Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 review

Samsung's mid-size tablet tries to close the mid-range hole in their handheld lineup

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (Verizon)
Samsung's mid-size tablet tries to close the mid-range hole in their handheld lineup, but also digs one in your pocket

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Samsung seems to be going through a bit of an identity crisis in the tablet market, with multiple devices at multiple sizes and price points. As a result, it's not clear where some of the offerings are supposed to sit. Is the Galaxy Tab 7.7 meant to replace a larger tablet? Is it meant to replace your phone? Samsung says the device can fit easily in a coat pocket, but we found it too bulky for that.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (Verizon)

They also promise that it can easily make voice calls. Samsung's website says "The Galaxy Tab 7.7 calling function has been upgraded to let you make and receive voice calls privately by using Receiver Mode in public places.

You no longer need a headset or Bluetooth for voice calls." But we couldn't find any reference to that inside the device itself. It actually would be nice if you could make calls with it, just don't fool yourself into thinking you can put this in your jeans and head off to the beach.

Given the "not quite a phone / not quite a full tablet" feeling of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, it really seems to work best as a media device. Watching videos on that impressive screen was definitely one of the highlights of using it, as well as reading books, playing music, or scrolling through social media like Facebook or Twitter.

Anything that requires heavy text entry, such as longer emails or working on a word document, definitely needs an external input device. Swyping was much easier with a stylus, but for text our fallback is still a good old keyboard.

We liked

The screen is truly impressive. Although the resolution doesn't match Apple's Retina Display, it is definitely in the same ballpark and provides very crisp images. Another feature we liked was the ability to plug in the included USB charging cable into your computer and easily drag and drop files over, although it did require us to download the Android File Transfer app on our MacBook Pro, which can be a temperamental piece of software.

We also liked the 4G LTE network. A lot. It's hard to overstate how great it is to download apps and media quickly, and to begin streaming quickly while traveling. If you live in an area with a strong 4G network, this device is a commuter's dream.

Just not the kind of commuter who needs to get a ton of work done in spreadsheets or word documents. But if you want to catch up on a week's worth of television shows and immerse yourself in a game, this will make long train rides a lot more bearable. Especially with (yes, again) that screen and the incredible battery life.

We disliked

The price is the biggest barrier to fully enjoying the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 right now. After all, if you decide to go contract free, why wouldn't you just pick up a 10-inch tablet for the same cost? Even Apple's new iPad with the Retina Display, which trumps the this device's AMOLED, can be had for $70 less. If the price point included S Pen input and Ice Cream Sandwich, we could forgive the high cost. But as it is with the current feature set and onboard software, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 just isn't worth the premium price.

Which brings us to Honeycomb, something we also weren't fond of. Although Samsung has promised an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, with no date in sight who knows when that might arrive. With this tablet's price and promised status as a top tier 7-inch device, it needs to be running the most current operating system. Why this isn't a priority for them, we don't know.

But given the fact that they have a wide range of devices in this space, perhaps it's just taking awhile to implement.

With more tablets coming to the table ever day, some now in quad-core configurations and with equally impressive screen options, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 faces quick obsolescence unless it can compete. A price drop and software upgrade would be a big step in the right direction.

Final verdict

The form and size of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 feels perfect for a device you can grab to take with you for a long trip, a meeting, or a trip to the ballpark. It isn't as unwieldy as a 10-inch tablet, but the tradeoff is the screen loses real estate previously devoted to input. As a result, it doesn't feel like a serious business device (unless you pair it with a keyboard) that you would want by your side through a busy day of meetings and projects.

What you're left with is a very pretty, functional, and expensive media device. Android fans should consider this device if it fits their needs, but with other more attractive options in similar price ranges, you'll want to take a hard look at those needs and decide if it actually works for what you need it to do. For a casual camera and entertainment unit, it works well. Any more than that, and you're going to find the capabilities stretched very thin.

If Apple drops into the smaller tablet range as has long been rumored, Samsung will face an even steeper uphill battle in this market. A dream device might be born out of the Galaxy Tab 7.7 in the form of an 8.5" tablet with S Pen input, but until that comes, the 7.7 just feels like an overpriced toy rather than a useful tool.