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Toshiba Thrive 7 Review, Honeycomb at 7 Inches
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Date: Dec 29, 2011
Section:Gadgets
Author: Dave Altavilla
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Toshiba Thrive Specs and Video Demo

If 2011 was the year of the tablet, then Q4 2011 had to be the quarter of 7-inch versions.  With a late-in-the-year burst of releases from various manufacturers spurring break-out products like the Kindle Fire and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, it's as if manufacturers made a concerted effort to target lower price points in an move to capture opportunity upsides during the holiday season.  There's little question Amazon's product, with its $199 price tag and an entire platform of media services and brand recognition behind it, made a big splash and now the competitive offerings are ramping up.

Meanwhile, Toshiba was a shade on the late side to the 10-inch tablet party with the original Thrive released early this year, but they're ready to strike while the proverbial iron is hot now in this late seasonal market buzz for 7-inch devices.  We called the 10-inch Toshiba Thrive the "Swiss Army Knife" of tablets back when we reviewed it, with its copious amounts of connectivity options and full-sized ports.  It's a large-than-most tablet but the sort of device that differentiates itself in a crowd of too similar designs. 

The second coming of the Thrive, the Toshiba Thrive 7 that we're going to take a look at today, however, has to squeeze features and functionality into a decidedly smaller form factor.  Though Toshiba once again does there level best here, to offer as much openness to connectivity as they can in this smaller version of the Thrive.  We'd almost call this version the "Thrive Mini."  At the internal component level, the Thrive 7 shares a lot of similarities with the original 10-inch Thrive, it's just packed into a petite frame with a slightly trimmed down price tag of $379.

Before we delve into the particulars, let's give you a quick, hands-on nickle tour of the new Toshiba Thrive 7".

Toshiba Thrive Android 3.1 Tablet
Specifications & Features
Display:  7.0" high-resolution (1280x800) widescreen, 16:10 aspect ratio, Capacitive Touch, Multi-Touch, scratch resistant glass

Platform:
  Android 3.2, Honeycomb; 5 customizable Home screens

CPU:
  NVIDIA® Tegra™ 2 @ 1GHz
Memory: 
   1GB
Storage:
  16GB/32GB Models

Wireless Data Network:
WLAN 802.11 b/g/n

Bluetooth V2.1

Camera:
2MP Pixel Front Camera, 5MP Pixel Rear Camera, 720P HD Video


Audio:

Toshiba Sound Enhancements, SRS Premium Sound Stereo Speakers, High Quality
Mic

Interfaces:

1 x 3.5mm Audio Jack (Headphone)
1 x micro HDMI 1.3a
1 x micro SD Card Slot
1 x mini USB 2.0 Port
1 x Docking Connector
Sensors:
Ambient Light Sensor
Gyroscope
Accelerometer

Multi-Task Support :
Yes
Flash Support :
Yes

Software :

- Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) Operating System
- TOSHIBA App Place, TOSHIBA BookPlace™, TOSHIBA Media Player, TOSHIBA Service Station, TOSHIBA File Manager
- Adobe® AIR® Runtime, Adobe® Flash, Kaspersky Tablet Security, LogMeIn Ignition, Hardwood Backgammon by SilverCreek Games, Hardwood Euchre by SilverCreek Games, Hardwood Solitaire IV by SilverCreek Games, Hardwood Hearts by Silvercreek Games, Hardwood Spades by Silvercreek Games, MOG Music, Printer Share™, Quickoffice®, Need for Speed™ Shift by EA

Battery: Up to 6 hours: 15Wh Li-Polymer Battery

Finish/Color: Easy Grip Back Cover in Black Tie
Dimension: 7.44" x 0.48" x 5.04"
Weight: .83lbs.
Warranty: 1 Year Limited Warranty
MSRP:  $379


 
The specs list above really says it all.  The Toshiba Thrive 7 is, for all intents and purposes, a 7-inch version of the original 10-inch Thrive, including the NVIDIA Tegra 2 SoC platform its built upon.  Which of course is not a bad thing at all.  Tegra 2 Android Honeycomb-based tablets are solid solutions. In addition, the one thing the Thrive 7 has going that the Kindle Fire can't claim, is a wide open Honeycomb OS, complete with the Android Market.  Though many power users might point to the fact that the Fire can be rooted, the average mainstream consumer is likely not willing to go that route.  It is within this mainstream customer base that the Thrive 7 can, dare we say, "thrive."
 
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Toshiba Thrive Design and User Interface
At first glance, the Thrive 7 is a dead ringer for the original Thrive, though obviously its packed in a 7-inch design. That said, there are some notable differences like the speaker positioning, which is now on the left side edge of the tablet while holding it in landscape orientation, or on the bottom edge, in portrait orientation, which is also where the new, larger synch/charge docking port is.
 


The Thrive 7 also has a concealment panel behind which its micro and mini HDMI and USB ports are located, along with the micro SD card slot.  The same volume rocker, orientation lock switch and power button are here on the Thrive, as well as Toshiba's almost trademark "Easy Grip" back cover, with its "Black Tie" finish.  We're fond of the backing material actually; it offers a confident feel in the hand to us.  This, however, this is a subjective area that may or may not appeal to all.

The Thrive's software setup is pretty much a stock Android 3.2 experience with a couple of Toshiba-built services plugged in as apps for the tablet.  There are also a couple of useful Toshiba-built utilities installed as well. Otherwise, from top to bottom the experience is pretty much just what Android delivers and relatively light on bloatware thankfully.

 
Toshiba's Custom File Manager and Media Player Apps


EA's Need For Speed: Shift HD

You get 5 customizable home screens along with the traditional Honeycomb interface, multi-tasking support via the task bar and resizable widgets.  Toshiba also includes a custom-built file manager that does a nice job of organizing files from three primary sources on in the tablet: internal memory, SD card and external USB storage.  The media player app is pretty straight-forward but does offer a nice UI and also the ability to browse network sources for content as well. 
 
The Thrive also comes with pre-installed Toshiba App and Book stores, as well as a news portal app.  The app store has some novel items and a fairly sleek web interface but the tablet comes with Google's stock Android market as well. The same thing goes for the books store app and Google's Book market is on board too.  EA's Need For Speed: Shift was a nice bundled game addition, though only a demo version.


Still image shot courtesy of Toshiba Thrive 5MP camera

Finally, we took a quick snap with the Thrive's on-board 5MP camera and it's safe to say performance was on par with what we've seen from other Android tablets in this price range.  The camera app you use is also what comes stock with Android 3.2, which is actually quite full-featured and handy.  As we've seen previously with other tablets, in low light situations, you need a steady hand for stills, and even then, images will still be a grainy. However, in outdoor lighting, image quality is fairly solid. The tablet's 720p HD video quality isn't going to rival even a Flip video camera either, but it's still nice to have for random, spur of the moment quick takes nonetheless.

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Performance Benchmarks

Next, we'll take a look at how the Toshiba Thrive 7 compares to other tablets by running a few common benchmarks that are currently available in the Android Marketplace.  The first two tests are general purpose computing type benchmarks.

CPU testing
Android CPU testing

Linpack measures floating point compute power of the Android operating system and the processor driving it. Here, all of our Tegra 2 based competitors running Android 3.2 appear to be pretty much on par with each other, though the Thrive 7 did bring up the rear by a small margin.  The Tegra 3 tablet has an obvious performance advantages with NVIDIA's new quad-core System-on-a-Chip.

SunSpider tests the tablet's Javascript performance, and since Javascript is widely used around the web, this test is loosely indicative of browser performance with each of the slates we tested.  Here the Thrive 7 once again falls right in line with other Tegra 2-based tablets in its class but the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus' Exynos SoC (and some tweaks on the software side) shows a significant performance advantage.

With BrowserMark we see a similar outcome.  The Thrive 7 rolls in with the rest of the Tegra 2 tablets, but can't catch either the Transformer Prime Tegra 3 based slate or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus.

Graphics Testing
Android graphics testing

 

GLBenchmark is new to our 3D performance benchmark set.  The test suite is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark with a number of performance metrics incorporated in it.  We specifically use the Fill Texture Fetch suite to measure raw texture fill rate of a graphics core and the Egypt Off Screen test to measure 3D performance in frames per second.  The Off Screen test renders workloads at 1280x720 for all devices, but off-screen, so Vsynch and screen refresh are not limiting performance.

Once again, in both versions of this 3D graphics benchmark, the Toshiba Thrive 7 puts out scores that are on par with competitive Honeycomb-based Tegra 2 solutions. 

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Battery Life Test
In an attempt to quantitatively measure the Thrive 7's battery life in a controlled benchmark environment, we ran a test in which we set up a webpage with a mix of graphics, Flash media and text. The page automatically refreshes every three minutes, we loop the page and also setup a screen lock utility that keeps the display from sleeping during the test.  Battery life is then measured down to the minute the tablet finally shuts down.  The WiFi radio is enabled in this test, to simulate battery life in real-world web browsing over an 802.11n wireless connection. 

Battery Life Tests
Untethered Up-Time Measurements

For this test, we set the Thrive's display to 50% brightness, which is still plenty bright and easy on the eyes. The Thrive was able to last just over 5 hours untethered before it powered down.



Though it came in dead last, technically, in this test, the Toshiba Thrive 7 did exceed the 5 hour mark, which isn't bad for a 7-inch slate, where battery size needs to be reduced in order to accommodate a smaller chassis design.

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Performance Analysis and Final Thoughts

Performance Analysis:  Performance-wise, Toshiba's new Thrive 7 tablet is generally as fast as any other Tegra 2-powered Honeycomb tablet out there right now, though it did pace slightly slower than the other Tegra 2 slates and the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus in a few of our tests. This variance was fairly insignificant and general responsiveness with the device was satisfying.

In other areas, Toshiba's gorgeous 7-inch IPS display also performs well, with good brightness, color saturation and contrast, along with reasonably good viewing angles.  With respect to battery life, the Thrive 7 didn't break any uptime records in our testing but it offered a solid 5+ hours of constant web use on a full charge.  Unlike Toshiba's 10-inch Thrive tablet however, the Thrive 7's battery is not user-serviceable.

 

Ultimately, the same cast of characters face the Toshiba Thrive 7 competitively, as did the 10-inch version of the Thrive earlier this year, with two notable exceptions; in the high-end it's Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and in the low-end it's Amazon's Kindle Fire.  For about the same price (a $20 premium), the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus offers the very potent dual core 1.2GHz Samsung Exynos SoC that proved itself faster in all of our benchmarks versus the NVIDIA Tegra 2 SoC (System on a Chip) that is powering so many Honeycomb slates these days, including the Thrive 7.  The Galaxy Tab 7 Plus also sports Samsung's gorgeous PLS display technology and is significantly thinner, though it doesn't have near the connectivity options of the Thrive 7's assortment of micro-sized ports.  The Kindle Fire, of course, is almost a full $200 cheaper than the Thrive 7, but also has a generally lower-end TI OMAP dual-core chip, with only the tablet's docking connector to support USB 2.0 connectivity, only 8GB of storage and 512MB of RAM.  Not to mention it runs Android 2.3 and is partially hamstrung without access to the Android Marketplace, though obviously it's ripe for rooting.

So, in reality, all this leaves the Thrive 7 right about where the Thrive 10 sits in the market as well.  This 7-inch tablet offers a relatively well-rounded Tegra 2-driven experience in an open platform that allows the user to have maximum access and connectivity to it, right out of the box.  With its mini-USB port, micro-HDMI port and micro-SD card slot, as well as a 5MP auto-focus camera with flash, you've pretty much got all you'd want for features in a 7-inch slate, without sacrificing portability.  That's the upshot.  The downside is, the Thrive 7 doesn't really stand out much in terms of performance or price.  Toshiba does, however, fill a smaller niche' in the market with the Thrive 7, much the same way they did with the Thrive 10.  If you're looking for a complete solution that's well-built and supports all current technologies available in the tablet market today, the Thrive 7 is a competent, though not awe-inspiring option.
 
     
  • Myriad of ports and connectivity
  • Tegra 2 SoC, not cutting-edge but competent
  • Solid performance
  • Custom File Manager app

 

  • A higher-priced 7-inch slate
  • Other, more interesting options, price/performance-wise


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