The tablet is a great middleground between a phone and a laptop, offering portability with the features of a laptop. Due to the nature of a tablet, it offers more in terms of productivity that makes working on-the-go more convenient and efficient.
Despite the many features, there are only a small handful of companies driving the tablet market and currently, Apple dominates with at least four versions of its iconic iPad. Closing in is Korean chaebol Samsung, which released its Galaxy Tab S7+ in September 2020 as a challenge to Apple’s dominance. As of August 2021, the S7+ remains the top tier Android tablet available on the market, though its prominence is also due to a lack of discernible competition.
However, with the premium price tag of at least S$1598, the S7+ is not exactly the most affordable of devices. As such, Samsung has released the Galaxy Tab S7 FE 5G, an entry-level version of the S7+ with reduced specification for those not keen on high-end hardware.
Under the hood, the 12.4-inch device is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chipset, which is a mid-range chipset that isn’t as strong as the S7+’s Snapdragon 865+. The FE comes in two models – a 64GB one with 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB version with 6GB of RAM. Both have an option of adding a microSD card (up to 1TB), for those looking at increasing capacity.
Design-wise, the FE looks similar to the S7+, aside from the obvious difference in thickness. The FE is 0.6mm thicker and 33g heavier, coming in at 185.0 x 284.8 x 6.3mm and 608g. The increased thickness and weight give the FE a heft for those who prefer a more substantial feel to their tablet.
The difference in weight could be due to the increased amount of material used for the aluminium alloy casing, which is the same material the S7+ is made of. Visually, the FE follows the design philosophy of contemporary devices, with a minimalist matte-finish body and flat surfaces (other than the curved edges and camera bump).
The difference in thickness between the FE and the S7+ likely comes from the different displays used. Compared to the S7+’s Super AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, however, the FE has a TFT display with a 60Hz refresh rate. This means a difference in the resolution, with the S7+ boasting 1752 x 2800 pixels and ~266 ppi density while the FE rocking 1600 x 2560 pixels and ~243 ppi density.
When you are given just the numbers, it can be hard to imagine the differences, such as in the displays, concretely. And really, the differences as far as resolution go is not apparent in typical everyday use. Generally, the experience of watching YouTube videos, live streams, reading the news, and the occasional light gaming are not tangibly hampered or made worse because of the lower tier TFT display.
So while it is undoubtedly a step down, games such as Genshin Impact on low graphical settings, videos (though the screen isn’t HDR), and streams still run smoothly enough on the FE. This consistent quality is also maintained when using the third-party apps the FE comes with – Noteshelf, Clip Studio Paint (6 months free), and Canva Pro (30-day free trial).
The build feels sturdy and durable, and is presumably able to withstand falls to a satisfactory degree due to the premium casing. This is an important trait especially since tablets are primarily designed for people on the move.
It is crucial that Samsung did not compromise in terms of the external hardware. Durability is a key factor to consider for tablets. They are devices that are more likely to be put in situations where they’ll be bumped into. Samsung’s awareness of that is reflected in this choice of material.
Another consideration for getting the FE is that Samsung has included the S Pen writing tool here. The handwriting detection, which renders handwriting into text, makes note-taking intuitive and natural. Compared to the S Pen that comes with the S7+, the FE’s one doesn’t require charging, which makes for one fewer device that users have to be mindful of in terms of battery life.
The display offers ample space for users to take down notes and have a Zoom meeting at the same time. This is supported by features such as the Multi-Active Window function, which allows for up to three apps to be put on screen at once. So, instead of needing paper and pen on hand during a Zoom meeting, the FE allows users to do away with the extra material, making everything more compact and efficient.
While this is not a new feature, the FE proves itself more than capable of handling tasks of this level without being noticeably worse than the S7+ in any way.
Even the magnetic attachment along the side and back of the tablet for the S pen is designed to maximise convenience. After using the S Pen, users can easily snap it against the side or back of the FE without having to fumble around. This also makes for an easy retrieval whenever the S Pen is needed again.
At times though, the attachment can be insecure, especially when the tablet brushes against hard edges and surfaces while the S pen is attached to it. This makes the Book Cover almost a necessity rather than just a mere accessory.
The Book Cover has an S Pen holder designed onto it, and in using the tablet, the S Pen holder becomes the default and safest place for the S Pen to rest. The Book Cover also seems to hold onto the S Pen with more security than the tablet itself.
It also allows for the FE to be set up in two angles, at 50 degrees and 65 degrees, so it can be left on the table, handsfree, for comfortable viewing. And for a device of this size, the Book Cover offers an ideal way to watch videos on it.
As for the battery life of the FE itself, it boasts the same battery as the S7+, a 10,090mAh battery with 45W fast charging capabilities. As with the S7+, the tablet comes paired with a 15W charger. Due to the downgraded internal hardware, the FE has a longer battery life.
After watching YouTube videos for about four hours on medium brightness, the battery drained by 23%. This means more than 16 hours of video on a full charge, which is enough even for binge watchers. The tradeoff, however, is that it will take about three hours to get that full charge using the 15W charger. Still, the 45W charger, which costs S$78, remains an option for those who find that they need that extra fast charge time.
However, given the robust battery life of the tablet, there should be no real need to fret about needing a fast charge time, as the device is able to easily last a full day from moderate to heavy use with no problem and no disruption to users’ workflow.
One major difference between the S7+ and the FE is the lack of a fingerprint sensor. The only biometric identification system the FE has is face recognition. However, due to its slow response and inability to parse masked faces, it is less than ideal. There is always the classic option of the passcode or pattern though, so the biometric identification is a nice addition but not a necessity.
Also, while it is unlikely that anyone would use a tablet to snap photos, Samsung has added an 8MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera. This is definitely not intended as the primary function of the tablet. It may not be snapping breathtaking shots anytime soon, but what is provided is sufficient for video calls, which make use of the front camera, be it for school or for work.
The Dolby Atmos dual speakers tuned by AKG makes any audio that comes through very clear, while the three microphones embedded around the display ensures that users are heard with the same level of clarity.
Given the features and the lowered specs, the Galaxy S7 FE seems geared towards those who need to edit documents and presentations on a daily basis, and those who want a long-lasting and durable video entertainment device.
However, those looking for a dedicated mobile gaming device which can handle the highest graphical settings, and those who want to push the latest technology to its limits should look elsewhere.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE 5G is really a more affordable version of the S7+, for users who don’t need heavy hardware and software. Sketching, writing, editing, music, and streaming are all activities the FE excel at delivering on. And for S$898, which is at least S$700 lower than the S7+, that’s a worthwhile investment for a device that is sturdy and highly effective for work on-the-go.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE 5G is a sturdy and durable productivity device that serves as a great option for those who find themselves needing to work long days on-the-go, and for those who want a device they can watch videos on without having to worry about battery life.
Aesthetics - 9.5/10
Build Quality - 8/10
Performance - 7/10
Value - 8/10
Geek Satisfaction - 7/10