Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ — iPad Pro 12.9" 2020: My Experience

I was recently looking for a decent tablet, so I could avoid carrying around my Lenovo Legion 7 laptop, when on travels. Given the security state of my country and the overall lack of portability of laptops nowadays (My laptop was portable, but I was increasingly tired of lugging 15.6" gadgets around even if they were not exactly heavy). My primary focus though was a device I can use to access my projects in Figma, while also being able to do some light graphic design works on the go (I’m not a very good graphics designer mind you). Prior to this, I had read many articles and stories pitting these two lovely gadgets, comparing what they bring to the table. Before now, I never had the opportunity for a hands-on review for these two. But recently, I have had the privilege to buy both and even though there are newer versions already (Maybe I’ll get the new iPad Pro 2021), I felt that I should document my short experience with these devices.

Now to put things into perspective, this is not a sponsored article (obviously) nor is it rock-solid advice (or suggestion) to get one over the other. I am simply trying to compare these two based on my use case, and how I felt when using them. So whatever I write here is subjective and someone else would most likely feel different about it. And I will not bore you too much with a lot of technical details like all the in-depth features of the camera or which particular chipset is used blah blah blah. Most people don’t understand those anyway.

So without further ado, let’s see how these two fared in my care. I am going to be comparing them based on selected categories: display, performance, battery life, camera, software and operating system and audio. I didn’t bother with their designs as it was to be a fairly irrelevant aspect of these two devices. You can check other reviews on this matter, but I find both to be awesome. Right… Let’s get on with it.

1. Display

Trust me when I say this, both displays are really good and justifiably so for those hefty price tags. The iPad had beautiful colours and smooth animations. However, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+’s screen was on a whole new level. It was hands down the best display on a portable device I have ever used. Colours were richer, more accurate and blacks were deeper. Of course, this largely is due to the Super AMOLED technology but boy oh boy, I felt a stark difference when I switched from the Tab S7+ to the iPad Pro 12.9. For me, the Tab S7+ clearly is better by miles. The iPad’s screen felt a bit more square-ish owing to its 4:3 aspect ratio whilst the Tab S7+ had the more traditional rectangular 16:10 aspect ratio. For me, I preferred the Tab S7+’s screen as it was better for media consumption without having to deal with the annoyingly huge black bars most often. However, the iPad’s aspect ratio was better for productivity work as it afforded a somewhat bigger screen estate when opening documents or design files and applications. The iPad’s screen is also slightly bigger and brighter under sunlight, but hey I doubt I or even anyone else would be using their devices for extended periods under direct sunlight. Both devices have good screen readability under sunlight so…

2. Performance

These two beasts are nothing short of titans when it comes to performance. However, the iPad is a killer. I’m not saying the Tab S7+ was a slouch, but when you use these two heavily, you notice how much faster the iPad is. Mind you, you may not notice the difference when on light usage, so for most people, it would more or less not mean anything. But I am a gamer (mostly COD: Mobile though) and I almost always use my devices heavily. The iPad edges out on the Tab S7+ here. Despite all this, both devices were lag-free and smooth when running anything I threw at them (Well, except opening my Figma project. I guess it is to be expected as most of my projects are large and it most probably is down to their less than ideal RAM capacities. Both could not handle my Figma files well. Although the Tab S7+ scored better in this case as it opened up some large files before running out of memory. The iPad just kept freezing up, no matter what I opened. It had 2GB less RAM so…)

3. Battery Life

This is one aspect I was eager to compare. Both devices lasted very long, though the Tab S7+ had a marginally better battery life (I guess it’s to be expected as its Super AMOLED screen conserved power way better). I could get a full day of light usage on both devices without the need to recharge so no problems with either of the two. This was really surprising, as most reviews I saw stated that the iPad had better battery life.

4. Camera

Lemme just start by stating that these two devices have large screens, hence images don’t look as sharp when viewing them on the screen. I tested this by sending the images I took on these tablets to my smartphone and they looked incredible, despite the almost low quality, blurred look they had on their respective native screens. The iPad though was better in this case. It had better camera sensors and took better pictures. I myself don’t find the camera useful most of the time, and I highly doubt most people out there are flipping open their tablets for a photoshoot. But it is nice to have a decent camera for those rare occasions you don’t have your smartphone close by (very, very rare occasions if I might add). Both had decent front-facing cameras, though I feel they could have done better. My videos on Zoom/Team/Meet calls left a lot to be desired. But hey, how many times will I be in a Zoom call with my video on? Or how many times do you see someone whip up a tablet to take a selfie (Weirdo!)?

5. Software and Operating System

I have never been a fan of the Apple OS (Mac or iOS), due to their frustrating limitations. But they are the best-optimised OS you can get on any portable devices. Animations, gestures and general user interface felt smoother on the iPad and well, faster. The Tab S7+ on Android 11 is no slouch but you feel the stark difference between the two. However, there are still those tiny (and sometimes obvious things) that are always lacking in the iPad’s iOS. The fact that I have to go into settings almost every time to make a system modification to an app or the UI is annoying. And the fact that swiping from either edge of the screen to go back is not present on the iPad is also really not a great experience. Given the screen size, I have to reach up a little bit to the top of the screen to tap on the back button each time I want to navigate back in an app. It may not be so obvious in iPhones, but for the iPad, it is a little bit of unnecessary stress and quite frustrating (especially when you are used to this on Android). I have seen a quite lot of negative reviews on the Samsung Dex. Frankly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Since I switched to Dex mode on the Tab S7+, I never switched back to tablet mode. Sure, some apps refuse to resize and some will restart if you resize them, but those are not really issues. The apps that don’t resize are few and I realised resizing them a waste of time. And once you get used to those apps that restart when you resize then you simply know ahead that immediately you launch them you need to resize at that point to use it the way you prefer. At the end of the day, even though the apps on the iPad were better optimized and the whole OS for the iPad was smooth and really refreshing, I felt the constant longing to go back to the Android Tablet, as it offered these nifty little features that made using the Android OS more satisfying. The iPad had more apps tailored for the iPad screen and if you are a graphic designer, illustrator or you simply want to use your tablet to draw then you’ll find the iPad to be better suited for you. For all other categories, it’s simply a matter of choice of platform/brand. I have also seen and read various comments and stories that apps on the Samsung Tab S7+ or the Android tablet market, in general, were poorly optimized, I can confidently say that it’s not at all true. Every app I have used in the Tab S7+ performed wonderfully and a few times, fared better than their iPad counterparts. Productivity apps like MS Office, Word, Excel, Google Docs, Sheet etc performed flawlessly on both devices (Even in the Dex mode on the Samsung Tab S7+). One thing I did find annoying on the Samsung though was the Bixby. I never truly realised the extent of how frustrating it is to have that in the power button until I used this tablet. Samsung, please get rid of that in future software updates.

6. Audio

Now, this is one aspect I was truly impressed with the Galaxy Tab S7+. Samsung beat Apple hands down here in the audio department. I read a few reviews saying that the iPad had better audio quality, but I saw none of that here. Both devices were really loud at max volume and sure, the iPad had richer bass. But overall, the Tab S7+ takes the crown. Midtones were better, and the overall sound quality was better. Though if all you do is listen to music, you might think the richer bass on the iPad made the iPad have better audio. But that wasn't the case for me. Especially if you turn on Dolby Atmos on the Samsung, you get a far superior audio experience than you’d have on the iPad. The iPad though is not a slouch here. You will still get an awesome audio experience but comparatively, the audio on the Tab S7+ is way better.

In Conclusion

While these two devices have a lot of awesome specs, there were a few shortcomings here and there like the less than ideal RAM sizes (for me though, most people will have no issues with 6 or 8GB RAM), the small annoying lack of features on the iOS, the somewhat sub-par camera on the Tab S7+ etc — they were still some darn good tablets. They were the best of the best. Overall, in terms of bang for the buck, the Tab S7+ squarely beats the iPad.

So, if you are getting a tablet mainly for media consumption, I’ll suggest the Tab S7+. However, if you are a creative (graphic designer, illustrator etc) the iPad is your best bet. Reading or editing documents, browsing the web for your researches and general productivity on the iPad was much better owing to the smoother animations and scrolling, and that 3:2 aspect ratio.

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Product Designer by Day... Amateur Gamer by Night