We liked the 10-inch Toshiba Thrive, so it should come as no surprise that we have warm feelings for the shrunken down 7-inch version of Toshiba's Honeycomb tablet, which has nearly the identical design and featureset as its big brother. The Toshiba Thrive 7-inch features the same rubberized backing, which offers a sturdy feel and a comfortable grip. You get the same core specs, which include the dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor and 1GB of system memory, along with the same 2-megapixel front-facing camera and the 5-megapixel rear-facing cameras. And despite its smaller dimensions, the Thrive 7-inch offers the same screen resolution and the same port selection, though they are micro versions of the full-size ports on the Thrive 10-inch.
There is one important difference, however, between the two sizes. Unlike the 10-inch model, the Thrive 7-inch's battery is not replaceable. When the battery goes, you'll need to send the Thrive back to Toshiba for replacement or find yourself another tablet, which isn't nearly as convenient or inexpensive as replacing the battery yourself. On the flip-side, the Thrive 7-inch's camera features an LED flash, a feature absent on the Thrive 10-inch.
Toshiba sells two Thrive 7-inch models, each distinguished by its hard drive capacity. We reviewed the 16GB model, which costs $379. The 32GB Thrive 7-inch goes for $429.
BUILD & DESIGN
The Toshiba Thrive isn't the thinnest and lightest 7-inch tablet you'll encounter, but I found that its added heft made it feel rugged and comfortable to hold. The grooved, rubberized back panel provides a bit of a grip when the tablet is resting on a table or a desk or held in your hand. It also offers some degree of ruggedness, giving the Thrive some defense against daily bumps and bruises. At 0.8 pounds, the Thrive 7-inch weighs roughly half that of the 10-inch model. It measures 7.5 inches high by 5.0 inches wide by 0.5 inches thick. The 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is a bit thinner, measuring only 0.4 inches thick, but I don't necessarily think the Thrive 7-inch's added thickness is a drawback. It's very comfortable to hold in one hand.
The Thrive 7-inch is basically a scaled down replica of the Thrive 10-inch. The tablet is almost entirely black, from the rubber back panel to the side edges to the display's black bezel. A silver semi-circular enclosure around the cameras and the Toshiba logo in the center of the back panel are the only color accents (if you don't count the small, silver FCC text on a difficult-to-remove sticker on the tablet's right edge).
While many 7-inch tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus offer a stripped-down selection of ports, the Toshiba Thrive 7-inch boasts a useful collection. Behind a cover on the left side you'll find a mini USB 2.0 port, a micro HDMI port, and a micro SD card slot. (The cover opens a bit too easily; many times I accidentally dislodged it when I simply picked up the tablet.) In comparison, the Galaxy Tab supplies but a lone micro SD card slot. Above the ports on the Thrive 7-inch's left edge are the power button, volume rocker, and a screen-rotation lock switch. On the top edge resides the headphone jack, and on the bottom edge, two small speakers flank the proprietary docking connector.
The Thrive 7-inch features a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, which is the same as you'll find on the Thrive 10-inch, though the Thrive 7-inch differs in that it features an LED flash for the rear-facing camera. Among 7-inch tablets, the Thrive 7-inch cameras are impressive; for example, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus's rear-facing camera has only a 3-megapixel sensor.
The camera setup on the Thrive 7-inch isn't without its faults, however. First, the cameras' placement isn't ideal, especially for the rear-facing camera. The cameras are nearly aligned, and are positioned in the mid-point of the tablet's top edge (when in portrait mode). The camera app opens in landscape mode, so when you rotate the tablet to line up a shot, the natural placement of your hand is right in front of the rear-facing camera. Making matters worse, the camera's controls are located on the same side as the camera, making it all the more difficult to keep your hand out of the way. Perhaps I could get used to it in time, but a better spot of the rear-facing camera would be in one of the upper corners of the back panel. Secondly, the shutter speed is slow, particularly in low light. Be sure to hold the tablet steady when taking a shot, or you'll end up with a blurred results.
Other than when snapping photos, the Thrive 7-inch felt responsive. Apps load quickly, flipping between the various home screen happens smoothly, and YouTube videos load quickly and play with only the occasional hiccup common to any wireless device.
Toshiba Thrive 7-inch Tablet specs:
Display & Speakers
Impressively, the Toshiba Thrive 7-inch features the same 1280 x 800 resolution as the 10-inch model and exceeds the 1024 x 768 resolution of the 9.7-inch iPad 2. The screen is very crisp, though it's not as bright as the iPad 2 I have in my office. Still, the Thrive offers more than enough brightness that it remains readable in brightly lit environments. As with any tablet, you'll find yourself combating glare from time to time, but the Thrive boasts wide viewing angles, aiding viewability.
The two stereo speakers offer predictably tinny sound, even when your hand isn't obstructing the speaker. Firing from the bottom edge when held in portrait mode or from the side edge in landscape mode, I found it difficult to grip the Thrive without getting in the way of the speakers. When I managed to keep my hands away from the speakers, the sound sufficed for quick YouTube videos and video chatting. For movies and music, you'll want to keep headphones nearby.
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