I’m loath to fetch UPS and FedEx deliveries at the office these days. On any given morning, I half expect to open up the boxes I’ve received to find the vacant, blank face of yet another Android tablet staring back at me.
Tuesday was no different. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus — a mouthful of a name — showed up on my doorstep. It’s Samsung’s fourth entry in the Galaxy Tab series of tablet computing devices.
Yes, it’s another 7-inch tablet, and it joins the ever-expanding portfolio of slates that eschew the “bigger is better” philosophy shared by the 9.7-inch iPad family and all the 10.1-inch Android tablets that first attempted to challenge Apple’s tablet dominance. By going with a 7-inch screen, Samsung is targeting the same dimensions employed by both RIM’s failed PlayBook tablet and Amazon’s upcoming Kindle Fire. Obviously, no one was interested in the PlayBook, but the Fire is a highly anticipated tablet — in part because its diminutive size is considered more wieldy in one’s hands.
Aside from its size, the Tab 7.0 Plus doesn’t offer radically different specs relative to the 8.9- and 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab models. It runs a 1.2GHz dual-core processor backed by 1GB of RAM, and comes with 16GB of storage in tow. And just like its two bigger brothers, the 7-inch Tab 7.0 Plus runs Android version 3.0, a.k.a. Honeycomb.
Samsung obviously realized that “simply making things smaller” isn’t enough product differentiation in today’s market. Likewise, this isn’t even Samsung’s first 7-inch tablet — the first one arrived in late 2010, and ran Android 2.2 on a 1GHz single-core processor. So not only does the new Tab 7.0 Plus come with more processor power and a tenable tablet OS, it’s also loaded with Peel software, which turns the device into an over-sized TV remote control.
Instead of using a traditional channel-surfing guide, Peel lets you scan shows and films categorically, helping you to find interesting TV content just a wee bit easier. You can tag the shows you like, and cut the ones you don’t, surfacing better content each time you return. And, of course, there’s an obligatory social component: Users can tweet or share what they’re watching on Twitter and Facebook.
Integrating Peel is a smart move by Samsung. Tablets have long been marketed as casual consumption devices, ideal for using while half-engaged in TV watching. The Peel software, then, situates the smaller Samsung Tab in a perfectly resonant environment. After all, we already use tablets while watching TV, so now let’s use them to watch TV. And fortunately, your home theater set-up doesn’t have to be exclusively comprised of Samsung products, as the Tab works via IR connection with any compatible systems, regardless of brand.
As far as industrial design, the Tab 7.0 Plus looks as slick as its predecessors, which already boast the best look-and-feel in the Android tablet universe. It’s smaller stature obviously makes it easier to hold in one hand, though the brushed backing makes for a sheen that’s almost too slick. I couldn’t help but worry my grip would slip if not kept kung-fu tight.
But again, it’s essentially the same familiar Samsung tablet in a smaller package. The edges are rounded. The display, impressive. It’s what we know Samsung does well.
So, if a smaller Samsung Tab running Honeycomb is what you’ve been waiting for, you won’t have to hold out much longer. The Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus goes on sale on November 16 for $250 with a two-year T-Mobile contract, at T-mobile retail stores.
Me? I’ll keep waiting for something better in the mail.