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Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE Review

Verdict

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Samsung’s “Fan Edition” Galaxy Tab S7 FE may appeal to hobbyist digital artists, but it costs a little too much given the compromises that have been made.

Pros

  • Great included S-Pen stylus
  • Has 5G
  • Bright 500-nit screen

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Weak CPU considering cost
  • LCD, not OLED, screen

Availability

  • UKRRP: £589
  • USARRP: $529

Key Features

  • NetworkThis a good on the go tablet as it comes with 5G support
  • StylusThere’s a very S Pen included with this tablet so you won’t need to buy it separately
  • Big ScreenThe 12.9-inch display is bright and great for video

Introduction

My view of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is coloured by the features I deem most important in a slate that wants to be the best tablet.

5G is great, but I don’t believe cellular connectivity is a priority when you consider how most people use tablets, particularly when services such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix let you cache content for offline use.

At the heart of this tablet sits a Snapdragon 750G processor, which isn’t a great fit for a tablet commanding such a high price.

The drop in gaming performance compared to the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is dramatic. And if that’s a priority for you, I would recommend steering clear of the Galaxy Tab S7 FE.

If gaming isn’t a great concern, then this tablet is a great digital drawing tool, including a high-quality pressure sensitive stylus that’s a joy to use. The large display is perfect for watching movies, too, even if the LCD panel’s image quality doesn’t quite match up to the OLEDs found in Samsung’s top tablets.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a decent tablet for many kinds of buyer, but it isn’t the “competent all-rounder” on offer from Samsung’s FE-series phones.

Design and Screen

  • There’s a 12.4-inch screen
  • LCD, rather than OLED
  • No fingerprint scanner

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a large tablet. It has a 12.4-inch screen, which on paper appears similar to Apple’s biggest iPad Pro.

In reality, the two are a little different. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE has a more “widescreen” 16:10 aspect ratio, which may make it seem a more manageable shape than the iPad Pro’s 4:3.

Build quality is excellent. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s back and sides are aluminium, and its corners are relatively squared-off rather than softened or rounded out. It’s comparable to an iPad Air 4 in this respect, and comes across as a flagship-style product.

Screen borders are fairly slim, but provide sufficient room to comfortably rest your thumbs without touching the display itself.

There are a couple of compromises to the outer hardware. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE has two speakers, rather than the four used in top-end devices. They offer good maximum volume and solid bass for a tablet, but the higher frequencies can sound brittle on raising the volume. This isn’t a tablet I tend to max out when playing games, since it can sound slightly abrasive with some titles.

The back of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE also lacks a fingerprint scanner. If you want a secure lockscreen, you’ll have to use a pin or password, or face recognition. The front camera is landscape style, along one of the “long” sides rather than at the top or bottom, but still works if you hold the tablet upright – as long as you aren’t blocking the camera, of course.

It’s possible to attach a keyboard base to the Galaxy Tab S7 FE; in fact, you can use the same keyboard accessory as the Tab S7 Plus. However, I haven’t had the opportunity to test it out.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is the most affordable way to get a 12-inch drawing tablet with a great pressure-sensitive stylus. Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Pencil costs £500/$500 more.

This is probably one of the best reasons to buy this tablet. However, as mentioned earlier, don’t just make your decision based on the screen inches; the iPad Pro’s 4:3 aspect ratio comes across larger than the 16:10 used here.

The drawing experience is great, however. Samsung’s S-Pen supports 4096 pressure levels, which delivers a great sense of control over your brush/pen strokes when using a higher-fidelity app such as Autodesk Sketchbook.

The S Pen that comes with the tablet

The S-Pen has a soft-touch plastic barrel, but a magnet inside lets it stick to the squared-off sides of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE. There’s a button, too. Press it when it’s close to the screen and the S-Pen shortcut menu will pop up.

Note that it isn’t a powered pen. There are no remote control-style gestures here, as seen in the Galaxy Note 20, but I don’t miss them at all. You get all the substance and none of the fluff of Samsung’s most advanced S-Pen implementations.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s actual screen is a mixed affair. It’s difficult to ignore the ways in which it’s a step down from the Galaxy Tab S7.

First up, this is an LCD screen, not the OLED kind used in top-end Samsung tablets. And the first noticeable effect of this is the loss in brightness when viewing the display from an angle. It also offers lower contrast and somewhat less punchy colour.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE provides no control over the colour tuning, with bolder shades failing to present quite the pop of the very best OLED panels.

The big Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE screen

According to the Display Tester app, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE doesn’t support wide gamut colour, but there are clearly deeper tones here than found in standard sRGB – which acts as a baseline array of colours you’d want in a tablet or laptop. I’d guess it sits somewhere between sRGB and the deeper DCI-P3, although its boldest shades aren’t quite as rich as those of the OLED Motorola Edge 20 Pro phone I’m using at the moment.

To the naked eye, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s colour looks pretty good, but when you consider that Samsung wants the consumer to see the device as an art tool, the lack of any calibration options is disappointing. There’s no sense you can trust that the colours you see here will look the same on another display.

Personally, I wouldn’t want any more vibrancy than is on offer here, but an option to bring it to a properly calibrated standard would be useful.

Note that the panel here is 60Hz, not the 120Hz used in the Galaxy Tab S7. This means that moving through Android’s menus isn’t as smooth. There are also noticeable motion trails when scrolling through menus.

The 2560 x 1600 resolution provides decent enough pixel density, but as a result of the very large screen, you will see slight pixelation if you go looking for it. In some respects this is a step down from the cheaper Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e, which is now available for £300.

Still, the peak brightness of 509 nits is excellent, and is most likely significantly more than you’ll need until you take the tablet outdoors.

Size and S-Pen support are the only real stand-outs here. However, this is proof of how picky we have to be about mobile device screens in 2021. Games and films still look great on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE. I find the colour saturation satisfying and contrast is fine given the tech used.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE runs Android

Performance

  • Powered by the Snapdragon 750G chipset
  • Not the most powerful slate for gaming

While there’s no need to be wound up by the switch to an LCD panel, assuming it’s a dud, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s processor will be a major issue for some.

It uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 5G processor, seen in some affordable 5G phones such as the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite. Its CPU power is solid enough. Android feels good, and the tablet is noticeably more responsive than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, which is the budget alternative.

However, this device is begging for more GPU power. The Snapdragon 750G 5G has an Adreno 619 graphics chipset, as seen in the entry-level Snapdragon 480 5G CPU. And its limitations are plain to see in Fortnite.

Epic Games restricts the settings available to you based on the power of the device, and as a result the game looks quite soft and basic here compared to its delivery on a super-powered phone or tablet.

The Tab S7 FE isn't the best when it comes to gaming

This cut-down version will still look decent on a phone – but on a 12-inch tablet? It’s more than a little rough. In addition, the frame rate dips dramatically from the 30fps cap when you turn around in a busy scene, or during the drop from the sky at the start of each round.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE can handle other challenging games better. Asphalt 9 looks fantastic at “high” graphics, although there are some frame-rate inconsistencies when the action is at its busiest.

At the price, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s gaming performance is disappointing, particularly given the superb power-per-pound of recent Qualcomm chipsets such as the Snapdragon 860 and 870. 3DMark provides a good idea of how big a drop-down this is from the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, and that tablet doesn’t even have a cutting-edge CPU; it uses the Snapdragon 865 Plus.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE scores 1105 points in 3DMark’s intensive Wild Life test, which is just a quarter of the non-FE tablet’s score. This is an “ouch” moment, given the Wi-Fi-only version of that smaller tablet is available for less than the Galaxy Tab S7 FE.

The more CPU-bound results from Geekbench 5 are also closer to those of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite than the Galaxy Tab S7. The Galaxy Tab S7 FE scores 1957 points, to the Tab S6 Lite’s 1200-odd or the Galaxy Tab S7’s ~3000.

It’s hard to get over this unless you actively don’t care about the power of a tablet; if you’re not concerned about games or creative apps that might tax the processor. As much as everything may seem fine on the surface as you move around Android, this tablet has the wrong processor.

Camera

  • There is a duo of cameras on the back
  • You’ll likely get much betterresults from your phone, even if the front camera is good
  • Night mode if you want to shoot in low light conditions

There are some cuts to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE cameras, compared to the full S7 line. You get an 8-megapixel Sony IMX355 on the back, with an f/1.9 lens, and a 5-megapixel Samsung GC5035 upfront.

The Galaxy Tab S7 offers higher megapixel counts plus a 5-megapixel ultra-wide rear camera.

A good £200/$300 phone will take much better photos, of course, but these two cameras do the job just fine for a tablet. The front camera also offers clearer video-chat images than almost all laptop webcams, which is welcome.

The Tab S7 FE camera on the back

Samsung also does a fairly good job of dressing up basic hardware in its camera app. There are two slightly different fields of view for the selfie cam, with the default one using a slight sensor crop to frame the average person’s face. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE has a Night mode, which seems to nudge the tablet towards slower shutter speeds for better image clarity, and uses a different processing profile.

The cameras feel responsive, too, lacking any major shutter lag that would make taking photos less fun.

I’m not sure why you’d use the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE often outside of video chat. And the front camera does have a tendency to overcook skin tones.

The cameras are nothing special, but perform just fine for the purpose.

Battery Life

  • Same battery sizes as the larger models in the series

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE has the same battery capacity as the Galaxy Tab S7+ at 10,900mAh. Samsung says it lasts up to 13 hours of video playback.

An hour of streamed video consumes 6% of the battery, suggestive of 16-hour battery life. As such, it’s a match for Samsung’s older tablets, and will last for some time with light use.

There's a USB-C charging port on the bottom of the Tab S7 FE

This tablet also supports 45W charging, but to benefit you’ll have to invest in a 45W adapter separately. A less powerful one is included in the box, with charging speeds far slower.

Following 90 minutes of charging, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE was still only at 50%; it takes more than three hours to fully recharge. This is far off the 90 minutes Samsung states on its website – because, you’ve guessed it, that requires the 45W fast charger. It costs £39, which is a substantial investment.

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Should you buy it?

You want a huge 5G tablet: All versions of the Tab S7 FE come with 5G, which is unusual for a tablet.

You want a super-powered tablet: The Snapdragon 750G processor is a great match for a budget 5G phone, but it isn’t fast enough for a tablet at this price.

Final Thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a decent Android tablet, but it’s overpriced. There seems to be an assumption here that 12-inch tablets are inherently highly valuable because of their screen size, and Samsung takes this a little too far.

There’s a drop in speaker quality, plus its use of an LCD rather than an OLED screen and the older CPU seem quite pathetic when you compare it to even the base iPad 10.2.

And it’s that last one, the processor, which is the big problem – it just isn’t a good fit for a mobile device this expensive. There are knock-on effects for gaming, and potentially for the performance in art/painting apps if you work with multiple layers.

However, if power isn’t a concern then there’s plenty to like. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE’s S-Pen is great, the screen is large and, despite using an LCD panel, it has some admirable characteristics including high peak brightness and deeper-than-sRGB colour.

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We thoroughly test every tablet we review. We use industry standard testing to compare features properly and we use the tablet as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.

FAQs

Does the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE include a stylus?

You get the S-Pen in the box. Unlike Apple, Samsung doesn’t make you buy a stylus separately.

How is the Tab S7 FE different to the Tab S7?

The Tab S7 FE has a larger screen than the standard Tab S7; nevertheless, it comes with worse speakers, a weaker processor, lower-end cameras, and an LCD screen instead of an OLED panel.

What does FE stand for?

Samsung’s FE tablets and phones are part of a “fan edition” line, which offers a slightly cut-down alternative to its top-end gadgets.

Trusted Reviews test data

Geekbench 5 single core
Geekbench 5 multi core
Max brightness
1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)
Time from 0-100% charge
Time from 0-50% charge
3D Mark – Wild Life
3D Mark – Wild Life Stress Test
3D Mark – Sling Shot Extreme
3D Mark – Sling Shot

Full specs

UK RRP
USA RRP
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
Front Camera
IP rating
Battery
Fast Charging
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Resolution
HDR
Refresh Rate
Ports
Chipset
RAM

Jargon buster

5G

Offering faster download and upload speeds when compared to 4G. Great for game streaming and HDR video playback. Not supported everywhere yet and speeds vary wildly.

mAh

An abbreviation for milliampere-hour and a way to express the capacity of batteries, especially smaller ones in phones. In most cases the higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last but this isn’t always the case.

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