Toshiba is one of the companies that kept us waiting when it comes to tablets. They have their netbook/laptop routine going on pretty good, so they kept cool about entering the slate realm.

But now, it’s time for them to deliver, as they introduced Thrive, the company’s first Android tablet. But can another 10 inch Android slate rock our world after we kind of seen it all? Stay tuned and find out from this review of Toshiba’s Thrive slate.

The specs

Toshiba doesn’t innovate too much here. It has the same type of hardware line up we’ve seen on almost any Android slate that wants to be taken seriously. After all, Android 3.x doesn’t need more than what the Thrive slate is packing in order to work flawlessly. It’s all about making everything run well together and assure an enjoyable user experience. Full spec list below.

  • CPU: Nvidia Tegra 2, 1 GHZ, dual core
  • Display: 10.1 inch, 1280 x 800 px resolution, TFT active matrix, LED backlit, multi touch support
  • System memory: 1 GB
  • Storage: up to 32 GB, minimum 8 GB
  • OS: Android Honeycomb 3.1 (includes Google Maps, Street View, Maps Navigation)
  • Ports: 1 x USB, 1 x HDMI, mini-USB, docking port, audio jack
  • Sensors: accelerometer, ambient light sensor, gyro sensor, digital compass
  • Cameras: 2 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing (720p recording)
  • Battery: Lithium Ion, up to 11 hours
  • Dimensions(inches): 10.7 x 7 x 0.6
  • Weight: 1.6 lbs

We would expect from Toshiba to put in the slate a good battery and this happens, at least on paper. The claim is that the juice maker can go for a maximum of 11 hours on a single charge, which is iPad 2 territory. Let’s see how it behaves in real life.

Design

At a first glance, the tablet looks like two normal slates glued together. It’s almost double as thick as the iPad 2 or Galaxy Tab 10.1, and heavier than most contemporary tablets. This is not done without good reason, though. Toshiba tried to emulate the look and feel you get on their netbooks, especially the NB300. The back of the slate has a patterned finish which feels great and makes the tablet look robust and classy.

It’s clear that Toshiba is not playing the anorexic game, but rather wants to offer a classy gadget, which also means a great build. The black back of the Thrive can be replaced with more colorful options, like Blue Moon, Green Apple, Raspberry Fusion, or Silver Sky, which will cost you 20 bucks extra. The two cameras, in front and the back, are ringed by a chrome plate, adding to the overall exquisite design.

The finish on the back feels great to hold and makes this chunky slate much more enjoyable on the road

The finish on the back feels great to hold and makes this chunky slate much more enjoyable on the road

The ports on the slate are protected with rubber doors, with the one covering the dock connector feeling a little jiggly. Overall, the build is very solid, but you won’t actually enjoy it if you’re after ultra slim devices. The Thrive is thick and heavy, but proud of that and about the chunky elegance it has.

Display

The Thrive has a 10.1 inch, 1280 x 800 display, which offers good color and brightness. Videos and apps look good, with HD videos having all the hues and gamma related finesse that we utterly enjoy. You probably guessed that this display is as glossy as it comes; viewing angles are problematic, which is a great disappointment for a tablet- especially one that packs an IPS matrix.

What is lost in terms of flexibility, Toshiba tries to repay when it comes to one angle video quality. The tablet comes with Resolution+, which is a technology that should make SD videos look almost HD. This doesn’t really happen, as there’s no difference between looking at the same video, with this option on or off.

Hardware and performance

The slate comes with the familiar Tegra 2 dual core processor and 1 GB of RAM. This assures the outstanding performance you get on all Honeycomb tablets, and considering this one comes straight out of the box with v 3.1, you won’t experience all the bugs of the first version. The tablet feels snappy and rarely gets overwhelmed with apps.

HD playback is great, both locally or via HDMI on a large display. In synthetic tests, Thrive scored better than the class average, both in terms of overall performance (3,195 vs 2.563 pts), as well as graphics, using An3DBench (7,702 vs 6,822 pts). Overall, Thrive is similar in performance to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 and is slightly outmatched by the Eee Pad Transformer.

Software, apps and games

The Thrive comes with Android Honeycomb 3.1 and Toshiba decided not to hinder this experience too much. As usual, you get 5 desktops you can customize in order to properly arrange all your apps and widgets, while at the bottom of the screen you have Android buttons on the left (back, home and task switching), while on the right you get alerts for battery, WiFi and the clock.

Thrive comes with a trial version of NFS Shift

Thrive comes with a trial version of NFS Shift

As for apps, the slate comes with a bunch of preinstalled apps, like LogMeIn, PrinterShare, Quickoffice HD and a trial versions of Need for Speed: Shift. Also, the slate has some proprietary Toshiba apps on it. Toshiba Start Place is a nice news aggregator, while Book Place acts as an e-book reader and market environment for buying books. Another great app is File Manager, that gives you access to files on the drive or on an SD card. This is particularly useful because you don’t have to scout files using apps and transfer speeds are much higher when using this tool. For example, a 200 MB video will be copied in a matter of seconds when using the File Manager.

Playing NFS Shift was smooth and immersive, partly also thanks to the great audio the two speakers offer. Many more games can be downloaded on the Thrive either using Toshiba’s market environment or Android Market. Also, Google Maps comes with the latest firmware installment, which packs a bunch of new features, like downloading maps and Navigation.

Camera

The rear facing records decent pics, both indoor and outdoor. It’s nothing fantastically professional, but it’s good enough if you’re after clear photos, with an appreciable level of detail. The same can be said about 720p recording- videos are smooth and capture enough detail. As for the front facing camera, it will take your through video calls quite well, but make sure there’s no light source behind you when using it- your head will be covered in sinister shadows.

Battery life

The slate was able to sprint for less than 7 hours using a laptop test, which involves endless web surfing, using WiFi, with brightness set at 40%. It’s hard to say why Toshiba claims that the battery can go for about 11 hours- that’s probably the amount of time you can use it with the e-book reader app and WiFi turned off. But this is not why most people buy a tablet, to be honest, and Thrive falls behind most established slates when it comes to battery life.

The battery is user replaceable- too bad it lasts for under 7 hours

The battery is user replaceable- too bad it lasts for under 7 hours

Prices and availability

The WiFi only Thrive starts at [easyazon-link asin="B004I43F9C"]$429.99[/easyazon-link], which gets you the 8 GB version, while the 16 and 32 GB versions cost [easyazon-link asin="B0052P6DQI"]$479.99[/easyazon-link]and [easyazon-link asin="B0052P6UM0"]$579.99[/easyazon-link]. There’s no word about the 3G version or when it will be available. The slate is currently available in the US.

Final thoughts

It would be an easy joke to say that Toshiba’s slate thrives to be a fantastic tablet, but fails because….But, in a way, it’s true. Personally, I consider the bulky design great, for both esthetic and handling reasons. It feels great to hold, the textured finish is classy. Also, the hunky profile allows the presence of full size USB, HDMI and SD slots.

And the things that don’t make the Thrive great are not necessarily catastrophic- the battery can produce a mediocre 6.5 hours of autonomy, while the screen, although IPS, doesn’t offer great viewing angles. In terms of performance, the Thrive has good results, being outmatched only by the Eee Transformer, when it comes to Android slates. And considering the very aggressive pricing (only $430 for the 8 GB version), the Thrive is not a spectacular, but a satisfying entry in the 10 inch niche.