If you’ve been staying indoors and working from home like me, you’d appreciate how important a role technology has played in keeping us productive, entertained, and sane. Gadgets like smartphones, laptops, and entertainment devices have taken on more responsibilities, and tablets have seen a resurgence of sorts too. However, when it comes to tablets specifically, the options available are still few. Apple’s iPads are favoured by many, while Samsung, and to a smaller extent Lenovo, have been the brands acting as tablet torchbearers on the Android side. In fact, Samsung has just outed another compelling option that comes in the form of the Galaxy Tab S7 FE, a device that attempts to hold the middle ground between work and play.
Apart from its large screen that offers tons of real estate for content consumption, another mainstay of the Galaxy Tab S7 FE is the optional keyboard cover that converts it into a work machine. Let’s see how it fares in regular use.
The lowdownThe Tab S7 FE comes as a cut-down version of the Galaxy Tab S7+ (review) Samsung launched late last year, and the two siblings are similar in terms of design and a few other aspects. However, while the Tab S7+ is a fully-loaded, super-premium option, the Tab S7 FE is priced more affordably and comes with modest specifications in comparison.
The Tab S7 FE is just slightly thicker and heavier than its more accomplished sibling I mentioned above, but shares the same design language and features a premium metal build. The two devices are similar in terms of their 12.4-inch screen size, and their 10,090mAh battery capacity as well. However, one of the key differences between the two is the fact that the new Galaxy Tab FE features an LCD display with a conventional 60Hz refresh rate, against the 120Hz Super AMOLED panel on the Tab S7+. The other key aspect where the Tab S7 FE cuts down is the processor, utilising the mid-range Snapdragon 750G chipset, whereas its older cousin boasts the flagship Snapdragon 865+. You’d find some more similarities and more differences (dual speakers instead of four, and lower-resolution cameras in the newer model for instance) between the two as well, but the above are really the most crucial. For cameras, you get a basic 8MP camera on the rear, plus a 5MP sensor at front that works reasonably well for video calls.
- The metal build of the tablet is sleek, sturdy, and premium, and you can carry it pretty much anywhere with you. Even with the optional keyboard cover on, the device doesn’t feel too bulky to handle. That said, the slate weighs over 600g, so your hands might feel tired after a while if you’re using it handheld for long periods.
- With Its 12.4-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 display, the Galaxy Tab S7 FE offers a large canvas for you to view content. It might be an LCD and not an AMOLED display like the one on its pricier sibling, but it’s still pretty good in terms of colours and viewing angles.
- An S Pen comes included in the box and attaches magnetically to the back of the tablet. Unlike the S Pen that’s bundled with the Tab S7+, this one isn’t a powered one and doesn’t support Bluetooth or gestures. It also doesn’t offer the same low latency. However, it still comes in useful for casual stuff like doodling, jotting notes, annotating documents, etc. You might have a different opinion but I’d still count it as a positive.
- Android 11 with One UI v3.1, and access to Samsung’s ecosystem of apps and services means that the overall software experience offered by the Galaxy Tab S7 FE is pretty solid. DeX mode is there as well, and you can switch it as and when you need an interface that resembles a proper laptop. Add the keyboard accessory, and you have a reasonably competent work tool at your disposal.
- The dual speakers churn out good audio. The speakers can get reasonably loud, so you won’t really need headphones to participate in video calls etc if you’re in a quiet room.
- The Snapdragon 750G chipset turns in a decent performance, and there’s no lag or stutter while using standard productivity or entertainment apps. However, the chipset is a mid-range one and does feel a bit stressed out when using multiple apps together, especially in DeX mode. At this price, Samsung should have ideally included a better chipset I think.
- The 10,090mAh battery lasts quite long on a single charge. It can get through a day easily with heavy use, and you can stretch it for longer if you’re only using it for a few hours each day. The standby times are excellent as well.
What’s not so good
- You can opt for a keyboard cover to go along with your Tab S7 FE slate, and that does come in quite handy when you have to type out long emails or edit documents. However, the keyboard cover lacks a trackpad, and I sorely missed it while trying to use the Tab S7 FE as a replacement for my work laptop. The keyboard that Samsung had launched along with the Tab S7+ did include a trackpad, and the same was part of a two-piece unit that allowed one to detach the keyboard while still retaining the rear protection for the tablet. However, the new keyboard cover that you see here is a single-piece thingy. Without the trackpad at my disposal, I had to keep jumping from the keyboard to the screen while using the Tab S7 FE, and that did impact the usage experience. However, it seems that the older keyboard cover with the trackpad is compatible with the Tab S7 FE too, so you could just opt to buy that one instead of the new one.
- Another thing I missed quite a bit on the Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a 3.5mm headset jack. We’ve become quite used to this by now as far as smartphones are concerned, but I think large tablets such as the tab S7 FE should still have headphone sockets. There’s nothing more convenient than a pair of wired earphones when you need to get on a Google Meets or Zoom call at a moment’s notice, or catch an episode of Family Man 2 at night when your Bluetooth earphones are out of juice.
- The Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s battery supports 45W fast charging, but for some reason, Samsung only includes a 15W charger in the box. This means that juicing up the tablet takes a long time… over 3 hours in fact.
As far as things stand right now, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE faces competition mainly from the Apple iPad, and on the Android side of the fence, its own siblings. There aren’t many options available, especially in the large-screened tablet space. I’d probably count the Lenovo Tab P11 Pro as a rival too, and we’ll have a review out for that very soon. Overall though, the Tab S7 FE, for its starting price of Rs 46,999 (for the 4GB / 64GB variant), does seem like a pricey affair, especially considering the chipset it packs in. The 6GB / 128GB variant has been priced at Rs 50,999. The new keyboard cover will set you back by another Rs 14,999, but Samsung is offering a discount of Rs 10,000 for a limited period if you buy it along with a Galaxy Tab S7 FE. All said and done, the tablet ticks many of the right boxes, and its large, capable screen, combined with Samsung’s software ecosystem, DeX mode, bundled S Pen and long battery life make the Tab S7 FE worth a close, hard look.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Large screen
- Premium build
- Useful software and DeX mode
- Long battery life
- Lacks 3.5mm headset jack
- Needs more grunt
- 15W charger bundled