Do you remember the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 from earlier this year? Or perhaps you're familiar with the original Galaxy Tab 10.1? If so, then you've seen the Tab 2 7.0 before. Covered in a gun-metal grey plastic chassis, and with a wide black bezel surrounding its 7-inch touchscreen, the Tab 2 looks just like many of its predecessors. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though it isn't an eye-catching design by any stretch of the imagination. The back of the tablet lacks any sort of grip, too, unlike Google's Nexus 7.
Although Samsung has an excellent reputation for its display technology, it chooses not to use its best panels in the Tab 2. Rather than the same excellent screen we saw on the Tab 7.7, Samsung goes for a PLS LCD panel instead, obviously in an attempt to keep the price low. The screen is serviceable, but not outstanding. It's 1024x600-pixel resolution is a touch low, equating to roughly 170 pixels per inch. In comparison, the Nexus 7 has a 216 pixels-per-inch resolution on a screen of the same size.
As it is with most tablets, the unit is sealed and the battery is not user accessible. It is pretty easy to spot where the battery lives beneath the chassis, though, as it tends to heat up considerably during use. We wouldn't say that it became uncomfortably hot to hold, but it does make your hands sweaty.
User experience and performance
With a range of tablets in its arsenal, Samsung seems to weigh up price and performance, delivering only what you pay for. The Tab 2.0 is the company's cheapest tablet, and, as such, it is among its weakest performers. Powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor, the Tab 2.0 held its own in web-based performance benchmarks, but fell way short of the competition in 3D rendering tests.
Synthetic tests aside, the overall performance of the Tab 2.0 wasn't too bad in everyday use. Most of the heavy-duty games we downloaded and tested ran smoothly enough to be played without frustration. Our biggest performance complaint probably pertains to Samsung's TouchWiz UI, and to some of the resource-hogging widgets that are preloaded on the tablet. Out of the box, there are widgets on display featuring various Samsung software services, and the frame rate when switching between home pages is disappointing. If you remove these widgets, though, the user experience is much smoother. There are other bothersome pauses in the UI; bringing up the keyboard is often slow, and loading databases like Contacts can take a moment.
Battery life could also be much better than it is; it's another victim of Samsung's cost cutting, no doubt. The Tab 2.0 endured just over five hours of continuous 720p video playback, and about four and a half hours of web browsing. For most people, this will sound like enough, but in comparison to the competition these numbers are low. The Nexus 7 managed 10 hours of playing the same video file in a loop, and we'd expect another hour of web browsing at least from a device of this size.
Connectivity and features
Samsung sells the Tab 2.0 in a number of different SKUs in Australia, with options for either Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and 3G, and 8GB or 32GB storage options. The 3G models offer quad-band HSPA+ networking, so they will easily connect to any of the Australian 3G networks, with download speeds of up to a theoretical maximum of 21Mbps. The Tab 2.0 can also make phone calls, if this is important to you.
All the units come with a microSD card slot, so, regardless of whether you pick an 8GB or 32GB model to begin with, you can expand this at any time in the future.
Also of note, the Tab 2.0 features dual-band Wi-Fi with support for 802.11 a/b/g/n networks. We haven't structured a formal test around the Wi-Fi in this tablet, but we have observed that it has been performing well during our testing period.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is ultimately a forgettable entry in the ever-growing chronicle of Samsung Android-powered products. The core elements of this tablet are fine; the screen works, its connectivity is good and the Android platform offers quite a bit of functionality. But there is no reason to choose this tablet over the many others in market. Samsung's TouchWiz UI takes more from the user experience than it gives back, its hardware offers only passable performance and battery life is below par.
If you want a 7-inch tablet, grab a Nexus 7. It offers the same basic package, but is better, with the latest version of Android, a nicer screen and a quad-core Tegra 3 processor. The Nexus doesn't have a 3G option (at the time of writing), but if you learn how to use the Wi-Fi hotspot on your smartphone, then this shouldn't be a difficult obstacle to overcome.