Travel Gear Review: The 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 2

by Gray Cargill on February 13, 2013

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I’ve come to accept that I’ll never be a carry-on only traveler. I’ve tried it three times now, and I don’t like it, for reasons I’ve outlined before. For me, checking my suitcase and just bringing my backpack on the plane as a carry-on makes for a much easier flying experience.

Except it hasn’t been so easy lately. Ever since I became a blogger, my backpack has been getting heavier and heavier. It went from being filled with a change of clothing, overnight necessities, some snacks and a book, to being filled with all of those things PLUS my DSLR camera, my point and shoot camera, my cell phone, my netbook, all my chargers and cords, a journal for jotting down notes, etc. I swear to God it must weigh 25 pounds.

Eventually, I ditched the spare change of clothes in my carry-on. I had to do something to lighten the backpack and it wasn’t like I could check my camera or netbook, could I? That didn’t work out so well for me in August when I missed my connection in Chicago and was forced to stay overnight with just what I carried on the plane with me while my checked suitcase was held hostage by the airline. Oops.

It was time to lighten the load. I might not be able to go carry-on only, I thought, but surely there must be a way to lighten up that carry-on to make room for necessities like fresh clothes.

One of the heaviest items in my backpack is my DSLR camera. But I’m sure as hell not traveling without that. The Toshiba netbook, though. . . that sucker weighs almost 3 pounds. It’s cheaply made, has a lousy display and an annoying interface that I can’t permanently disable. And I was starting to view it as a ball and chain.

But doggone it, I’m a blogger! I need Internet access when I travel to check email, create quick blog posts, engage in social media, and upload travel photos. I have to bring a laptop or netbook, I thought. Don’t I?

Maybe I didn’t.

I couldn’t completely unplug on my travels, but I decided it was time to downsize to a tablet. The biggest complaint I’d read about tablets seemed to be difficulty writing with them and/or a lack of USB port for uploading photos. But surely, I thought, some company had to have solved those problems by now. I decided to take the chance. After a lot of research into what was important to me in a tablet, I bought the 7” Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.

Please excuse me while I squee like a teenager over her first car.

Did it lighten my load? You bet!

Compared to the Toshiba’s nearly 3 lb weight, the Samsung weighs about 12 oz. It’s allowed me to replace not just the netbook, but also the paperbacks I’ve been bringing with me to read on the plane. See?

Kindle App

As a gadget user, I’m in love

It’s the perfect cross between a cell phone and a laptop. I can do everything on this tablet that I’ve been doing on my cell phone (except use it as a phone, though I suppose I could do that, too, with Skype)–surf the web, check the weather, use apps, read email, and use social media. I could listen to music on it if I wanted to. And because the screen is so much bigger than a cell phone, it’s easier to see everything.

I’ve been a holdout when it comes to Kindles and e-readers, preferring to stick to paperbacks. Well, no more. I primarily use my tablet to read books, and I adore it for that purpose. At 7″, it’s about the same size as a paperback, which makes it perfectly comfortable to hold for long periods of time. But it’s better than a paperback:  100 books take up the same physical space as just one. I can enlarge the font size of books I’m reading and increase the screen brightness–both of which make it so much easier on my aging eyes.

I am especially impressed with the crispness of the screen quality. Everything looks so much better on the tablet than they do on my 13″ Macbook Pro, believe it or not. (Pinterest and Facebook photos especially look great.) I can watch movies on it, and the sound quality is also very good. (I use the Amazon video library, so movies don’t take up memory on the tablet.) Granted, I have no basis for comparison when it comes to other tablets, but compared to all the other gadgets I’ve ever used to access the Internet, it’s a winner.

With a simple adaptor, it allows me USB port access to upload photos from my camera’s memory cards (or to plug in a portable keyboard or mouse if I so choose at a later date). It came with 16GB memory, expandable to 32GB with an additional microSD card. So far, I’ve been relying on free wifi, but I could purchase a data plan with it if I want to. And it was much cheaper than an iPad.

Screen resolution

But even the best of relationships has its challenges.

While the Galaxy Tab is a joy to me as a traveler, it frustrated the blogger in me a bit.

The one blog post I needed to publish during my trip was already written, so all I needed to do was hit “publish”. Thank God. Because if I had to type an entire blog post while on the road, it would take forever if I didn’t buy a separate keyboard for it (which I haven’t done yet). Then again, I didn’t know there was a WordPress app at the time. I was logging in via the regular website. Which brings me to. . . .

Most of my problems with the tablet were clearly user error. I hadn’t had much time to play with it prior to my trip, so I think I need to spend some quality time with the user manual. For instance, I could not for the life of me bring up the function to copy and paste. (The function exists, I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. And naturally, I had downloaded the user manual onto my Macbook Pro and not my Galaxy Tab. Fat lot of good that did me when I was on the road!)

UPDATE:

I tested the photo editing capabilities of the Galaxy Tab this weekend. It’s not Photoshop, obviously, but for a tablet, it’s pretty good! Under Photo Gallery, you click on Edit and it pulls up options to rotate, resize, crop, adjust brightness, hue, contrast, saturation, and apply a few effects, such as filters (Sepia, Vintage, Beauty, etc.). You can then share the photos via social media. Nice!

I also gave the WordPress app a whirl—including the dictation function. While it doesn’t get everything right, if you speak slowly and clearly, it gets most of it right. You just have to edit a little bit. Again, I’m impressed. Though I think I’d still rather type a blog post. My fingers are a lot faster than that microphone.

Despite how cumbersome blogging from the road might be, I adore this tablet (possibly more than my Macbook Pro). Goodbye netbook, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. I will be traveling with this tablet from now on.

If I were a long-term traveler (or long-term travel blogger), I probably wouldn’t be able to say that. But as someone who only travels for a week or two at a time, it’s perfect.

Apps

Cost:
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7: $199
32GB micro-SD card: $21
Leather case: $17
Adaptor: $12
Total: $249

This is not a sponsored post. I paid for this tablet out of my own pocket. I’m just a very satisfied customer.

Chris July 4, 2013 at 9:14 am

Fantastic post, the last point about probably not getting rid of your netbook if you were a long-term traveller I’d agree with. As much as I love iPad for getting on the net in 10 seconds, the handy apps and for a quick Skype session it really isn’t good for writing on a blog post on. I did my own comparison here: http://my30stravelblog.com/netbook-or-ipad-which-is-the-better-travel-computer-for-backpacking/.

I found the photo editing limiting on my iPad and with pictures 3-5MB it doesn’t take long to fill up the memory. Your Samsung sounds almost perfect for your needs. Great blog btw!

Gray Cargill July 4, 2013 at 10:06 am

Chris – Yup, it’s definitely going to be different depending on whether you travel long-term or for just a week or two at a time. AND I think it will also depend on whether blogging is your full-time job or not. It’s not mine, so I don’t feel the same pressure to blog when I travel that others might. Have you tried the dictation Wordpress app for writing posts? You have to speak slowly and really articulate (and then do some editing) but it’s easier than typing the whole post on a tablet. I’m also looking into uploading my photos to the cloud to save space on my tablet. Because I just cannot go back to traveling with a netbook, it’s too damn heavy.

Chris July 4, 2013 at 10:25 am

True, I’m a long-term traveller but it isn’t my full time job. Thanks for the dictating tip, I’ll give that a go!

I use Google Drive, they’ve just up’d the free allowance up to 15GB and then there is Dropbox, Amazon and many more that give a good amount of free storage, no need to pay really and I like that piece of mind knowing my pictures aren’t just saved on my computer. They can take a fair bit of time to upload the pictures I’ve found, even on a home connection.

hehe yeah my netbook weights 3x as much so I know what you mean!

Gray Cargill July 4, 2013 at 11:31 am

I may have to split my photos up among many clouds. 15GB doesn’t begin to cover it. But still, that’s helpful.

Prince Bhatia March 3, 2013 at 11:24 am

I have no doubt that Galaxy Tab is must have gadget for everyone who don’t want to carry excess weight of laptop. With the play store one has a lot of options in terms apps especially free apps. I think no matter how good this tab, but still it can’t match the smoothness and quality of ipad.

Gray March 3, 2013 at 11:56 am

That may be, Prince, I can’t say. But not all of us can afford the iPad. If money were no object, I might have gone with the iPad, who knows.

AJ Aerni February 20, 2013 at 3:08 am

I like the idea of using smaller items such as an iPhone 5 or iPad, but I design websites and do graphic design for companies all over the world as I travel so it’s much better for me to use my 11″ Macbook Air. (I haven’t found a small computing device that can handle the Adobe CS6 Mastersuite of apps)

Gray February 20, 2013 at 6:12 am

I agree, AJ, I don’t think you’d be able to make the switch as a website designer.

RTWgirl February 17, 2013 at 10:25 am

Thanks for this review. Always looking to downsize weight for travel

Gray February 17, 2013 at 10:51 am

Glad to be of help, RTWgirl!

Tracy Antonioli February 16, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Wait–what? You love this more than your Macbook?!? Excuse me for a moment while I re-hinge my jaw.

….

Ok then. Perhaps I need to look into a tablet. I actually NEED a new laptop; my behemoth of a Toshiba isn’t working for me anymore. And I have a date with the Apple store tomorrow. Perhaps my new Macbook should come with an iPad friend. Do you see a reason to have both? Or, rather, all three–a Macbook, an iPad, and an iPhone? A fleet of Apple products, if you will?

Also–I continue to be amused by your dislike for light packing. I read back through your two different light packing posts from years past and laughed. I ‘had to’ check a bag on my last trip (it was a work trip that had very unclear wardrobe requirements) and I HATED it. I returned home and immediately began searching for the perfect carry-on combo. I want one of those rolling bag slash personal item combos where the personal item fits over the handle of the rolling bag. You know–like business travelers and pilots use? Yeah. That’s my next major purchase. After tomorrow’s Mac investment, that is.

Gray February 17, 2013 at 10:18 am

Well….I won’t say I love it more than using a laptop at home, Tracy. But it took me a LOT longer to adjust to using my Macbook Pro (I was always a PC girl before this) than it did to adjust to my tablet, let’s just say. And I don’t have the “spinning wheel of death” staring me in the face every day on my tablet, like I do my Macbook Pro. So that’s another plus in its favor. Yes, I see a reason to have a laptop and a tablet. I wouldn’t use the tablet exclusively at home. That’s what the laptop is for. But the tablet for travel, yes. Smartphone….if you have the tablet, I’m not sure a smartphone is as necessary any more, unless you use yours a lot for maps or gps while walking around a strange city (since it’s a bit more discreet than whipping out your tablet on every street corner).

Tracy Antonioli February 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Hmmm. So it would not replace my iPhone–which I DO use a lot for maps while walking around a strange city (I even use it to figure out when to get off of a public bus. Seriously). And it wouldn’t replace my laptop (I got a Macbook Pro the day before yesterday and if it asked me to marry it, I’d say yes; it is superior to my crappy Toshiba PC in EVERY way).

But am I trying to replace things? Or am I trying to add to my fleet of Mac-products-which-improve-my life? I fear it may be the latter. iPad, here I come!

Gray February 19, 2013 at 10:04 pm

It’s a conspiracy, Tracy. They’re just not going to create 1 product that will do everything for you when they can get you to buy 3. 🙂

Kaylin February 15, 2013 at 8:08 am

Hi Grey, I have the original Galaxy tab 7in (sending this comment on it right now actually) and I love it for many of the same reasons you commented on. I often take it instead of my netbook when traveling as well. From what I can tell the galaxy tab 2 is just like mine but even better! I haven’t tried blogging on it but I do find the on screen keyboard easier to use than the one on my smartphone since it’s bigger. I’ve had this one about a year and a half now so if I upgrade anytime soon I will probably get the galaxy tab 2. Glad you’re enjoying it!

Gray February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

That’s so reassuring to hear, Kaylin! I agree, the onscreen keyboard isn’t bad, I’m just not sure I’d be comfortable using it for an entire blog post. I may have to test that theory. 🙂

Eileen February 15, 2013 at 7:19 am

Awesome!
I looooove reading gadget reviews by travelers bec it really answers questions that I would ask rather than tech specs. 🙂 I would be happy with a downgrade iPad mini and then. Keyboard! 🙂

Gray February 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Glad to help, Eileen!

Kate Convissor February 14, 2013 at 6:39 pm

JUST bought a Nexus 7, in order to lighten up and also use the ereader function. Now I’m sweating over the photo-management issue. I discovered a way to move photos from camera to tablet, but I’m not sure how difficult it is to upload to WordPress or if I can do any editing to the photos. (Don’t think so.)

As newbie to a tablet, I’m wondering if I should have gone netbook. Planning a long Latin America trip next year. How are you managing photos? You need them even for short trips.

Gray February 14, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Hi, Kate! I haven’t done any editing of photos on my Galaxy Tab–YET. All I did was upload them from my memory card for safekeeping just in case my memory card got lost or corrupted in transit. That’s another thing I’ll have to test out pretty soon. How’s the instruction manual for the Nexus 7? Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re less than helpful….At least you’ve got plenty of time before your trip to figure it out!

Kate Convissor February 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

Not sure about the manual (I looked at the e-version. I haven’t received the reader yet.) There’s also a Nexus for Dummies that might be more my speed.

PLEASE let me know about the photo issue if you uncover a breakthrough. That’s the dealbreaker for me. I’d hate to also have to invest in/carry a netbook. And, yes, I’ll also have time to figure it out. Ugh.

Gray February 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm

OMG, that’s what I need, too! A “Galaxy Tab for Dummies”! (Dear Samsung, please get on that.)
Kate, I just did a quick google search and found a video that shows how to edit photos on Galaxy Tab. (Don’t know if it’s as good an editor as iPhoto, but I’ll take what I can get.) You might have luck googling that for Nexus too (or search directly on Youtube).

Amber Blecker February 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm

While I had been an early Kindle adopter, and still have to carry a full laptop with me for photographic expeditions, after much research I, too, picked up the Galaxy Tab 2 7″ during Black Friday sales. Couldn’t be more happy!

Added the additional 32GB via Micro SD, downloading torrents, pictures, logging into my main computer via Go To My PC, and generally loving it! An external keyboard is a huge benefit (I’ve used a BT keyboard for years with my Blackberry when traveling for heaving email work), but if you DL a Swype typing program, typing on the screen is much easier (says the woman who HATES typing on a touch screen… hence the Blackberry).

I looked seriously at the Nexus, which is an impressive tablet too, but the Galaxy Tab 2’s expandable memory swung the balance over. To be able to carry the micro SDs and have almost unlimited storage is huge.

If you’re considering a 7″ tablet, the Samsung’s worth more than just a look – just buy it!

Gray February 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for chiming in, Amber! Nice to hear your experience has been as positive as mine!

Kate Convissor February 15, 2013 at 10:46 am

Hey Amber–as I mentioned above, I just bought (and am still waiting for) a Nexus 7. So…how, exactly, do you manage photos? Do you just view and store them on your tablet, upload them to the Cloud or a website? Do you know of any photo-editing apps? Is it possible to edit photos on a tablet?

I’d love, love, love to travel longish-term with just a tablet. I don’t do over-the-top photography, but I need to view and edit photos for my blog. Any advice from an early tablet adopter would be greatly appreciated.

Adam Pervez February 13, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Great post. Since I’m a long-term traveler I don’t think I could ditch my 3lb 11.6″ HP computer for a tablet. I need the photo editing, storage space, etc. But I wish I could make the switch!

Gray February 14, 2013 at 6:19 am

I hear that, Adam, I don’t think I could travel long-term without my laptop, either. But for a week or two, it’s no big deal. Then again, I’m not earning my livelihood on my blog, either. I think that also might make a difference for me.

Marsha February 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Gray–Fantastic news! I’ve actually been sniffing around the Galaxy Tab 2 and your review is definitely inspiring me to buy.

Gray February 13, 2013 at 6:06 pm

It’s a good one, Marsha. If you have specific questions about capabilities, feel free to shoot me an email.

Marc February 13, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I got an iPad mini for my birthday and I love it. I still travel with my macbook since it’s light and has all of my files but the iPad is almost as good. Everything I do on my macbook I do on mini. The wordpress app is pretty awesome for blogging. Tablets seem to be the best piece of technology to come around since the smartphone. Nice to see I’m not alone.

FWIW, I’m on my macbook at Red Rock Casino using their free wifi right now. 🙂

Jeremy, blogging on a tablet is much easier than blogging on a smartphone. lol.

Gray February 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm

You got a mini, too, Marc? Aren’t they awesome? I have to admit, one of the reasons I was a holdout for the tablets is because the 10″ tablets didn’t look all that much lighter than my netbook, but I’m totally sold on the minis. Now I just need to learn the features better.

Jeff @ GoTravelzing February 13, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Tablets are great for traveling and do almost everything better than a computer except WordPress. They just do not seem to play well together even with the app. I have an iPad and if you just want to just type a post than you are OK but the problem comes when you want to add images. I thought that android tables would be better but based on your experience I guess not.

I am curious to try the new Windows tables because these should work just like a computer but I am not really interested in buying another tablet.

Gray February 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Well, don’t count out the Androids yet, Jeff. Like I said, a lot of my problems came from just not being familiar enough with its capabilities before my trip. I need to get up to speed on what it really can do. I have a coworker who has the Windows tablet. He seems to like it. It seems a bit large to me (especially compared to mine).

Keith B February 13, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Hey Gray,

I agree with you, I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and it is a great item for my travels. I have only had it a month but so far it is great for wi-fi and much easier for replying to emails than using the screen keyboard on my iPhone with my big fingers.
I have only used it on day trips outside the house so far but I plan to give it a real workout on my Vegas trip in April. I just have to pray that the advertised free wi-fi in the casino actually is in the whole casino!

Jeff @ GoTravelzing February 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Keith – The free WiFi in the casinos is not that great. I just stayed at the MGM Grand and it did have it but they gave you a time limit and you had to pay to get a decent speed. The in room WiFi was not all that great either. It should be better considering the ridiculous resort fees that they charge.

Gray February 13, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Look for a Starbucks or a McDonalds, Keith, they usually have wifi. I’ve generally found in-room wifi fine, but public areas can always be spotty. I often have to resort to my 3G data connection with my smartphone in places that supposedly have wifi. Good luck!

Jeremy Branham February 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I have a netbook and like it. The screen is so small though and not a lot of RAM so can get frustrating to use. However, I don’t think I could do a blog post on a tablet. I am intrigued by these but not sure I could make the switch.

Gray February 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm

I’m guessing the weight of the netbook probably isn’t as much of an issue for you, either, Jeremy. If and when the time is right for you to move to a tablet, you’ll know it.

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