Toshiba announces Excite 10, 7.7 and 13 tablets, Thrive slates on their way out
Toshiba Excite 10 ICS tablet goes on sale, prices start at $450 for 16GB model
Toshiba AT200 review
In the tablet market, big as it is, one notion generally holds true: thinner equals better. Toshiba, for example, surely tried to equate a svelte silhouette with a premium product in its super-slim Excite 10 LE. And indeed, its 1.18-pound body and solid Honeycomb experience add up to tablet that puts Toshiba’s earlier Thrives to shame. That $530 model is definitely priced like a high-end tablet, but it’s accompanied by a new, lower-priced Toshiba slate, the Excite 10.
For $450, you get a tablet with a tad more meat on its bones, but that increase in weight and thickness comes with some more powerful specs: a quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor with 1GB of RAM — not to mention Ice Cream Sandwich. While you can probably guess which of these slates makes a stronger contender (hint: the one without the “LE”), figuring out the Toshiba Excite 10’s place in the grand hierarchy of tablets takes a little more exploration. Luckily, that’s what we’re here for, so join us past the break as we do our best to get through the review without a single “excite” pun.
If you’ve ever had your hands on — let alone glimpsed — the Toshiba Thrive 10, the first thing that will strike you about the Excite 10 tablet is the slimmer silhouette. While the Thrive measures 0.6 inches (15.24mm) thick, the Excite is whittled down to 0.35 inches (8.89mm). Similarly, Toshiba has cut down on weight: the Excite 10 weighs 1.32 pounds (21.12 ounces) compared to 1.6 (25.6 ounces) for the Thrive 10. This, of course, makes it much more comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.
Toshiba clearly went back to the drawing board to improve upon the chintzy build quality of its Thrive slates. In addition to slimming down the design, the company opted for more premium materials. The Excite 10 ditches the Thrive’s rubberized cover for a classier aluminum backing. It doesn’t sacrifice a good grip, thanks to a dimpled texture. While the slate is comfortable to hold, it bears mentioning that the design doesn’t feel very sturdy — if you press on the back, you’ll notice a bit of flex.
The Excite 10 has the right idea when it comes to ports. The left side of the slate houses a headphone jack, micro-HDMI connection, micro-USB 2.0 and a full-size SD card slot that lets you add up to 128GB of external storage (and theoretically more). The left side sports the power button, a lever for locking screen orientation and a volume rocker, while the top has the 2-megapixel front camera and 5-megapixel rear-facing shooter.
Moving on to the display, we have a 10.1-inch Corning Gorilla Glass panel with a 1280 x 800 resolution. At 149ppi, that pixel density isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but the screen at least delivers good viewing angles and accurate colors. One pitfall, though, is that the display exhibits some backlight bleeding. This is most noticeable when you’re viewing darker screens, and while it doesn’t make it impossible to enjoy movies and YouTube clips on the tablet, it does separate the Excite 10 from higher-end slates.
The Excite 10 runs Ice Cream Sandwich (build 4.0.3, to be exact), and as with past tablets, Toshiba didn’t tamper with Google’s interface. Yep, it’s pretty much stock Android here, and that’s not a bad thing. Ice Cream Sandwich’s streamlined interface shines on the 1280 x 800 display, and the tablet isn’t bogged down by obtrusive bloatware.
Toshiba pre-loaded the full host of Google apps — including Calendar, Gmail, Play Market, Search, Voice and YouTube– along with its own branded utilities. There’s Media Player for playing music and watching videos, File Manager for keeping tabs on your media and News Place for, well, catching up on the headlines. The third-party apps are for the most part useful; you get Adobe Reader, Netflix, Quickoffice and the Zinio e-magazine reader. Sure, there are five games, including Backgammon and Solitaire, pre-installed, but these are pretty inoffensive.
Like most tablets, the Excite 10 is no point-and-shoot camera replacement, and the 5-megapixel shooter won’t deliver any frame-worthy shots. In fact, the camera is downright bad — images look fuzzy and lack detail, and zooming in only makes matters worse. Expect the washed-out colors that come standard on mid-range tablets’ cameras. No vivid reds and blues here; pics we snapped on the street looked dull and overexposed. Moreover, images show pixelation and, even when we pinpointed our focus spot, not very sharp.
The Excite 10 is capable of capturing 1080p video, though the muted hues and lack of image stabilization don’t add up to great HD footage. Still, video is pretty fluid — especially if you’re not moving it around too much — and the tablet does a good job at capturing ambient sound.
Configuration options and the competition
For $450, you can get an Excite 10 tablet with 16GB of storage. Stepping up to 32GB will cost you $530, while the top-of-the-line 64GB version goes for $650. It’s not the most expensive tablet out there — ergo, it falls short of the new iPad — but it’s priced along the lines of the Acer Iconia Tab A510 ($450) and the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 ($379). The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 may be $50 cheaper, but that slate trailed behind other similarly priced options when we ran it through our benchmark tests.
Taking a closer look at those competitors, we have a strong contender in the Iconia Tab A510. Like the Excite 10, that slate starts at $450 and runs a Tegra 3 processor, and it offers excellent performance and long battery life (10:23 hours) in a slightly heftier package than the Excite 10 (1.5 pounds versus 1.3). Then there’s the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 ($379), which offers solid performance of its own and stellar longevity when you add in the keyboard dock. And though the Android purists among you can skip past this sentence, it’s worth mentioning that the iPad 2 is now priced more competitively than the Excite 10 ($400 versus $450).
Toshiba hasn’t exactly positioned the Excite 10 as a high-end tablet, and its $450 starting price is par for the course for a mid-range product. We’d choose the Excite 10 over the $530 Excite 10 LE in a heartbeat, as it offers much better performance and Ice Cream Sandwich in a package that’s only slightly bulkier. And compared to Toshiba’s earlier Thrive tablets, not to mention most other competitors, the Excite 10 has an attractive, streamlined design.
As it becomes easier to find a good sub-$500 slate, it’s also becoming more common to see quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processors on the spec list. That’s all good news for you, dear readers, and the Toshiba Excite 10 has many of the makings of a great Android tablet. The thin and comfortable design, full-size SD card slot, clean build of Ice Cream Sandwich and Tegra 3 power all add up to a good user experience, but shortcomings like backlight bleeding and occasional performance glitches hold this tablet back from earning a glowing endorsement. While $450 is not chump change, the Excite 10 might be worth it if you have your heart set on a 10-incher running Android. However, for the same price, you can get Android tablets from Acer and ASUS that provide longer battery life and equal — if not better — performance.