Storage Options is one of the few budget Android tablet manufacturers that isn't an entirely no-name provider. Ok, it's on the doorstep of being a no-name brand, but at least a few of you must have heard of it before, right? The Scroll Excel is the latest in its cheapo Android line-up.
It sells for £129, but packs in many of the most important elements of the Android experience - a capacitive touchscreen, glass top layer and a processor fast enough to stop Android chugging along like a runner with emphysema. There are plenty of problems it barely surmounts, but we came away with some warm feelings for this dinky, almost-pocketable tablet.
For a year or more, we've been singing the praises of the 7in tablet form. It's much easier to use one-handed while giving you a reading, browsing, gaming and video-watching experience far better than you could reasonably expect from a 3in or 4in smartphone. And yet only a few big-name 7in tabs have been released. The HTC Flyer was horribly expensive, the Acer Iconia A100 had a rubbish screen and the Toshiba Thrive 7 will likely appear overpriced by the time it's released. Storage Options's Scroll Excel is here to take advantage of this.
Its design philosophy is to drop superfluous features where they're not needed, so that the tablet can remain cheap to buy without feeling too cheap. There's no camera on the back, limited internal memory and an old version of its Android OS software. In this age of fire sales, it's easy to forget that while the BlackBerry PlayBook may sell for £169 new, no manufacturer would ever have signed off this price as its original RRP. Nonetheless, such price drops are not good news for the Scroll Excel.
This latest Storage Options tablet doesn't feel like a top-quality tab, but it's a solid little slab of plastic and glass. The Scroll Excel has ditched the removable battery to avoid the creakiness of a removable backplate and the result is a hardy, near flex-free device.
It is not particularly stylish, however. Its look is perfectly inoffensive - the tablet-standard gloss black for the front, matt black plastic on the edges and glossy white plastic on the back - but at 12mm thick, a back adorned with plenty of text and three clear clicky soft keys on the front, the Excel is not aiming for any design superlatives.
The 7in screen size does come with a few clear benefits. At 363g, the Excel is just about light enough to hold comfortably in one hand - while watching a video or reading a website - and has none of the unwieldy feel of a 9.7in or 10.1in alternative. We love our large tablets, but to use while standing up on public transport, they can't compete with a smaller device like this.
In common with many "practical" - rather than style-obsessed - tablets, the Scroll Excel's on-body connectivity is good - and jammed entirely onto the bottom edge. There's a mini HDMI output that mirrors on-screen video to a television, a microSD slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, miniUSB data transfer socket and the power plug. The 3,400mAh internal battery cannot be charged over USB, and the use of a mini, rather than micro, plug is something of a throwback addition here.
The Scroll Excel's design is a significant improvement over the previous miScroll in some respects. The front is now glass rather than plastic, sturdiness has increased and the backplate looks a lot nicer. However, it's still roughly the same look at work.