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Toshiba Thrive 7″ Is A Solid, Smaller Android Tablet: First Look

Toshiba’s Thrive 7″ is a solid, middle-of-the-road Android tablet, but its higher price-points could drive some consumers to look elsewhere

During a company earnings call in October last year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs jumped in to dismiss seven-inch tablets as inherently inferior to larger models, such as the iPad. Indeed, at the time, Apple and most of its rivals seemed intent on devoting resources to larger tablets in the 10-inch range.

Nonetheless, smaller tablets have managed to establish their own presence in the space. In addition to Research In Motion’s seven-inch PlayBook tablet and Samsung’s seven-inch and 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab, Toshiba is now making its own claims with the Thrive 7″ tablet.

Raw Honeycomb

Unlike the PlayBook and the Galaxy Tab, each of which boasts an individual appearance, the new Thrive offers an unaltered Google Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) experience.

The rest of its features are similarly middle-of-the-road, with a Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor paired with a Nvidia GeForce GPU (graphic processing unit) which give enough power for most applications. There is also a microSD card slot and micro-HDMI port, a five-megapixel camera on the back along with a two-megapixel front camera, WiFi connectivity, and a screen with 1280×800 resolution.

The Thrive 7” fits more easily into pockets and bags than an iPad or similar tablets and, at 13.2 ounces, it feels relatively light. You can hold it in one hand, ideal for functions like activating the camera or typing out a quick message without having to balance the device on your knees or a table. The textured backing does not slide on smoother surfaces, but the tablet’s overall construction feels ever-so-slightly loose.

Those who like flipping their screens between landscape and portrait mode, prepare to be disappointed: as a seeming consequence of its smaller form-factor, the Thrive 7” resolutely refuses to rotate its screen automatically with the device’s orientation. This could prove bothersome to those who like to switch their tablet duties between modes.

The device comes pre-loaded with the usual Android apps, including Gmail and Google Music. In addition, Toshiba has provided a File Manager, which could facilitate workflow for those who use tablets in a daily, intensive way. The tablet’s interface is responsive and accurate, even to smaller gestures and taps.

No UK debut as yet

Toshiba has not announced plans for releasing the tablet in the UK market and its name will probably be different. Its 10-inch sibling is known as the Thrive 10″ in the US but in the UK it becomes the less memorable AT100.

In the US, the announced price for the 16GB version of the Thrive 7” is $379 (£243 excluding VAT), and the 32GB is $429 (£275). That’s a fairly steep price point at a time when tablet prices are generally falling, with Amazon’s Kindle Fire selling for $199 (£128) and other, more business-centric tablets (notably the PlayBook) discounted significantly from their original prices.

If anything, Toshiba’s price-points serve to highlight those middle-of-the-road specs: is it worth shelling out that sort of money for a device virtually indistinguishable from others on the market? Especially when, for $499 (£320), customers could score a larger-screen iPad 2 or Motorola Xoom?

The answer will be decided by the customers. In the meantime, though, the Thrive 7” demonstrates that Toshiba has faith in the smaller screen tablet category.

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