The Toshiba Thrive represents Toshiba’s first crack at the Android tablet market. While it could be said they are a bit late to the game, they are using Google’s Android platform to bring it quickly up to speed with its competitors. But in a tablet market that is growing more crowded by the hour, will the Toshiba Thrive find its home in the consumer household?
The Toshiba rings in at $429.00, which places it below the entry level of the iPad 2 and that of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. For that price, you get the following specs: Android™ 3.1 Honeycomb, 1GHz Tegra 2 dual-core processor, 10.1” 1280x800 widescreen LCD, 8GB of built-in storage, 16:10 aspect ratio, gyroscope, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, stereo speakers, 5MP camera with autofocus, 720p video capture , 2MP webcam with microphone. 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, full size HDMI port, full size SD card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack and a few other features, but if we list them all, it will fill the entire post.
Material and Design:
There is no denying that the Thrive is not a thin device, in fact, it feels quite large in the hands compared to the Tab and the iPad 2. Coming in at 10.75” x 0.62” x 6.97, it clearly has a bit of depth to it.
In your hands the device is easy to hold; the gripped backing makes it easy to use and is relatively scratch resistant. Unlike tablets with a hard surface backing, you don’t have to worry about damaging your tablet if you set it on a dirty hard surface. Also, the back panel is user replaceable, which is a nice feature too (more on that later).
As for the quality aspect of the material, there are better alternatives out there on the market. The same feature that makes the back easy to hold, also makes feel a bit chintzy in your hands. Also, because the back can be easily replaced, it doesn’t have the firmness that the iPad 2 has, but you also can’t take the back panel off the iPad 2. It’s a user tradeoff really; if you want replaceable parts, you have to expect some flex in the casing to allow for it.
The front of the tablet has an impossible-to-ignore chrome ring that houses the front facing camera and microphone. Some people seem to enjoy the bit of style that Toshiba injected into the usually vanilla front face, whereas others will find it distracting. The chrome ring is purely a design choice as it does not have any functionality.
Toshiba has been in the display game for quite some time, they have been making television sets for many years as well as laptops and desktop computers. The Thrive also includes some technology ported over from the television side of the equation, in the form of Resolution+. This technology helps make standard definition video look cleaner, a welcome addition to the platform.
The colors on the device are within reason for a tablet and generally meet expectations. Like many other tablets, the glossy screen is a love/hate relationship. When using in direct sunlight or have overhead lights nearby, the reflection can be distracting, not to mention that fingerprints are noticeable on the bezel as well.
Off angle viewing is a bit lower than expected. As soon as you move about 15 degrees off center there is noticeable degradation in the colors.
The Thrive comes with stereo speakers, which for a media based device, is a nice touch. For what they are, they are adequate. They are small in size and sound similar to laptop speakers, not that we were expecting much, but they do a decent job at reproduction despite lacking in the highs and the lows. They are loud enough to easily fill a small room but don’t expect them to replace a dedicated home theater system.
If there is one thing to love about the Thrive, it’s all of the ports. The device comes with a full size SD card slot, full size HDMI, mini USB and full size USB (2.0) ports. All the options, especially the full size SD card slot and the full size HDMI port, make it easy to use with products you already own.
The full size USB port allows you to connect external storage directly to the device and Toshiba also smartly built in a file manager (!), so managing all of these connections is rather easy. The SD card slot supports up to 128GB which makes purchasing anything other than the 8 GB version a bit of a tough pill to swallow.
The Thrive comes with the Nvidia Tegra 2 and 1 GB of RAM, certainly not a slouch in the performance department. The Thrive had no problem handling 1080p videos and games played near flawlessly. Streaming content from the web and playing it back had no issues either.
Unlike some issues we noticed on the Xoom, swiping between screens and loading widgets feels refined. This could be due to updates to the OS or the Thrive itself, either way, the experience is fluid and lag free.
UI and Software:
Toshiba opted not to add their own skin to the tablet. By leaving stock the UI, it makes it easier to pick it up and go as long as you are familiar with how Android works. This is a welcome change from what we see in the smartphone world where adding your own skin is common practice.
Toshiba helps to differentiate their products with apps. This welcomed approach leaves the stock interface but Toshiba provides you with several enhancements brought via applications. Our personal favorite is the file manager application. Along with this, there is e-reader software, an additional App store that Toshiba has filled with specific apps for the Thrive, and a few other goodies including a media player that help to separate the Thrive from a basic Android tablet.
Do you have to use any of the apps Toshiba made? Certainly not, but they do bring a bit of additional functionality, such as the application that makes it easy to find a printer over Wi-Fi.
The camera on any tablet is a bit awkward, the front facing camera makes sense for having video chats but the back facing camera is almost like a “me too” item. Using a tablet to take a photo is and always will be an awkward experience. Having that said, the Thrive does take reasonably good photos. It should be noted that the device does not have a flash, so low light photos are hindered in that regard.
Video capture works as you would expect. The 720p recordings were adequate for this type of product. Again, a bit awkward to use considering the size, but the output was acceptable. Colors are accurate and panning produced a smooth scrolling look, nothing extraordinary, but it fits for the price and product category.
The battery life on the Thrive is a low point. After relatively moderate use, we achieved around 6.5 hrs on three separate occasions. This falls well below that of others on the market, but there is one notable difference.
The Thrive allows for the user to replace the battery (replacements cost $90). For the serious road warrior who needs a tablet, this may be a good alternative. Certainly if you only have one battery this may not be your ideal choice, but the battery can be swapped in just a few minutes with no tools.
The Thrive is a mixed bag of functionality and design. In one aspect, it will not win any awards for being thin or land a crown for its design, but on the other end, it is highly functional. The amount of full sized ports makes it stand out a bit in a crowded room and the fact that it runs Android 3.1 incredibly well should keep an end user happy. If you can get over the bulkiness of the Tablet, what is underneath is a great device that can fit the needs of most individuals.