A small, cheap tablet is not very hard to find. But too often, there are trade-offs to be made: shoddy construction, unimpressive hardware, or features left on the cutting-room floor. The $99 Toshiba Excite Go is a shining example of this: in a race to the bottom rife with casualties, Toshiba has skimped on the most significant feature of all: the screen.
I'll be the first to admit that such a low price is enticing, but we've got to draw the line somewhere. Tablets from Amazon, Dell and LG all offer competitive pricing in a small package without sacrificing the user experience. In this case, however, passable performance can't compensate for a tablet that's too frustrating to look at.
Design and specs
The Toshiba Excite Go is a narrow little thing with a bright, 7-inch display and a textured back that feels a bit slippery. While inexpensive it doesn't feel cheap, with a sturdy plastic body that weighs just over 0.75 pound (12.5 ounces). It's strikingly reminiscent of the original Nexus 7, right down to the silver trim that surrounds the bezel, though it's just a smidgen thicker (and bears the Toshiba logo).
The volume rocker sits at the top, accompanied by the headset jack, a microSD card reader -- with support for up to 128GB SDXC cards -- and the Micro-USB charging port. The tablet's single speaker is on the bottom edge, pumping sound down away from you when held in portrait mode, and easily blocked by your hand when held in landscape. The 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera is shunted off to the right side of the display, while the power button sits on the top right corner.
The Excite Go's display has a 1,024-by-600-pixel resolution, which is low, even for budget devices. But this tablet is among the cheapest you'll find. And anyway, there's a far bigger problem here: the screen is really reflective, to the point of being distracting.
Watch a video or look at images, and you'll see your reflection staring right back at you. The issue is a little less prominent when reading black text on a white background, but reflections create a shimmery sort of effect that's still really annoying. Unfortunately there isn't much that can be done here: your best bet would be to stick to dark spaces, which isn't going to be feasible all of the time.
Software and features
The Excite Go doesn't serve up much in the way of frills. It's running Android 4.4.2 KitKat, complete with all of the bells and whistles that the current version of Google's operating system provides. Saying "OK, Google" at the home screen doesn't call up Google's search functionality, which is unfortunate, but you can always tap the microphone on the search bar that lives on the top of the display. Most of the other obvious upgrades in KitKat -- including the revamped dialer and Caller ID -- are relegated to phones, but you'll still get your fair share of widgets and the like on this device.
Toshiba hasn't baked any real extra apps in here. There's an icon for a user's guide, which simply downloads a PDF manual for the tablet and prompts you to pick an app to read it with. The service station app takes control of software and OS updates, and the Toshiba File Manager, well, manages your files.
There's little other bloatware in the traditional sense, which is all too rare on budget devices. But I like my bloatware nonexistent, and some preloaded apps -- Adobe Reader, eBay and Amazon Kindle -- can't be uninstalled. That likely won't be onerous to most, but I'll always frown on unsolicited apps, even if they're fairly good ones.