Looking for a solid 7-inch tablet? Good luck; large phones have killed them off

The very devices that kicked off the small-slate category are now a second thought at best by most major hardware makers. I blame the phablet phenomenon.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributing Writer on
Asus MemoPad.jpg

This past weekend, I decided to retire two old tablets with the idea of replacing them: The original 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab and very underrated Galaxy Tab 7.7 from 2012; one of the first small slates with an OLED display.

The problem I ran into? There aren't many good small slate choices to be had these days

I found that odd considering these were the devices that essentially kicked off the small tablet movement. Indeed, my use of the Galaxy Tab in 2011 prompted a post where I said I was dumping the iPad because the smaller tablet was more portable. Ironically, Apple execs read that post and started up conversation about the potential market for an iPad mini, which of course debuted in 2012. Go figure.

I blame the number of handset models with larger displays as for the reason why 7-inch slates are seemingly on the way out. At a certain point, a small tablet doesn't add much more value than a large phone. Why buy a 7-inch tablet if your phone has a 5.5- or 6-inch display? You're not gaining much and you have to carry a second device.

But my phone - the Nexus 5X - isn't what I'd call "large" due to the 5.2-inch display. And while I can (and do) consume content on it, it's not my screen size of choice for long periods of travel.

Considering one of my mobile resolutions for 2016 is to reduce the number of devices I carry around, why was I even looking for a small slate to begin with? Fair question.

I have far more travel plans in 2016 than ever before and although I've gone "all in" on the iPad Pro, there are places and times when due to size, it won't be ideal for use. I'm looking for a device to use for reading, watching video and some light browsing and app use while in trains, planes and automobiles.

Hands-on with the new high resolution Nexus 7 (Gallery)

It's hard to believe but the picking's are slim these days.

Most of the major hardware makers these days have moved beyond the 7-inch screen and create tablets in the 8- to 12-inch range. A one-handed, portable device, those are not; at least not for me and my small hands.

Amazon's line of tablets actually starts with a 6-inch model and, of course, the old Fire HD 7 has a 7-inch display. But I'd prefer to have a full Google Android experience, not be locked into a forked version of Amazon's ecosystem.

And while I don't need high-end hardware - I'm watching the 2016 budget - Amazon's line of Fire tablets doesn't use what I'd call custom edge components: They have relatively limited processors and memory, for example.

Samsung does have a $149 Galaxy Tab A with 7-inch display, but those too are generally bare-bone devices and TouchWiz isn't my favorite user interface these days.

After that, there's not much else to choose from unless you go with a lesser known hardware maker or a tablet aimed at kids.

I'm almost kicking myself for selling the 2013 Nexus 7 that I had back in the day. The hardware is a bit outdated now but there's enough horsepower for the small tablet to run Android 6.0.

Nowadays, the Nexus 7 is difficult to find: Google stopped selling it months ago so remaining inventory is all used or refurbished with average prices for a decent slate around $100.

I ended up buying something old, but still newer than the Nexus 7. I paid $114 for theAsus MemoPad 7 (the ME572C model that debuted in late 2014).

Like the Nexus 7, it has a 7-inch 1920 X 1200 resolution IPS display and 2 GB of memory. Unlike Google's old small slate that uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, however, the MemoPad runs on 64-bit Intel Atom quad-core processor clocked at 1.83 GHz. The Asus product also has a microSD card slot that I can load up with movies; you can't do that with the Nexus 7. We'll see how it works for my purposes when it arrives.

Is it just me? Am I in the minority when it comes to still wanting a solid 7-inch slate because large phones are "good enough" for the same purposes?


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