While Apple was happily ruling the roost with its 10in iPad, Samsung was doing something different with its 7in tablets, starting off with the Samsung Galaxy Tab at the end of 2010. With a few models released since then and a proper tablet version of Android available, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 really should be Samsung’s chance to shine. Unfortunately for Samsung, Google has come along with its own competitor, the super-cheap and very powerful Google Nexus 7.
In terms of looks, there’s not much to tell the two apart. Both tablets are roughly the same size and weight. However, the Nexus 7 has a darker screen, so when it’s turned off it’s hard to tell where the screen ends and the bezel starts. Due to the Galaxy Tab 2’s lighter screen, the bezel stands out more, making the display look a little smaller. There are, however, both silver and white versions of the Tab 2, so you’ve got a bit more choice on looks.
Samsung has fitted the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 with a 1,024×600 Plane Line Switching (PLS) screen, which is the company’s alternative to the IPS technology in the Nexus 7’s 1,280×800 screen. We found the Galaxy Tab 2 display to be brighter, with purer whites and better contrast, but both tablets have excellent viewing angles. In contrast, we found that the Nexus 7’s screen is slightly less reflective, making it easier to read in most conditions.
In terms of resolution, the Nexus 7 wins hands down. The higher resolution packed into the smaller screen makes text and images look a lot sharper. Once you’re used to the Nexus 7, text on the Tab 2’s screen looks vaguely hazy.
We also tried the graphically-intense Dead Trigger game on both tablets. While the Nexus 7 would let us play smoothly at Ultra High Detail levels, the Galaxy Tab 2 would only let us select High Detail and was a little jerkier, particularly when up-close and personal with a zombie.
Part of this difference can be explained by the tablets’ different operating systems. The Nexus 7 runs Android 4.1 with the Project Butter update for a smoother interface, while the Galaxy Tab 2 has Android 4.0.
The Nexus definitely feels significantly smoother, particularly when scrolling through complicated web pages or a Google Play page full of apps. In the same situation the Galaxy Tab 2 feels rather jerky. It’s by no means a slow tablet and we’ll be interested to see what difference an update to Android 4.1 could offer, but for now the Nexus 7 is the faster tablet.