The Scroll Excel uses an almost-vanilla install of Android 2.3. This version of Google’s OS was never intended for use with tablets, although it has featured on loads of ’em since its release last year. In the Excel’s defence, it feels a lot less out-of-place on a 7in screen than it does on a larger 10in tablet.
We’d rather see Android Ice Cream Sandwich here, or Honeycomb, but in all honesty FroYo feels fairly natural. The only UI addition is the shortcut bar at the top of the screen, which adds volume controls and buttons for the back and menu functions.
It’s not without significant problems, though. Without full Android certification, the Excel lacks Android Market support and misses out on Google-branded Mail, Maps and Navigation apps. When you first get this thing out of the box, its app menu is virtually empty.
Scroll isn’t new to the cheapo tablet game, and offers a clever way to get the tablet stocked-up with apps in minutes. It has a host of essential apps archived on its internal memory, ready to install whether you’re connected over Wi-Fi or not. Called Scroll Apps, this repository offers favourites like Google Maps, Adobe Flash, Evernote and Facebook. There are 28 in total, and will satisfy the needs of some buyers almost completely.
In addition it has the SlideME Market third-party app store. There are both paid-for and free apps available here, but its interface is basic and it doesn’t have the app and games line-up of the real thing. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to install a better alternative, like 1Mobile Market, following a quick web search. We even got the Android Market installed too. Most budget tablets we’ve reviewed won’t simply accept the apk install file of the Android Market, but this one did. It’s a little crash-happy and slow, but it works.
That the Scroll Excel just works throughout better than we imagined is what we like most about this tablet. You need to spend a little while tweaking it – with a new app store, new UI and more apps – but once that’s done it’s quicker and more reliable than many better-known, more expensive alternatives such as Archos’s G9 80. We assume this is because Scroll knows it makes bottom-rung tablets, and tweaks the software to match.
The 1GHz Cortex A8 CPU is much less powerful than the dual-core Tegra 2 model used in top-tier tablets, but performance in almost every app and game we tested the Excel with was admirable. Frame rates were generally solid and crashes infrequent, making using the thing a lot of fun. In our review of the Storage Options miScroll tablet, we complained that it sucked all the fun out of using a tablet. This successor doesn’t.
In the AnTuTu Benchmark test, the Scroll Excel scored a respectable 2,824 points. Remarkably, this is on-par with a dual-core 1GHz tablet we reviewed back in August 2011, the Time2Touch HC701A. A few times during testing we were left wondering whether Storage Options had slapped a dual-core processor in this little blighter by mistake.
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