Samsung’s Honeycomb tablet is lightweight, compact and speedy but more costly than competitors
One of the toughest challenges I thought I’d have in reviewing the Samsung Galaxy 7.0 Plus Android tablet is its availability relative to Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet.
Fortunately, I started playing with the Plus last Friday and have left the Kindle Fire, which arrived yesterday morning, relatively untouched. I do want to compare them but not without giving the Plus proper lip service.
Packed with features
Honestly, the device deserves it. The Plus, with its 7-inch, WSVGA (1024 x 600) Plane-to-Line Switching (PLS) LCD weighs only 12.2 ounces and has a metallic grey enclosure. It is the Android tablet Samsung should have launched in 2010 to challenge Apple’s iPad instead of the awkward, chunky Galaxy Tab 7.
While the original 7-inch Tab only weighed 13.5 ounces, it was a full 0.5 inch thick. But that wasn’t the bad part; the original 7 made application access awkward because it ran Android 2.2 Froyo, which is decidedly not fit for consuming applications on the larger tablet form factor, with a 1GHz, single-core processor.
In my tests of the Wi-Fi-only model, applications run beautifully on the Android 3.2 Honeycomb-powered Plus, which has a great, speedy little 1.2 GHz processor. The tablet UI also benefits from Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface, which is super-friendly to consumers who enjoy customisable widgets.
The Social Hub application widget, for example, elegantly lets users link their email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts with the tablet, which renders messages and updates in one consolidated view with headshots associated with contacts’ profiles.
Netflix and YouTube played well on the Plus, as did the magazine-reading application Next Issue and Samsung’s Media Hub for movies and TV shows. The Plus has some of the more useful applications I’ve ever seen preloaded on a Honeycomb tablet, including Google Maps with Navigation turn-by-turn GPS directions, which lets users type or speak their intended destinations into the Plus.
These include the pen memo note-taking application that lets users write notes on the tablet with their fingers and save them for later, a photo editing application for pictures you snap with the tablet and Polaris Office, which lets users read and edit documents formatted for PCs on tablets and smartphones.
One of the bigger draws to this tablet is Peel’s Smart Remote application, which lets users manage their home entertainment content and systems from the tablet. There is also a screensaver application and a dedicated screen-capture button in the Honeycomb navigation bar, accessible via any of the five home screens.
The tablet has 1GB of RAM and is available in 16GB and 32GB options, though both are expandable to 64GB with a microSD card, providing more than enough storage. I wasn’t a fan of the Plus’ 3 megapixel rear-facing camera, which, though it had little latency, paled in comparison to some of the tablets and smartphones with 5MP or 8MP shutters.
This camera also shoots video at a modest 720p high definition, though it does playback in 1080p HD, and the 2MP front-facing camera will provide video chats ably enough. The battery is also only a 4,000-mAh power supply, on the low-end of today’s tablets, so expect to recharge early and often if you consume a lot of multimedia.
The only other thing I found distasteful about the Plus is its price: At $399 (£253) for the Wi-Fi version, it’s going to be awfully hard for the Plus to sell well this holiday season versus the Kindle Fire, which costs half that at $199 (£126).
And that’s a shame, because Samsung crafted a really nice tablet in the Plus. I’m just not sure that Samsung, even with Google Maps Navigation, Peel Remote, Netflix and Next Issue applications, will be able to convince consumers to buy the Plus over the Kindle Fire, which has been heavily touted and marketed.