While most manufacturers seem to have ceded the tablet ground entirely to Apple, Samsung continues to fly the flag for Android slates. And, for those of us who see a tablet as a portable movie and music device, this Galaxy S7 FE looks like a real tempter thanks to its large, film-friendly screen and AKG-tuned sound system.
The price of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE starts at £519 / $430 / AU$799. That buys you a wi-fi-only model with 64GB of built-in storage and 4GB of RAM. Adding 5G support takes the price to £589 / $670 / AU$1079.
Opt for the 128GB version and you’ll also get 6GB of RAM. This model will set you back £559 / $600 / AU$899 in wi-fi-only trim, or £629 / AU$1079 with 5G (the combination of 128GB and 5G appears to not be an option in the US).
That pricing puts it in the same rough ballpark as the Apple iPad Air, which starts at £579 / $599 / AU$899.
The most immediately obvious difference between the Galaxy Tab S7 FE and most rivals, including all iPads, is its width (we’re assuming a landscape orientation when talking dimensions). Its 19cm height measurement is just 1cm more than that of the iPad Air, but it’s a full 3cm wider. That’s because the Samsung tablet is built around a 16:10 aspect ratio screen that should lend itself more naturally to displaying films and TV shows than the iPad’s roughly 4:3 aspect ratio. The Samsung’s screen is bigger overall, too, at 12.4 inches to the iPad Air’s 10.9 inches.
While a fairly large tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is quite light, at 610g, so you barely notice it in a backpack and it’s no great chore to hold it for an extended viewing session. It’s brilliantly slim, too, at just 6.3mm – though the camera does protrude out of the back panel, as is very much the modern norm for phones and tablets alike.
Placement of ports and controls is eminently sensible, with the power and volume buttons easily within reach at the top-left of the tablet when you’re holding it in landscape. The stereo speakers are positioned at the top of both of the shorter edges, so generally won’t be blocked by the hands holding the device. Also very sensibly positioned is the front-facing camera, which resides in the middle of the top bezel when using the tablet in landscape. That means you’re always centred when making video calls – something that can’t be said for any of the current iPad models. The bezels themselves are a satisfyingly uniform and slim 9mm all the way around.
All told, this is a very handsome tablet that looks sleek and stealthy in the Mystic Black finish of our review sample. If you fancy making the device a bit more eye-catching, you can opt for green, pink or silver, all of which are also apparently ‘Mystic’.
As committed content consumers, it’s a tablet’s screen that matters most to us, and that of the Galaxy Tab S7 FE largely looks good on paper. It’s large and has that film-friendly 16:10 aspect ratio for starters, and its 2560 x 1600 resolution gives it a very respectable pixel density of 243ppi. Some might be disappointed by the 60Hz refresh rate, but that’s currently the norm for tablets in this price range.
What we’re genuinely disappointed by is an apparent lack of HDR support. While there is unofficially some suggestion that the Galaxy Tab S7 FE is strictly speaking capable of handling HDR10 and HDR10+, Samsung doesn’t list either in its specs and none of the streaming services of note (Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video etc) deliver their content to this tablet in any form of HDR. That seems a glaring omission when all iPads from the Mini up support both Dolby Vision and standard HDR10.
While the value of Dolby Atmos in devices such as phones and tablets (and even most TVs, for that matter) is debatable, it is present here and handled by the dual-speaker system, which is tuned by (the now Samsung-owned) AKG. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, there’s no headphones socket – if you don’t want to listen out-loud, you’ll need to use Bluetooth (which is provided here in Bluetooth 5.2 form) or purchase a USB-C headphones adapter.
Screen size 12.4-inch
Resolution 2560 x 1600 (243ppi)
Storage 64GB / 128GB
Battery life 13 hours
Cameras 8MP rear / 5MP front
Dimensions (hwd) 19 x 28 x 0.6cm
Powering the whole experience is a Snapdragon 750G octa-core chipset, which provides a largely smooth and snappy experience during testing. Only those who expect to use the tablet for hardcore gaming or as a laptop replacement are likely to hit the Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s power limits in any significant way. It is worth bearing in mind that we’re testing the 128GB version of the tablet, which has 2GB more RAM than the 64GB version. On the subject of storage, either version of the Galaxy Tab S7 FE will accept a microSD card of up to 1TB, which can be used for storing oodles of media files (though not additional apps).
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a very efficient tablet, with its 10,090mAh battery good for around 13 hours of video playback, which is a good deal more than the 10 hours offered by the current crop of iPads. It supports 45W charging, too, which will get you a full charge in about 90 minutes. Unfortunately, though, the bundled charger is rated to just 15W and takes more like four hours to charge the tablet. If you want to take advantage of Super Fast Charging, you’ll need to fork out for another charger.
While a top-notch charger is absent from the box, an S-Pen is present. This will likely seem like a brilliant trade-off to creative types who intend to use their tablet for drawing, doodling and note-taking, but to those of us for whom a tablet is primarily an entertainment device, the S-Pen is likely to end up in a drawer that it rarely if ever comes out of. In fairness, it is a nice thing to use if you feel inclined, with a very natural, pen-like feel and action, and the handwriting-to-text recognition is broadly impressive – it’s just not something that everyone will get much use from.
If you’re eyeing up the Galaxy Tab S7 FE as a productivity device, you’ve probably also got the optional Keyboard Cover in your sights. As the name suggests, this is a protective cover that doubles as a keyboard. Combine that with Samsung DeX, an operating system overlay that provides a more computer-like user experience, and you’ve theoretically got the makings of a laptop replacement. Unfortunately, the Keyboard Cover costs £139 / $160 / AU$170 and lacks a trackpad, rather limiting its appeal.
Play a movie or TV show and the first thing that strikes you, predictably, is the size of the image. Watching Lost In Space on Netflix, there’s significantly greater scale to the space and scenery shots than you get from an alternative such as the iPad Air. That should probably come as little surprise, really: not only is the Samsung tablet’s display 1.5 inches bigger on the diagonal than that of its Apple rival, with a 2:1 aspect ratio show such as this you’re actually getting over two extra inches of action. It’s similar to going from a 48-inch TV to a 55-inch model, and you really can’t beat size when it comes to atmosphere and immersion.
It’s also a very bright and punchy delivery, despite the lack of HDR. As Will and his dad cross the snowy peaks of their new home planet in the very first episode, there’s a fantastic pure gleam from the snow that pops from the screen.
As long as you avoid the Vivid preset and stick with Natural instead, colours are pretty good, too. There’s a slight lack of subtlety and sophistication to the shading, with some obvious gradients and even banding at times, but the overall balance is good, with vibrancy when it’s called for (in the flames of the forest fire, for example), but also general authenticity and realism.
It’s not all good news, though, and while the brightness of the presentation is exciting, black depth is rather lacking and a fair amount of detail is clipped out of bright highlights, such as the clouds in a bright sky and the lights of a ship’s interior. At times, the image can look a bit washed out – very bright, but a little lacking in contrast and three-dimensionality.
Switching to Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, that slightly washed out and flat presentation remains, with objects and characters standing out from backgrounds less than they should. There’s also a bit of softness to the picture that robs the fields in the opening shot of their texture, and the gold cities of the Sovereign planet of their channels and edges. Motion, while broadly good, occasionally exhibits a bit of judder and blur that the iPad Air largely keeps in check.
The Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s sound is really quite impressive by prevailing tablet standards, particularly when it comes to movies. Sticking with Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, there’s surprising width to the soundstage and even a good sweep as ships fly across the screen. The spaciousness doesn’t come without directness, and voices are well projected and clear, even as the action builds.
The Samsung goes loud, too, but it’s always got dynamic headroom available, and it gamely steps into another gear at the point that other tablets, the iPad Air included, have reached their limit and flattened out. A little more bass weight wouldn’t go amiss and there’s occasionally a hint of brightness, but for movie sound, delivered by the speakers, the Samsung barely puts a foot wrong.
Sticking with the speakers but switching to music, the good news broadly continues, with the tablet’s combination of breadth, directness and dynamics lending itself well to SBTRKT’s Trials Of The Past. That said, there’s a slight lack of crispness and rhythmic precision when compared to the very best, and we’d appreciate greater tonal depth.
Of course, you shouldn’t really be listening to music via a tablet’s speakers, and connecting a pair of headphones (either via USB-C adapter or Bluetooth) obviously elevates the experience significantly. Somewhat surprisingly, though, the presentation via headphones does have similar traits to that from the speakers, albeit with the flaws highlighted. In short, the delivery is still airy yet clear and direct, but it’s also a touch soft and lightweight.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a really appealing tablet. By offering a big, bright screen in a cinematically suitable aspect ratio, it immediately stands out against the competition.
Sacrifices have been made, though, and while the screen is big, it’s lacking the sophistication of the best in class. The sound, meanwhile, suits movie soundtracks well but could be more crisp and punchy, and for every person who loves the S-Pen, we reckon there’ll be at least two or three who will never use it.
All of that said, if big and bold is what you’re after from a tablet, this Samsung is a strong choice, particularly if you’re committed to the Android ecosystem.
- Picture 4
- Sound 4
- Features 4
Read our review of the Apple iPad Air (2020)
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Or maybe the Apple iPad Mini 6 (2021)
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