The tablet market is in the middle of a revolution. Prices are dropping as processing and graphical prowess grows rapidly. Those currently looking for a 7-inch, WiFi-only Android tablet should probably have the Toshiba Thrive 7″ top of mind. By the time I got my hands on this tablet, many other reviews had already been published, so I decided to take a deeper look at this device by extending my experience with it up to a month.
The Toshiba Thrive 7″ was a much more pleasant experience for me than its bigger brother, the Toshiba Thrive (10.1″). It’s much more portable and comfortable and is not affected by the plethora of bugs the original Thrive experienced during its first months. There are some other good options for 7-inch tablets out there, and each device has its pros and cons. Can the Thrive 7″ become the must-have tablet in the 7″ category? Read on for our full review.
There are surely better looking tablets than the Thrive out there. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.0 is the clear leader in the design category. The Toshiba Thrive is not the thinnest or the lightest– features many users would prefer.
The Toshiba Thrive 7″ has a much more resistant feel and weight to it. The measurements are 189 x 128.1 x 11.9 mm, and the tablet weighs in at 400 grams. But what the device lacks in sleek, it makes up for in functionality; the extra size leaves room for some added ports and features (more details below).
The side of the tablet sports a power button, a volume rocker and a screen lock/unlock toggle. Located on the same side, there is a covered area that holds all the ports and slots. There’s also a metal part in the bezel that extends to the back, holding the front and rear-facing cameras, with a LED flash in the back.
One thing I did find annoying was that both speakers are located on the bottom of the tablet when the tablet is held in portrait mode. The 10.1-inch Thrive has them located in both ends of the longer side, which makes for a great stereo effect when watching videos in landscape mode. I also found myself muffling the sound when grabbing the tablet, as my hand would cover the speakers. But if you’re not a fan of landscape, you’ll do just fine.
I am a big fan of 7″ devices due to their portability and user-friendly size. This is small enough to hold comfortably with one hand. Typing and using it with your thumbs is a breeze, and it works great as an e-reader.
2. Build Quality
Overall, the device feels great, though it does have its defects. The tablet is mainly plastic. While the rubberized back looks great and provides good texture, it feels a bit cheaply built. A small (but important) issue is that the non-removable battery cover flaps a bit when you push on it.
There is some space between the battery and the cover that can be felt when the tablet is in use. But if you can get past these issues, the tablet actually feels great, mainly due to the 7-inch form-factor. The good weight makes up for some of it, but this isn’t the most solid tablet we have seen.
The Toshiba Thrive 7″ sports a 1 GHz Tegra 2 dual-core processor (with a ULP GeForce GPU) and 1 GB of RAM. This is the standard spec for most Honeycomb tablets out there today, but lacking behind the more recently released devices with Tegra 3. As expected, performance isn’t exactly the best of the tablets out there.
While the tablet is not necessarily slow, similar devices run much smoother. There is a bit of lag when switching from app to app as well as when loading several heavy applications. Sometimes the lock screen would not recognize my finger, and I would need to turn the screen off and on to be able to unlock the device.
Small bugs and issues like that make the experience a bit disappointing. After using it for over a month, though, I found that little things like that become much less annoying, since such issues only show up from time to time. Home screen transitions are fairly smooth, and the tablet works especially well when playing Tegra 2 games. It is in such dual-core enhanced applications where one really feels the power of that Tegra 2 processor.
The 7-inch display is much better than I would expect from a 7-inch device. The LED-backlit LCD 7-inch screen has a definition of 1280×800 pixels. This means that the screen is HD quality (a bit over 720p), and content looks great on it.
The viewing angles are also surprisingly good. But the one issue I found is that the tablet is not the best when viewing it in direct sunlight. But for some reason it does look good when there is a white background, like that of the Gmail application.
I hardly take tablets out for a spin, though, and mostly use them indoors, sticking to my smartphone when going around town. But if you are looking to use your tablet outdoors, this is probably not the best option out there.
Sure, it does not have Android 4.0 just yet, but Toshiba has already promised that the update will come at the end of Spring. It might be a while until then, but most tablets in the market are still running Honeycomb, anyways (sadly).
The Thrive runs on Android 3.2.1, which is still a great Android version for a tablet. The good side is that Toshiba decided to keep the software stock. There are no extra features or flashy enhancements. So, if you are a fan of stock Android, this would be a great choice.
The tablet does come with a good amount of bloatware, though. I have about 15 apps that cannot be uninstalled, and probably won’t ever use. Such amount of bloatware apps is disappointing, but we suppose other manufacturers have done worse. If you can get past the bloatware and be patient for the Android 4.0 update, the software is great.
NVIDIA processors are known for their gaming capabilities. As mentioned above, the tablet is not the best at performance, but it magically improves once you tap on those Tegra 2 game icons. Games run smooth and with great graphical effects.
It is also important to note that Tegra has a great selection of multiple-core adopted games, which might be what makes the experience better. But other tablet games run just as great, to my surprise.
The smaller form-factor also helps, in my opinion. With larger tablets, it is a bit harder to reach certain on-screen buttons. I also find it a bit harder to manage a 10-inch tablet when playing games that use the accelerometer. The smaller size makes it easier to hold the tablet while keeping screen space and viewing in a fun balance.
7. Storage Capacity
For being a smaller tablet, internal storage is not bad. There are two versions: a 16 GB and a 32 GB one. This matches options that most tablets offer, but there is something extra users can take advantage of – the microSD slot.
The Thrive 7″ supports microSD cards of up to 32 GB. If you are one to worry about having enough storage space, this tablet allows you to go up to 64 GB, between internal and external storage.
Personally, I find myself using very little space on the tablet. All my music and videos are in the cloud. Most of my space is occupied by files, games and apps, meaning that it is very hard for me to fill up a 16 GB hard drive. That may not be your case, though, and Toshiba has you covered with the Thrive.
One of the biggest lures for Toshiba Thrive tablets is the great selection of ports they offer. This tablet does not match the variety of ports that the 10-inch version sports, but it also doesn’t stay too far behind.
The Thrive 7″ offers a microSD slot, a miniHDMI port, a miniUSB port and a proprietary charging/USB port. Whether you want more storage, use USB accessories or blast your content to the larger screen, this tablet will take care of you.
All of these features are great to have, especially in a 7-inch tablet. Such devices usually sacrifice port availability for size, but Toshiba manages to bring all that functionality, even if the tablet could become thinner if the company had gotten rid of them.
Most users do not take advantage of tablet cameras, except for maybe the front-facing one for video calls and chats. The Thrive 7″ sports 2 cameras. The rear-facing shooter is a 5 MP camera capable of 720p HD recording, while the front-facing camera features a 2 MP sensor.
For being a tablet camera, I found the quality to be rather good, but not excellent. The front-facing camera is a bit too grainy, as is the case with most front shooters out today.
The reason why I am giving this category a point is because the rear-facing camera works fairly good, and the other camera is not really bad compared to the competition. If you are one to use tablet cameras, this tablet will do the job. Here are some samples of images taken by the device, so you can see for yourself.
10. Battery Life
Battery capacity is not specified, but Toshiba claims that battery life is up to 9 hours. Something that I found interesting is the fact that most other reviews are reporting horrible battery life. It seems to have become common knowledge that this tablet has very little juice to spare.
My experience happens to be on the opposite end. The tablet may not last as much as others, that is for sure, but it is surely much better than those 4-5 hours that most sites have been reporting. Most times, I managed to get about 8-10 hours on a single charge.
I would unplug the tablet in the late-morning and just plug it back in at night. Meaning that I managed to get a full working day of use most of the time. Playing games and watching videos may be another story, as I would only get about 4-5 hours (continuous) when doing such. But when performing regular tasks, like email, social networks and browsing, I never had a problem.
I also am not a fan of giving up functionality for battery life, so WiFi was always on (even when in standby), screen brightness was always at its fullest, and I did no special tricks to try to keep the device alive for longer.
As mentioned, yes, there are tablets with better battery life out there. But this was not the worst. Especially for a 7-inch device.
The Toshiba Thrive 7″ offers a great experience for those that like 7″ tablets. Its major competitor, as of now, is probably the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0, which offers slightly better performance and better aesthetics. But some users are simply not fans of the thinner, lighter build, and the price of the Samsung tablet is a bit higher.
If you are looking for a good 7-inch tablet, and don’t want to go the Samsung route, I would say this is one of the best options out there. The Kindle Fire is not as functional, the Acer Iconia Tab A100 is not as good (and has much worse battery life, but is also cheaper), and the HTC Flyer is now discontinued.
Build quality and performance are not optimal, but they get the job done, and the tablet does not feel cheap enough to discard it. In fact, some of you may love the rubberized back. I also took off half a point due to its current software. Honeycomb is good, but at this point, everybody wants Ice Cream Sandwich. And while it is coming, it will be a while before the Thrive gets its update.
The prices are also not off the grid, but a bit higher than I would prefer to pay for this device. The 16 GB version is currently going for $374.99 on Amazon, while the 32 GB version goes for $429.99.
There are rumors about an ASUS Nexus tablet in the works, which is said to go for only $200 (like the Kindle Fire). Not to mention the $250 Tegra 3, 7-inch ASUS MeMo 370T, which will go for only $250 later this year. Such prices will shake up the market, making it very hard for a tablet like the Thrive 7″ to compete. But if you can’t wait around, this might be a great choice for non-thin tablet fans.