The market for tablet computers is looking rosy according to any number of research studies and reports in the mainstream media and tech press.
It’s continuing good news for Apple and its iPad and for the myriad Android tablet-makers; and for satisfying consumers’ desire to own the latest affordable tech that gives them the freedom to get at information whenever and wherever they want it.
According to one recent report I read by Research and Markets, the expected growth of the tablet market in the UK over the next few years will be driven by features such as ease of use, long battery life, mobility, ability to multi-task, instant on/off and the large number of applications available.
Such predicted expectation drivers – no doubt valid in most if not all markets, not just the UK – keep the pressure on vendors where those that build better mousetraps are likely to be the ones that dominate in the market, either overall (like the iPad) or in a niche.
Such predictions and opinion are probably welcome news to a UK niche player like Storage Options, maker of the Scroll Excel 7″ tablet they loaned me and that I’ve been taking a look at over the past few weeks.
Just over six months ago, in June 2011, I reviewed Storage Options’ predecessor tablet, the Scroll 7″ Tablet PC (Capacitive). As I mentioned in the review, that device while competent had some significant issues that made me reluctant to consider it a product to recommend to anyone.
But that was then, and this is now with a new device that offers a much better experience and makes it a worthy offering in an increasingly-crowded market. You can see what I make of the Scroll Excel in my first-look video report that runs at just under ten minutes.
(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)
Overall, I think this is a very good device, certainly a far superior product compared to its predecessor. It’s well specified; the device I’ve got includes:
- Android 2.3.4 operating system
- Cortex A8 1Ghz single-core processor
- 512Mb DDR3 RAM; 4GB internal storage memory (of which 2Gb is used by the operating system); slot to add a microSD card up to 32Gb
- Capacitive 7-inch touch screen, 16:9 (screen resolution) 5:3 (pixel resolution), 800 x 480
- 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
- Mini HDMI socket for connecting to, eg, a TV to play HD video (you’ll need to buy a cable, one isn’t included)
- Mini USB port for connecting to a computer for file transfers and to to connect peripheral devices: keyboard, flash drive, etc (and a cable is included)
- Plays 1080p HD video, supports MPEG2, MPEG4, AVS, H.264, WMV, AVI, MP4, RMVB, FLV, MKV
I like the build quality, the speed of operation (on a par with most devices I’ve used and matching your expectations in how quickly something happens when you tap on the screen), the screen’s great resolution, and long battery life (with my moderate use so far – exploring the device, video watching, news reading, a bit of email – it’s days between charges).
Storage Options offers the Scroll Excel 7″ at a pretty keen price – currently, £129.99 is mentioned on their website although I see Amazon UK has it at £139.99, a discount of £10 off the original price. And they reported earlier this month that it was selling very well indeed.
There is a negative about the device, although how big it is depends on what’s important to you. The Scroll Excel 7 doesn’t come with the app you commonly find on many Android devices that lets you connect to the Android Market to download and install or update your apps.
Storage Options say this:
Due to licensing restrictions, the Scroll Excel cannot officially be used to access the Android Marketplace. It does however come with a number of pre-installed apps including Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Aldiko Book Reader, Amazon Kindle, BBC iPlayer, BBC News, es_file_explorer, Evernote, Facebook, MSN Talk, Quick System Info Pro, Slider Me Market Place, TuneIn Radio, Twitter, WildTangent Games and YouTube.The Scroll Excel also comes with access to the Slide Me Market Place where most major apps can be downloaded to the device without issue.
I mention this in my video review. If ease of use for you includes installing or updating your apps with just a tap or two on the screen, then this could be a big issue. There are workarounds, though, as Storage Options mentions (and includes reference to in the device manual). There are also some extreme ones.
I discovered a way to get to the Market, by accident I think, when I installed the Kindle app for Android from Amazon directly, which took me to the Market. I did that today, after I recorded the video review yesterday, and it opens up some interesting usage possibilities I hadn’t considered – the Scroll Excel 7 makes a pretty good Kindle device alternative with a better screen reading experience than the Kindle itself (and it’s in hi-res colour), and the price between the two devices isn’t far apart. The Excel is about the same size as a Kindle, too.
That’s an extra although one you may find as appealing as I do. But as a ‘mainstream’ Android tablet, this Scroll Excel is worth considering if you’re looking for a good-quality and good-value device and you don’t want to venture into iPad-like pricing territory.
This market is evolving very quickly, though. For instance, Dell may be getting into the consumer tablet market later this year (not to be confused with it’s abortive efforts in the business tablet market with the Dell Streak). There’s also Amazon’s Fire rumoured to be coming to the UK in a few months and at a price that will bring pressure to budget-device makers
Still, for a penny under £130, the Scroll Excel 7 is a very nice product at the budget end of the market.