Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

A superbly designed 7.7-inch Android tablet let down by the Android Honeycomb OS

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is thin and light, but doesn't offer the best user experience thanks to the Android "Honeycomb" operating system.

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Design and display

It seems Samsung is intent on releasing a tablet with every screen size imaginable. It has already produced 10.1in, 8.9in and 7in sized tablets, along with the 5.3in, part smartphone, part tablet Galaxy Note. The Galaxy Tab 7.7 adds a fifth screen size to the mix, attempting to strike a balance between portability and functionality.

Although 7.7-inch may initially seem like an odd screen size, the ultra slim and light form factor of the Galaxy Tab 7.7 makes it feel logical. The tablet is just 7.9mm thick and weighs only 335g, making it one of the thinnest and lightest devices in its class. As a comparison to other smaller tablets on the market, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is both thinner and lighter than the BlackBerry PlayBook, the Acer Iconia A200, and the Toshiba Tablet AT1S0.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is instantly recognisable thanks to an attractive brushed metal finish on the back and a thin, silver bezel around the edges. Every aspect of the Galaxy Tab 7.7's design screams quality — from the well positioned power and volume keys that provide great tactility, to the gloss silver edging surrounding the headphone jack.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7's svelte frame has made it tough for Samsung to include extra ports, but the tablet covers most of the basics. On the top edge you'll find a headphone jack, on the right side volume buttons and a power/screen lock key and on the left a microSD card slot, covered by a plastic flap. The bottom of the device houses dual speakers and Samsung's proprietary dock connection. This connector looks remarkably similar to Apple's 30-pin connector port used on both the iPhone and iPad.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7's design is complemented by an outstanding screen, an AMOLED Plus panel with an impressive resolution of 1280x800. The display is responsive, has excellent brightness and impressive colour reproduction. The 1280x800 resolution may not sound all that special on paper, but when you consider this is the same number of pixels used in most 10in Android tablets, the result is a sharper and crisper image. This is especially evident when reading long blocks of text on a Web site.

Software and performance

If the formula for creating a successful tablet was all about impressive specifications, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 would be near the top of the pile. A 1.4GHz ARM Cortex A9 dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory along with a microSD card slot gives tablet plenty of grunt. It's a real shame, however, that 3G connectivity is absent: Australian models of the Galaxy Tab 7.7 are Wi-Fi only variants.

The internals keep the Galaxy Tab 7.7 kicking along: this is a zippy tablet and we didn't experience too much lag or slowdown during general use. It runs the 3.2 "Honeycomb" version of Google's Android operating system, though Samsung has stressed it will by upgraded to the latest 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" version in the coming months. Samsung has skinned the user interface with its TouchWIZ UX software which adds a number of additional features. The most notable is the "quick panel", which adds a handy set of toggles in the notifications pop-up for Wi-Fi, notifications, GPS, sound vibration, auto rotation, Bluetooth and flight mode. There's also a screen capture button next to the standard back, home and recent apps keys, some "mini apps" that can be used while regular apps are open, and a range of resizeable Samsung widgets.

A core part of TouchWIZ is Samsung's software hubs: social hub, readers hub, game hub and music hub. The music hub is a subscription based music service that costs $9.99 per month, $54.99 for six months or $99.99 for 12 months in Australia. The game hub merely lists compatible games from the Android Market, while we feel both the social hub and readers hub can be replaced by more effective third-party apps in the Android Market.

Despite all the positive aspects of both Android and TouchWIZ, the overall user experience isn't as slick as it should be. The Galaxy Tab 7.7's browser still automatically switches to mobile versions of many Web sites, the home screen jitters if there are more than a few widgets on the screen, and performance is hit and miss, especially when using the browser. A software upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is likely to fix most of these issues, so it can't come soon enough.

Android's most significant tablet issue, however, is third-party apps. There are minimal apps that have been designed with a tablet in mind, so most of them simply expand to fit the larger display of the Galaxy Tab 7.7. There is also no easy way to quickly determine if an app in the Android Market is designed to work on a tablet. We feel Google needs to create a filter in the market that only shows apps specifically designed for tablets in order to create a better user experience.

Camera and battery life

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 has a 3 megapixel rear camera and a 2 megapixel front camera, and is capable of recording 720p HD video. The camera is fine for the odd happy snap, but excess image noise and poor colour reproduction does negatively affect the quality of images.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 doesn't have a USB port: both charging and connecting the unit to a computer via USB is achieved through the proprietary cable. The main disadvantage is that you'll need this included cable to synchronise the tablet and can't use any old micro-USB cable. However, the proprietary connector charges the tablet much faster than a standard micro-USB port could. Disappointingly, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 does not have a HDMI-out connection, so it can't be connected to a high definition television or projector. Samsung however sells an optional HDTV adapter that includes a HDMI-out connection.

A 5100mAh battery powers the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and it was good for about nine hours of use during our testing. If you don't pick up the Galaxy Tab every five minutes like we did, the battery should last a few days: it didn't really show significant drain unless the screen was constantly on.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is now available outright through major Australian retailers, including JB Hi-Fi and Dick Smith.

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