- Great textured back for added grip
- Can handle HD video streams
- Support for multi-window
- Less than full HD resolution screen
- Below average performance
- Only 4.25GB of user-available storage
So, you're in the market for a new tablet, maybe one you can share with the other members of your family, and you don't exactly have a lot of money to spend. This would have been a problem a few years ago, because the only affordable tablets were the ones from brands you've never heard of, boasting specs that barely rival that of your old TI-83 graphing calculator. But times have changed and now we have the newest addition to Samsung's tablet family, the Galaxy Tab A 7.
A Smaller and Cheaper Galaxy Tab A
Samsung continues to push the higher end of the envelope with the Galaxy Tab S series, but for people on a tighter budget who don't necessarily need high-end specs and a Super AMOLED display, there's the Galaxy Tab A 7. Announced a short while ago, this isn't the first tablet in the Tab A series; there were 8-inch and 9.7-inch models released last year. As its name implies, the Tab A 7 is smaller with a 7-inch screen instead.
Priced at just under $200, the Galaxy Tab A 7 is not going to wow anyone with its spec sheet. If anything, people who had previously looked at more expensive tablets are going to be disappointed to see that the 7-inch screen is a mere 1280 x 800 pixels, which is likely a lower resolution than what you have on your phone. The 1.3GHz quad core processor isn't anything special, nor is the 1.5GB of RAM, the tiny 8GB of onboard storage (plus microSD expansion slot), or the 5MP camera on the back. There's also a 2MP selfie cam on the front.
But hey! It's good enough and it should be decent enough for basic media consumption, video streaming or casual gaming, right?
Caring About Cutting Corners?
The first impressions with this tablet are generally positive, given the more entry-level price point. It's as solidly built as you've come to expect from Samsung with the gentle rounded corners and edges for a more comfortable one-handed or two-handed experience. I really appreciate the inclusion of soft touch materials for the back, offering a nice grippy texture that's vastly superior to the glossy plastic we've seen before.
All of the buttons provide a satisfying "click" when you press them, but they do feel like they wobble in their sockets just a bit. As is par for the course with Samsung, the back and recent apps buttons are once again the opposite as what everyone else does. They are shown with a slightly reflective, almost silver-like color. This makes them look like they are constantly illuminated, even though they're not.
Measuring 8.7mm thick, the Galaxy Tab A 7 is quite thin and can easily tossed in just about any bag. I would have preferred if it were just a hair thicker, however, to eliminate the unsightly camera bump on the back. I also found it curious that the micro-USB port is located at the top along with the headset jack. Haven't we come to expect the charging port to be located on the bottom?
Breaking the Fuzzy Guard
You can chalk this up partly to being so spoiled with the high quality displays we've been getting on smartphones these days. The de facto standard is somewhere in the 5-inch 1080p range these days with higher end phones boasting UHD resolutions. When you lower the resolution and increase the size, the reduction in pixel density becomes all too apparent.
In reading websites and other text-based content on the Galaxy Tab A 7, the words just did not appear nearly as crisp as I've grown accustomed to having. Everything is just a little fuzzy. The same is the case when playing casual games, like Angry Birds Action. While playing the game itself is still just as fun, though I did encounter some minor stutters and a single crash during my two weeks with the device, some of the elements on the stage description screens looked fuzzy.
These are smartphone games blown up to a bigger display, but smartphones have 1080p (and better) displays. This won't be a deal breaker for everyone, especially for people who have more budget-oriented phones to begin with (like those with 720p displays), but it is noticeable for anyone who has experienced a higher resolution on a smaller screen. Otherwise, the color, contrast, saturation and viewing angles are all perfectly fine.
As a budget oriented tablet, the Galaxy Tab A 7 is not going to challenge anyone for some benchmark high scores. It just needs to be good enough. To this end, it achieved 327 and 1003 in the single-core and multi-core tests with GeekBench 3, earning 22,803 in AnTuTu. This places it well below the $200 and LTE-equipped ZTE Grand X View, which had scores of 660, 2344 and 36,013, respectively.
A similar conclusion can be drawn from the 3DMark (Ice Storm Extreme) and PCMark (Work performance) benchmarks where the Galaxy Tab A 7 scored 2291 and 3082. If you're looking to do anything resembling heavy lifting, this is not the tablet for you. With minimal multi-tasking and basic media consumption, it should be adequate for most families.
MEGATechie A World of Value or MEGATechie All Tabbed Out?
It's perfectly understandable that you don't want to spend a lot of money on an "in between" product like a tablet. While you may be able to justify the existence of the massive Galaxy View as a "smart screen" for video streaming, you might not want to spend so much on a small tablet. To that end, the new Galaxy Tab A 7 sounds like it might fit the bill.
The build quality is quite good for a device in this price range and I really like the rubbery back for added grip. However, with the lower resolution screen, lower end specs, minimal internal storage, and only decent performance, this tablet is going to come up short for many consumers. We can't expect the world at under $200, but we can dare to dream when very good smartphones can be found for about the same.