Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (Fan Edition) – the last Tab S7 (review)

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is the last in the Galaxy Tab S7-series that, without doubt, were the best and most expensive Android tables in 2021.

We acknowledge Samsung’s first-class S-range and its premium screen offerings – all of which you pay for. FE (Fan Editon) is supposed to take what the fans love about the Tab S7 range, and as it is the end of the 2021 range, it should be at a better price.

But as we tested, we started to realise that this FE stood for ‘Frugal Edition’ – there are many compromises to bring it in at this price. Still, it offers excellent value despite the S7+ eating it for performance, S Pen, screen, sound, camera, security and well everything…

Comparison of Tab S7-series

Base Wi-Fi configuration/price for each and 4G/5G options

Item Tab S7 (2020 release)Tab S7+ (2020 release)Tab S7 FE (2021 release)
SM-T733
WebsiteProduct PageProduct PageProduct Page
PriceFrom $1049From $1499Wi-Fi from $719
5G from $979
Screen11″ 2560×1600, 16:10
LTPS TFT, 16M colours
120Hz
HDR10+
Widevine L1
12.4″ 2800×1752, 16:10
Super AMOLED
120Hz
Same
Same
12.4” 2560 x 1600, 16:10 LPTS TFT 16M colours
60Hz
HDR10
Widevine L1 DRM/HDR10
ProcessorQualcomm SD865+ 7nm
1×3.09GHz+3×2.42GHz+4×1.8GHz
Adreno 650
SameWi-Fi Qualcomm SD778 6nm 4×2.4GHz + 4×1.8 GHz
Adreno 642L
5G Qualcomm SD750G 8nm
2×2.2GHz + 6×1.8 GHz Adreno 619
RAM Storage6 or 8GB LPDDRX5
64/128GB UFS 3.0
MicroSD to 1TB
Same
128/256
4GB LPDDRX4/64GB UFS 6GB/128GB
Same
Camera Rear5MP, f/2.2, 1.12um Ultrawide
13MP F/2.0, 1.0um Wide
4K@30fps
LED flash and AF
Same8MP f/1.9 Sony IMX355
1080p@30fps
No Flash
Camera Front8MP f/2.0, 1.12umSame5MP f/2.2
GalaxyCore GC5035
1080p@30fps
CommsWi-Fi 6 AX VHT80
BT 5.0 A2DP, SBC. AAC, aptX etc
GPS (on 5G)
USB-C 3.2, Gen 1 ALT DP
SameWi-Fi 5 AC VHT80
same   USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 ALT DP
4G modelB1, 2, 43, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 20, 25, 26, 28, 38, 40, 41, 66 – all bandsSameSame
5G ModelN/AN1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 30, 28, 40, 77, 78 – Won’t work on Optus 41, 5G low bandN1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40, 41, 77, 78 – All Australian 5G bands

Continued

SoundQuad speakers
Dolby Atmos decode and downmix
Tuned by AKG
No 3.5mm jack
SameDual Speaker, three mics
Same    
Battery8000mAh 15W charger
Claim 14 hours video playback
Supports 45W fast charge
10090mAh 15W charger
Same

10090mAh 15W charger

Same
S PenDynamic 9ms Pro Pen
(same as Note20 Ultra)
SamePassive pen 30ms
Can use Active ‘Pro’ pen
DeXWireless or cableSameSame
Size253.8×165.3×6.3mm
498g
285 x 185 x 5.7 mm
 575g
284.8 x 185 x 6.3mm
608g
OptionsKeyboard/trackpad cover $239
45W charger $69
SameSame
SecurityFingerprint on the power buttonUnder glassNo fingerprint reader 2D Face ID is quite slow
MissingNFC
3.5mm
SameRear flash Fingerprint reader 3.5mm jack NFC  
Android10 and Samsung One UI
Upgradable to 13
SameAndroid 11 One UI 3.1.1
Upgradeable to Android 14
Warranty2 yearsSameSame

First impression – Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (Fan Edition)

FE is supposed to be Fan Edition where Samsung listens to its fans, takes the best bits of the Tab S7-series and down engineers it to a lower cost device. I am not sure it is worthy of that moniker trading off the success of the tab S7 and S7+. It is a good tablet – perhaps better called S7 Lite because it has lesser specs across the board. Anyway, know that it is entirely different from the S7+ apart from the battery and frame/chassis.

Still, it has Samsung’s premium build. 2-year warranty, DeX, and upgradable to Android 14, so look at it in that light.

Screen – 12.4”, 16.7M colours 60Hz LCD

It is a colourful, bright LCD screen. DRM Info finds it is capable of HDR10+ playback, but that downscales to HDR (the screen is not bright enough for HDR10 or 10+). Frankly, it looks more like SDR compared to the S7+.

Samsung provides no detailed screen specifications, but we found that it is 400nits typical (tested 433) and 500nits max (tested 518) and contrast 1800:1 (tested 1852:1). It has wide colour gamut support, but with 8-bit, 16.7M colours, it is a fraction of DCI-P3 – closer to 95% sRGB – acceptable for tablet use. You have a choice of Vivid (saturated) or Natural (realistic) colours but no more screen adjustments.

Gamers will find the 60Hz screen/touch response a tad slow at 41.6ms GtG and 23.2 BtW. On our tests, there were extended load times and skipped frames.

Processor – two types

The Wi-Fi version (tested) uses the later Qualcomm SD778, 6nm, eight-core, with the Adreno 642L GPU. The 5G use the Qualcomm SD750G, 8nm, eight-core, with the Adreno 619

Geekbench 5 single/multicore scores are Wi-Fi, 786/2805 and 5G 615/1904 (S7+ 959/2690). The GPU scores are OPEN CL 2186 and Vulkan 2254. This is closer to Closer to a Qualcomm SD845 (circa 2018).

RAM and Storage – to little

Samsung blew it with a pathetic 4GB LPDDR4X and 64GB (43GB free) UFS base model. The low ram affects multitasking, gaming, and overall lag. In general use, it is fine. And 64GB is low, but at least you have a microSD expandable to 1TB. It is very slow storage.

  • CPDT Internal storage read/write 551/118MBps
  • MicroSD (Samsung 64GB Pro) 43/22MBps can be treated as internal storage in Developer Options

You can plug in an external SSD (we tested to 2TB), but it will not run the data transfer test, meaning you can’t mount it as internal storage – only for OTG storage to move data from the internal storage.

Throttle

GIPS: Maximum 240,807, Average, 233,110 lowest 211,428, 8% throttle over 15 minutes. Excellent thermal management, but the 6nm SoC runs quite cool anyway.

Comms

  • Wi-Fi 5 AC-26dBm 1200Mbps half-duplex (600 each way)
  • BTC 5.0 SBC
  • USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 has ALT DP for external 1080p video and audio over USB0C to HDMI cables.

Battery – long life

It is a big 10,090mAh – it needs to drive a 12.4” LCD screen. Unfortunately, the supplied 9V/1.67A/15W charger takes over 3 hours when the tablet is capable of 45W charging (maximum 10V/4.5A) at around 1.5 hours.

Samsung offers a TA 45 adapter, but it is only a maximum of 3A (10V/3A), and in our test, it would only charge the device at 30W in just over two hours.

You can use any USB-C PD charger greater than 45W, but there are two catches. First, 65W PD chargers won’t deliver 4.5A – they top out at 20V/3.25A/65W. So, you need a 100W charger that can deliver up to 20V/5A/100W.  Second, you must use a 5W rated cable – the one supplied is 3W. See USB and Thunderbolt cables made easy. We use USB-C Zeus-X Pro that supports USB-C 2.0 or 3/0 or 3.1/3.2 Gen 2 and up to 100W as our reference cables.

  • PC Mark 3.0 battery test (no 4/5G): 12 hours and 15 minutes
  • Video loop aeroplane mode 50% screen/volume, from the device: 13 hours
  • GFX Bench Manhattan 3.1: 522.4 minutes (8.71 hours) 1908 frames
  • GFX Bench T-Rex: 740.7 (12.35 hours) 33671 frame
  • Battery Drain 100% load: 5hr and 42 min

It has excellent battery life, and for most uses (except games), it should easily give you 10-12 hours.

Speakers – stereo

It has 2 x CS35L45 Cirrus 6.8W, 1% THD+N Class D amps. On paper, these should be excellent along with AKG Tuning, Dolby Atmos decode (and downmix to 2.0), and choice of normal (as tested), pop, classic, jazz, rock, and custom pre-sets. The maximum volume is a fairly low 73dB acceptable for personal use.

But the sound is average with absolutely no low-mid-high bass (20-200Hz), reasonably flat but erratic mid (200Hz to 4kHz), solid but erratic low-mid treble and almost no high treble. This is an Analytical sound signature verging on Bright Vocal, and it is too harsh for most music. The pre-sets can’t add bass as the speakers simply cannot produce it. So, when you listen to music, the bass is muddy, and the treble is dull. It is good for clear voice.

The sound stage is narrow – stereo music appears to be coming from the screen instead of further afield, so you don’t get a sense of 2D movement.

We tested with Dolby Atmos content, and it has a wider sound stage outside the screen and some directional 2D sound (not 3D height spatial).

While the sound is not unpleasant, you get far more pleasant sound from a decent pair of Bluetooth ear/headphones (no 3.5mm jack). BT supposedly supports SBC, AAC, aptX, LDAC and a scalable codec, but we could not get any attached device to use anything other than SBC.

DeX mode with and without an external monitor

Samsung Desktop eXperience can load directly to the screen (as well as casting to a monitor over Wi-Fi or via USB-C to HDMI Cable). If you have the Book Cover Keyboard (for S7+ too), you can use this “Windows-like” Android desktop, albeit you need a mouse for any productivity. So, we recommend a Logitech K400 Plus keyboard touchpad for $99.95.

As it is USB-C 3.2 Gen 1, most expansion dongles will give you HDMI Out, USB-A, and more, so you can use cabled keyboards and mice.

S-Pen – good but not great

The Tab S7 FE has a standard passive S Pen, meaning there’s no Bluetooth connectivity for remotely controlling apps and functions or any air gestures. And, because the screen works at a standard 60Hz, the S Pen doesn’t benefit from low latency and doesn’t provide the pen-to-paper feel that you get on the Tab S7 and Tab S7+.

You can buy the S7 S Pen Pro ($189) that adds everything, but you have to recharge via USB-C as the S7 FE does not have an inductive charging Pen dock.

Book Cover Keyboard Slim – needs a trackpad!

This is the same as the $239 Tab S7+ and, at 345g, lacks a trackpad. Unlike the S7+, the FE does not have a kickstand, so it cannot use the infinitely more useful $359 S7+ Keyboard and trackpad cover. The 1mm throw and 30g actuation make it a hunt and peck keyboard.

Android – upgradable to 14!

It ships with Android 11 and should receive Android 14 and regular (quarterly) security updates.

Samsung One UI 3.1.1 is the grease over Android’s cogs that makes it run smoothly. It is quite a light touch. Bloatware includes Samsung alternatives to Google Apps plus Microsoft, Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE Camera

On paper, this should be an average performer, but the Qualcomm SD AI saves the day quite well. But, and there is always one, it is damned hard to use a tablet as a photography device, and it is just too big to hold still.

The rear camera uses a Sony IMX355 (8MP 3264×2448, 1.12um, f/1.9, Autofocus) sensor used way back in the 2018 Pixel 3. It has no flash, so it is fine in day and office light and struggles in low light where the AI night mode takes over. The Depth-sensing sensor (bokeh) is absent, but you can add bokeh effects via AI. Zoom is 4x digital. It can record video at a maximum of 1080p@30fps with EIS.

The selfie camera uses a GalaxyCore GC5035 (5MP 2576 x 1932, 1.12um, f/2.2, fixed focus) used in the Samsung 2021 A52 5G. It can record video up to 1080p@30fps (16:9). It is almost impossible to take a one-handed selfie, so look at this more as a webcam.

It uses the standard Samsung App, which includes auto HDR, night mode (4-second shots are painful to hold still), macro and various filters.

CyberShack view – the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a good tablet BUT

There is no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S7 FE is a good tablet, but it is so dissimilar to the S7 and SA7+ that is where it ends. If you buy it knowing what the compromises are, that is great.

So, we do recommend the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE – but we recommend you buy 6/128GB Wi-Fi version

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (Fan Edition)

Fron $719
8.2

Features

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Performance

8.5/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Design

7.0/10

Pros

  • Decent LCD screen
  • Very well made and 2-year warranty
  • 3 Android OS updates and quarterly security patches
  • Wireless. Wired and On-device Dex

Cons

  • 4/64GB is laughable for a premium tablet – it should be 6-8GB
  • 15W charger supplied but 45W capable at extra cost
  • Have to buy Active S Pen to get advanced features
  • 5G version 4/64GB only
  • No fingerprint sensor


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