Is it just us or do most Android tablets currently on the market scream "me too"? Aside from a few small differences, most of these devices have the same sized screen with the same resolution, run virtually identical software, and have a very similar feature set and user experience. Toshiba's unimaginatively named "Tablet" (AT100) at least tries to stand out from the pack by offering a removable battery, full sized HDMI and USB ports, and a full sized SD card slot. Unfortunately, Toshiba has opted for a poor quality display that detracts from the Tablet's overall appeal.
Read our guide to the best upcoming tablets in 2011.
Toshiba Tablet (AT100): Design and ports
The Toshiba Tablet (AT100) is an Android "Honeycomb" tablet with a 10.1in touchscreen. Immediately it is apparent that the Tablet looks and feels much thicker than most other devices on the market, especially Apple's svelte iPad 2. The Toshiba Tablet has a stylish, flat front and rounded edges but at 15mm thick, it's a significantly bulkier device than many of its competitors. Thankfully, the back cover has a rubberised feel and its textured design makes the Tablet comfortable to hold. It also feels slip resistant and is not particularly prone to scratches.
At 771g, we were expecting the Toshiba Tablet (AT100) to be a little unwieldy to hold, but the reality is far from that. It actually feels lighter than both the Motorola Xoom and the Acer Iconia A500, despite the specifications sheet suggesting it is far heavier than both. Combined with the grippy rear cover, the Toshiba Tablet is comfortable to hold with one or both hands. Disappointingly, the cover feels flimsy when pressed in, and the glossy plastic used on the front means the Tablet quickly becomes a grubby mess. We also hate the glossy, chrome plastic surrounding the front and rear cameras — it screams cheap and nasty.
The Toshiba Tablet has a removable and replaceable battery accessible by removing the back cover. A switch on the left side of the tablet unlocks the cover and you simply pull it off to remove. Toshiba sells an additional 6-cell battery for $79.95, and stocks a range of replaceable back covers (in silver, blue, green, raspberry, and lavender colours) for $29.95. Although the covers aren't a huge selling point, the removable battery will suit road warriors and is a feature not offered on any other mainstream Android tablet currently sold in Australia.
Toshiba is best known for its notebook computers and it's clear the company has used this for inspiration when designing the Tablet. The charging connector is similar to one you would find on a regular Toshiba notebook (although slightly smaller), as are the handy indicator LED's for power, Wi-Fi and low battery. Toshiba has also hidden most of the Tablet's ports behind a flimsy plastic cover. On the top you'll find power and volume buttons, along with a switch that locks the screen orientation, while a dock connection (for the optional HDMI multi dock) is located on the bottom. The dock connection is behind a flimsy and easy-to-lose plastic cover that completely detaches from the Tablet when removed.
The Toshiba Tablet (AT100) has a full sized USB port, a full sized HDMI port, and a full sized SD card slot. Though Acer's Iconia A500 and the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer (with optional keyboard dock) both feature full sized USB ports, no other Android tablet sold in Australia has a full sized HDMI port. This means you can connect the Toshiba Tablet to a high definition television or projector using a regular HDMI cable. Further, the full sized SD card slot means the Toshiba Tablet can support cards of up to 128GB in size — much more than the current 32GB limit of the microSD card slot in most Android tablets.
Disappointingly, the Toshiba Tablet does not charge through its mini-USB connection, though the upside is that the included power adapter can charge the device much faster that a USB connection can. The Toshiba Tablet's battery can be charged to 90 per cent of its capacity in just one hour.
Toshiba Tablet (AT100): Display
Like most Android tablets, the Toshiba Tablet has a 10.1in capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1280x800. The screen is responsive to touch, however it often feels a little sticky when scrolling. Unfortunately, Toshiba appears to have opted for a lower quality display than we were expecting. Despite listing an IPS (In Plane Switching) panel as the screen technology of choice — the same technology used on the iPad 2 — the Toshiba Tablet's screen exhibits poor viewing angles, is not as bright as most other Android tablets we've tested and is tough to see in sunlight. We found the automatic brightness setting almost useless in most environments, and generally had to up the brightness to around 85-90 per cent to achieve the best views.
Of even more concern is that the Toshiba Tablet's screen appears to display an annoying yellow tinge, especially when viewing Web pages with a white background. This tinge appears to be evenly spread across the screen, and does not just affect one part of the display. The Toshiba Tablet also appears to suffer from ghosting issues, most evident when rotating the device from landscape to portrait or vice versa on a white background. It also has small, visible honeycomb shapes all over the screen — this imprint appears to be on the layer directly below the outside of the screen and is very noticeable at certain angles, particularly if there is light shining on the screen.
Toshiba says that the Android 3.1 software update will include new hardware graphic drivers which will increase the screen refresh rates, along with colour reproduction. This will more than likely fix the ghosting issue, but whether it corrects the yellow tinge problem remains to be seen. The Android 3.1 software update will be available in the pre-loaded Toshiba Service Station app as an over-the-air (OTA) download in the coming weeks.