Android tablets are arriving thick and fast, desperately vying for the crown of Apple's all-consuming iPad. But most tablets tend to be around the 10-inch size, so if you want something that you can slide into your pocket, the iPad and its ilk aren't going to cut it.
Step up the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7-inch, which offers a smaller screen, along with a 1GHz dual-core processor and the latest Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich software.
It's available now for the reasonable price of £200.
Design and build quality
The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, to give it its full, awkward name, is a 7-inch slate. That means it's considerably more hand-friendly than Apple's iPad or, indeed, Samsung's larger tablets like the Tab 2 10.1. You can easily hold it in one hand while prodding at it with the other, although you're probably not going to be able to use it one-handed as you might do with your smaller smart phone.
It weighs in at 345g so it's not exactly heavy. I found I was able to hold it one-handed for quite long periods without feeling tell-tale aches or the need to rest it on my lap. By comparison, the new iPad weighs a much more hefty 635g, which you might expect, given its larger size. Meanwhile, the 8-inch Motorola Xoom 2 Media Edition is 386g.
The front of the tablet doesn't really offer any visual interest, with the screen taking up the whole space. Things don't get much better on the flipside either. The back panel is a plastic affair with an entirely flat grey colour. It's not the most interesting of designs, but I suppose it gets the job done. The plastic flexes a little when you squeeze it, which makes this tablet feel less premium than some of its metal-backed rivals.
It doesn't offer the same classy appeal as the iPad, but until Apple gets around to finally releasing a 7-inch slate, there isn't a massive amount of choice in the small tablet category. The Tab 2 is probably as good as you're going to get for now. You're unlikely to feel ashamed pulling it out in a coffee shop, but it's not going to win you the heart of the lovely thing serving the espressos, so you'd better polish up on those coffee puns ("where have you bean all my life?").
Around the edge you'll find a volume rocker, a power button, a 3.5mm headphone jack, the power connector -- which sadly doesn't charge over USB -- and an SD card slot. The latter is a nice addition as it allows you to increase the meagre 16GB of internal storage with a beefy 64GB SD card. This means you can save apps and system data to the tablet but keep the card free for photos and videos that would quickly eat up your precious internal space.
The 7-inch screen offers a resolution of 1,024x600 pixels. That doesn't beat the 1,280x800 pixels on the Motorola Xoom 2 Media Edition, but it's not far off, and given the slight size increase of the Xoom, it probably works out about the same.
It's certainly not challenging the pin-sharp retina display of the new iPad -- and it doesn't come close to what LG's got planned with its new 1080p screen for smart phones -- but it's at least quite sharp and provides good colours. The display is not a Super AMOLED screen so don't expect it to deliver the sort of richness found on the Galaxy S2 or S3. It's perfectly capable of handling some YouTube footage with pleasing results though.
The size of the screen means browsing the web or watching full-screen videos isn't quite as comfortable as it would be on the larger iPad or Galaxy Tab 10.1. But it's considerably more portable, so it's handy for quickly pulling out on a plane if you're bored of flicking through the perfumes in the in-flight magazine.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
The Tab 2 7-inch comes packed with the latest version of Android, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, immediately putting it a step above rivals such as the Xoom 2 Media Edition. The Xoom is still waiting for an update to the latest version from the older Android 3.2 Honeycomb, which was Google's original attempt at a tablet-specific operating system.
Ice Cream Sandwich brings various updates to the table including unlocking your phone through face recognition, the excellent Chrome browser and widget previews, among others. Take a look at our ten favourite things about ICS to get an idea of what to expect from the latest version.
As it always does, Samsung has thrown a few of its own pieces of software into the mix including its reading, music and games hubs, as well as extra tweaks such as having a dedicated button for taking screen shots on the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen.
Samsung hasn't done much to the overall structure of Android, so regular 'droid users won't find it difficult to get to grips with. The interface is clean, with attractive light colours used in the menus.
Adding widgets to the home screen is still a simple task of pressing and holding to bring up a menu. Navigating around the interface is simple, making the Tab a potentially good option for a first-time Android user or those of you who aren't particularly familiar with technology.
As it's an Android device, you have full access to the hundreds of thousands of apps available in the Google Play store.
Under the hood is a 1GHz dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM. Considering we're seeing phones and tablets flying around with quad-core processors clocked at speeds of up to 1.8GHz, the Tab 2 7-inch doesn't seem to offer a massive amount, but that's mostly justified by the cheaper price tag.
To see how it stacks up against its rivals I booted up the Geekbench benchmark test and hit go. It returned a score of 409, which is frankly rather disappointing. By comparison, the Xoom 2 Media Edition managed over 1,000 on the same test. It's slightly more expensive, sure, but you do seem to be getting quite a lot more for your money.
I found similar results when I booted up the Quadrant benchmark, with the Tab 7-inch achieving a score of 2,689, which falls quite far short of the 4,000 offered by the Asus Transformer Prime. Then again, the Prime is packing a quad-core processor and costs quite a lot more, so it'd be a pretty poor effort if the Prime didn't whup the Tab 7-inch up and down benchmark boulevard.
Of course, scores aren't everything so it's important to see how this little chap handles everyday tasks. I found swiping my way around the home screens and menus to be fairly responsive although it sometimes lacked the immediacy of some of its siblings. This suggests that perhaps the more recent ICS software might be a little too much for a lower-powered tablet to handle.
Opening menus and navigating through different settings sometimes resulted in lag between pressing the icon and the action taking place. It was never enough to really be annoying, but it was quite noticeable at times.
Once you start filling it up with all kinds of apps and widgets hogging background processes, you can expect to see a slowdown. I'd recommend keeping things simple on this tablet or you could expect it to become noticeably sluggish.
Of course, that's not to say it doesn't have enough juice to cope with most of what you'd need to use it for. I found it had plenty enough power to run essential apps like Facebook and, of course, our own amazing CNET app. It was easily able to turn its hand to some Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. It might not cope so well down the line if you make a habit of chomping through demanding 3D games though.
Samsung promises 10 hours of battery life from the tablet, which I found to be a pretty accurate claim. I ran my battery test and found that after around 8 hours of constant use, the tablet was nearly exhausted. If you only use it for basic tasks and keep wireless networking turned off, you'll be able to get a better time.
On the back of the tablet is a 3-megapixel camera that I found gave acceptable results for the price. Colours were fairly even but it didn't seem to deal well with noise, resulting in the photo not being particularly sharp.
There's no LED flash either so don't expect to be taking loads of photos of your friends in a dingy underground bar. It shoots video at 720p resolution though, so you can at least catch their drunken antics on film.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7-inch certainly isn't going to bother the premium slates in terms of power, or indeed, screen resolution. But if you want a pocket-friendly tablet and don't plan on doing anything too demanding with it, it's worth considering.