I got to spend some time with Toshiba’s new smaller tablet offering yesterday. Here’s my initial thoughts.
Toshiba’s initial tablet offering, known as the “Thrive” in the US (and the “Regza” in Japan) was simply the “Tablet” here, or if you wanted to get technical, the AT100. It wasn’t universally loved; most reviewers tended to dislike the thick form factor and the display screen, which wasn’t great. I liked it a little more than others; the ability to chuck a USB drive full of content in the side and just have it work appealed to me, as did the removeable battery concept, although given the physical size of the batteries it seemed unlikely to me that anyone would cheerfully carry two of them around, especially as there was no external charger.
Yesterday Toshiba dropped in with the AT100′s little brother, the $449 Toshiba AT1S0, due for release very soon now. I didn’t get a long time to test it out — I’m waiting on a review unit to give it a proper thrashing — but long enough to get some impressions.
On the plus side
The display screen is really crisp. Certainly a lot better than the original AT100 tablet, and the brief amount of play time I had with it suggested it should be solidly responsive. Then again, it’s packing the exact same innards as the original tablet, so it should be able to power along fairly well.
A full set of ports. This was one of the things I loved about the original tablet, and despite the shrunken size of each of the ports (they’re microUSB, micro HDMI and micro SD), they’re still offering a lot of add-on capability that other tablets can’t match.
7″ Tablets do make physical holding sense. I do get why the original tablet was railed on — it was rather fat — and the AT1S0 loses a lot of that chubby weight. In terms of overall build quality if I was just looking at hardware, the Blackberry Playbook is still the model to beat — but then there’s that whole it-can’t-do-email-because-RIM-says-so problem.
On the minus side
No removable battery. This was one of the selling points of the original AT100, but the compromises of getting the form factor down to this size means the battery is stuck in there forever. Not a huge deal breaker, but one of those things you notice because it’s no longer there
Pricing issues. $449 for a 7 inch tablet isn’t terribly onerous, but with the spectre of the Kindle Fire looming, it’s hard not to view the AT1S0 as a bit on the pricey side.