Can the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE compete with a similarly priced iPad Air 4?
Samsung’s goal with the Tab S7 fan edition was to bring consumers their favorite features from the S7 and the S7+ at an affordable price.
So, let’s see how it stacks up against the competition.
The size of the device in the display is one of the first things that people consider when choosing a tablet. Now I’ll get to the quality of the display later on, but as far as the device itself, the Galaxy Tab S7 FE is about the same height as the iPad Air 4. It’s 0.2 millimeters thicker so that’s not really something you’re going to notice, but it is much wider.
We’re getting a larger 12.4 inch display on the Tab S7 FE versus a 10.9 inch display on the iPad Air 4, so you’ll need to choose between having a larger display to view content on and more real estate to work with versus having the more portable device.
And speaking of portability, the Tab S7 FE is also heavier at 1.34 pounds or 608 grams versus 1.1 pounds or 458 grams. I usually have either one of these in a bag with a bunch of other gears so I don’t really notice the difference, but again, if you’re prioritizing small and light, the iPad Air 4 will give you that. And if you want a larger device, that’s the Tab S7 FE.
Moving onto the design, these are actually very similar. Both our machined aluminum, both have the very popular design with rounded corners and squared off edges, and both have relatively small bezels.
Now starting with the Tab S7 FE, we’re getting the power button and the volume controls on the side. We then have a micro SD card slot that can be used to expand the internal storage by another one terabyte. We have two speakers, one on each side, and then finally, a USB-C port for charging and accessories.
On the iPad Air 4, we’re getting that power button at the top and the volume controls on the side. We have four speaker grills, two on each side, but there are still only two speakers. And then again, we have a USB-C port. Both tablets also have connectors that could be used for attaching keyboard accessories, which I’ll get to later on in this video.
Now looking at color options, the iPad Air 4 is available in Space Gray, Silver, Rose Gold, Green, and Sky Blue, which is the one that I have right here.
The Tab S7 FE comes in four colors, Mystic Black, Silver, Pink, and Green if you get the Wi-Fi version, and then I could only find it in Mystic Black when I was looking for the cellular model, which is what I’m using.
When we look at biometric authentication, we start seeing some differences.
The iPad Air 4 uses new touch ID sensor, which Apple integrated right into the power button.
The Tab S7 FE uses face recognition with the front facing camera. Now this choice comes down to which one works better for how and where you use your tablet.
Personally, I like face recognition if I have to choose. Now one of the things that I really like about the Tab S7 and S7+ is that they offered both options, but I understand that Samsung had to make some concessions here in order to bring the price down.
Now let’s get to the actual displays. So, the iPad Air 4 has a 10.9-inch 60 Hertz liquid retina display with a resolution of 1640 by 2360 and aspect ratio of 23 by 16, so it’s virtually three by two, it’s a DCI-P3 display, and we’re getting 264 pixels per inch.
The Tab S7 FE has a 12.4-inch 60 Hertz TFT display with a resolution of 1600 by 2560, an aspect ratio of 16 by 10, and then 243 pixels per inch. So, in terms of sheer size for things like watching video, playing games, surfing the web, reading, or taking note, I like the larger display.
And in particular, the 16 by 10 aspect ratio is excellent for things like watching YouTube or Netflix, because most of the content tends to be 16 by 9, so we’re getting a larger image.
The Tab S7 FE seemed a little brighter than the iPad Air 4, but I find it to have a slightly warm tone.
The iPad Air 4 seemed sharper, more detailed, and it looked better when viewed slightly off axis.
If you’re looking for the larger display, that’s obviously the Tab S7 FE, but if you’re looking for better image quality, I’m going to give that to the iPad Air 4.
As I mentioned, the iPad Air 4 has four speaker grills and a Tab S7 FE has two, but both tablets only have two speakers.
Both have pretty good audio for tablets, but I’m going to give the edge to the Tab S7 FE with the AKG speakers and support for Dolby Atmos.
The sound was fuller, richer, and a little less hollow than the sound on the iPad Air 4. And neither tablet has a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack so you’ll need an adapter for wired headphones or a headset.
Moving onto the camera system, we’re getting a seven-megapixel front facing camera with the iPad Air 4 versus a five-megapixel camera on the Tab S7 FE. As far as image quality, I find the iPad Air 4 to be more natural and have more accurate color reproduction.
The Tab S7 FE provides a wider angle of view and a sharper image, but the sharpening tends to look over-processed.
Here’s video footage from the iPad Air 4 and the Galaxy Tab S7 FE. This will also give you an idea of what the internal microphone sound like. I have both tablets about the same distance away from me.
You can see that the Tab S7 FE has a slightly wider angle of view, and you can also see that it’s more contrast and sharpened. Again, it might be a little bit too sharpened. It depends on what you like.
I also like the fact that on the S7 FE, the camera is positioned at the top of the longer edge, whereas on the iPad Air 4, it’s on the left or, you know, depending on the shorter edge.
So, if I’m looking at the display itself, when I’m looking at the person that I’m talking to, it doesn’t look like I’m looking at the camera.
In order to look at the camera, I can’t really see who I’m talking to. So hopefully this is helpful.
Now looking at the rear facing camera, we see more of the same. The iPad Air 4 has a higher resolution, 12-megapixel camera versus eight megapixels on a Tab S7 FE. It could shoot at faster shutter speeds. There are two slow motion modes, and it can also shoot at 4K at 24, 30, and 60 frames per second. So clearly if you’re looking for the better camera system, that’s the iPad Air 4.
Now this is one of those features where I want you to think about how you actually plan on using the tablet. So personally, I don’t use the cameras on my tablets for anything other than video calls.
So, I don’t place a very high value on image quality, frame rates and resolution. If I need to take a photo or shoot a video, and I don’t have my cameras, I’m usually grabbing my phone.
On the other hand, if you are someone who’s going to use the camera system on their tablet, the iPad Air 4 is the clear winner.
Now let’s talk about accessories. The iPad Air 4 is compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil and the Tab S7 FE uses the basic S Pen, meaning it’s not Bluetooth enabled.
And before I get to the actual use, I want to mention that Samsung includes the pen with the price of the Tab S7 FE.
Whereas the second-generation Apple Pencil costs $130. So, if you think that you’re going to want a stylus with your tablet, make sure that you factor that when you’re looking at the overall cost.
The Apple Pencil stores, pairs, and charges, by attaching it to the side of the iPad and the S pen can be stored and charged on the back.
And if you’ve got the Tab S7 FE on a keyboard case or any other case or amount, you can also store the pen on the side. It won’t charge there but there are magnets to hold it in place.
Now, both have worked really well for me when I’m taking notes, sketching, or marking up documents, but they have a completely different feel to them.
So, the Apple Pencil has a more solid tip. And when you write or draw with it, it feels like you’re writing on a single sheet of paper on a hard surface.
The S pen has a softer tip, which gives a little when it comes in contact with the tablet. And it feels more like you’re writing on a notepad where the pages compress as you apply pressure.
Now, this is an area where it’s hard for me to tell you the one is better than the other, and it’s going to come down to personal preference.
Personally, on my iPads, I like to add a paper-like or paper-feel screen protector, and that adds a little bit of friction and dampening. Plus, it protects the display because I’m not a very careful person.
Now moving on to the keyboard cases, the iPad Air 4 is compatible with the smaller magic keyboard and a Tab S7 FE has a dedicated book cover keyboard, which I didn’t end up getting, I might pick one up because I want to try out the new design but it doesn’t include a track pad, which sort of defeats the purpose for me.
The good news is that it worked great with my Tab S7+ book cover keyboard so that’s the one I’ve been using with it. I like the size of the keyboard and the function keys on the book cover keyboard, but I like the actual quality of the keyboard and the track pad better on the magic keyboard.
Now moving on to processing power, things are a little bit unfinished because there are two versions of the Tab S7 FE and they come with two different processors. The 5G version comes with the Snapdragon 750 G and the Wi-Fi only version comes with the more powerful Snapdragon 778 G. And as of now, I’m still waiting for my Wi-Fi only version. So, I can only report what you’ll get with the 5G version.
With the Tab S7 FE, if you get to 64 gigs of internal storage, you’re getting four gigs of RAM, 128 gigs of internal storage come with six gigs of RAM, and 256 gigs come with eight.
The iPad Air 4 comes with the A14 bionic chip, and regardless of whether you’re getting the 64 or 256 gigs of internal storage, you’re getting four gigs of RAM. I’ll quickly give you geek bench scores for those of you are interested, and then I’ll get to actual user experience.
The Tab S7 FE scored 646 for a single-core performance versus 1111 on the iPad Air 4. For multi-core performance, the Tab S7 FE scored 1896 versus 2678 on the iPad Air 4, and a higher score is an indicator of better performance.
Now, with both tablets, I was able to do pretty much everything I wanted from browsing the web, streaming music and video, using different productivity apps, social media, and then managing the channel.
And I didn’t really notice much of a difference. Overall, I would give the edge to the iPad Air 4 because it still felt a little more responsive.
And I’ll talk about gaming later on in the post, because there were some differences there.
For photo editing, the iPad Air 4 may have been a little more snappy when adding an individual photo in Lightroom, but really it wasn’t a huge difference.
When it came to more demanding tasks like batch processing and working with higher resolution video footage with more challenging codecs, that’s where the iPad Air 4’s additional processing power became more evident.
And for the majority of users, both tablets offer plenty of power. But if you’re looking for the more capable one, that would be the iPad Air 4, at least when compared with the 5G Snapdragon 750 G model, which is what I have here. I am getting the Wi-Fi version in a few weeks, and I’m excited to see the difference.
Now let’s talk about multitasking and there are two different approaches to consider. If we’re using both tablets with a tablet UI, which is what I think the majority of users are likely to do, then I’m going to give this slight edge to the iPad Air 4.
Both are quite capable and there are lots of ways to use multiple apps at the same time, have floating apps and save split view layouts.
But with the more recent updates to iPad OS, I had a better user experience with the iPad Air 4.
Now, if you’re looking to use your tablet as a laptop replacement, then the Samsung Tab S7 FE wins it, hands down. As a Tab S series tablet, the FE comes with decks, which lets you use the tablet as a laptop replacement by providing you with a desktop-like interface.
Once you activate DeX from the quick settings panel or by using the key on the book cover keyboard, the tablet will restart and you’ll see that the entire UI change.
You now have a desktop with icons, a task bar where you can minimize and access apps, you can snap windows to the side, you can have floating windows, you can resize them, and it very much feels like you’re using a desktop OS.
You can also attach an external display, and unlike with the iPad where you can only mirror your display, you’re actually getting a dual display setup.
You can use the entire monitor. There are no black bars, even with an ultra-wide, and you can attach an external keyboard and a mouse for a more comfortable setup.
Apps and Operating System
Next, I want to talk about the apps and the operating system. So, one of my favorite things about iPads is that there’s an extremely strong and versatile app ecosystem.
The Play Store has some great apps as well. And at the same time, I more often ran into issues like apps that would open in portrait mode instead of landscape mode and a few other quirks.
Of course, this isn’t Samsung’s fault. They aren’t writing the apps and they don’t control the Play Store, but it’s still a reality.
And when it comes to productivity apps, you’re going to find plenty of great options for both tablets. And unless you’re looking for something very specific, you’ll be able to get your work done with both.
Some creative apps like Affinity Photo, Procreate, and LumaFusion are only available for the iPads. So, if those are a must for you, that would be a reason to choose the iPad Air 4.
In my experience, there are alternatives for Android that offer very similar functionality. If you’re looking for a good video editor, for example, check out Power Director. Another consideration is the operating system where Samsung promises three generations of OS updates with a Tab S7 FE.
Apple has excellent long-term support for older iPads. And the current iPad OS is still compatible with my iPad Air 2, which I got in 2014.
Next let’s talk about battery life, where both tablets performed well. I was getting somewhere between 11 and 14 hours of battery life on my Tab S7 FE versus about 10 hours on the iPad Air 4. And of course, this always depends on the tasks that you’re performing, the display brightness, and any accessories that you may be powering off of your tablet.
As with my other Samsung tablets, I like that the Tab S7 FE shows whether you’re using regular or fast charging and how long it will take to reach a full charge.
One great feature that’s available with both tablets is that they can be used as a second display with a laptop or a desktop.
Samsung calls this feature as Second Screen and Apple calls it Sidecar. This is one of the most underrated features these tablets offer, and you can very easily create a portable dual display system.
As far as cell service, the Tab S7 FE offers 5G support, whereas the iPad Air 4 caps out at LTE. If you’re planning on using a dedicated data plan and you’re looking for the fastest connectivity, then the Tab S7 FE is the better option.
Next, I want to talk about gaming, and without diving too deep into it, I was able to play games on both and I could get pretty much any game I wanted to run. I was using the Xbox Game Pass app on the Tab S7 FE and the beta browser version with the iPad Air 4.
In my experience, the iPad Air 4 provided smoother gameplay, and I didn’t run into any lagging issues like I sometimes did with a Tab S7 FE. I also felt like the image quality was better on the iPad Air 4.
As far as configuration and pricing, the iPad Air four is available with 64 gigs of internal storage for $599 or 256 gigs of internal storage for $749. Now these are the official Apple Store pricing, but most of the time, you can get better pricing by using the links in the description.
Moving on to the Tab S7 FE, the Wi-Fi only model comes with three options, 64 gigs for $530, 128 gigs for $600, and then finally 256 gigs for $680. And remember that you can add up to a one terabyte micro SD card for additional storage. And if you’re looking at the 5G model, then the only option that I found was 64 gigs for $670.
And don’t forget what I talked about earlier about the Wi-Fi only model having a more powerful chip.
Both devices also offer various cloud storage options. And of course, you can use an external SSD if you don’t mind bringing one with you.
iPad Air 4 or Galaxy Tab S7 FE?
So, the Tab S7 FE has a larger display, a better sound system, excellent laptop experience and multitasking with DeX, face detection for biometric authentication, and it comes with the S Pen included.
It also has more storage and RAM options, expandable internal storage with a micro SD card slot and 5G support. The iPad Air 4 is a more powerful tablet, has better image quality, a more optimized app ecosystem. It offers extremely powerful creative apps, a better typing and trackpad experience when you pair it with the magic keyboard, better image quality when using the front and rear cameras, and longer operating system support.
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