This review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is based on the laudable opinions of our sister site CNET.com's Eric Franklin, who awarded it 3.5 stars. As we sit here twiddling our thumbs over a tablet-shaped air hole, idly waiting for a stork to drop off a Tab at CNET UK's HQ, we've summed up Eric's findings below and updated our own preview from when we went hands-on with the Tab in September 2011.
As and when we get to spark up a Tab here in London, we'll give our own take on this techie treat. If we've been shinily happily reviewing it alongside the sun-soaked Thames, or if the capital's mired in gloom and we're feeling particularly mean-spirited, we'll update the score accordingly.
We were huge fans of the first Samsung Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch Android tablet. But there was one fly in the ointment -- the Tab was running the outdated Android version 2.2, which was built for mobile phones. Now Samsung is back with a tablet that brings the portability of a smaller slate, with a proper -- if not the latest -- tablet operating system. But is it good enough to challenge the dominance of the new iPad?
Design and build
The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is one of the slimmest things we've ever seen. Turning it sideways you'd be forgiven for thinking it had disappeared into the space between atoms -- it measures an iPad 2-beating 7.9mm across. It's astonishingly light too, at 335g, so if you throw it in a rucksack or handbag and you'll quickly forget it's there.
Underneath the screen there's a single home button that zaps you back to the Tab 7.7's home screen, and the back is furnished with an extremely smart brushed metal finish, that we think easily beats the first Tab's rounded plastic rear.
Nestled in the top there's a 3-megapixel camera, which might not sound very powerful, but we suspect it's been chosen to save on space. On the front there's a 2-megapixel camera, for subjecting your video-call victims to a clear shot up your nostrils.
For a small tablet, it's able to produce audio with surprising bass grunt, with two speakers situated on the bottom alongside a microSD card slot and a SIM slot, delivering high volumes with no discernible distortion.
Also packed into the wee frame is an ambient light sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer and digital compass. Alas, there's no HDMI port, so if you want to play video from your tablet on your TV, you'll need to buy an adaptor.
The display looks absolutely brilliant -- it stands toe-to-toe with the new iPad's much-hyped retina screen. This is Super AMOLED Plus tech, which is the same as employed in the gorgeous Samsung Galaxy S2 smart phone. It's eyeball-searingly colourful and looks extremely striking. The screen has a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels, which is sharp enough to keep your photos and hi-res video looking good.
In fact, it delivers the highest contrast ratio that CNET has yet seen on a tablet screen, with deep black levels and higher perceived brightness than regular LED displays. It's the most impressive-looking Android tablet screen out there, even if it doesn't quite trump the new iPad.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 will ship with Android 3.2, or Honeycomb to its mates. That's the tablet-specific version of Android, and will grant you such titillating delights as tabbed web browsing, Adobe Flash support in the browser, and a bucketload of apps via Google Play. It's not, however, the latest version of Google's operating system -- Ice Cream Sandwich -- and Samsung has yet to officially announce a date for an upgrade.
Samsung has given the default Honeycomb interface a makeover, and it looks more like that of the Samsung Galaxy S2, with tiled icons, and a big chunk of widgets hovering around too. Honeycomb is overlaid with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface, which introduces a host of custom apps like AllShare, Media Hub, Social Hub and Samsung's own Android app store.
There's a button for taking screenshots of whatever's on the Tab 7.7's screen, and if you tap the grey bar along the bottom of the display it flips over, revealing a task bar full of app icons. These include a calculator, notes, calendar, music player and clock. The most useful is the task manager, which is handy if you decide the tablet is doing a rubbish job of running itself, and fancy stepping in to take control, shutting down apps that have crashed and so on.
In the US, the Tab comes preloaded with the Peel Smart Remote app, which transforms your handset into a nifty remote control for your telly, so we'll wait and see whether we get anything of that ilk in the UK.
Samsung's stuffed a 1.4GHz processor inside the Tab 7.7, which gives it serious processing clout. The CPU is a dual-core Exynos 4210, backed by 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. That power means you'll be able to keep lots of apps running at the same time, or play graphically demanding games with no slowdown. The screen is sensitive and responsive and apps launch zippily. CNET did, however, witness some annoying lagging with Honeycomb browser.
Using the Riptide GP benchmark, the Tab 7.7's performance matched the original Tab, with a gaming frame rate that was consistently higher than you'd see on any Tegra 2-based tablet.
Our one concern was that with the gloriously screen and a processor guzzling resources, battery life would be weak. CNET found the screen's luminance doesn't actually get that high, which meant that you could expect over a working day of normal use as it lasted nearly 9 hours while showing video.
Pictures produced by the front camera suffer from an unwanted film grain effect. While the rear snapper offers a smoother and clearer picture, it does saturate colours too much, imbuing skin or even plain grey walls with a redness. Video playback of 720p resolution video is smooth and crisp. But for some reason, CNET could not get 1080p resolution video to playback on the tablet.
Judged purely on design, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is an admirable small tablet that's thin and light, with two cameras and expandable memory. Its gorgeous AMOLED screen and Samsung Exynos CPU deliver fast gaming and interface navigation.
The lack of HDMI and dedicated USB ports is disappointing. But the deciding factor will be the price. In the US, the Tab will set you back $500 (£315) on a two-year contract or $700 (£440) without a contract, which is too much to pay for a mini tablet.