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Editors' note: Thanks to the release of recent, high-quality tablets, the overall score of the Toshiba Excite 7.7 has been adjusted down from 7.3 to 6.5.
In addition to packing a Tegra 3 quad-core processor and an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS like the rest of its relatives, it's the only Excite member (and the only tablet other than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7) to pack an AMOLED screen.
Compact, thin, and zippy, this Wi-Fi-enabled device is going for $500 for the 16GB version. If you want to double that amount of storage to 32GB, you'll need to fork over $80 more.
When held in landscape mode, the Toshiba Excite 7.7 measures 8 inches wide, 5.31 inches tall, and is about a fourth of an inch thick. Weighing in at 0.77 pound, it feels light in the hand and is easy to maneuver. It fits great in a backpack, and you can easily slip it in a medium to large shoulder bag or purse. Keeping in mind that I have small hands, the bezel around the display was wide enough so that I can still grasp the tablet without accidentally touching the screen.
On top of the device there's a power button, a screen rotation lock/unlock toggle switch, a volume rocker, and a small opening for the internal microphone. To the right are a 3.5mm headphone jack, a port for a Micro-USB, and a microSD card slot. Unfortunately, there is no Micro-HDMI support on this thing. At the bottom there are two output speakers and the power/docking connector.
The back is made out of silver-grayish aluminum material that's textured with small circles. I like these aesthetic choices because it gives the Excite 7.7 a faux-metallic finish, but the overall look of the tablet comes off as cheap compared with its sticker price of $500. At the top right-hand corner is a LED-flash supported 5-megapixel camera.
A 2-megapixel front-facing camera on the top left corner sits above the 7.7-inch Gorilla Glass display. This location is really awkward, since you have to angle the device differently when taking vanity shots or web chatting. The screen, bordered by a black band subtly decorated with glitter (calm down, dudes, you can only see it in the sunlight, and even then you'd have to squint), supports 10-finger multitouch, so you can type with all fingers on deck. This comes in handy (pun unintended) since the Swype virtual keyboard feature is absent.
The display has a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels, which makes watching videos that fit its 16:10 aspect ratio a real pleasure. The AMOLED display made images, menu icons, and text crisp, and colors were vibrant with rich saturation. I did see some line aliasing and streaky gradient patterns in a few of those default wallpaper images preloaded onto the tablet, but they weren't as noticeable as, say, on the Excite 13.
The Toshiba Excite 7.7 ships natively with the newest version of the Android OS, version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Just like the two other Excite units, a few additions have been made to the settings menu. One is the Enable Balanced Power option, which appears to dim the backlight, regardless of the current brightness setting, in order to save battery life. The other is an Audio Enhancement toggle, which allows access to SRS sound settings like volume boost and clarity enhancements. In addition, Toshiba reported that its Ambient Noise Equalizer adjusts the tablet's volume based on the amount of noise in the area.
Preloaded on the device are a number of Google apps, including Gmail, Plus, Maps with Navigation, Latitude, the Play Store for Books, Music, and Movies, Search, Talk, and YouTube. There are also a few task management features such as a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm features, native e-mail, browser, and media player applications, a file manager, an address book, and a sound recorder.
Some extra goodies include Adobe Reader; mobile office suite Quickoffice Lite HD; PrinterShare, the mobile printing solution; LogMeIn, which gives you wireless access to your computers; movie apps like Netflix and Crackle; music apps such as Amazon MP3 and Rdio; reading apps like News Place, Book Place, and Zinio; five games (Solitaire, Spades, Hearts, Euchre, and Backgammon); and a gaming portal app.
The 5-megapixel camera has some photo options, including digital zoom, panoramic shots, an exposure meter (from -2 to +2), five white-balance options (auto, incandescent, daylight, fluorescent, and cloudy), geotagging, five scenes (auto, action, night, sunset, and party), a flash, and seven picture sizes ranging from QVGA to 5 megapixels.
The front-facing camera, surprisingly, has all the same features save for the panoramic shooting. There are also only five picture sizes, ranging from QVGA to 2 megapixels.
Video recording for the rear camera has continuous flash, and the same digital zoom, white-balance, and geotagging options. There is also a time-lapse feature with which you can record every 1 to 10 seconds, and you can choose to shoot in HD 720p or SD 480p. One of the two interesting features is the "silly faces" mode, which will distort your image while the video records. It can squeeze your face together, shrink your mouth, or make your eyes huge and cartoonlike. Needless to say, I got a kick out of it. The other is a background module, where you can change your background to outer space, a sunset, a disco, or your own custom image. The front-facing camera contains all the same recording options except for the flash and the two different video qualities.
The Wi-Fi-enabled device comes packaged with a bulky power charger, and is equipped with 1GB of RAM, Bluetooth, GPS, digital compass capabilities, a gyroscope, and an accelerometer.
Powering the Toshiba Excite 7.7 is a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor equipped with GeForce graphics. The CPU was pretty impressive -- there was some lag time when it came to switching the tablet from portrait to landscape mode, opening large applications, and rendering text after pinch-zooming, scrolling through the app drawer, zooming on photos, and swiping through the different home screen pages was a breeze. Most importantly, games and videos played effortlessly and rendered quickly. While playing Temple Run, the device executed high frame rates. Colors were vibrant and videos were smooth.
Audio quality was perfectly adequate as well. At times when the volume was on maximum, sounds came off tinny and harsh, but at a reasonable level; they were clear and didn't bleed together. The Toshiba audio enhancements did make audio sound noticeably less muffled, but similar to the other Excite units, Ambient Noise Equalizer didn't seem to do very much.
The camera quality was also acceptable, though not the best I've seen. The shutter speed on the camera wasn't instantaneous, but I didn't have to hold the Excite 7.7 for too long to prevent motion blur from appearing in my pictures. Feedback followed my movement of the camera without much lag and when I recorded video, audio was picked up clearly.
Photo quality wasn't stellar but was decent nonetheless. In dim to low lighting, edges were ill-defined and bled together. Dark hues were hard to distinguish, and bright lights were often washed out. Photos taken in natural sunlight fared a lot better. Images appeared more in focus and edges were easier to distinguish. The lower front-facing camera specs make it adequate to take vanity shots with. When I did manage to take a decent picture, colors were not as rich as they appeared in real life, and images were grainy when zoomed in just a little. Vanity shots taken indoors looked even grainier.
Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.
|Tablet||Video battery life (in hours)|
|Toshiba Excite 7.7||7.5|
Though it's up to the individual to decide what the ideal tablet screen size is for him or her, if you're in the market for something small, the Toshiba Excite 7.7 is a solid choice. Easy to handle and a breeze to navigate through due to its speedy CPU, its thin profile and light build makes it even more appealing. Its AMOLED screen gives it an edge over its 10- and 13-inch colleagues, and compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (which has a fantastic display in its own right), the Excite 7.7 gives off slightly better coloring and higher brightness. However, the pricing is undoubtedly steep. Even with its great display, most recent OS, and quad-core processor, you'll have to really ask yourself whether it's worth forking over $500 for a 7.7-inch device that has only 16GB of storage and no HDMI support. It may be more enticing if it cost about $150 less, but frankly, half a grand is just too high.