Samsung gained some rare non-patent related headlines recently when it announced the Galaxy Tab 2, an Ice Cream Sandwich successor to the progenitor Android tablet. The curious thing, however, is that the Korean company already sells a sequel to the original seven inch tab in all but name.
It's called the Galaxy Tab 7.7, and it's surprisingly good considering its low public profile. Few shops stock it, and it barely gets mentioned in the company's tablet pantheon.
Although it's been almost actively avoiding attention since its launch late last year, when it comes to specs it outclasses the forthcoming flagship Galaxy Tab 2 in almost every way. It has a better screen, a better processor, better camera and better build quality.
What is Samsung thinking of?
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 – Screen
The highlight of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is the screen. Using the same AMOLED technology as the Galaxy S II smartphone and the Galaxy Note mini-tablet, it's absolutely stunning. Not only is it bright, absurdly colourful and responsive, at 1280x800 pixels it's pin sharp too. GTA III looks (and sounds) magnificent. The only complaint? Black reproduction is almost too good – dark movie scenes can become a little indistinct.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 – Performance
Samsung's gone with its own Exynos 4210 processor for the Tab 7.7, which is identical to the chip in the Galaxy S II except that it's clocked to a massive 1.4GHz. Samsung gets the most out of it too: the tablet has the smoothest performance outside of the ASUS Transformer Prime, running games and handling multitasking flawlessly.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 – Design
The rear of the tablet is topped and bottomed with a glossy plastic trim, but other than that the Tab 7.7 is an all metal and Gorilla Glass piece of design excellence.
The 7.7inch screen feels just a bit roomier than cramped 7inch models, and yet it still fits in an overcoat pocket – roughly the same size as a third-gen Kindle.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 – Software
The Galaxy Tab 7.7 arrives running Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) with an update to Ice Cream Sandwich on the way. That's all a bit irrelevant though, as the Samsung TouchWiz UX customisations are ones you'll want to keep whatever OS is running underneath.
It's quick, responsive and looks great, with a permanent app dock that can be summoned from any screen without touching home, and a floating note app that lets you annotate anything.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 – Battery life
For non-Tegra powered tablets this is usually the point where we reveal the devastating news that while it runs well, it has a battery life measured in minutes not hours. Samsung, however, has excelled itself with the Tab 7.7 – it's arguably the best Android tablet to take on your travels, achieved a massive ten hours in our run down test, and loses barely 5% in a 24hour period while in standby mode.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 – Verdict
There's really only one thing wrong with the Tab 7.7, and that's the price. Even though it has a superlative screen and outstanding battery life, it's hard to justify when it costs £70 more than a high quality 10inch tablet. For smaller tablets, it's an even tougher sell: the 8.9inch Motorola Xoom 2 Media Edition is nearly as good but costs £150 less, and then there's the improbably cheap Kindle Fire, which simply has to hit UK shores soon – assuming we don't skip straight to the Kindle Fire 2.
If we were Samsung, we'd ditch the Tab 2 and focus on getting the price for this down, because everything about it is the way a tablet should be. As it is, sidelining the star of the Galaxy Tab line-up seems a mistake.