(Pocket-lint) - Ah, tablets. Tech du jour, some might say. There was once a time when every maker wanted a piece of the large-screen market, fighting for space that turned out to be, well, Apple's dominant share to own with the iPad range. But Samsung hasn't stopped fighting - indeed, it's the only company that still makes a credible, powerful Android tablet*. And the Galaxy Tab S7+ is the most premium Android tablet we've seen to date.
So if you want a tablet to watch Netflix then it'll do you more than proud - but so will many far cheaper options with less heavyweight internals. But if you want a tablet that's going to hulk its way through anything you choose to throw at it, and you've got a fat enough wallet to support buying one, then the Galaxy Tab S7+ is an absolute beast that's well worth considering.
*Ok, so Huawei has one foot in this space, too, but minus Google Play, so we don't really count that as credible for most markets.
- Finishes: Mystic Black, Mystic Bronze, Mystic Silver
- Dimensions: 285 x 185 x 5.7mm / Weight: 575g
- Under screen fingerprint scanner
- Quad speakers, no 3.5mm jack
- Aluminium frame construction
Samsung's design language for 2020 has gone all 'mystic' - with Mystic Silver, Mystic Black and Mystic Bronze choices on offer. That's the same with its phones - the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra also embody the same colour options, along with some additions.
For the Tab S7+ there's nothing really mystic about it: the version we've got in is a dark grey, really, rather than black. The silver is on point. And the bronze is really quite pink, possibly rose gold if you're feeling generous with your language. None of those finishes will quite resist fingerprints, although the lighter the option the better the negation.
Whatever you make of the naming conventions, the Tab S7+ is a rather lovely made slab of tech. Well, more a slither: it's just 5.7mm thick all told, which makes it slimmer than pretty much any smartphone ever made. Not that you'd slip this portable screen into your pocket given just how much of it is screen, but it certainly aids in its portability factor.
The Tab S7+'s aluminium frame construction feels rigid, while being cool to the touch; the metallic exterior isn't too shiny to be distracting; and while there are considerable antenna bands integrated into the design to ensure decent connectivity - whether that's wireless Wi-Fi 6 or speedy 5G connectivity - these aren't unsightly, with colour choices that meld with the design language.
This 'Plus' model comes with an in-screen fingerprint scanner for rapid login, which works great. That's a feature that the 'normal' Tab S7 doesn't have, which instead opts for a side-mounted scanner. Yes, there are two Tab S7 models: the S7+ is not only larger, but has a better screen panel (OLED instead of LCD) and, as it's bigger, a more capacious battery too.
- 12.4-inch OLED panel
- 1752 x 2800 resolution
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 16:10 aspect ratio
It's the screen that really helps the Tab S7+ to stand out. A 12.4-inch tablet isn't small, but it's well positioned to take on would-be iPad Pro 12.9 buyers. And the Samsung alternative has far less black border - better known as bezel - around the edges of the screen, which makes for a neater design that's focused on what matters. There's just enough bezel for gripping onto the screen as may be necessary though - which it why tablets can't be totally bezel-free, like some phones.
The key thing for the Plus model is that this panel is OLED - which stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode technology - so each pixel can self-illuminate and thus control the full dynamism from black to white, with no light bleed. As such the Tab S7+ can deliver really inky blacks and great gradations.
The resolution is up there to contend amongst the best currently available too. However, there's an argument that a slightly thicker overall device - which could mean a great battery capacity - would benefit from a 4K Ultra-HD panel (or equivalent at this 16:10 aspect ratio) in order to deliver a truly unbeatable media experience. The price might go through the roof, but then it's pretty close to that already anyway. The only other screen complaint is the reflective surface, meaning reflections can be a bit of bother in certain situations.
We've used this screen to stream YouTube content, play games, flick through Google Photos, and plenty more. It's bright (very bright - with high dynamic range support for HDR10+ content too), colourful without being overtly saturated and fake-looking, and just all-round capable.
Another big point to note is the 120Hz refresh rate. Normally screens offer a 60Hz refresh, meaning 60 cycles every second. With twice that on offer here it's almost like doubling the frame-rate - so when you, say, scroll through a Twitter feed it'll have this extra smoothness about it. It can also help benefit games and other content to some degree - but the real winner of it all, we think, is the benefit to the S Pen stylus' response.
Hardware & Performance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ processor
- 128GB+6GB RAM / 256GB+8GB RAM
- 10,090mAh battery, 45W charging
- 5G connectivity, Wi-Fi 6
- microSD card slot
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ isn't just a little bit powerful, it's outright mighty. To be frank: for many it'll actually have far more power than is necessary. That's why a higher-yet resolution would be no problem for the Qualcomm SD865+ platform (that's top tier stuff for 2020, in case you're wondering) to handle.
What you do with your tablet will determine how much power it'll need to draw upon. A lot of Android-based games don't go to town with graphical fidelity, but some do - and in those you'll get to appreciate every extra bit of animation, clarity and in-game effects to their maximum potential.
We've been playing South Park: Phone Destroyer on this bigger screen - it feels so much bigger than when playing on a phone - and it's pulled the very best out of that game. Downloading its updates is also super-fast thanks to super-fast Wi-Fi connectivity (or there's 5G if you're running a suitable SIM - another benefit of this Qualcomm platform).
We also put everything aside for one day when testing this tablet and streamed a 1440p YouTube video to see how long the battery would last. Every 100 minutes cut into 17 per cent battery on average, so the provided capacity will see you able to stream content for close to 10 hours at a high brightness level. If it's content pre-loaded onto the tablet with connectivity switched off that'll doubtless be even longer. Which is great.
So there's no doubt that multi-tasking, gaming, working, admin-ing, or whatever it is you need to do, will be facilitated by the Tab S7+ without any flapping about. It's very powerful indeed.
Software & Accessories
- Google Android OS, Samsung One 2 UI
- S Pen stylus included (9ms latency)
- Keyboard sold separately
A lot of where that power can now be utilised to a better degree is in the software experience. This, however, is still one area where we feel Google's Android operating system hasn't quite got full grasp of its potential. Sometimes the big-screen experience just feels out of whack with tiny search boxes and navigation, or there's a lack of immediately obvious productivity.
Samsung is looking to alleviate this somewhat in a number of ways. At 12.4 inches the Galaxy Tab S7+ is roughly equal in size to that of a small laptop. The S7+ also has a feature called DeX, which helps to turn Android into a system that looks more like Windows 10 or MacOS. Especially if you add an optional keyboard cover accessory (yes, you can make a ker-ching sound at how much that'll add to the price).
Samsung's One 2 UI user interface also advances on Google's default software take by offering Multi-Active Window - allowing for up to three apps to run at the same time - and there's a nav bar of mini shortcuts to put more stuff at your fingertips.
Or at your S Pen's tip, as there's also an S Pen included in the box, so you can squiggle, doodle, draw, annotate (and whatever else it is you need to do with a stylus) right from the off. It's this that garners great benefit from that 120Hz display, too, as the response rate is super quick - at just 9ms - meaning a pretty-much-instant response that feels as close to a real-life scrawling-onto-paper experience.
We've found the Tab S7+ to do fairly well at acting like a mini PC, but as this is Android there's obviously not access to a full suite of heavyweight apps such as Photoshop CC, Steam, or Ableton. Just saying, as it's worth keeping perspective on whether you would actually spend your cash on an actual laptop or convertible instead.
- Dual rear cameras:
- Main (26mm): 13-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture
- Ultra-wide (12mm): 5MP, f/2.2
- Landscape orientation selfie:
- 8MP, f/2.0
The biggest bit of news about the Tab S7+'s cameras arrangement is related to the front-facing one - it's positioned on the longest edge, designed for use when holding the tablet in landscape format. Gone are the days of holding a tablet like a giant phone, which makes particular sense in this instance, what with the laptop-like use potential.
On the rear there's a dual camera arrangement, which is an echo of what appeared on the earlier Tab S6 (there was no 'Plus' version of that tablet). There's a standard-view camera and an ultra-wide lens.
Neither of these main cameras are going ruffle the feathers of the Note 20 or Ultra though. Not that we envisage using a tablet to take your best ever shots - it's really just in place for necessities, such as taking snaps of documents to forward, or quickly shooting your surroundings as needed - in up to 4K video if you want.
If anything we'd forego the rear cameras entirely to bring the price down. Given the Tab S7+ is pushing towards the laptop replacement possibility, how often do you see a laptop with cameras on its rear? Never, right?
Android tablets don't get better than the Samsung Galaxy S7+. It's ultra-powerful, premium in build, and has a luscious screen.
But Android tablets don't get more expensive either. Which brings a whole other series of questions. Do you really need all this power in such a form factor? Why isn't the screen Ultra-HD 4K for the best possible media experience? Can you handle an Android operating system as a laptop alternative (if that's how you intend to use it)?
So, yes, the Tab S7+ is the best Android tablet going, but it's probably more than most people will ever need. And seeing as Samsung already makes more affordable versions - and there's a strong chance of a Tab S7 Lite in the future - there are some lingering questions and sensible alternatives to ponder.
Apple iPad Pro
Obviously it's not an Android alternative, but it's still a well established alternative - one which many see as king of the tablets and even a potential laptop stand-in.