How do you justify charging the same price as the new iPad for a tablet that's two inches smaller? If you're Toshiba, you tout the Excite 7.7's beautiful Super AMOLED screen, quad-core Tegra 3 processor and slender aluminum frame. Plus, unlike the iPad, you can slip this device into a jacket or purse. Still, you can buy two Kindle Fires for the cost of this ultra-premium Android slate. Lets see if it's worth the splurge.
The smallest of all slates in Toshiba's Excite series, the Excite 7.7 measures 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.31 inches and weighs 12.3 ounces. While that's slightly larger and heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (7.6 x 4.8 x 0.41 inches, 12.2 ounces) and bigger (but not heavier) than the Kindle Fire (7.5 x 4.7 x 0.45 inches, 14.6 ounces), we could easily stow the device in our bag. It even fit our inside jacket pocket comfortably during our subway commute.
The 7-inch display's half-inch thick bezel easily picked up smudges. Like the Excite 10, the majority of the rear panel on the Excite 7.7 has a champagne silver aluminum surface with a dimpled back. The texture made this tablet extremely easy to grip, but the minor trade-off is that the device doesn't look as elegant as the brushed aluminum rear panel on the Excite 10 LE.
A silver matte aluminum band wraps around the Excite 7.7. There's a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash on the back in the top right corner, and a chrome Toshiba logo is on the lower right. A 2-megapixel camera (with microphone) sits on the front.
Along the right edge of the tablet is a microSD card slot, which lets you expand the internal memory by 128 GB. Right above this slot, you'll also find a micro USB port for syncing and sharing content with a PC, as well as a headphone jack.
We thought the Excite 7.7's overall design was easy on the eyes, but we wish its proprietary power connector was a little less bulky.
The display is the centerpiece of any tablet, and the Excite 7.7 flaunts a pretty striking one: Toshiba's first AMOLED display. With a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution crammed into a 7.7-inch diagonal display, the resulting 196 pixels per inch on the screen made website text look crisp and sharp, photos extremely detailed and eBooks a joy to read on the slate. Yes, the iPad's Retina display boasts 264ppi, but the Toshiba is a welcome step up from the 1024 x 600 pixels (170 ppi) on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 and Kindle Fire.
The Excite 7.7 handled the HD trailer for "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" with aplomb, but the blacks of the night came off a bit muddy, and the whites of the actors' crisp dress shirts lacked that eye-popping brightness.
At 224 lux, the Excite 7.7's display failed to outshine both the Amazon Fire's display (460 lux) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0's display (409 lux). However, we were satisfied by the device's wide viewing angles. Three people could comfortably sit side by side and still enjoy the action.
The Excite 7.7 supports 10-finger multitouch support and haptic feedback, buzzing gently with every touch of the screen. We appreciated this feedback while typing, but it felt like overkill while swiping between home screens. Fortunately, you can disable the feature within Settings.
The Excite 7.7's two speakers along the bottom edge are coupled with SRS and Toshiba audio-enhancement technology. However, we were less than impressed with the sound quality, which paled in comparison to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. This is likely due to Excite 7.7's cumbersome speaker placement, which projects sound downward instead of toward the user (which the Tab 2 7.0 does).
The Excite 7.7's speakers just barely filled a corner of a small room. On the upside, brighter tones played accurately, letting us enjoy Calvin Harris's rendition of "Feel So Close" with pretty good detail. When we switched to the more guttural tones of Bassnectar's "Bass Head," the bass notes sounded far from full-bodied.
The Excite 7.7 comes pre-installed with keyboards for both Swype and stock Android. On both keyboards, the letters are big grey keys with ample spacing that made it easy to type. There's also Google voice typing onboard, which let us dictate our texts and email. The system worked pretty well, unless we uttered homonyms or words close in pronunciation such as "stalk" and "stock."
Software and User Interface
Running on a largely unmodified version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the Excite 7.7 features the typical five home screens and ubiquitous system bar along the bottom with icons for Back, Home and Recent Apps on the left, and Wi-Fi, Battery life and a clock on the right.
We appreciated the ability to create folders on the home screens and to take screenshots by holding the power and volume up button simultaneously. It would have been nice, however, if we could open apps other than the camera from the lock screen.
All the tablets in Toshiba's Excite series thus far have come packaged with a good selection of multimedia apps, and the Excite 7.7 is no exception. These entertainment apps include Netflix, Amazon Kindle, Zinio, a magazine and newspaper app; and Aupeo!, a lesser-known streaming music service akin to Slacker Radio. Aupeo let us create custom stations using our artist and genre preferences, or our mood. Crackle is also pre-loaded, a free service that let us stream such popular movies as "The Patriot," "Men in Black" and "The Da Vinci Code," as well as TV shows like "Seinfeld" and "News Radio."
Toshiba hasn't neglected security or productivity here, either. The Excite 7.7 comes with a free trial version of Kaspersky's Tablet Security software, as well as the Quickoffice Lite HD productivity suite.
Of course, the usual suite of Google apps are on board as well, including Gmail, Maps, Play (Google's hub for apps, books, music and movies) and YouTube.
Like the other Toshiba Excite tablets, the Excite 7.7 features a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of RAM, making it one of the most powerful 7-inch tablets around. On the Benchmark CPU test, the Excite 7.7 notched 3,460 points, which beats the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (2,817; 1-GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM) and outstrips the Amazon Kindle Fire as well (2,834; 1-GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4 processor and 512 MB of RAM). The Excite 7.7 also trounced the category average of 2,704.
The Nvidia graphics also helped this slate return above-average results on the An3DBench test, scoring a pretty impressive 7,536 points. That's slightly above the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0's score of 7,468, better than the category average of 7,045 and well above Kindle Fire's score of 7,006.
Real-world testing corroborates these scores. Apps on the Excite 7.7 launched quickly and we swiped between home screens without lag. On the whole, performance was fast and fluid.
The Excite 7.7's 5-megapixel rear-facing camera snapped rather disappointing photos. For instance, elaborate etchings on the side of a building lacked detail. Colors, however, were always pretty accurate. A 1080p video taken using the same camera on a busy New York street resulted in the same unexciting quality. Yellow cabs sped by with some haze in the footage.
We did appreciate the camera's panorama feature, which stitched together a 160-degree image in just a few seconds after we swept the tablet across our view.
Using the Excite 7.7's 2-megapixel front-facing camera in a well-lit room was a similarly unexceptional experience. The photos we snapped frequently came out darker than the preview image initially appeared.
With a prismatic lithium polymer 1-cell battery, the Toshiba Excite 7.7 lasted only 6 hours and 41 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing over Wi-Fi), despite the manufacturer's claim that the device would last up to 13 hours on a single charge. That's shorter than the category average (6:57), the Kindle Fire (7:34) and way below the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (8:32).
Our Toshiba Excite 7.7 unit came with Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage for $499. Shoppers looking for more storage can step up to the 32GB version for $579.
The Excite 7.7 comes with a one-year standard limited warranty.
The Excite 7.7 packs a lot of power and eye candy into a sleek design. The Tegra 3 chip helps this tablet outperform other 7-inch tablets, and the AMOLED screen offers great color saturation along with wide viewing angles. We also like having a microUSB port for syncing and microSD Card slot for expandability. However, the Excite 7.7's price -- $499 for the lower-end 16GB model -- makes it twice as expensive as other 7-inch tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 ($249) and the Amazon Kindle Fire ($199), both of which offer longer battery life. The Excite 7.7 is one of the better small tablets we've tested, but it will need a price cut in order for us to get more excited.