The market's track record with 7-inch tablets is rather thin to this point, and has been met with scattered success.
But with the competition for 10-inch tablets becoming a battle between, really, Apple, Samsung in the distance and then everyone else, the window is open for others to compete in the space for smart devices in medium-range form factors.
Enter the Toshiba Thrive 7, a 7-inch, Android 3.2, Honeycomb-based tablet that brings key elements of its bigger, older brother -- the 10-inch Toshiba Thrive -- into a form factor that some may find much handier. Like the earlier Thrive, the 7 is built with a rubbery back that is easy to grip. It's built with Micro SD, Mini USB 2.0 and Micro HDMI ports. Its camera is 2MP, which is more of the meh variety than wed like but, hey, the list price online is $379.99 so we wont call it a show stopper.
There are two primary features of the Thrive 7 that stand out above all the rest. First, the display is one of the best weve yet seen in a tablet of any size. Toshiba says it uses its AutoBrite, multi-touch LED backlit technology, with native 1280-by-800 screen resolution. Toshiba has built this tablet with its adaptive display technology -- a feature that it says allows the lighting to change depending on the lighting in the environment. The result is amazing, and gives the display -- particularly for viewing video -- the feel of a much larger display.
And speaking of video, this tablet is built with front and rear-facing cameras. While many may believe that smart phones do not provide a comfortable video conferencing experience, or that 10-inch tablets arent comfortable enough to hold for lengthy video chats, we found that video chat on the Thrive 7 feels a lot more natural than on devices with larger or smaller screens.
That leads us to another topic: What kind of new use patterns will a 7-inch tablet evoke, if any?
The fact is that, even for the iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the 10-inch form factor simply does not lend itself to being carried around in a significant way much differently than a laptop. Not that the thin-and-light form of a 10-inch device doesnt make a difference in holding and walking around, but for travel -- on a plane, in a car, for significant walking -- many will often still wind up having to stick it in a briefcase or bag of some sort. With a Thrive 7, its possible to slip it into a pants or coat pocket, or into a light attach�.
But beyond that, there are still significant differences. A 10-inch tablet can take photographs, but a 7-inch tablet may be easier -- and certainly more natural -- to point and click. It is with the Toshiba Thrive 7. The device is a half-inch thick and Toshiba says it weighs in at 13.2 ounces (which we checked on our scales and found that to be dead-on.)
Checking the battery life, we found that the Thrive 7 to deliver a full day of battery life in common use -- web surfing, modest app usage, some video, etc. -- and a little more than three days on standby.
This is a tablet that will provide all the performance on Android apps and widgets that youre used to from smart phones and other tablets, with the benefits (noted above) of a 7-inch form factor. Were this only a video-viewing device, it would be worth the price. However, the quality of the display, the comfortable fit and finish, the nice sound and support for HDMI, and USB and SD technology make it a leading 7-inch tablet that many will find right in their comfort zone.