So far the Scroll Excel is doing pretty well – good performance, decent stability and a low price. There’s no sugar-coating its screen quality, though.
IPS panels are the tablet staple, providing the high quality of image that has become associated with this type of gadget. The Excel uses a TN panel, used in most laptops and budget monitors. This technology isn’t too hot at making the screen look good no matter what angle you’re looking at it from, resulting in plenty of contrast and colour shift.
This affects the tablet when it’s tilted left and right in portrait orientation, and is much more noticeable when watching a video than browsing the web. Try to watch a dark scene in a film at around a 45-degree tilt and almost all shadow detail will be lost, making all but the brightest scenes virtually unwatchable.
Sharpness and general image quality isn’t great, either. The Scroll Excel has a 480 x 800 pixel screen, which nowadays looks out-of-date in a 4in smartphone, let alone a 7in tablet. Its 133dpi pixel density is actually a tiny bit higher than the iPad 2’s (at 131dpi) but when you factor-in that 7in tablets tend to be held that much closer to your face, sharpness if significantly worse off here.
The low dpi res and contrast shift are pretty clear here
Look with an analytical eye and the pixel structure is clear. Head into the browser and small text looks blocky, while areas of block white have a ever-so slightly mottled look – although nowhere near as much as the previous miScroll tablet with its resistive touchscreen.
When gaming and video-watching, the lack of colour vividness is clear. Images are a little washed-out and cold. It’s something eyes adjust to, but if you’ll frequently be switching between the Excel and a device with a higher-end screen, such as a smartphone, the difference will be clear. And depressing.
Screen quality is downright poor. It’s a pity that turns into a tragedy when the Excel’s fantastic video support is considered. There’s no fancy media player interface pre-installed, but it can handle virtually any common codec. Our 1080p 42Mbps test MKV file played without problems, when the vast majority of £400-500 tablets would refuse to play it at all.
If only this device had an IPS screen to do justice to high-quality video, we’d be tempted to snap one up ourselves – and we’d be willing to pay a bit more than £129 too. Storage Options has bigged-up the Excel’s ability to output 3D video, but all this really means is the HDMI is 3D-compliant – there’s no 3D video player app here, and certainly no 3D display.
The screen is by far the weakest part of the Scroll Excel. And like an embarrassing uncle offensive enough to put you off attending family events altogether, it’s what turns us off this tablet.
What’s curious is that a few elements of the screen aren’t all bad. The surface layer is glass rather than plastic, giving the touchscreen a great feel, and maximum brightness is great for a relatively low-end screen.
The touchscreen doesn’t escape from criticism entirely, though. It’s very responsive and can sense four points of touch at once, but we notice a few odd moments of inaccuracy when the tablet was laid upon a surface, the Excel believing we were tapping somewhere half-way across the screen from where we actually were.