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Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE review: An affordable iPad Pro alternative


Joseph Kaminski/CNET

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (short for Fan Edition) is a midlevel 12.4-inch Android tablet that starts at $529 for a Wi-Fi-only model (£519, AU$799) and $669 for one with 5G. Yes, it might cost more than a basic iPad, but it’s less than an iPad Pro, and this product sits roughly between those two popular products on the tablet continuum. 

But even with a good set of features and a reasonable price, Android tablets can be a tough sell. Apple’s iPads, running iPadOS, continue to dominate the tablet market and what people think of when they think “tablet.” Along with Samsung, companies like Lenovo, Huawei and Amazon (through its Fire tablet line) offer a wide array of iPad alternatives, although none truly stands out as a compelling reason to switch from another operating system, beyond offering better interoperability with Android phones. 

screen-off-shot

Joseph Kaminski/CNET

The Tab S7 FE has an upscale feel, with a 1.3-pound aluminum body and slim bezels that allow more viewing space with a smaller footprint. Devices from the iPad Mini to the Microsoft Surface Pro have trimmed screen borders, so the S7 FE is on trend. The 12.4-inch display has a 2,560×1,600-pixel resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate. It has a 5-megapixel selfie camera and an 8-megapixel camera on the back. Inside, the processing is handled by a Qualcomm SM7325 chip, and it ships with Android 11 as its OS. 

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The Galaxy Tab S7 FE includes a stylus. 


Joseph Kaminski/CNET

If you want color options, you’ll have to go with the Wi-Fi version, which comes in pink, silver, green or black. The S7 FE starts with 64GB of internal storage, but you can configure it with 128GB, 256GB or 512GB as well. The microSD slot can support cards up to 1TB. Unfortunately, the 5G version is limited in spec options as well as color: It’s black only and only comes with 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. Plus, you’ll have to pay for data every month.

Samsung also offers the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, which looks almost identical to the S7 FE but it has four speakers to the FE’s two. The S7 Plus also has a Super AMOLED display with a slightly higher resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate, versus the TFT display with a 60Hz refresh rate in the S7 FE. If you want those extra features of the S7 Plus it will run you $849 (£799, AU$1,449).

The S7 FE supports facial recognition to unlock the tablet, or you can use a passcode or pattern. Unfortunately, there is no built-in fingerprint reader as in the more-expensive S7 Plus. While face login on Windows PCs and iOS devices usually works fine for me, in this case it didn’t recognize me as often as I had hoped it would. 

camera-shot

Joseph Kaminski/CNET

If you’re switching over from using an iOS device you may also find the landscape camera placement off-putting compared with the portrait position on iOS devices. Then again, with more people using video chat since the start of the pandemic, this might be a welcome change and could make Zoom chats easier. 

Camera placement is also important because if you’re using facial recognition to unlock your device, but are more accustomed to the iPad’s camera placement, you might be covering the S7 FE’s camera with your fingers (this happened to me several times). That’s why I’d appreciate a fingerprint reader, so I could hold the tablet in any position when unlocking the device. 

I tested the tablet using Samsung’s Book Cover Keyboard ($160), which magnetically attaches to the tablet and protects the screen and back. There’s a handy slot cut out for easy access to the included S Pen stylus. The S Pen also magnetically attaches to the back of the tablet. 

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Joseph Kaminski/CNET

Performance and battery life 

The Qualcomm-powered Galaxy Tab S7 FE won’t blow you away with its performance. Even the less expensive ninth-gen iPad outshone the S7 FE in benchmark tests like Geekbench 5 and 3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited. In practical hands-on testing, the S7 was able to smoothly handle Google docs, MS Office 365 suite, web surfing and streaming media. Games from the Google Play store, like NBA 2K, Need For Speed: No Limits and my old guilty pleasure Minion Rush, ran smoothly as well. If you want to stay in the Android garden, at least its walls are a little more porous than on an iPad. For example, you can get apps for the Samsung Galaxy S7 FE from both the Google and Samsung app stores. 

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Apple iPad (9th Generation)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 5 (single-core)

Apple iPad (9th Generation)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited

Apple iPad (9th Generation)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbox

Product name Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE
Price as reviewed $829
Display 12.4-inch TFT 2,560×1,600 @60Hz
PC CPU  Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G
PC memory 4GB RAM
Storage 64GB internal/expandable to 1TB
Ports USB-C
Networking Cellular 5G, Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.0
Operating system Android 11
Weight 1.3 pounds

As for battery life, I was able to get just under 12 hours of video streaming over 5G on a single charge. The hefty 10,090-mAh battery probably didn’t hurt. The tablet can be fully charged in 4 hours with the 15-watt adapter that comes with it, but also there’s a fast-charge option with a 45-watt adapter sold separately. That should allow you to get a reasonable amount of battery charge in just a few minutes.

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Joseph Kaminski/CNET

When it comes to sound, the S7 FE can pump up the volume loud enough to fill a room without crackling from two speakers on opposite sides. The tablet supports Dolby Atmos and Samsung says the dual speakers were “tuned by AKG.” Atmos is good to have, but the tuned-by-so-and-so speaker claims on many devices are usually just marketing fluff. 

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is something aimed at people already invested in the Android ecosystem, and who want something between an iPad and an iPad Pro. It’s a good alternative, and even costs a little less than the Pro, but it’s also not going to sway anyone away from the competition.

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