Jul 18, 2023
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE Review
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (starting at $529.99) is a compelling alternative to the Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2021) and Samsung's own Galaxy Tab S7+. It has an immersive 12.4-inch display, supports
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (starting at $529.99) is a compelling alternative to the Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2021) and Samsung's own Galaxy Tab S7+. It has an immersive 12.4-inch display, supports the company's S Pen stylus, and will even let you tack on 5G connectivity for a little extra. Those features, however, come with a few notable caveats. For starters, the Galaxy Tab S7 FE struggles with more hardware-intensive tasks, and its big display isn't on par with what you’ll find on more expensive tablets. But it's good for use with undemanding apps, and now that Samsung is improving the One UI ecosystem, you'll get extra mileage out of using it in tandem with Samsung phones and laptops.
The Galaxy Tab S7 FE sports a familiar design to the higher-end slates it's competing against. Its unibody frame and chassis are made of aluminum. The Wi-Fi version is available in black, green, pink, or silver. If you want or need 5G connectivity, your style decision will be much easier, since that model is only available in black.
The tablet measures 11.2 by 7.3 by 0.3 inches (WHD) and weighs 1.3 pounds. No doubt about it, the Galaxy Tab S7 FE is heavy, but the weight is well distributed. And though it’s not something you’d want to hold for hours on end, it’s light enough for your morning commute.
In landscape mode, the slim camera stack and S Pen connector are positioned along the top edge of the case. The magnetic stylus dock isn't as powerful as what you’ll find on iPad models that work with the second-generation Apple Pencil, so you’re probably going to lose your S Pen unless you spring for a case that holds it.
On the top of the tablet, there’s a power button, a volume rocker, and a SIM/microSD slot. The buttons provide a satisfying click when tapped, but are difficult to reach in portrait mode. The power button lacks an integrated fingerprint sensor, which doesn’t seem like a big deal until you’re forced to enter your PIN every time you want to unlock the tablet.
There’s a connector for the optional Bookcover Keyboard Case on the bottom. The Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s keyboard lacks the trackpad that’s on the keyboard for the regular Galaxy Tab S7. Speakers flank each side of the tablet, and there’s a USB-C charging port on the left.
A 12.4-inch, 2,560-by-1,600-pixel LCD dominates the front of the Tab S7 FE. The display is bright, with excellent color accuracy, but there’s something off about it. I found myself putting it down after an hour of reading or scrolling through social media due to eye fatigue.
Sure, the Tab S7 FE lacks the 120Hz refresh rate and AMOLED display of its more expensive sibling, but I don’t think that's the issue. Most products I review have low-res LCD panels with 60Hz refresh rates, and I've never had a similar eyestrain experience with a comparable display.
You’ll find two powerful speakers on the Tab S7 FE. Both are tuned by AKG and support Dolby Atmos. Maximum volume clocks in at 94db, which is loud enough to fill a room. Soundstage is immersive and the timbre is lush. You’ll even notice a hint of bass.
Bluetooth 5.0 is on board for wireless audio. There’s also dual-band Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi 6, NFC, and wireless charging are missing from the mix.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chipset powers the the 5G version of the Galaxy Tab S7 FE; the less-expensive Wi-Fi model has the newer Snapdragon 778 mobile platform. It’s a strange decision, since the Snapdragon 778 has a smaller 6nm process, a slightly higher clock speed, and better instruction set architecture. In theory, there shouldn’t be a huge difference between the two, but published benchmarks on the Wi-Fi model of the Tab S7 FE appear to be a little higher.
The array of configurations is also odd. The Wi-Fi version of the tablet can be had with 64GB of storage/4GB of RAM, 128GB/6GB, or 256GB/6GB. I reviewed the 5G version, which only comes with 64GB/4GB. You can add up to 1TB of external storage with a microSD card, but there's no way to upgrade the RAM.
While the pricier Galaxy Tab S7 models can handle just about any task you throw their way, the Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s hardware struggles with multitasking. If you like to have multiple apps and dozens of Chrome tabs open at once, you’ll want to consider going for one of the Wi-Fi models with 6GB of RAM. And if you’re looking for a tablet that can chew through any workload, check out the Galaxy Tab S7+ or even the entry-level iPad instead.
Gamers who are used to flagship-quality smartphone hardware will find the Galaxy Tab S7 FE to be a bit of a letdown. I noticed longer load times on all of the games I tried, and there were a few skipped frames while playing Genshin Impact.
Benchmarks underscored our experience. On Geekbench 5, a suite of tests that quantify raw computing power, the Galaxy Tab S7 FE earned 656 single-core (SC) and 1,929 multi-core (MC) scores. The Galaxy Tab S7+ scored 998 SC and 3,814 MC on the same test, and even the cheapest iPad soundly bested the Galaxy Tab S7 FE with scores of 1,338 SC and 2,979 MC.
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The 5G version of the Galaxy Tab S7 FE has a Qualcomm Snapdragon X52 with band support for every carrier. There’s no mmWave support, however, so you’re not going to get the same super-fast speeds that are possible—albeit unlikely—on the Galaxy Tab S7+. I tested the tablet on AT&T’s 5G network in Chicago and recorded speeds of 27.8Mbps down and 21.1Mbps up; that’s not incredible, but it’s sufficient for 4K video streaming.
Samsung packed the same 10,090mAh battery in the Galaxy Tab S7 FE as you’ll find in the more expensive Tab S7+, which is a very good thing. In our battery drain test, which streams HD video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the tablet lasted for 9 hours and 11 minutes before powering down. That’s significantly longer than the Galaxy Tab S7+'s 7 hours and 21 minutes.
If you use the 15W power adapter that comes in the box, it takes about 4 hours to completely recharge. There’s also support for 45W fast charging with an optional adapter.
The Galaxy Tab S7 FE has a pretty basic camera setup. On the back you’ll find an 8MP camera lens. A 5MP selfie cam is on the front.
In good light, the rear sensor does a decent job. It can quickly identify objects you want to scan, and references shots look fine. In low light, our test shots had edge noise and background blurring.
The front-facing camera is mediocre, no matter the amount of light. Our test photos and videos looked flat and I noticed some noise. Low-light test images were splotchy and flat.
Neither of these cameras will come close to replacing your smartphone, but that's probably fine. The rear camera is fine for normal work-related tasks. I wish Samsung had put a slightly better selfie camera in the Galaxy Tab S7 FE for video calls, but it works well enough.
Like the Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ models, the Galaxy Tab S7 FE comes with an S Pen in the box. It's a basic model; it doesn’t need to be charged, nor does it have any of the special Bluetooth features you’ll find on more expensive styli. That said, it’s a pretty incredible stylus that rivals the Apple Pencil 2.
If you’re not a fan of Apple’s slippery Pencil tip, you’ll want to give Samsung’s S Pen a go. It’s a lot thinner and offers some resistance as it slides across the screen, so it doesn’t feel like you’re writing on glass. I prefer the way it feels over the Apple Pencil.
I did pick up on some very slight lag with the Tab S7 FE’s S Pen. You probably won’t notice it unless you’re paying very close attention, and it’s not distracting in the least. Still, if you’re looking for a stylus with zero lag, you’ll want to go for the more expensive Galaxy Tab S7 models.
When I wrote the Galaxy Tab S7 review, I was pretty critical about Android and One UI. Since then, both Google and Samsung have upped their game, and the OS is very smooth on the Galaxy Tab S7 FE.
The tablet ships with Android 11 and One UI 3.1. Samsung’s productivity apps mostly replicate Google's, but they’ve become much more useful now that most of them, including Samsung Notes and Tasks, integrate with Microsoft 365.
It also seems like Samsung is really working on a cohesive ecosystem that continues to get better. If you stick with Samsung products, your experience will be close to seamless.
I use a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G, a Galaxy Book Pro 360, and a Galaxy Tab S7 as my daily drivers. With the trio, I can easily copy and paste links from one device to another, use nearly all of my Z Fold3 5G’s apps on my laptop, and use Quick Share to send photos and files among devices. And since everything is backed up to OneDrive, I usually don’t even need to use Quick Share—I can just search for the item on any of my devices.
To be perfectly honest, it’s not quite as slick as Apple’s iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS integration, but it’s close. Over the past year, Samsung has made major improvements to One UI, and I expect to see the ecosystem continue to mature.
One UI 3.1 includes minor improvements to DeX (desktop-mimicking) mode. It's less buggy, Microsoft 365 integration is improved, and it connects via Wi-Fi more consistently. It's still not going to replace your computer, but it works well in a pinch.
Finally, Samsung is embracing long-term device updates. Its current policy supports three Android upgrades and four years of security patches. Sure, Samsung isn’t nearly as fast at updates as Apple, but upgrades seem to ship faster on its unlocked devices.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE gets a lot right. It has an excellent build quality, comes with an S Pen in the box, and gets years of OS upgrades. It just isn't as powerful as its pricier competitors. If you just use your tablet to stream video or do general tasks, the Tab S7 FE is more than up to the task. If you're hoping to use it a laptop replacement, however, you'll probably want to spend more on a different model. Although the Galaxy Tab S7+ is pricier, it packs enough power to help you finish even the most demanding tasks. And if you aren't committed to Samsung and/or Android, the iPad Pro line remains a strong alternative.
Samsung's 12.4-inch Galaxy Tab S7 FE tablet is a more affordable, less powerful alternative to the Galaxy Tab S7+ and Apple's iPad Pro line for getting work done on the go.
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