Full-featured Honeycomb tablet tries to steal discount slates' thunder
TIMES ARE, LET'S SAY, challenging for anyone who makes a 7-inch tablet but doesn't also own some type of bookstore. The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet could look the Thrive 7" square in the eye and say, "You're good, kid, but as long as we're around, you'll always be second best, see?" It hardly matters that the Thrive 7" has the full Honeycomb 3.2 OS, more storage, and superior screen resolution, because it also carries a price that's almost twice that of the Fire and without all the Amazon ecosystem advantages, to boot.
With that said, for those discriminating individuals who do appreciate the finer things in life, the Thrive 7" furnishes the highest resolution of a 7-inch tablet and costs a bit less than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus. Graphics in games and videos on the Thrive 7" look crisp and finely detailed, with excellent black levels. It's a great tablet display for reading ebooks or websites.
On the downside to browsing the web, the Thrive 7" performs pretty poorly with web browser screen redraws and scrolling and exhibits demonstrable touch‑response lag. Several other Honeycomb tablets we've tested also suffered from such problems to a degree belying their hardware specs, but the Thrive 7" felt particularly laggy, if only intermittently. Similar problems occurred with certain other apps, on the home screens and menu screens, and when waking up the tablet. These behaviors were only occasional, but still common. Benchmark tests also showed results inexplicably lower than other Tegra 2 devices with similar specs.
A screen-lock switch on the side of the Thrive 7" helps out when reading books in bed.
As interest in the 7-inch tablet form grows, the Thrive 7" offers something a little different. With a larger screen bezel than the Kindle Fire and a grippy plastic back panel, the Thrive is more comfortable to grasp with one hand. It's even a bit lighter than the Fire. However, the back panel has some give to it when pressed. Like the soft spot on top of a baby's head, it's probably fine, but it's a bit disconcerting.
As another plus, 7-inch tablets aren't nearly as awkward for taking photos as 10-inch tablets, but the discount 7-inchers don't offer cameras. Similar to many aspects of the Thrive 7", its cameras are a mixed bag. As in other tablets, the 2MP front camera should only be used for video-chat-type purposes, as its quality isn't very good. The 5MP rear camera features an LED flash and autofocus. In good lighting, the photos can look quite nice, and it has an effective macro mode for close-ups. However, the autofocus takes quite long to operate, ironically making it less likely that your hands will stay steady for the photo. The placement of the lens is also more suited for photos in portrait, rather than the more common landscape photos. Its 720p videos look pretty good for steady shots in good light, but they flicker and get distorted with fast motion and low light.
Toshiba's 10-inch Thrive featured a removable 23Wh battery, but the 15Wh battery in the Thrive 7" is not user replaceable. This makes the low-to-average battery life even less appealing. While we got 13 hours of infrequent use out of a charge, it lasted less than five hours with constant use. The unnecessarily bulky proprietary charger and cable don't help matters. Micro USB for charging, if you please!
While a promised update to Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich will help the Thrive‘s case, we're not sure if it will clear up any of its performance issues that we don't always experience with Tegra 2 devices. But if you're looking for a more capable 7-inch Android than the mass market Fire and Nook, the Thrive 7" gives you more than you could bargain-hunt for.
Toshiba Thrive 7"
Excellent display with high pixel density; good grip and lighter than the Kindle Fire; no annoying UI skin or bloatware.
Some laggy performance, especially in the browser; odd camera lens placement and long autofocus; no Micro USB charging.
Toshiba Thrive 7"
Android Gingerbread 3.2.1
Nvidia Tegra 2 1GHz-dual core
7‑inch LED backlit, 1280x800 LCD
16GB or 32GB with microSD expansion; 1GB RAM
2MP HD webcam front; 5MP rear w/LED flash and autofocus
720p video capture
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, Micro HDMI, Mini USB 2.0, microSD