Hands on: Toshiba tablet review

Toshiba's 10" Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet up close

Hands on Toshiba tablet review

What we can't tell you about the Android 3 tablet Toshiba will be shipping in the UK in two to three months' time: the name or the price (they'll be announced in April and we know it will cost more than the £300 price tag for the relaunched Folio 100 with Android 2.2 and Flash).

What we can tell you: the Toshiba tablet is a true multimedia tablet with lots of extras.

What we saw this week is a prototype, complete with tape holding system parts in place under the battery, Android 2.2 instead of the Honeycomb it will ship with and the hardware buttons Google will banish as part of the Android 3 certification process (which is a shame with buttons like these, which have haptic feedback and light up to show you've pressed them).

Toshiba tablet multitouch

MULTITOUCH: The 10.1" screen is bright, vivid and responds quickly to gestures

We tried out all the key tools that will take whatever Toshiba decides to call this tablet from yet another Honeycomb device with a 10.1" 1280 x 800 multi-touch capacitive screen, to something that has an impressive multimedia experience, powered by the Tegra 2 chip.

As well as the Android Market the tablet will also come with Toshiba's own Marketplace, which is part of the Toshiba Places content service that will also be launching on Toshiba TVs and notebooks.

Already available in France, Places includes free online content from sites like DailyMotion, pay-for movie rental, streaming TV content (including BBC iPlayer) and social networking.

So far we know it supports Flickr and you can email links to videos to friends as well as sharing photos with a specific group of people. Because Places will be on different devices, if you have several Toshiba devices you can start watching a video on your TV, pause it and save a bookmark and start watching from the same place on your tablet.

If the video you're watching is in standard definition, it plays with the same Resolution+ tech that upscales content on Toshiba's high-end TVs like the new RL, SL and UL models (which also have the Places service).

Resolution plus

UPSCALED: Resolution+ upscaling in action; details are clearer, colours are brighter

Toshiba's Graeme Simons told TechRadar this gives "near HD output, making the colours more vivid and saturated and the details crisper". We're not sure it's that close to HD but images are visibly clearer, brighter and have better colours (and the quality of the screen is impressive).

The Ambient Display also improves the image you see on screen; it uses the webcam to measure the ambient lighting and controls the screen brightness and colour saturation to compensate for conditions and it was certainly bright and vivid even in very bright lighting.

Toshiba tablet cameras

AUTO ADJUST: The microphone and webcam are also used to detect ambient light and noise to improve sound and video playback

The system also samples the background noise and uses dynamic equalisation to adjust the levels and volume without too much distortion; again, we could enjoy the sound in a fairly noisy room.

TV on tablet

We tried the full effect streaming BBC iPlayer over a very congested Wi-Fi network (the tablet has 802.11 b, g and n and a 3G model will be available six weeks to two months after the Wi-Fi models ship).


IPLAYER: BBC iPlayer in action: video plays smoothly and is very watchable

Playing full screen, the video is smooth and enjoyable to watch (although pumping it out to a big-screen TV over HDMI shows that the Resolution+ upscaling works for the tablet screen size, not the TV screen size; we could still see the jaggies you'd expect from watching a video stream intended for a 10" screen – understandable, but a good reality check on what you can expect when you take online video to your TV via a tablet).

Toshiba tablet multimedia

MULTIMEDIA: The Tegra 2 processor in action, powering video

If you have true HD content, the full size HDMI port lets you plug into a TV and output 1080p (again courtesy of the Tegra 2 chip).

There's also a full-size USB host port, so you can plug in an external hard drive or a camera to get content, plus a mini USB port so you can plug the tablet into your PC to transfer files, and SD card slot so you can get pictures from a camera directly or add extra storage.

Toshiba tablet ports

PORTS: Full size USB and HDMI give you easy connection options

There are actually two cameras: a 5 megapixel on the back for snapping photos and videos (although we're not sure how easy it's going to be to hold up a 10" tablet to get a snap) and a 2 megapixel webcam on the front that Toshiba makes a feature of, with a chrome surround.

Other Toshiba tablet features

The ports are tucked away neatly behind covers; with rounded edges and no sharp port edges, it's comfortable to hold.

The volume and power buttons are flush with the edge of the case, but they're also big enough to find quickly with your fingers.

Volume and power controls

VOLUME AND POWER CONTROLS: Neat but large enough to use

The capacitive screen is responsive; swiping and pinch zoom gestures are fast and fluid. The back of the case has a rubberised coating and a distinct ridged pattern that makes it very easy to grip. It snaps off to give you access to the battery. Toshiba isn't quoting battery life yet, but the 23Wh battery should give a reasonable run time, and it's replaceable so you can carry a spare if you really want.

Toshiba tablet back

GRIPPY: The ridged back cover means you won't lose your grip; that matters on a larger tablet that's going to feel heavy after a while

Toshiba tablet battery

BATTERY: Slide the latches at the side and the large battery pops out so you can carry a spare or replace it if you're still using the tablet when the battery stops holding charge

You can also change the back if you don't like the basic black colour scheme; Toshiba will offer replacement covers in five colours – Silver, Denim, Lime Green, Magenta and Amethyst.

Toshiba tablet

UNDER THE HOOD: The back of the tablet snaps off easily to get at the battery and SIM slot, or just to change the colour

There are other nice features. The haptic feedback is more subtle than on many Android phones; until we see the final interface it's hard to tell how much it will help on-screen typing.

There's also an internal gyroscope and accelerometer for gaming; expect driving games that let you turn the screen like a steering wheel.

Put it all together and Toshiba's nameless tablet looks like it could stand out from the Honeycomb crowd, providing the price is right.


Liked this? Then check out 15 best Android tablets in the world

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