Galaxy Tab S7+ Impressions: Samsung's hardware emphasizes Android's tablet problem

The Android tablet market has essentially dried up over the past several years, but Samsung has stuck it out and found customers for its Galaxy Tab series. This year, Samsung is bringing the Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ to market with bigger screens and more power than ever. Over the past couple of days, I’ve been using Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7+ and there’s a fair bit to talk about with it, but it’s not all positive.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+: A stunning screen and killer S Pen

So, let’s start with the good. That begins with the huge 12.4-inch display which is a striking AMOLED panel. Really, it’s just a fantastic display by all accounts. The large size has been great for getting work done in DeX as well as for general content consumption, and it doesn’t feel totally unwieldy either.

Colors are vibrant and blacks are deep, just like the Galaxy Tab S6 offered. Plus, the improvement of a 120Hz panel is here and it feels super smooth. I do wish I could enjoy this screen on a smaller form factor – the 11-inch model unfortunately uses an LCD panel – but anyone looking for a big tablet will likely adore this display.

A clear benefit of that larger display, too, is the room it gives the S Pen. The S Pen deserves so much credit this time around. It has a grippy matte texture that feels really nice in the hand and the rubber tip feels really good against the glass display. It still doesn’t feel quite like writing on paper, but the added resistance makes for a much more comfortable handwriting experience. The 9ms response time of the S Pen, too, made handwriting feel all the more natural. Really, Samsung just knocked it out of the park with the S Pen on this tablet.

There are other benefits to this upgraded tablet as well. The larger 12.4-inch size leaves more room for the keyboard to breath, something I could immediately tell when I docked the two together to write up some articles. This is a very good keyboard. Samsung even fixed my biggest complaint by using magnets to attach the “Book Cover” to the back. There’s also a much larger battery that just won’t die, and that bigger screen makes DeX feel much more at-home as well. Performance has also been excellent in my experience so far, regardless of how many apps I have opened up.

Android is just not good on a tablet this big

However, there are a few really huge negatives on the Tab S7+, and most of those come down to software. You’ve probably heard the story a million times before – iPads are better at tablet apps and that’s why Android tablets suck. Personally, I’ve never fully agreed with that logic despite being an iPad user myself. At the right size, Android apps are totally fine on a tablet.

That is not the case for the Galaxy Tab S7+.

A 12.4-inch screen takes Android’s tablet problem and quite literally makes it bigger. Most apps are painfully unoptimized for a canvas this large, something you’ll see very obviously with apps such as Twitter. There are exceptions, of course, such as Microsoft’s Office suite, Gmail, Slack, and others. However, core productivity apps like Google Drive and, at least in my case, Feedly waste so much space on this canvas.

Twitter is a good example of how even popular apps can be poorly optimized for tablets

I was also frustrated even with simple portions of the system. For example, the homescreen. I can’t fully explain why, but Samsung’s homescreen just feels awful on a huge display like this. Even with maximum density, it feels like apps and widgets are wasting their time trying to fit correctly on this screen.

Like I said, I’ve never fully agreed with the argument against Android apps on tablets. However, when you stretch the screen out to a behemoth this size, it’s hard to ignore the truth – Android just doesn’t look good on big tablets and Apple is lightyears ahead when it comes to tablet-optimized features.

DeX is still the main reason to buy a Samsung tablet

The bright side of Samsung tablets, though, is the simple fact that the standard Android UI isn’t the only one in place. Samsung DeX is available with just a quick tap and, when it loads up, you get a familiar desktop-style UI. Here, this big screen can really be put to use.

The keyboard dock makes productivity a breeze. Between Word, Chrome, and Slack I could get just about everything I needed to done on this tablet, and with resizable windows it all felt comfortable and native. I still experienced frustrations when using DeX – like why can’t I use 1Password?! – but it’s far and away better than OneUI is.

Samsung’s Tab S7 series might be a tough sell

I can’t come to a verdict on the Galaxy Tab S7 series after just a few days with one model, but I think this lineup is going to be a tough sell for Samsung. Despite the fairly solid starting price, these tablets are clearly aimed at a smaller and smaller niche of customers.

The biggest reason to buy last year’s Galaxy Tab S6 – aside from DeX – was the AMOLED display. With this generation, you can only get that screen on a much larger tablet since the 11-inch model is an LCD panel. Large tablets are an even smaller niche because they’re more cumbersome to use on the go.

As far as the software issue goes, it’s hard to ignore Samsung’s efforts. DeX is pretty amazing, Samsung’s apps make up for a lot of Android’s shortcomings, and partnerships with Adobe and Microsoft also help fill in gaps. Still, though, Samsung can’t fix the core problems with Android on a tablet, and that’s a huge shame for what is otherwise some truly excellent hardware.

Personally, I don’t think either Galaxy Tab S7 would catch my interest enough to drop the cash on it, but who knows? Perhaps more time to craft a full review will change my mind. Stay tuned for that in the coming weeks.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ launch August 21st.

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