Name: Toshiba Thrive
Specs: 10.1-inch hi-res IPS LCD screen, 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra processor, Android 3.1 Honeycomb OS, Dual-cameras, 720p video recording, 1GB of RAM, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, and HDMI port.
The Back Story: While tablets are considered a hot commodity, every hardware manufacturer that isn’t Apple and Samsung is struggling to move them off store shelves. In fact, it’s come to a point where companies like HP have initiated fire sales and slapped on an unbeatable price tag ($100) just to compete in the oversaturated market. Yet, PC makers like Toshiba are entering the tablet arena in hopes of cashing in on the tech craze, taking a different approach with its rugged and feature-heavy tablet: the Thrive.
Laced with an array of outputs, NVIDIA's powerful dual-core CPU, and a rugged design, Toshiba's tablet sports a set of noteworthy benchmarks that make it a worthy adversary amongst the other Honeycomb-based tablets. While it might standout from the crowd: Where does it rank against Android heavyweights like the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1?
• Management and productivity software: Hands down, the tablet’s most enhanced and prized feature is its File Manager. The app serves as a back-end shortcut that grants users direct access to the file system, allowing them to launch files straight from the hard drive, USB-connected device, or SD card slot. Pre-existing folders make it simple to manage and drop files, and you can preview JPEGs without going into the camera program. Another notable app is LogMeIn: a remote access program that lets you access one or more computers on any Android gadget. QuickOffice and PrinterShare is also available for those looking to edit Microsoft/PDF documents and wirelessly print from any wi-fi or Bluetooth printer.
• Strong performance: NVIDIA's 1GHz dual-core processor offers a fast-paced, multitasking environment that speeds you through the tablet's five homescreens and launches apps instantaneously. The web browser uploads flash-heavy sites and YouTube HQ videos at the same dashing speeds as the Motorola Xoom. The In-Plane Switching touchscreen presents good viewing angles and produces high-quality 1280x800-pixel resolution visuals. Battery life is said to max out at 11 hours, but we clocked in a good seven after excessive gaming and Internet use. For an Android device, let alone a tablet, that's surprising.
• Input and storage options: We’re amazed at how many ports Toshiba was able to squeeze into this tablet. In the bottom compartment you’ll find an HDMI port for mirroring content onto any HDTV-compatible TV, alongside full USB and mini-USB ports. To the left of it is a smaller nook that has a 3.5mm headphone jack and power port. Aside from the three available built-in memory selections, the Thrive comes equipped with an SD card slot that takes up to 128GB SDXC cards, becoming the first tablet to support the new storage format. Music, movies, images, and documents: you can practically store your entire computer or laptop onto the device.
• Durable and distinctive design: The Thrill isn't the sexiest Android tablet, but its impervious posterior makes it the toughest. Its rubberized, groove finish keeps the device from sliding around on smooth surfaces and provides a comfortable, rugged feel in hand. The silver accents surrounding the camera are a unique touch that gives the portable beast some bling, while the LED lights on the upper right of the screen shine bright. Overall, it's a well-built product from top to bottom.
• Removable battery and back cover: One of the coolest, yet overlooked features of the tablet is the ability to remove the lithium-ion battery and replace it with a secondary one. This should keep you entertained on those long business trips without the need of recharging the tablet. Also, Toshiba lets you swap out the black back panel with one of five different colors (green, lavender, blue, pink, and silver): each running for $20 on Toshiba's site. It's a nice, yet subtle way of pimping out the tech novelty.
• Heavy and bulky: Tipping the scales at 1.66 pounds and bearing a 0.63-inch thickness, not only is it the heaviest tablet, but also the fatest of the bunch: doubling the size length of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad 2.
• Awkward button and camera placement: The power button, volume rocker, and rotation lock button are all confined to the upper right-hand corner, and so recessed into the ribbed molding that accessing the controls is difficult. Photogs will also be pissed about the 5MP rear camera's placement at the middle of the right side. Why? It makes it easy to block the camera with your finger when holding it horizontally, forcing you to hold the tablet in an unorthodox manner.
• Non-competitive price: To its credit, Toshiba does offer three pricing options. But aside from its multi-port offerings and tough casing, the Thrive has a near identical spec sheet that can be found in its lighter and more attractive Honeycomb counterparts. Plus with HP practically giving away its WebOS-based TouchPad for just a Benjamin, it's a tough sell for tablet seekers.
• Another wi-fi-only tablet: Sadly, like the Galaxy Tab 10.1, wireless connectivity is limited to (you guessed it) wi-fi.
Final Say: Niche features like an easy-to-use file management system, along with some business-centric applications and great performance make Toshiba’s tablet a standout amongst other generic Honeycomb tablets. The rugged and thick-padded exterior is a different approach from the glossy, sleek finish of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which keeps the device damage-free from the most part on the back side. It also sports the most inputs of any tablet and has the capability of storing tons of media files via SD card slot. But when taking into account some of the tablet’s imperfections such as its heaviness and wireless restrictions, casual consumers might dismiss the Thrive for lighter and more affordable option: Samsung's tablet. Still, if you’re the hardcore mediaphile or corporate type that handles business on the go, this tablet’s right up your alley.