Back over the summer when Toshiba refreshed its tablet lineup, it appeared that the company was pulling out all the stops: two of its new models had super-sharp 2,560 x 1,600 screens and made use of NVIDIA's new Tegra 4 chip. At the high end, one even allowed for pen input, thanks to a pressure-sensitive Wacom digitizer. There was, however, at least one glaring omission: there were no smaller-screened tablets in the lineup, and none of them cost less than $300. Well, lest you think Toshiba was giving up on the budget space, it just started selling the Excite 7, a 7-inch Android slate priced at $170.
This is something of a full-circle moment for Toshiba. If you recall, the company's first 7-inch tablet suffered from cheap build quality and short battery life. Then, Toshiba overcompensated by coming out with the Excite 7.7, which rocked a vibrant AMOLED screen and featured what was then a top-of-the-line Tegra 3 processor. It cost $500, the same as nice 10-inch tablet, and not many people bought it. Now, the company's back with the Excite 7, and it clearly falls in that first category, if only because the price is so low. Heck, who are we kidding? The specs are low-end, too. For the money, you get 8GB of built-in storage (expandable via microSD), along with a quad-core 1.6GHz Rockchip processor, 1GB of RAM, dual 3MP/0.3MP cameras and a 1,024 x 600 display.
Toshiba Excite 7 hands-onSee all photos
Toshiba Excite 7See all photos
To its credit, the Excite 7 has the same industrial design as Toshiba's bigger tablets. Which is to say, the back cover is made of silver plastic, with a pattern of small raised dots making it easy to grip. Fancy it's not, but it at least stands up well to scratches and fingerprints. The problem is, it's rather chunky, at 0.43 inch thick (compare that to the new Dell Venue 7, which measures 0.37 inch). And though the screen is readable from off-kilter angles, you can make out pixelation in the icons, even from a healthy distance. Which is unacceptable when you remember that other 7-inch tablets (including the Venue 7) go up to 1,280 x 800 resolution. Oh, and by the way, for $150, Dell's tablet also comes with 16GB of built-in storage, not 8GB. Ditto for ASUS' $150 MeMo Pad HD7, which also has 16GB of storage and a 1,280 x 800 screen.
All this might be excusable if the Excite 7 offered out-of-this-world battery life, but Toshiba rates it at a maximum of eight hours, which would put it on par with other 7-inch tablets, if not slightly below. Point it, even if you can't afford a $229 Nexus 7 or the $229 Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, Toshiba's offering here seems a little stingy.