Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Notes

You’ll recall that when I lost my Mac and bought the emergency netbook, I also picked up a Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 inch tablet, on the rationale that, damn it, I was grumpy and I wanted a toy. This is not an excellent reason to buy a piece of electronic equipment, I am the first to note. That said, I’d had my eye on this particular tablet for a bit, so it wasn’t entirely impulsive. I’ve lived with it now for a week and I’m ready to mention what I like and don’t like about it.

First, a general note: I like it. We have an iPad here in the Scalzi household (it’s primarily Krissy’s) and while it’s surely a nice piece of equipment, I’m not in love with its size. A ten-inch tablet is too large for my tastes; unless you’re Shaquille O’Neal, it’s not something you can carry around or use in a single hand, and in other respects it’s also unwieldy. I understand the boffins at Apple have decreed that the iPad is the perfect size for a tablet and that if we have a problem with that there’s something wrong with us, not them. But screw them, they’re just wrong. In my case, a 7-inch tablet is just about perfectly sized: Large enough to give you enough space to see a lot of things, but small enough to operate with one hand. It’s paperback book-sized, basically, and there’s a reason paperbacks are the size they are: Because they make ergonomic sense for humans.

I am using my tablet primarily as a reading appliance, and to that respect it’s been pretty great. Both the Kindle and Nook apps look good and perform well on it, and the screen is a high enough resolution (1024×600) that I can read books without eyestrain (and, because its an LCD screen, I can read it without a nightlight). I’m also trying the Next Issue app, which works like a Netflix for magazines, and it’s for me at least a nice way to cruise through various magazines without them cluttering up my house.

Web browsing is fine — text is small in portrait mode (one needs to pinch zoom) and perfectly readable in landscape. One thing I do like that is that things don’t automatically default to mobile versions of Web sites. I also like that I can access my own site’s backend via the browser, so I can go in and moderate comments more completely than I can do on my phone. The Android 4.0 system means all the Google toys work in a fairly optimized manner, which is especially useful with GMail, which I use. The keyboard in portrait mode is easy to operate with two thumbs.

Although I don’t use it much for video, it handles video just fine; I ran a bit of Serenity on it via Netflix and didn’t have any problems. Haven’t played any games on it so far, but that’s not why I got it, so even if it were to choke on that I wouldn’t care much. The camera is definitely meh, but it’s another function that I did not buy the tablet for, so that’s fine.

Things not to like: It only comes with 8GB of resident memory and half of that’s devoted to apps that I didn’t pick and probably won’t use but come with the thing anyway. This is mitigated by the MicroSD slot and the fact that I just got a 32GB card in that format for $20 (and that it comes with a deal with Dropbox for something like 50GB of space for a year, which does not suck). The power button and the volume rocker button are close enough to each other that I’m always pressing the wrong button. This is annoying. The screen is occasionally less than perfect with touch response (particularly with small type websites), and gets smeary real fast. It’s slightly weird to think the 4.5-inch screen on my phone has a higher resolution than this 7-inch screen.

However, to be blunt, these criticisms for me are blunted by the fact that a) I paid $240 bucks for the thing, which is not a lot, all things considered, b) the tablets closest to it in capability/design — the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire — have similar or lesser specs and are crimped by design in order to keep you in their respective ecosystems. With regards to a), I was not expecting genuinely top-flight specs for what I paid, and what I got for the price is more than satisfactory. With regards to b), why pay for crimped tools when you can get them uncrimped for essentially the same price?

So, for the price and for what I use the thing for, the Galaxy Tab 2 pretty much hits my needs dead on. If you’re looking for a solid, basic tablet in a smaller form factor and for not a whole lot of cash (relatively speaking), it’s worth giving a look.

33 Comments on “Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Notes”

  1. I have as my phone the Samsung Galaxy SII, because it’s about the largest screen of any pocketable cell phone, and am happy with it.

    In particular, someone at Apple desperately needs to learn about Swype. Text entry on my phone is so much better than on my iPad.

  2. Have yoy tried using Skype or Google Talk video with it yet? I’ve got an overseas trip coming up and I’d rather not bring a full laptop, so I’m looking for alternatives

  3. “I understand the boffins at Apple have decreed that the iPad is the perfect size for a tablet and that if we have a problem with that there’s something wrong with them, not us.” Typo for ” wrong with us, not them”?

  4. Thanks. I’m thinking of breaking down and getting a tablet. I’m not willing to get a smart phone, as it does more than I need a phone to do, but is too small to be easily readable.

  5. I’ve had a Galaxy Tab 10.1 (version 1) for about a year and I’ve been mostly pleased with it. I have to agree with you about the size. My brother has a Kindle Fire and the difference in holding the two was dramatic and I found myself like the the size of the Kindle Fire, especially for reading books and magazines. (Love the Next Issue app, as well.)

  6. Thanks for this post. I’ve been kicking around a tablet purchase for myself sometime this year, and I’ve been hesitant about shackling myself to Amazon or B&N. Thus, I’ve been considering this one, and since I’d be using it for what you’re using it for, the fact that you like it for those things speaks volumes in its favor.

  7. I don’t like Apple telling us what size we want. But the iPad happens to be the right size for me. I can’t use my iPhone hardly at all, it’s way too small for my old eyes and my rather small adult sized fingers. At least I can type on my iPad. And pretty soon I will be reading Redshirts on it (as soon as it’s out and I verify that it’s not DRM protected). Kindles are too small for my tastes.

  8. Why oh why can’t they let us have this tablet with a fully functional cell phone capability?

    Don’t tell me it’s too big. I’m not a little kid. I can handle a phone the size of a paperback book.

    The uncool factor doesn’t bother me. I’m old. I used a rotary phone in high school!

  9. I have an iPad and the rest of the family each have the Samsung Galaxy Tab they all love their Tab and I LOVE my iPad. Of course I’m visually impaired so it does limit my choices. Also love the old saying “go big, or go home”!!

  10. My GT 7″ will be 2 years old in November. Other than the fact that I paid more than double and have half the speed, it’s just like yours. Oh, yes, it’s stuck in FroYo. I still love the size, but won’t be buying the next one from a mobile carrier. Good choice, John.

  11. I got a Nook Tablet, because their warranty promised to cover water damage. And so it’s a Netflix-streaming device I can watch in the hot tub, if I so choose. And I sometimes do so choose.

    Were it not for that, I suspect I would have gotten a different tablet as my geeky toy. (The iPad is there for reading, and occasionally other stuff, so it’s more of a necessity than toy.)

  12. To mitigate the smudging you can get a Zagg Invisible Skin. I use it on both my Kindle and my Android phone. It seems a bit more fingerprint resistant, doesn’t seem to interfere with the touch capacity (Draw Something for instance works great), and as an added bonus adds scratch resistance to the screen or whole body.

  13. John said: “I was grumpy and I wanted a toy. This is not an excellent reason to buy a piece of electronic equipment
    To which I have to add, “Oh, the HELL it isn’t!”

  14. Content aside, this is the first time I’ve seen an actual *use* for the Photo Booth application on the Macbook. Cool. But I still prefer dead-tree books.

  15. I read a book on the iPad and was convinced thst I want a 7″ tablet. Did you try your device as an IR remote?

  16. It has to be said that Apple were first but at this point, Samsung seem to have nailed it in both the phone and tablet markets. Nice to see another serious player at last.

  17. I’ve got the Samsung Galaxy 10″ tablet, because I have a first-generation Kindle, and that seems a bit dinky to me. I mostly use it in the house, so a lack of portability wasn’t a big worry. The comment you made about web sites being too small in portrait mode was a major deciding factor for me…I mostly want the thing as a portable browser, so having to zoom every time I want to read something (including technical documentation, which I read for work) would drive me insane. Also, the 10″ size displays a comic book quite nicely, whereas the 7″ does not, which I realize is not relevant for most people. That said, I recognize that most people don’t have the same preferences as I do, and I appreciate that Samsung offers a choice.

    As for the smudging, while I have Zagg shields on some of my other handheld electronics, I decided to forgo one on the tablet. I got a hard case for it instead, and I keep a polishing cloth in the case, which I can use whenever the smudginess gets to me.

  18. For a second there John, I thought I’d reverted to childhood and was reading an episode of Jerry Pournelle’s “Chaos Manor” from _Byte_.

    (Aside: My home I shall dub “String Theory Manor”; I’m not sure if the things that happen in it would make sense if only I were smart enough, or whether they are actually just bullshit)

  19. Thanks for the note. I have been wanting a tablet but have not been willing to make the jump because the price/benefit is not in my favor yet. When I have played with 7″ for web browsing I have come across a lot of sites that are not formatted for the screen size and/or require a lot of unnecessary scrolling around to read. For that reason I prefer the larger 10″. But, at the same time, I get that 10″ is too big for easily sticking in a pocket or using one handed but I’m not sure which trade-off would make me more unhappy over time.

    It would be nice to have a system where I could borrow each for a couple of months.

  20. I’ve had a Motorola Xoom since it was released and I am quite satisfied with it. With bluetooth keyboard and mouse, it came quite close to replacing my Windows laptop. I have been considering a 7″ tablet, and will probably pick up the Google tablet when it is released this summer.

  21. Did you get the model with the SIM card slot?

    For a 7inch tablet at a lower price-point, there’s another choice — the Lenovo A1. I’ve had one for about six months, and really like it. The specs are similar to the 7″ Galaxy Tab, though Lenovo hasn’t sent an OTA update to Android 4 yet. Price is $199 on the website. It lacks the easy retail availability of the Samsung, though.

  22. Mike Navratil:

    I got it off of Amazon.

    Beth Meacham:

    No SIM card. I mostly use it at home so WiFi works fine. If there’s no wifi nearby and I’m out and about with it, I can use my phone’s built-in wifi hotspot (although in that case, I’m like just to use the phone for whatever it is I am doing).

  23. Grats! I had the first version until some mean person stole it (may they never be able to unlock the thing) and although it was kind of flawed as a first product, a little slow, and so on I agree with you the format is superb. I even used it as my phone for a while, and while not practical for that it was actually possible to carry one device and do everything.

  24. @odocoileus:

    My coworker has a tablet that he uses as telephone, it looks funky, but works well.

    So keep looking they’re out there, at least here in Germany.

  25. Yeah, that’s just it. It’s available in Europe, but not here in the States unless you want to jump through some tricky hoops.
    I just want one piece of equipment I can use for everything and carry in my (giant – I’m a big guy) pocket. Plus it’s easier to text on a tablet with big hands like mine.

  26. I bought a 16GB Blackberry Playbook back in November during their fire sale (to try to, y’know, make money off the things) and it has done me well ever since. Beautiful HD screen, no lag at all, great wifi, and the best touch screen I’ve ever used.

    It has a sad dearth of apps, though that’s improving since the OS upgrade allowed Android apps to be used if the developer wants them to – Skype is the biggest one it’s missing. But the speakers are the best on the market (I use my Playbook as a stereo at work and at home, and as an MP3 player in between) and the battery life is phenomenal. I can stream music using the on-board speakers at full volume for 7 hours with only a 30% dip in battery life.

    I’d be tempted to go with an Android-powered tablet for my next toy simply for the access to apps and the like, but I do highly recommend the Playbook for anyone looking for a 7″ variant – especially those of you who have a Blackberry and want to tether them.

  27. De gustibus non disputandem est, but the existence of 7″ tablets baffles me: too big to fit into a pocket, too small to display anything useful. When I’m out wandering around, I use a smartphone; when I’m at my desk, I use a real computer; when I’m anywhere else, I use a 10″ tablet. (I love my Asus Transformer. It’s one or two minor tweaks away from being God’s own perfect computer.)

    I wish Next Issue was useful to me, but the only magazine that Next Issue offers that I’m even vaguely interested in, The New Yorker, is only offered on 7″ screens or on dedicated Kindle hardware or on iPads. As someone with a 10″ Android tablet, this angers me beyond all rational comprehension: for no reason that they’re willing to explain, they’re unwilling to sell me digital content unless I agree to have their dead-tree edition clutter up my hardcopy spam filter (“mailbox”) for however long it takes me to fish it out of there and pitch it. Next Issue has said that their The New Yorker edition for other Android devices is “coming soon” for months now.

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