August 22, 2011
Like it or not, the Tablet Revolution is in full effect. The Big "Fruit Company" from California introduced to the masses a tablet that was nothing like what we had all called a tablet before (a laptop with a flippable touchscreen ) and people went crazy for them. There are people like myself who refuse to buy the "iPhenomenon" and refuse to buy into the "iHype" and were happy when Google introduced Honeycomb, Google's Android Operating System built specifically just for tablets. There have been a few entries into the race to catch up with the "Fruit Company" based on Honeycomb, each with their own unique niche. One was unlocked (meaning that development tools can be run on it and OS'es loaded easily) One allowed for a keyboard docking station (allowing it to "transform" into a laptop type machine) One was created to mirror the tablet by "Fruit Company" by being just as slim and sleek, leading the "Fruit Company" to sue overseas to block sales and winning the injunction. Then Toshiba, being fashionably late to the game, came along with the Thrive.
As of right now the Toshiba Thrive is the only Android powered tablet that has a full size USB Connector, full size HDMI Connector, full size SDHC slot and user replaceable battery, making it a contender to be used as a "Business Tablet"
|L - R - Power, Headphones, Full Size USB, Full size HDMI, Mini USB|
|L - R - SD Card Slot, Orientation Lock, Volume Control, Power Button|
Upon opening the box you are greeted with the tablet on top, sealed and covered in protective film.
Once you take the tablet out you'll see a stack of documentation - Quick Start Guide, Limited Warranty, Special Offers from Toshiba and clear "THRIVE" Decals.
On each side of the box there are 3 Cables, two cables that comprise the "laptop" styled power cable and a Mini-USB cable for connecting to a PC for media transfers. **Note - The Mini-USB cable when connected to a PC serves no purpose rather than to transfer media, if you want greater control over copying media over you are better off using the File Manager, which is outlined below. The Mini-USB ***DOES NOT*** charge the Thrive while being used.
|L - R - Mini-USB Cable, "Laptop Styled" brick/power connector, AC Cable|
The first thing you will notice about the Thrive is that it is a little thicker than most other Tablets in the market, but if you are like me and have big hands that is a bit of a blessing. Its back is grooved plastic that allows you to firmly hold the tablet and reduces chances of slipping from your hands. Toshiba also makes colored back panels, allowing you to further customize your tablet as you see fit.
|User changeable backings|
Removing the back also allows you access to the battery which you can change out on the fly, as needed -
Upon first boot you'll be greeted with the Android Setup, where you can associate your Google Account, add any available wireless accounts from your router or wifi and then you are able to use the Tablet to your hearts desire.
Typical Boot time takes about 45 seconds to the lock screen, as shown below (Note: The Lag is from what I used to record the video, not from the Tablet itself)
The Thrive comes preloaded with the Toshiba Book Store and Toshiba App Store, which offer Books and Apps, however anyone with experience in the Android Platform will use the Android Market to download their apps and books.
**NOTE** If you are used to certain apps and widgets from your Android based phone you may be a little upset that developers have been slow to the game developing applications that will run in Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) There are plenty of "Unofficial" lists of Android Apps for Honeycomb that you can search for before trying to track something specific down from the market. When more tablets come along developers will start to optimize their apps for Honeycomb and you should see a vast improvement in this area.
Toshiba also included a couple of extremely handy applications with the Thrive, The "Toshiba File Manager" and the "Toshiba Service Station"
|Toshiba File Manager|
The File Manager lets you quickly and easily copy files between internal storage, a SDHC Card and a USB Flash Drive. You will have the option to select one file/folder or several files/folders and copy, cut, paste, delete and Etc.This is the only way to get what you want to and from the Thrive, which some would see as a severe limitation. File Manager is a great program and if Toshiba had decided to allow you access via the Mini-USB port there would be no need for this piece of software.
|Toshiba Service Station|
The Service Station allows you a centralized area to download and install updates to the Tablet from Toshiba and Google. After unboxing and setting up the Service Station had already notified me about 2 different updates which helped with stability and speed after installing.
|Quickoffice HD Icon|
The Thrive comes preloaded with Quickoffice HD, which acts as a reader for common Microsoft Office file formats. Using this you can view Documents, Spreadsheets and Presentations and even includes samples of each, like the following spreadsheet example:
If you would like the ability to edit or create any of these types of documents you can purchase the full and unlocked version of the software through the Android Market.
The Tablet comes with a Toshiba Media Player which is supposed to allow you to view movies and listen to music that you have on your Thrive and local network but I found them to be unreliable as the app would commonly crash. You can use a combination of the ES File Explorer, Mobo Player and Mobo Player Codecs (all free in the Android Market) to watch networked videos with no lag, no studder and virtually no problems.
|Standard 4:3 Video|
After almost 10 Hours of watching Movies, Music, Web Browsing, Email, and using apps like Google Earth to test out the included GPS, as well as allowing the unit to sleep, I was still at 49% battery life, which seemed pretty good to me based on the fact my phone (HTC EVO 4G) cannot go more than 8 hours of usage before it needs a charge. I'm sure with more multimedia usage the battery drain will be greater but I'm impressed with where it is now.
The Thrive also includes a front and rear facing battery that provide passable image quality, if your main aim is for decent pictures, you may decide to go elsewhere. My experience with rear facing camera shows washed out and dull colors and the images from the front camera were unacceptable to the point I didn't include a picture from it. The picture below shows no vibrancy and very washed out coloring.
|Click image to see original size as taken from the Thrive|
All in All the Toshiba Thrive comes to the market ready to be a decent entry into the Android Tablet field. While it offers some things that appeal to Business Users (such as the full sized ports, Office Viewing software, easy connection to any HDMI Based TV or Projector and user replaceable battery) it also tries to offer things that appeal to Home Users, which is where it comes up a little short. Buggy built in media playing software tends to be a little frustrating and lack of support from App Developers for Honeycomb also causes Home Users to mention how that "Fruit Company" has all sorts of Applications that will work for it no matter what. Again, with time, Developers will introduce more apps into the market that will work well on Honeycomb, especially with the impending release of Googles Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) later this year, which promises to marry features and capabilities from their latest Phone OS (Gingerbread) and Tablet OS (Honeycomb).
Next month I will have a review of the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet, which may be the first full on "Business Ready" Tablet based on specs and included apps and capabilities...