Remember a year ago, when there was just one big name 7 inch tablet available in the US? The original Samsung Galaxy Tab has a lot of company these days, and two of the newest are the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus and the just released Toshiba Thrive 7 inch tablet. Both cost roughly the same for the 16 gig WiFi model, and both are from tier 1 manufacturers that use high quality parts and materials. Each runs Android OS 3.2 Honeycomb and will get Android OS 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in 2012. So how do you decide? Read on and let us help!
These are WiFi-only tablets, there's no 3G or 4G inside. Both are available in 16 and 32 gig capacities and have microSD card slots for storage expansion. Each has 1 gig of RAM and the usual full Android suite of software plus Bluetooth, a GPS and dual cameras. The Toshiba Thrive 7 costs $379 for the 16 gig model and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus is $399. Both cost far more than eReader LCD tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, but they do more and have more hardware features. Let's look at where the two tablets diverge.
We've got two very different design camps here. Samsung goes for their usual incredibly thin, light and elegant design that reminds you of the iPad 2. A techie friend took one look and said "who wouldn't pick that over any other 7 inch tablet?!". That was based on looks, since he hadn't used the product. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus weighs just 12 ounces (0.75 pounds) and is 0.39" thick. That's not the thinnest tablet on the market (Samsung's own Galaxy Tab 10.1 is thinner, as are the iPad 2 and Motorola XYBoard 10.1), but it's plenty thin. The tablet is made of plastics but the faux brushed metal back and stiff frame mean it doesn't look cheap.
The Thrive is chunky-rugged-cute. It looks like a baby Toshiba Thrive 10. There's no gloss in this casing; rather it's all rugged rubber and the back has the same ribbed surface as the big Thrive. But the back cover isn't removable or interchangeable as it is with the Thrive 10, and that means no easy access to the battery, a nearly unique feature found in the Thrive 10. The Thrive 7 weighs 0.83 pounds and is thicker than the Samsung.
Winner? That depends if you're in love with thin and light or rugged rubbery stuff. Likely most prefer the slim Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus.
CPU and Horsepower
Samsung shakes things up with their latest tablet, and the Tab 7 Plus is graced with their famously fast 1.2GHz Exynos CPU with hardware graphics acceleration. This is a fast tablet, it's really hard to stump it or bog it down. The synthetic benchmarks rock, and the tablet's graphics hardware has no trouble playing 1080p high profile MPEG4 video.
The Thrive 7 uses the same first gen Android tablet CPU, the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core running at 1GHz. Tech moves quickly, and this CPU now seems a bit dated. It's capable enough to handle 3D gaming and works with Tegra Zone games, and it can handle Adobe Flash decently. But 2D graphics acceleration for video playback was never its strong point and it can't play high profile MPEG4 video (it just refuses). It can play 1080p standard profile video with a few frame drops.
Samsung markets their DivX support, and the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus can indeed play DivX video just fine. The Toshiba can play that format too, though we found it sometimes hung (a manual app force close got things working again).
SunSpider (lower is better): Samsung: 1738, Toshiba: 2360
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus
Here's where the Toshiba Thrive 7 shines: it has an unusually high resolution 7" display that runs at 1280 x 800 resolution. Only the 7" T-Mobile Springboard matches that resolution, which is commonly used on 10" Android tablets. That means the Thrive 7 has extremely sharp text, which is great for those of you who want to use Kindle, Nook or other eBook apps on the tablet. Icons and text are a bit smaller, and those with older eyes might find that slightly challenging, but we're not talking teeny-tiny. The display is moderately bright and colorful and it has good viewing angles, though it's not IPS.
The Samsung uses a display that's similar to the original Tab 7. It has good brightness and is colorful but doesn't wow us as much as the Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 8.9. Sharpness is actually good at the more common 1024 x 600 resolution, which is the standard for 7" tablets, but it's not as sharp when viewing text up close as the Thrive 7. Colors have that Samsung look (they pop), and viewing angles are very good on this non-IPS display.
Winner: Toshiba Thrive 7
Samsung has finally learned a lesson and included a microSD card slot in the Tab 7 Plus (something their larger tablets lack). The Toshiba Thrive 7 also has a microSD card slot and it one-ups the Samsung with a micro HDMI port. With the Tab 7, you'll have to buy Samsung's dock to HDMI adapter ($20 to $30) or use dLNA streaming to get content to your HD TV. Sadly, the plethora of ports that made the 10 inch Thrive popular are MIA here. There's no full size USB host port and no full size HDMI port.
Winner: Toshiba Thrive 7, but only thanks to the micro HDMI port.
You know, those added features that come as a pleasant surprise, like a digital pen or an AV remote? The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus has an IR blaster port and AV remote app (Peel). You can be the master of all your home theater gear and the TV programming grid too.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus
There are several more comparison points, and we cover them in detail in our video Smackdown below.
Toshiba Thrive 7 vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus Comparison Smackdown video: