The world of Android tablets gets bigger and bigger each day, and so far no one has stood out in the crowd. Toshiba has been a solid player in the laptop/notebook side, and they would really like to kick things into gear with tablets. Last year’s Thrive line didn’t impress much and this year, they’re hoping people will be excited (no pun intended) for the Excite line. There newest models are available now and include the Excite 10, Excite 7.7, and Excite 13. They are all very similar tabs other than the screen size, but the Excite 7.7 is the only one with a Super AMOLED display. Because of that it’s actually priced higher than the Excite 10, and considerably higher than competing 7-inch tabs. It does pack a lot under the hood, but should you consider it? Hit the break to find out, but you can also check out my initial hands on video here.
One thing Toshiba has down is design and quality. The second you pick up any of the Excite tabs you realize it’s a really nice piece of hardware. It has Gorilla Glass on top and the back side is textured Aluminum. Yes it’s a cliche, but it does feel great in the hands. It’s also quite thin as it comes in at 7.6mm. That’s less than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, which is at 7.9mm. As far as weight goes, it’s a little heavier, at 380 grams as opposed to the Galaxy Tab 7.7, which is 340 grams.
At the top you will find the power button, volume buttons, and a multi-toggle switch. In past models this was used for locking the orientation, but it’s now programmable in the settings. In can also be set to toggle mute on/off or to lock the power and volume buttons. The right side has the microphone jack, micro SDXC slot, and micro USB port. The bottom has the proprietary port for charging and connecting to docks, and last but not least, the left side is completely bare.
Other than the 7.7-inch Super AMOLED (1280 x 800) screen, it features a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage, microSDXC slot for up to an additonal 128GB of storage, 5MP rear camera, 2MP front-facing camera, stereo speakers enhanced by Toshiba and SRS Technologies, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
10 hours seems to be the norm for most tablets as was the case with the Excite 7.7. I was able to get just under 10 hours and 30 minutes out of it playing continuous video while the display was turned up to 2/3’s brightness. It didn’t match the prowess of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, but then again nothing out there does.
With the NVIDIA Tegra 3 under the hood you would expect top notch performance. It was very good, but a little off from the performance of the ASUS tabs. I did have some minor hesitations in spots, but nothing to distressing. Most of it seems software related. For games, it performed very well with minor hiccups. Unless you’re a hardcore user, I can’t imagine anyone being unhappy with the performance. As you all should know by now, I don’t believe in benchmarks, but they make a good story. I ran the obligatory AnTuTu Benchmark and it came in at 10,264, which is hair below the ASUS Transformer Prime. This tab has plenty of power, no question about it.
The 1280 x 800 display is gorgeous. Toshiba markets it as Super AMOLED so you would think it’s a PenTile display since there is no “Plus.” Toshiba says the display isn’t PenTile, but they can’t use the Plus designation since it’s owned by Samsung. It might be confusing, but the Galaxy Tab 7.7 has the Super AMOLED Plus display and the Excite 7.7 has a Super AMOLED display, but both are PenTile free, and both sport 196 PPI. I found the Excite 7.7 to be as good as the Tab 7.7, but even though they both have the same screen resolution, everything on the Tab 7.7 is smaller. For example, on the home screens, you can put 8 icons on one line on the Tab 7.7, but with the Excite 7.7 it’s only 6. For other apps like Gmail and the Play Store everything is smaller (like fonts and graphics) on the Tab 7.7. In a nutshell, I wouldn’t say the Excite 7.7 is a better display, but it’s easier to look at. All in all, both displays are awesome you won’t find anything better from any other sub 10-inch tablet.
The sound quality was lacking, which is surprising. Toshiba touts that their speakers are enhanced by SRS Technologies, but something doesn’t jive. It’s not that the sound was bad, it was just too low.
The Excite 7.7 features Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, and it’s basically stock as far as the UI. They do include some custom apps like the video player, but purists will be happy that the major elements of the ICS UI are intact.
As far as bloatware you will find Adobe Reader, Amazon MP3, Book Place, Crackle, Hardwood Solitaire, Hardwood Backgammon, Hardwood Spades, Hardwood Hearts, Hardwood Euchre, Kaspersky Tablet Security, LogMeIn, Media Player (Toshiba), News Place, PrinterShare, Quickoffice, Register (for registering your tab with Toshiba) Toshiba File Manager, and Zinio.
For the keyboard, they pre-installed Swype, but it’s not set as the default. The default keyboard gets the job done for those that like traditional typing.
The 5MP camera is average at best. I stopped putting example photos from tablets in my reviews because it really doesn’t make sense. Tablet cameras will probably never become mainstream cameras, but it’s nice to have for emergencies or in situations where you to need to take a shot for whatever reason. The Excite 7.7 will get the job done, but be warned, the shutter speed is slow. After using phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X, it’s painfully slow. As to the front-facer, we’re happy they gave us a 2MP lens because it makes video chatting so much better at least for the people we’re chatting with.
The Excite 7.7 is a really nice tablet, but the biggest concern has to be price. At $499 for the 16GB version and $579 for the 32GB version, it appears they priced themselves out of the market. Yes, it has an amazing screen and the Terga 3, but the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 is less than $400 and packs a 10.1-inch display. There’s also the pending announcement of the Google Nexus Tablet, which will most likely have similar specs as the Excite 7.7, but be priced for $199 to $249. When it comes to 7-inch (or approximate) displays, I don’t think people expect 10-inch pricing. Toshiba came out with the Excite 10 priced at $449, which is a little high, but at least in the ball park. For whatever reason they decided to throw in a better display in the 7.7 and price it higher, which just doesn’t make sense. Buyers of smaller tablets aren’t looking for all the bells and whistles. In closing, this is a very nice tablet, but I’m having a hard time recommending that you spend your dollars on one.