Toshiba unveils the Thrive 7 – hands-on pics of the new 7-inch Android tablet

Toshiba has unveiled its second tablet: the Thrive 7. Joining the original 10.1-inch Thrive, the new 7-inch tablet looks identical to its older brother, and internally is pretty much is the same. It has the highest resolution we’ve seen in a 7-inch tablet yet, cramming an 1280×800 pixel screen (that’s the resolution 10.1-inch devices have) into its compact shell. In addition, it runs on the same dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, Android Honeycomb operating system, and 1GB of RAM that power the original Thrive.

The first thing we noticed when holding the Thrive 7 was how solid it feels and looks. At just about a half-inch thick, it’s the most sturdy looking 7-inch tablet we’ve seen since the BlackBerry PlayBook. Though it is styled almost identically to the Thrive, the rugged rubberized backing felt quite firm and the silver camera area looked more natural in this diminished size. The cameras are identical too, with a 2MP front and 5MP rear. Unfortunately, there are no full-size ports on the Thrive 7, but Toshiba has included a microSD card slot, Micro HDMI port, headphone audio jack, and a Mini USB port (for some reason). And like rival PC-maker Acer, Toshiba has chosen to compete on its hardware instead of modifying Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) itself. Samsung has taken the opposite route.

The big difference is in audio. Toshiba has moved the speakers and proprietary charging port to the bottom of the unit when held vertically. This makes sense as most people will be holding it more like a book than a computer, due to its size. This new default orientation has the added benefit of making the shiny silver camera look like a better design choice, as it has remained in the same location. The speakers aren’t going to fill a room, but thanks to SRS technology and a boost from some custom Toshiba software, sound was pretty loud compared to other tablets we’ve used.

The only big downside to the Thrive 7 is the same one that afflicted its predecessor. Like the 10.1-inch model, the Thrive 7’s screen is a fingerprint magnet. After using it for a bit, it just gets covered in them. Not that other tablets are fingerprint free, but hopefully Toshiba employs a better fingerprint coating in future tablets. With that said, the tablet will hit shelves in December and will be priced “competitively” (less than $400, we think) so if the fingerprints turn you off, maybe the price will turn you back on.

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