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Looking at reviews, feedback on Twitter, and other conversations around the internet, the iPad seems to be universally recommended and accepted as the default solution for tablets. If you are primarily interested in watching video content and playing games on Apple Arcade it is indeed tough to beat the 10.2-inch iPad for about $300.
However, if you want to also use your tablet for serious productivity and possibly even extend that functionality where a tablet can serve as your primary computing device, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is the one to seriously consider.
In addition to productivity, I'll point out ways in which media consumption and gaming may also be best on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus. I bought a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 last month, but am also considering one of these tablets as my ZDNet writing platform and primary home computer. Like the iPad and iPhone, there are advantages to sticking with one platform and I'll discuss that in this article too.
There are several ways that the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is better than the iPad, especially for business use, including Samsung DeX desktop mode, full mouse/trackpad support, 5G capability (I didn't get to test that with this device), and expandable storage. The hardware is elegant, the S Pen has new Air Actions that work well, and the new keyboard cover fixes most problems from last year as listed in my Tab S6 review.
Display: 12.4 inch, 2800 x 1752 pixels resolution Super AMOLED with 120 Hz refresh rate
Operating system: Android 10
Storage: 128GB/256GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
Cameras: 13MP main and 5MP ultra-wide rear cameras. 8MP front-facing camera
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, Bluetooth 5.0, 5G/LTE (optional)
Battery: 10,090 mAh
Audio: Four speakers tuned by AKG with Dolby Atmos technology
Dimensions: 285 x 185 x 5.7 mm and 575 grams
Colors: Mystic Black, Mystic Silver, and Mystic Bronze
The S Pen comes with the Tab S7 Plus and attaches magnetically on the back of the tablet. It also charges up wirelessly since it has the same technology as seen on the Note 20 Ultra with Bluetooth functions and Air Actions. An extra S Pen is $59.99.
The Book Cover keyboard is sold separately, although there were bundle options at launch. Last year I described the keyboard as a failure and listed four design flaws in my Tab S6 review. These flaws included the back cover piece, wobbly keyboard transition piece and weak magnets, active keyboard when rotated under the tablet, and lack of backlighting.
The back cover now incorporates magnets and is an awesome accessory, even without the lower keyboard attachment. It has a cover for the S Pen and also a hinge mechanism with a wide range of supported angles.
While there is still a bit of play in the plastic hinge piece, it is stiffer than the one on last year's keyboard. The magnets connecting the Pogo pins are also much stronger so the keyboard doesn't fall off regularly like it did last year.
My testing confirms that the keyboard is made inactive after about a 45-degree rotation so when you place it under the rear hinge it is no longer active. The keyboard remains inactive until you close it onto the face of the tablet and this works just as intended and desired.
There is no backlighting on the keyboard, but a few keys have increased in size, there is a DeX toggle key, and the trackpad is larger. Overall, the Book Cover keyboard has been significantly improved and I can now recommend it as an essential part of the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus experience. If you plan to use the Tab S7 Plus as your primary computing device, then the keyboard is a must have. Hopefully we see some Black Friday offers on the keyboard when you purchase the tablet as that may push me over the edge to pick up a 5G model.
In August I had the chance to spend a week with the tablet before shipping it back to Samsung with non-final software loaded on the device. I've had this retail model to test out for nearly a month so I could really put it through its paces and test its capabilities.
Like most Samsung devices today, the hardware is fantastic. The display is the crown jewel of this tablet and it is tough to beat Samsung's Super AMOLED display prowess. It's a 2800 x 1752 pixel resolution display with HDR10 Plus and a 120Hz refresh rate for flawless scrolling and navigation.
Minimal bezels are present on the edges and about as small as you would want on a tablet that you have to handle in portrait and landscape orientation. The front-facing camera is centered on the right side (top in landscape) so it's perfect for video conferencing, which is a standard form of communication today.
One feature I prefer on the Tab S7 compared to the Tab S7 Plus is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. On this Tab S7 Plus unit, we see the sensor located under the display over on the right side, when the tablet is in landscape. This is a bit awkward and I would rather have seen the sensor in the power button as it is on the smaller Tab S7.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus hands-on: in pictures
Two speakers are found on each side of the tablet, when in landscape orientation. This quad-speaker system is tuned by AKG with Dolby Atmos surround sound. Watching movies or playing Xbox games on this tablet has been a shear joy with no headphones.
The USB-C port is on the right side (bottom) while the power and volume buttons are on the top (right side). POGO pins to connect the keyboard accessory are on the bottom (left side).
Swinging around the back we find the dual cameras and flash in the upper left corner with the magnetic storage/charging area for the S Pen adjacent to the cameras.
In addition to the display and speakers, the S Pen is a staple of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Apple has its Apple Pencil, but it doesn't have nearly the same functionality or capability as the S Pen on a Samsung tablet. Handwriting on the Tab S7 Plus is a lovely, fluid experience and I find myself using the S Pen a lot more on the large tablet display compared to a Note phone. With a Tab S7 Plus, my S Pen usage is satisfied since my Z Fold 2 does not support the S Pen.
We seem to hear a lot of angst about Android on tablets and while there are still some problematic apps, for example, Instagram only appears in full screen portrait orientation, Samsung has put a lot of work into optimizing the tablet experience and it is not as bad as some make it out to be. All Samsung apps work very well on the tablet and many are also optimized to show split-screen views for improved productivity.
Nearly every other application I installed works well on the tablet and many developers also offer excellent tablet experiences. Google could actually take some lessons from some developers as apps like Keep Notes have a ways to go for looking great on tablets.
Microsoft does a solid job with some of its apps, such as Outlook, Office, ToDo, and OneNote, but there is room for improvement with others like Teams. The ability to sync Samsung Notes with OneNote is now possible and this capability has me using the S Pen even more.
Looking at my iPad next to the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, I honestly don't see any apps that are on the iPad that are not available on the Tab or have equivalents with similar functionality. The gap between Android tablets and the iPad may be more perceived than reality and I would love to know more about specific concerns people have with Android tablets.
You can setup the ability to sync your calls and texts between your Samsung phone and the Tab S7 Plus so this has been great to keep the flow of work going no matter which device I am working with. This is a similar experience to what iPhone owners see with a connected iPad.
I'm not a massive gamer, but as soon as I saw the ability to sign up for Xbox GamePass Ultimate and play games on Android devices I signed up for the service and bought a MODA Bluetooth controller. Gaming on my Z Fold 2 is awesome, but then playing games on the Tab S7 Plus with the big screen and quad speakers takes it to the next level.
Price and availability
The Tab S7 Plus is available now as a WiFi model or cellular 5G model. The WiFi model starts at $849.99 for 128GB internal storage with a 256GB model for $929.99 and $1029.99 for 512GB. 5G models are only available with 128GB internal storage for $1049.99, but you do have a microSD card slot so you can extend the storage of the device with a card.
Experiences after a month of use
Over the past month I have marked up PDFs, synced my Samsung Notes to OneNote, converted my handwriting to text, watched Netflix shows on the plane, played a number of Xbox games with my MODA Bluetooth controller, connected via the Horizon VMWare app to my engineering firm's network to travel without a PC, and much more. My experiences have been nearly flawless and the ability to have a 5G tablet that can replace my Chromebook is exciting.
I've used the tablet in both traditional Android mode and in Samsung DeX mode. When I connect an external monitor it is interesting to see DeX on the external monitor with Android on the tablet display so that I can actually use both interfaces at the same time for serious multi-tasking. I wrote this review in the ZDNet CMS in DeX mode and it was a solid experience. DeX mode has been improved and addressed one of my major issues; you can now drag an app to the edge to have it pinned to that side and then open up another app so at least you have a split-screen to start with. Of course, with DeX you can have a host of apps open with various window sizes, just like a PC. However, I like having this capability, although I still find the Edge screen widget with a single tap to open multiple apps a better approach.
My primary computing device for writing has been a Chromebook and while that platform offers a fantastic browser experience, the Tab S7 Plus is better for Android apps. DeX mode closely models a Chromebook experience, but since I'm a Samsung phone user there is an even better ecosystem connection available and I may replace my Chromebook with one of these tablets.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is Samsung's best tablet ever and also an extremely capable computing device that can serve as your primary computer. DeX can now even easily be extended to your TV for an even more visible window into your work.