Introducing the Toshiba Excite 7.7

While Toshiba's tablets so far haven't been necessarily bad, like most Android tablets they just haven't really set the world on fire. The only breakthroughs in this market seem to have been ASUS with their Transformers and Amazon's Kindle Fire with its hyper-aggressive pricetag; frankly, the iPad's market stranglehold is a tough nut to crack. That's why I like seeing what Toshiba's up to; most people don't notice when they experiment, but with their Excite line they definitely seem to be doing just that.

Toshiba produced the only 13.3" tablet at the top of the Excite line, but in the smallest form factor, the 7.7", they've gone a different route. The Excite 7.7 eschews the IPS panels most commonly found on tablets in favor of a 1280x800 AMOLED display. The result is a visual experience that's definitely eyecatching compared to other tablets on the market, but can it really justify the $499 starting price?

So here's an interesting question for you: why is the desktop/notebook/case guy handling a tablet review instead of someone like Jason, Anand, Brian, or Vivek? The simple answer is that as someone who doesn't use tablets with any great frequency, I get a slightly different perspective much as Jarred did when he helped review the Acer Iconia A500. This is a big, fresh market that's only going to get bigger with the release of Windows 8; my experience just seeing what HP and Toshiba had in store for that launch is proof enough of that. Just like smartphones have gradually eroded the market for dedicated portable gaming consoles, tablets (and ultrabooks to an extent) have been eating away the market for netbooks. Whether you like it or not, this is the new boss.

With the Excite 7.7, Toshiba is taking the basic foundations of Android tablets and banking on a crucial difference: the AMOLED display. AMOLED is an interesting display technology choice for a tablet; thus far it's been found essentially almost entirely on smartphones, but it has a lot to offer in a bigger size. So while the Excite's 1280x800 resolution isn't necessarily competitive with the substantially higher resolutions of bigger tablets, it makes up for it by having an essentially unmeasurable contrast ratio. When a pixel on an AMOLED display is off, it's off, so there's no calculating a contrast ratio when you have to divide by zero.

Tablet Specification Comparison
  Toshiba Excite 7.7 Apple iPad (2012) Amazon Kindle Fire Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9
Dimensions 205.7 x 134.6 x 7.6mm 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4mm 190 x 120 x 11.4mm 230.9 x 157.8 x 8.6mm
Display 7.7-inch 1280x800 AMOLED 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS 7-inch 1024 x 600 IPS 8.9-inch 1280 x 800 PLS
Weight 349g 652g 413g 447g
Processor NVIDIA Tegra 3 1.3GHz (4 x Cortex A9 + 1 x LP Cortex A9) Apple A5X (2 x Cortex A9, PowerVR SGX 543MP4) 1GHz TI OMAP 4430 (2 x Cortex A9) 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 (2 x Cortex A9)
Memory 1GB 1GB 512MB 1GB
Storage 16GB 16GB 8GB 16GB
Pricing $499 $499 $199 $469

The Excite 7.7's biggest problem from the get go is that price tag, but note that it's among the thinnest and lightest tablets available, easily besting the Amazon Kindle Fire. Thankfully the $499 MSRP isn't what's materializing in retail; a visit to NewEgg reveals the 32GB model available for $509 while the 16GB model is just $429. That's still a chunk of change, but at least it takes it out of striking distance of the incumbent iPad. Weighing about half as much probably doesn't hurt either.

Specifications on the Excite 7.7 are fairly modest; it's Tegra 3 as we're accustomed to for Ice Cream Sandwich-powered Android tablets and features a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Wired connectivity is handled by a micro-USB port, micro-SD slot, and headphone/mic combo jack; wireless is bog standard 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0, with no mobile broadband options. The shell itself is attractive, though, with a black finish around the front display, two speakers on the bottom surrounding the charging port, and an etched aluminum backing.

Display and Performance
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  • solinear - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Seriously, this read like an upbeat funeral, sans the wake.

    I think that is the sign of two things: The tablet market is about as exciting as a yawn and that maybe they need to get someone that doesn't dislike the platform they are reviewing before they even start the review.
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    There's a few interesting tablet products out there - every new iPad, the Nexus 7, Surface, the headlining ASUS and Samsung W8 and Android tablets, and not a whole lot else. Sony comes up with some interesting ideas, but the execution is rarely there so I'm not sure I can count them. Basically, there's a lot of tablets out there and not a whole lot of differentiation between most of them, so for the most part they're really not particularly interesting. With that said, I really like the 7.7" form factor so combining that with Tegra 3 results in an intriguing device that I would never want to pay for. Reply
  • teiglin - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    I think the timing here is pretty unfortunate. I bought a Galaxy Tab 7.7 just over six months ago, because I wanted a tab small enough to hold comfortably with one hand. Back then, the alternatives were Kindle Fire/Nook Tablet, which suffered from poor performance and middling 1024x600 panels, or the Galaxy Tab 7+, which had good hardware but suffered the same display woes as the ultra-budget tabs while still being around $400. In that landscape, it wasn't a hard decision to spend a bit more on a tablet that had a top-notch display (not to mention, I've always been a huge OLED fan) and solid internals. Also at that time, the Excite 7.7 wouldn't appear for another four months or so.

    Today, things are much worse for premium, small tabs. When you can have a tegra3, 1280x800 Nexus 7 for $250, it's a lot harder to justify spending nearly twice as much just to get OLED in a slightly thinner package, instead of a perfectly good IPS LCD.
    Reply
  • wiyosaya - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    "There's a few interesting tablet products out there - every new iPad"

    IMHO, personal preferences reveal bias which, after having read only the first page of this review, and the first few comments, has made me stop reading the review.

    Where's the "rolleyes" smilie?

    Whatever. I suppose it is almost impossible to get an unbiased review these days.
    Reply
  • wiyosaya - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    Opps. My fault. Not the reviewer's comment. Just someone enamored in the iWorld. Again, where's the "rolleyes" smilie? Reply
  • EnzoFX - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Also, why not compare this directly to the Nexus 7? 7" is more the target audience with a 7" tablet, be it amoled or not. Reply
  • RamarC - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    "can it really justify the $499 starting price?"

    No. Twice as much as Nexus 7 but only slighty different -- not really any need to beyond that...
    Reply
  • mcnabney - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    Yeah, the device is identical to a Nexus 7 - only swapping a 7" IPS for a 7.7" AMOLED. The additional cost of that display is a few dollars - not $250. Toshiba clearly isn't interested in selling these. Reply
  • smartypnt4 - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Seriously?

    I mean, seriously?

    I fail to see how this is not an interesting product. The only thing that stops it from being truly competitive in my book is the price tag. Granted, Samsung came out with the Tab 7.7 a while back, but its internals weren't good enough, and Touchwiz remains the worst Android skin I've yet used.

    Also, are we really complaining about having more product reviews on here? That's the only thing anyone could possibly take issue with in regards to this site: they don't have as many reviews as other sites do on mainstream products like tablets. Then again, they don't get sent as many tablets as places like Engadget.

    As far as the reporting goes: if you don't like it, you don't have to read it. Honestly, it didn't read to me like he didn't care about the platform he's reviewing. He made disclaimers up front about the fact that he's not the go-to tablet guy here, and that he doesn't typically use a tablet. Even if his review had come across that way, I fail to see how you would take issue with it.
    Reply
  • Origin64 - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    "Just keep scrolling" is a mantra that few take the trouble to remind themselves of, sadly. Reply

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