Introducing the Toshiba Excite 7.7

While Toshiba's tablets so far haven't been necessarily bad, like most Android tablets they just haven't really set the world on fire. The only breakthroughs in this market seem to have been ASUS with their Transformers and Amazon's Kindle Fire with its hyper-aggressive pricetag; frankly, the iPad's market stranglehold is a tough nut to crack. That's why I like seeing what Toshiba's up to; most people don't notice when they experiment, but with their Excite line they definitely seem to be doing just that.

Toshiba produced the only 13.3" tablet at the top of the Excite line, but in the smallest form factor, the 7.7", they've gone a different route. The Excite 7.7 eschews the IPS panels most commonly found on tablets in favor of a 1280x800 AMOLED display. The result is a visual experience that's definitely eyecatching compared to other tablets on the market, but can it really justify the $499 starting price?

So here's an interesting question for you: why is the desktop/notebook/case guy handling a tablet review instead of someone like Jason, Anand, Brian, or Vivek? The simple answer is that as someone who doesn't use tablets with any great frequency, I get a slightly different perspective much as Jarred did when he helped review the Acer Iconia A500. This is a big, fresh market that's only going to get bigger with the release of Windows 8; my experience just seeing what HP and Toshiba had in store for that launch is proof enough of that. Just like smartphones have gradually eroded the market for dedicated portable gaming consoles, tablets (and ultrabooks to an extent) have been eating away the market for netbooks. Whether you like it or not, this is the new boss.

With the Excite 7.7, Toshiba is taking the basic foundations of Android tablets and banking on a crucial difference: the AMOLED display. AMOLED is an interesting display technology choice for a tablet; thus far it's been found essentially almost entirely on smartphones, but it has a lot to offer in a bigger size. So while the Excite's 1280x800 resolution isn't necessarily competitive with the substantially higher resolutions of bigger tablets, it makes up for it by having an essentially unmeasurable contrast ratio. When a pixel on an AMOLED display is off, it's off, so there's no calculating a contrast ratio when you have to divide by zero.

Tablet Specification Comparison
  Toshiba Excite 7.7 Apple iPad (2012) Amazon Kindle Fire Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9
Dimensions 205.7 x 134.6 x 7.6mm 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4mm 190 x 120 x 11.4mm 230.9 x 157.8 x 8.6mm
Display 7.7-inch 1280x800 AMOLED 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS 7-inch 1024 x 600 IPS 8.9-inch 1280 x 800 PLS
Weight 349g 652g 413g 447g
Processor NVIDIA Tegra 3 1.3GHz (4 x Cortex A9 + 1 x LP Cortex A9) Apple A5X (2 x Cortex A9, PowerVR SGX 543MP4) 1GHz TI OMAP 4430 (2 x Cortex A9) 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 (2 x Cortex A9)
Memory 1GB 1GB 512MB 1GB
Storage 16GB 16GB 8GB 16GB
Pricing $499 $499 $199 $469

The Excite 7.7's biggest problem from the get go is that price tag, but note that it's among the thinnest and lightest tablets available, easily besting the Amazon Kindle Fire. Thankfully the $499 MSRP isn't what's materializing in retail; a visit to NewEgg reveals the 32GB model available for $509 while the 16GB model is just $429. That's still a chunk of change, but at least it takes it out of striking distance of the incumbent iPad. Weighing about half as much probably doesn't hurt either.

Specifications on the Excite 7.7 are fairly modest; it's Tegra 3 as we're accustomed to for Ice Cream Sandwich-powered Android tablets and features a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Wired connectivity is handled by a micro-USB port, micro-SD slot, and headphone/mic combo jack; wireless is bog standard 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0, with no mobile broadband options. The shell itself is attractive, though, with a black finish around the front display, two speakers on the bottom surrounding the charging port, and an etched aluminum backing.

Display and Performance
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  • EnzoFX - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Why do these amoled screens look so overly saturated? Maybe I just need to see some in person, but I would imagine it would handle everything on the image equally, too saturated. How can this remain consistent with someone that uses calibrated displays?
  • Jaybus - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    I'm not so sure that it is the OLED display that is too saturated. The content itself is designed for maximum brightness to compensate for the poor contrast of LCD, and this likely makes it look too saturated on OLED.

    I would imagine the dynamic control is not so much for keeping power draw down as it is for adjusting to ambient lighting conditions. OLEDs are brighter and have a far greater dynamic range. Take them side by side out into direct sunlight and it will be obvious. The OLED will draw more power and be visible. The LCD will simply not be visible.
  • guidryp - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    Displaymate tests back up what you are seeing. There is measurable oversaturation on many OLEDs, do to non standard wider gamuts, or just plain overboosted color.

    Both are likely on purpose to give the impression that OLED has more vivid colors.

    I prefer accuracy and standard gamuts, so colors look realistic.
  • Romberry - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    You wrote "The only breakthroughs in this market seem to have been ASUS with their Transformers and Amazon's Kindle Fire..." In response, I have to ask if the Google (Asus) Nexus 7 slipped your mind? Various outlets are reporting that sales figures for the Nexus 7 (which in my opinion is a very good tablet and a great value for the price) are expected to be as high as 8 million units. For a device that wasn't even introduced until mid-year, that seems pretty dang respectable and I'd have to call it a market breakthrough. Sure broke through to me.
  • bplewis24 - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    $8MM seems awfully high. I have one and so does my brother, but still I would be surprised with that number. Any sources for that?
  • bplewis24 - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Never mind, I read some of the articles. I didn't realize the 8MM was through year-end 2012. I thought you were saying it was to-date. Still, 8 million is impressive.
  • Souka - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    $499 for a 7.7 tablet?

    And I like how the Nexus 7 (which is $199) is left out of most of the discussion and hardware comparisions.

    But ohhhh... glad the Kindle Fire is included... an old outdated tablet.
  • nathanddrews - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    The review lost me at "$499".
  • Bonesdad - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    I had the exact same thoughts. Why wasn't this compared to the Nexus 7? They are most similar and Nexus is arguably at the top of the 7" tablet heap right now. And the Kindle Fire? When the new Kindle Fire is announced next week, I hope you will include this Toshiba and the Nexus 7 as comparisons.

    No way am I dropping $500 on a 7 inch tablet. This unit is DOA for that reason alone. I was hoping it would be competitive at least.
  • nerd1 - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Wonder why the writer didn't include GT 7.7 with 7.7" SAMOLED.

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