Verizon Wireless Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE review

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 was announced last September and has been available overseas for quite a few months. It finally made it’s way to the U.S. as the latest 4G LTE tablet on Verizon Wireless. There’s certainly no shortage of tablets available, but if your next tablet purchase has to have LTE connectivity, your choices are more limited. If you’re looking for a mid-sized tablet with solid LTE coverage, you really only have two choices; this one or the DROID XYBOARD 8.2. This is my full review, but you can also check out my initial hands on as well.

Design

The first thing you notice when you pick up the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is it’s thin. It’s one of the thinnest tablets in the world as it comes in at 7.9mm thick. That’s 1mm thinner than the DROID XYBOARD 8.2. It’s also very light as it weights 340 grams, which is 46 grams less than the XYBOARD. My biggest complaints with most devices is the shiny finishes, of which Samsung has been the most guilty of. Although it’s glossy and somewhat slippery, I do have to admit it’s an improvement from past devices. The backing is a brushed metal, which is a nice change for Samsung. For tablets, I prefer a rubberized backing like what the Toshiba Thrive 7′ offers, but I can live with this one.

Samsung chose to put the speakers at the bottom (in portrait mode) so unfortunately when watching a movie, its impossible to get proper stereo sound. The bottom also includes the charging port, which forces the tab to be in portrait mode when utilizing the keyboard dock. More on that later. One other quirky placement is the IR port which is on the right side (again in portrait mode). To me this would be more suitable at the top just like the DROID XYBOARD 8.2. Other than these things, the rest of the design is basic. You will find the LTE SIM card slot and the microSD slot on the left side with protective covers and the power is at the top right with the volume rocker just below that. At the top, you will find the microphone jack. All in all the Galaxy Tab 7.7 looks gorgeous and feels solid.

Hardware

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE features a 7.7-inch (1280 x 800) Super AMOLED Plus display (196 ppi), a 1.4 GHz dual-core Exynos processor, 1GB of RAM, 3.2MP rear camera (with 720p recording), 2MP front camera, 16GB of internal storage, microSD for up to 32GB of extra storage, an IR port, HDMI through an optional dock or adapter, Enterprise SAFE, Bluetooth 3.0, and WiFi.

Battery

One of the high points of the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is the battery. Being a 4G LTE device I didn’t expect much from the 5100 mAh battery, but I was pleasantly surprised. While connected to LTE, you will easily get a few days with light use, but where it really impressed me was the video rundown test. I ran continuous video while connected to LTE, and I was able to get 10 hours. It should also be noted that I had the display brightness set to about 2/3′s, which means you could easily get closer to 12 hours with a setting more closer to 50%. That’s incredible for a tablet that is connected to LTE and only 7.9mm thick.

Performance

The 1.4 dual-core Exynos screams. This isn’t a quad-core, but the power of the Exynos will satisfy the majority of people. Unless you’re a serious gamer, there’s no reason to believe the Galaxy Tab 7.7 won’t be able to handle whatever you throw at it. I’ve never been a big benchmark fan as I always lean on “real world” experience, but I did run the AnTuTu Benchmark, which came in at 4948. This is surprisingly just above the Amazon Kindle Fire, but to me it performs way better. This is the reason why I’m not a fan of benchmarks. Trust me, you won’t have any complaints.

As to the display, you can’t give it enough praise. The 1280 x 800 Super AMOLED Plus display is stunning. You won’t find a better display in any other mid-sized tablet period. The colors are spot on with deep blacks. It would’ve been nice if the PPI was closer to the new iPad’s 264 PPI, but this is a 7.7-inch screen so that’s just me attempting to find something wrong.

Accessories

I had a chance to try out the keyboard dock, which I highly recommend if you plan on doing a lot of typing. It works very well with the shortcuts that Samsung implemented. Here is a quick video showing how it works.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Software

Disappointingly, Android 3.2 Honeycomb is on board. At this point in the game Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich should be the OS of choice, but it seems to be a widespread problem as way too many devices are still stuck at Gingerbread, or in the case of tablets, Honeycomb. When the ICS update will land is anyone’s guess, but I’m positive that this device will get it at some point. On top of Honeycomb is Samsung’s UI called TouchWiz. There’s nothing unique about this version of TouchWiz as opposed to the other Galaxy Tab’s. It’s one of the more subtle UI skins and has some really nice enhancements like the notification panel and the ability to take a screen shot with the added softkey

Since this a Verizon branded device, you will get your share of bloatware. You will find apps such as AllShare, Amazon Kindle, Backup Assistant, Blockbuster, Dead Space (EA), Netflix, QuickOffice, Samsung Apps, Peel Smart Remote, Social Hub, The Daily, UNO, VideoSurf, and VZ Navigator. Samsung also included Pen Memo for taking quick memo’s, but you will have to type or use your finger for writing. They also included a photo editor app that will let you resize, crop, and add color effects.

Camera

If you’ve read any of my previous tablet reviews, you know the camera isn’t worth mentioning, but since it’s there, I will. I would rather see manufacturers concentrate on the front facers for tablets since it’s more likely that they will be used. Samsung chose to put in a 2MP lens up front which was very nice, but they totally skimped out with the 3.2MP rear facer. I know I shouldn’t care, but in my opinion, if you’re going to put one in, you might as well make it at least 5MP. Either way, it’s not a big deal and certainly not a reason to stay away from this tab. Here are some example photos if you’re at all concerned with it.

Closing

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE is a solid tablet, but it’s not cheap. It’s priced at $499, but that’s with a 2-year contract. You really have to look at the off contract price to really understand how expensive this is. If you walked into Verizon and didn’t sign a contract, it would cost you $699. That’s really steep considering this is a 7.7-inch tablet. If you really need a tablet that has data connectivity beyond WiFi, I guess it’s not a bad deal. However, I would probably lean towards the DROID XYBOARD 8.2, which has a little bit bigger screen and better IR integration for less money. It goes for $429 on contract or $599 off contact.

For me personally, I don’t require anything more than WiFi so I would either wait for a WiFi version to become available or grab the Motorola WiFi-only XYBOARD 8.2 for as low as $399, and right now Motorola is throwing in an HD Dock and portfolio case for free. If you don’t mind going a little larger, there is an amazing deal right now on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. Best Buy is offering it for $349 with the keyboard dock for free.

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