default browser. Oftentimes we can swipe the screens entire height (landscape mode) without as much as a reaction. If we slow the swipe down the screen reacts and the webpage scrolls, but only a little. A page that on the Acer Iconia only takes three swipes to get from top to bottom can take ten or more on the Tab 7.7.
We hope that this is merely a software issue and one that Samsung will address in a future software upgrade – maybe in time for Android 4.0/Ice Cream Sandwich?
Operating system and software
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 comes preloaded with Android 3.2/Honeycomb with version 4.0 of Samsung’s TouchWiz UX interface. An update to 4.0/Ice Cream Sandwich is slated for release sometime during the second quarter of 2012.
The home screens/launcher of Tab 7.7 differs just like with the Tab 10.1 and Tab 8.9 slightly from the default Android Honeycomb interface. Most things are however the same or only slightly altered and if you have used a Honeycomb device before you will soon feel right at home. There are however some differences as far as features, layout and graphical interface and design goes.
Amongst other things Samsung has, in its TouchWiz interface, added a nice feature for taking screenshots. The button for this you can see in the above image; the fourth button from the left in the status field. As soon as a screenshot has been taken a simple app for editing pops up, in which you can draw (using your finger), add text, crop and resize and share via your preferred protocol; such as Gmail, Facebook and FTP. This is both a simple and a very nice feature.
Centered in the status field you’ll find a small arrow or V shaped button which acts as the toggle for the TouchWiz app dock. This dock consists of seven apps; Task Manager, Calendar, World Time, Pen Memo, Calculator, Alarm and Music Player.
What’s special about these apps, which are not configurable or changeable, is that they can be run in windowed mode, which means you for example can have a GMail document open and at the same time have the calculator in a window next to it. You can move these seven apps around as you see fit, but unfortunately you can only run one of them at a time which is a bit of a disappointment.
One of the more useful functions of TouchWiz is the upgraded Quick Settings menu that you reach by tapping the time by the bottom right corner od the screen. Where the Quick Settings menu in default Honeycomb is fairly featureless Samsung has rearranged and changed the layout as well as added a number of toggles for things like WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, Notifications and Sound.
Furthermore Samsung has changed the layout of the home screen management quite a bit, as the above images demonstrate. The functionality is basically the same, even though you with Samsung’s solution can extend the home screens from the default five to a maximum of seven or down to just one single home screen. Even though the basic functionality is the same as in default Honeycomb, we do prefer Samsung’s version. Unlike default Honeycomb there’s also the option to use folders on the home screen — an omission in default Honeycomb that we never quite understood.
The default web browser in Tab 7.7 is of course based on the default Honeycomb browser — and it shows. Apart from slight differences as far as graphical tweaks and a few extra settings goes the only real difference is the way Tab 7.7 handles favorites and browsing history. The functionality is the same more or less, it just looks slightly different.
What this means is that Tab 7.7 along with the default web browser does its job fairly well, but there are far better alternatives on Google Play Shop (formerly known as Android Market), such as Dolphin Browser HD.
The performance in the web browser is good, at least as far as rendering of heavy websites goes. Noticeable faster than our Tegra 2 equipped reference units Acer Iconia and Motorola XOOM. Unfortunately we have had lots of issues with the touchscreen being unresponsive, especially on large/heavy websites, when we try to quickly swipe/flick up or down do scroll through the webpage quickly. Oftentimes the screen does not react at all, and if if does react it only scrolls a few lines up or down the page. To make it work we have to slow our swipes down a lot, which means that we have to swipe at least twice as many times to reach the bottom of the page, compared to the Acer Iconia for example.
We also note a slight touchscreen keyboard lag (using both the default keyboard and SwiftKey Tablet X), while in the web browser. This is also a problem on our Tegra 2 equipped reference units Iconia and XOOM, but it is more noticeable on the Tab 7.7. As far as software and web browsing goes we hope that Samsung addresses some of these issues as soon as possible – or at least for the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich update.
Gallery and media players
The Gallery app is despite its simplicity nice to use, and feels very fluid. Swiping between full size images is almost completely free from any stutter at all and it’s obvious this app is both optimized and hardware/GPU accelerated.
The default video player is as far as features goes very basic, but just like our favorite MX Video Player it will chew down almost anything you throw at it. Its limitation is first and foremost the lack of DTS and subtitle support, but these issues are easily fixed with for example the aforementioned, and free, MX Video Player which will software decode DTS and play most kinds of subtitle formats flawlessly. A nice additional feature is that we within the default video player can choose between three different color saturation modes – just like under the global screen settings. The three modes in the video player are; “Normal”, “Warm” and “Cold”. Furthermore there’s a “Outdoors visibility” setting, on/off, which boost the contrasts a lot.
|Clip||Resolution||Codec / Profile / Container||Bitrate||Audio||Results
(MX Video Player)
|#1||640x352||XviD / Simple@L5 / AVI||1 Mbit/s||MP3 2.0||OK|
|#2||576x320||XviD / Simple@L5 / AVI||1,4 Mbit/s||MP3 2.0||OK|
|#3||720p||h.264 / High@L3.1 / MKV||3 Mbit/s||AC3 5.1||OK|
|#4||720p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||9 Mbit/s||AC3 5.1||OK|
|#5||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||14 Mbit/s||DTS 5.1||OK|
|#6||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||19.2 Mbit/s||AC3 5.1||OK|
|#7||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||22.8 Mbit/s||DTS 5.1||OK|
|#8||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||25 Mbit/s||DTS 5.1||OK|
|#9||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||30 Mbit/s||AC3 5.1||Fail (low FPS)|
|#10||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||42 Mbit/s||AC3 5.1||Fail (very low FPS)|
The default music player is a pleasant app with support for most audio types and codecs out there, and of course Album Art support. In the settings menu we find an equalizer (disabled by default) with a number of presets and a “Custom” option for setting the sound up just like you prefer it.
Furthermore there are a number of sound effects to choose from. If you like to play around with the sound and equalizer settings to find the perfect setting for your ears and your headphones you most likely won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately there seems to be no way of saving your own profiles, if you for example would like a different profile for different headphones.
Even if Samsung has added its own interface on top of Android 3.2/Honeycomb little has changed in the Android settings menu, apart from the graphical tweaks, which is why we wont delve deeper into this chapter of the review. We would however like to point out a few important additions made by Samsung.
In the settings menu for the screen we find some new functionality and features, like the option to change the color saturation of the screen, in three different settings; “Dynamic” which delivers very strong colors that really pop, “Standard” which is the default setting and noticeable less saturated and then finally our favorite “Movie” which in our opinion delivers the most life-like colors. Which one you like and prefer is of course up to you. In the screen settings we can also change between a four different fonts which will change the fonts throughout the entire operating system, and you can also download more fonts from Google Play Shop (Android Market).
There are also settings for gestures and motion which lets you zoom in and out in the web browser as well as in the Gallery app by holding two fingers (usually each thumb) on the screen and tilting the tablet up and down. The feature itself works as intended but we fail to see any practical use for it.
Finally Samsung has added a few smart features for the Power Saving mode, where the tablet itself will adjust and disable things like the brightness of the screen, the timeout of the screen and disabling of components like WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use. The Power Saving mode is of course optional.
Other applications worth mentioning
Samsung bundles the app AllShare to handle DLNA playback and communication. This works very well in general and the video support is OK but not great. Avi files encoded with divx and xvid works more or less every time but mkv/x264 and mp4/x264 tends to fail. We would very much like Allshare to ask us if w want to use a different player for unsupported formats, but unfortunately it does not. We also find an app for reading e-books, called “Books”, and one separate for purchasing books, called “eBooks”.
Samsung Music Hub and Game Hub are both apps for buying music and games. The choice of prominent games is more or less the same as on Google Play Shop (Android Market) but we do find a small number of free games on Game Hub that are not free on Google Play Shop.
The Samsung File Explorer works just as intended and does most things really well. It does not offer as many features as Astro or ES Explorer for example, but the interface is nicer and for most tasks — and users — it’s good enough. Moving, copying, renaming and deleting single files, multiple files and folders is easily and quickly done.
Pictured above we see Polaris Office 3.0 which will handle almost any Microsoft Office format/file up until Office 2010. Readers Hub is a service for buying e-books, magazines and newspapers. It quite simply combines three different stores into one simple app; PressDisplay, Zinio and Kobo.
For those of you having difficult finding good apps in the chaotic jungle that is the Google Play Shop (Android Market) we find an app called Samsung Suggest, which as its name suggests, suggests apps that Samsung thinks you should try out. It does not seem to take into account what you have installed on your device already — so it won’t suggest sports apps if it finds that you have lots of sports apps installed on your tablet — it merely lists apps that are popular and useful based on your geographic location.
We’ve mentioned Samsung’s hubs for Music, Books and Games, but they also offer movie rentals. Unfortunately we have not been able to get this to work — we end up with the same error message no matter what we do — so we can only assume that this service is not yet available here (Sweden).
Samsung has equipped the Tab 7.7 with a camera sensor of a measly 3 megapixels, which at least is accompanied by a LED flash and auto focus. Thanks to a fairly decent camera software with plenty of options such as tap-to-focus and smile detection this somewhat compensates for the low resolution of the camera.
Despite the resolution the focus, the sharpness and the overall quality is decent, but we note that photos taken outdoors tends to get a slightly blue hue and end up a little bit murky when compared to how our eyes perceived the real life conditions. The reference unit for our camera test is the Motorola XOOM, which definitely offers a more realistic color tone and brightness level, but the focus and the camera software of the XOOM (default Honeycomb camera software) is nowhere near the Tab 7.7. Overall the Tab 7.7 is definitely the better choice as far as the camera goes, but don’t buy this tablet expecting images anywhere near the best smartphone cameras.
On the front we find a 2 megapixel camera, primarily intended for video calls and self portrait photography. This camera delivers decent quality photos, for being a front camera, but compared to rear facing cameras it’s more or less useless. This is for video calls and the odd self portrait — nothing else — and you do well in making sure you are in a very well-lit environment, preferably outside in the sun, or the images and video will end up very grainy and out of focus.
The fixed focus lens is only good for short distances, like up to a meter or two, simply because that’s what it’s intended for. If you try and use the front camera to take pictures of distant objects the result is very poor, as you can see in the first of the front camera photo samples below. The setting options are meager and features such as tap-to-focus are nowhere to be seen.
The maximum resolution for the rear camera is 720p (1280×720), and if the lighting is good it delivers a frame-rate of up to 30 FPS. Neither fluency nor focus/sharpness is on par with what we’re used to from the best smartphone cameras, but for a tablet it’s not bad. Unfortunately the microphone(s) pick up a lot of wind noise during video recording in windy environments – a lot more than the XOOM we compared it to.
Video recording using the front camera is despite 2 megapixels a mere VGA (640×480 pixels) and the quality of the video is as expected appalling – just like most front cameras. To avoid too much grain and problems with focus we’re forced to try and find the best possible light source we can find or the end result could be so bad you can barely make out a face.
Finally we note that the recorded video via the front camera, when shot in portrait mode, does not automatically, using the gyro/accelerometer, output the video in portrait mode. You will have to flip the video 90 degrees yourself. This is a very basic task nowadays, and even YouTube offers editing options like that, but we don’t think it should be necessary. This is a point-shoot-share thing and should not require any editing.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 video sample (720p)
Motorola Xoom video sample (720p)
Bugs and problems
Even though our weeks with the Galaxy Tab 7.7 mostly has been nothing but a pleasure we have noticed a few problems that makes using the tablet daily a little less pleasant that it could have been. The problems we have had has almost exclusively been about the unresponsive touchscreen, especially in the web browser where our swipes on heavy/lobe web pages frequently go unregistered, unless we make sure that our swipes are very slow.
If this is a software or a hardware problem we can’t say for sure, but since it tends to only happen in certain apps we are fairly convinced it’s a software issue — and as such it can be fixed with a future software update.
In this test we play a high definition (720p) sample video clip with a bitrate of about 5 Mbit/s in the mp4/h.264 container/codec and with AAC stereo sound at 96 kbit/s. The player we use if the free version of MX Video Player with hardware decode enabled. The device is set to airplane mode and the screen brightness is set to 50%, which is then compared to the reference device ASUS Transformer Prime. If the brightness differs too much we increase or lower the brightness of Tab 7.7 until they according to our eyes are close enough in terms of brightness.
Galaxy Tab 7.7 performs very well in the above video playback test and we assume that this is due to a combination of the AMOLED screen, which tends to be less power hungry than TFT LCD screens during video playback, and the fact that the screen is a bit smaller than most of the competitors. It’s also possible that Samsung’s Exynos 4210 platform is less power hungry than the Tegra equipped competitors — but this is just us speculating.
At normal usage, such as surfing the web, e-mailing and chatting and so on the battery drainage is, as expected, noticeably faster. Because most web sites, e-mail clients and chat apps have a white or at least fairly bright interface the AMOLED screen, as has since long been established, consumes a lot more power than the TFT LCD competitors under identical conditions. Despite this we still manage to get at least as many hours of usage out of the Galaxy Tab 7.7 as we get from the reference devices Motorola XOOM and ASUS Transformer Prime — though note that this is the Transformer Prime without the keyboard dock which effectively doubles the battery performance.
All in all we give the battery performance a big thumbs up, in part because of how thin and light the device is but especially because of the video playback performance. Close to 11 hours of HD/720p video playback is impressive for a tablet weighing half of some of the competitors and as thin as an average pencil.
As mentioned in the introduction of this review the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is unlike its larger siblings Tab 10.1 and 8.9 been equipped with Samsung’s own SoC (“System on a Chip”) called Exynos 4210. This platform consists of a Cortex A9 dual core processor at 2×1.4GHz – the same platform as in the Galaxy Note and the Galaxy S II, though just like in the Note it’s been overclocked from the SGSII’s 2×1.2GHz to 2×1.4GHz.
The graphics chip is the Mali 400 which is a chip that has proven to be very competitive over the past year or so, and it’s not until recently we’ve seen it surpassed by a few competitors running Android. At the moment the only chip that is consistently outpacing the Mali 400 is the GeForce ULP chip in the much newer Tegra 3 platform.
Our test device of the Tab 7.7 is equipped with 16GB of built-in storage, of which about 12GB’s are available for the user to distribute freely between app installations and storage of things like music, videos and photos. The remaining 4GB is taken up by Android itself and pre-installed apps.
Games, performance and graphs
As a gaming unit the Tab 7.7 is splendid. The competent graphics chip in combination with the gorgeous screen and the responsive touchscreen makes gaming a pleasure. Note that the problems with the unresponsive touch screen is limited to the web browser, not gaming. We have tried a number of games on the Tab 7.7 and every single one has been more than playable as far as the framerate goes. During long gaming sessions the metal on the back can get somewhat warm, but not so much that we feel it might it cause overheating problems, like the Galaxy S II.
Rightware’s BrowserMark is a platform independent benchmark performed in the web browser. In this test a number of short tests are undertaken and the result is shown as a total score where higher is better. Since this is a test independent of the platform we have also added a few test results from a couple other mobile platforms than Android.
Monjori Shader Benchmark measures the fragment shader capacity of the graphics chip. The result is shown as FPS (“Frames Per Second”) and higher is better. Once again this is a benchmark where the resolution of the device is of huge importance, and devices with a high resolution will get a lower score than devices with a lower resolution screen – provided the hardware (processor, GPU) is the same.
Nenamark 2 is just like Electopia above a 3D benchmark designed to put the graphics chip to the test, but unlike Electopia this one is based on the newer OpenGL ES 2.0 framework. The result is shown as FPS (“Frames per Second”) and higher is better.
Electopia is a 3D benchmark based on the OpenGL ES 1.1 framework and is designed to put the graphics chip to the test. The result is shown as FPS (“Frames Per Second”) and higher is better. Note that phones with a screen resolution of less than WVGA (800×480 pixels) gets and unfair advantage since they give the graphics chip far fewer pixels to shuffle, resulting in a higher FPS.
M3D is a fairly new 3D benchmark running the OpenGL ES 2.0 framework. The app itself is based on the Unity engine which a plethora of games both for gaming consoles and mobile devices. The result is presented as FPS (“Frames Per Second”) and higher is better.
|Name||Sequential read (MB/s)||Sequential write (MB/s)||Random read (MB/s)||Random write (MB/s)||IOPS/s read (4K)||IOPS/s write (4K)|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (3.2)||43.03||4.51||8.62||0.18||2206.8||46.13|
|ASUS Transformer Prime (3.2)||19.33||3.41||2,48||0.16||635.87||42.87|
|ASUS Transformer (3.2)||20.79||6.06||2.6||0.27||667.61||69.4|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (3.1)||26.4||4.89||3.7||0.21||948.85||55.9|
|Acer Iconia A500 (3.2)||6.19||4.03||2.18||1.65||560||424|
With Androbench 3.0 we measure the performance of the internal flash memory — not the external SD card. A higher score is always better, both for read, write and IOPS. Samsung has equipped the Tab 7.7 with ridiculously fast flash modules as far as read performance goes. The device outperforms the best competitors by twice the score, if not more. As far as write performance goes it’s more evenly matched, but the Tab 7.7 is by no means a slouch and is on par with the competitors.
Samsung has with the Tab 7.7 created a tablet which greatly impresses us in many ways, but that also has one or two issues as far as the screen response within certain apps and the fluidity in some graphical transitions. The build quality, fit and materials are the best we’ve ever seen on an Android tablet and the low weight and thin profile makes it a pleasure to hold and handle.
Under the bonnet we find, as previously mentioned, the Exynos 4210 platform, which with its dual core processor gives the tab plenty of oomph and very competitive benchmark results. While browsing using the default browser the horse powers under the bonnet clearly shows and the rendering times of heavy and complex webpages is almost always far better/faster than the Tegra 2 equipped reference units Acer Iconia and Motorola XOOM.
The graphics chip, Mali 400, easily chews down every single game we have thrown at it and even though the Tab 7.7 id forced to concede defeat to the Tegra 3 equipped Asus Transformer Prime in our graphics benchmarks it still performs well and can hold its head up high. Apart from its Mali 400 equipped smartphone sibling the Galaxy S II the Tab 7.7 never, despite its thin chassis, gets warm to the point of worrying us.
The screen is as we’ve mentioned several times fantastic, and the best we’ve ever seen on a tablet. Even if the pixel density is nowhere near that of modern smartphones or the iPad 3 it’s still a sight for sore eyes. Color reproduction (adjustable in three levels), viewing angles, blacks and contrasts are all top notch, bar one. The only thing that is “only” OK is the maximum brightness which is about the same as the competition. The digitizer, the touch screen, is as usual with Samsung devices good, but sometimes, namely in the web browser, it can get very unresponsive and slow unless we are over-explicit in out taps and swipes.
The three megapixel camera does its job, but does not exactly impress anyone. Compared to other tablets it does well, but compared to the best smartphones it’s far far behind in both still photography and video recording. The decent camera software with features like auto focus, smile detection and tap-to-zoom somewhat compensates for the few megapixels and so-so image quality.
When we summarize the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 we can only conclude that this tablet creates a lot of desire. Despite a few problems, which we think are 100% software related and therefore fixable by way of software updates, we don’t hesitate for even a second in recommending this tablet — despite its premium price tag. If you’re looking for an Android tablet with small dimensions and a very low weight the Samsung galaxy Tab 7.7 is in our opinion the absolute best choice you can currently make.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is suitable for you if you:
* Want the the lightest and most nimble Android tablet on the market today
* Demand high quality in terms of material, build quality and general feel
* Want a good media player that easily will devour most of what you can throw at it
* Want a decent battery performance and a fairly fast charge
* Want what we consider being the best tablet screen on the market right now
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 might be suitable for you if you:
* You are looking for a good hybrid between a large smartphone and a full size tablet
* Are willing to trade in connectors such as USB HDMI for a more nimble size
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is not suitable for you if you:
* Are looking for the most bang for the buck — the Tab 7.7 is very expensive
* Want a tablet with a great camera
* Is sensitive to so called “lag” and a screen that at times can be slightly unresponsive