Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) review: A nice price, but where's the 'wow'?

Samsung's latest 7-in. tablet is a pretty good device at a really good price -- but before you buy, there are a few things you should know.

Android devices -- both smartphones and tablets -- are getting increasingly affordable. With its new Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) tablet, which goes on sale on April 22 for $250, Samsung is obviously hoping to claim its piece of the budget-price pie.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0)

However, while the price is new and noteworthy, there's not much else about the tablet that's fresh or exciting.

Don't get me wrong: The Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) is a perfectly fine device. It has an attractive form and solid performance. The problem is that it seems like a step sideways -- or, in some ways, backwards -- from the 7-in. tablets Samsung already has available. And by simply recycling and remixing an existing concept, Samsung has doomed the product to being quickly outpaced.

The many faces of Samsung's 7-inch Tab

Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) stands alongside two other current 7-in. Samsung Galaxy tablets: the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, available for $350, and the Galaxy Tab 7.7, which comes with LTE connectivity and sells for $500 with a two-year Verizon data contract (or for $700 with no contract). Generally speaking, choice is a good thing -- but lined up next to Samsung's other 7-in. offerings, the only significant distinguishing feature the new Tab can claim is its price tag.

To be fair, the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) does look a little different from its predecessors. The tablet has a gray plastic back and is slightly thicker than Samsung's other 7-in. devices, measuring in at 0.41 in. compared to the 7.0 Plus model's 0.39-in. size and the 7.7 model's even svelter 0.31-in. waistline. It weighs 12.2 oz., the same as the 7.0 Plus tablet and 0.2 oz more than the 7.7.

The tablet feels good in your hands; it's not at all slippery and is comfortable to hold, at least in the horizontal position. Because of its size, I found the tablet a bit awkward to use vertically; in that orientation, it's slightly too big to hold in one hand and slightly too small to hold naturally with two.

The display itself is good but not breathtaking. The Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) has a 1024 x 600 PLS TFT screen -- the same kind as the Tab 7.0 Plus. It's easy on the eyes and certainly nothing to complain about, but it's also far less impressive than the high-quality screens we've seen on other recent devices -- including Samsung's own Galaxy Tab 7.7, which uses one of the company's newer Super AMOLED Plus (1280 x 800) displays.

Hardware and performance

Under the hood, the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) has a 1GHz dual-core processor along with 1GB of RAM. Curiously, Samsung won't divulge exactly what type of processor the tablet uses -- a spokesman told me he couldn't comment on the matter -- but I independently confirmed that the chip is not Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor, which powers many of the current dual-core Android tablets.

Compared to Samsung's more expensive 7-in. tablets, the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) is a bit of a downgrade in terms of pure processing power: The Tab 7.0 Plus runs on a 1.2GHz dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM, while the Tab 7.7 uses a 1.4GHz dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM.

Regardless, the difference is fairly minor and the tablet performed well in my hands-on tests. Apps loaded quickly, Web browsing and page-zooming were fast, and the system generally felt speedy and responsive. My only issue was with swiping through the five home screens, which felt far less fluid and snappy than I've come to expect from using similarly powered devices.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) comes with 8GB of internal storage, though my device showed only about 4.3GB free immediately after initialization (with no nonsystem apps installed). Samsung originally said the Tab 2 (7.0) would be available in three storage options -- 8GB, 16GB and 32GB -- and its consumer website still reflected that multitiered lineup as of this writing. However, a company spokesperson told me that the 8GB model I tested is the only version that will be available at launch.

Fortunately, the Tab 2 (7.0) has plenty of supplementary storage options. The device has a microSD slot that supports cards up to 32GB (no cards are included with the tablet at purchase). It also comes with a one-year subscription for 50GB of cloud-based storage from Dropbox, but take note: If you want to keep that subscription beyond your first year, it'll cost you $10 a month or $100 a year. Without extending the subscription, you'll be defaulted back to Dropbox's free storage level, which gives you 2GB of space.

In terms of cameras, the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) has an adequate but not exemplary 3-megapixel rear-facing camera and a VGA-quality front-facing camera -- the latter of which is a step down in quality from the 2-megapixel front-facing camera found on the other two 7-in. Galaxy Tab models. The Tab 2 (7.0) also has a built-in IR port that, combined with the preloaded Smart Remote app, allows you to use the tablet as a remote control for your TV. I found the function to be easy to configure and novel to use.

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