Review: Samsung Takes On Kindle Fire with New 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2

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Keith Wagstaff

This Sunday, consumers will see another Kindle Fire challenger hit the market. What’s so special about this one? Well, it’s priced at $249.99 and ships with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

The first 7-inch Galaxy Tab was good, but not $600 good. Doug Aamoth, of the very fine Internet site Techland, said the tablet would “likely be able to find a home with early adopters, certain business uses, and people with deep pockets. The rest of us should be okay waiting a few months to see what comes along next.”

(MORE: The Great Tablet Debate: Fads or Here to Stay?)

Of course, it ended up taking more than a few months for the 7-inch tablet market to bring us Amazon’s popular Kindle Fire, priced at the consumer-friendly price of $199. And with the Galaxy Tab 2, Samsung has seemingly taken aim at Amazon’s offering.

Performance-wise, there is nothing amazing about Samsung’s new tablet. In fact, it’s basically a slightly slower Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, made more attractive with a $100 discount and an upgrade from Android 3.2 Honeycomb.

Still, you can’t ignore the price; $250 changes the game completely. Even $50 more would have condemned it to tablet no-man’s land. Now, people are going to be poring over online reviews trying to decide whether they should opt for it over the Kindle Fire.

At around 12.17 ounces, it’s lighter than both the Kindle Fire and the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. Its design isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but with its rounded corners, slick gray plastic back and relatively thin build, it’s pretty comfortable to handle.

Its 1 GHz dual-core processor is actually slower than the Plus’ 1.2-GHz dual-core processor. Thanks to its TouchWiz-wrapped Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, however, performance is actually quite smooth and responsive. It comes pre-installed with a fair number of apps including Samsung’s Music, Media and Game Hubs, not to mention Netflix, Amazon Kindle and Gmail.

Samsung

The best app just might be the Smart Remote app, which — with the help of a built-in IR blaster — essentially turns your Galaxy Tab 2 into a fancy remote control. Just as the DVR made TV Guide look hopelessly retrograde, Peel’s Smart Remote app updates the process for the tablet age, organizing shows in colorful tiles by genre and presenting you with suggestions based on what you have watched. The worst app is probably the pointlessly prominent screenshot app, which I found more annoying than useful after accidentally pressing it several times.

(MORE: The Best Universal Remote of All: Your Phone)

One thing the Kindle Fire doesn’t have is dual-facing cameras. The Galaxy Tab 2’s 3-megapixel rear-facing camera is, well… not very good. Still, it exists, which has to count for something, right? Not that too many people take pictures with their tablets.

Ultimately, media consumption is what most people are going to be concerned about. The Galaxy Tab 2’s 7-inch, 1024×600 screen is hardly “resolutionary” but it gets the job done. The biggest problem is the glare, which can lead you to stare into your own face as you try to watch movies on Netflix. Otherwise, it’s fairly bright and has excellent viewing angles.

As for sound, hopefully you have some good headphones; the tablet’s two speakers are decent but oddly positioned, and easily blocked by your hand if you hold it horizontally. Since that’s how I — and I assume most people — like to watch their movies, it can’t really be ignored.

You will have a good amount of space to store that media. The microSD card slot lets you store up to 32GB on top of the built-in 8GB of memory, plus you get 50GB of free Dropbox storage for a year.

So, the $250 question: Should you buy this instead of a Kindle Fire? If you have Amazon Prime, the answer is no. That tablet was built as a media mecca for Amazon’s ever-growing library of books and movies, and it serves that purpose extremely well. If you don’t, I personally think the fact that the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 ships with Ice Cream Sandwich — on top of all of its other features — makes it an excellent buy for an extra $50.

MORE: Hands On with Barnes & Noble’s New Nook Simple Touch E-Reader with GlowLight

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