It appears that this is the season of inexpensive Android tablets, and with Christmas less than two weeks away, a well-discounted Honeycomb tablet is an interesting gift idea. When Honeycomb debuted, it came hitched to the $799 Motorola Xoom, a device that was a solid first effort but had buggy software and a pricetag that was too high by half. In the following months, Honeycomb became a more mature platform and the price of entry to the Honeycomb club lowered as more devices were released, eventually settling in the $400-500 range. 

Recently during the holiday shopping season, we’ve seen retailers mark some of the lower-end Honeycomb tablets down pretty significantly. We’ve seen tablets like the original ASUS Transformer, the Acer Iconia Tab A500, and the Toshiba Thrive break the $300 mark, with the Thrive at one point going as low as $199. In the $250-300 range, a budget oriented Honeycomb tablet is a pretty tempting buy. Is it worth saving 50% compared to a higher end tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or the new ASUS Transformer Prime? We decided to take a look at Toshiba’s Thrive to figure it out. 

The Toshiba Thrive

Toshiba was a relative late-comer to the tablet game, with the Thrive hitting market in the second half of summer. When we first saw it at CES in January, it was still an unnamed Tegra 2-based tablet, one of the first in a series of Honeycomb tablets to be shown off at the trade show. Toshiba’s tablet took a much longer path to launch than similar products from Motorola, ASUS, Acer, and Samsung. It leaked out as the ANT-100 in Newegg’s item catalogue, then as the Japanese-market Regza AT-100. It hasn’t exactly set the Android world on fire since its debut, but it’s an interesting player in the tablet place. 

Tablet Specification Comparison
  Toshiba Thrive ASUS Eee Pad Transformer ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Dimensions   271mm x 175mm x 12.95mm 263 x 180.8 x 8.3mm 256.6 x 172.9 x 8.6mm
Display 10.1-inch 1280x800 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 Super IPS+ 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 PLS
Weight 725g 675g 586g 565g
Processor 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 (2 x Cortex A9) 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 (2 x Cortex A9) 1.3GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (4 x Cortex A9) 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 (2 x Cortex A9)
Memory 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
Storage 8GB/16GB/32GB + full-size SD card 16GB + microSD card 32GB/64GB + microSD slot 16GB
Pricing (MSRP) $379/399/479 $399 $499/$599 $499
Street Pricing $299 $349 $499 $470

At first, it looks like a rather clunky beast; at 16mm and 725 grams, it’s almost twice the thickness of the Galaxy Tab 10.1” and 150 grams heavier. And it’s true, the Thrive is nowhere near as slim as any of the other tablets out there—the Motorola Xoom and ASUS Transformer are 3mm thinner, and even the rather portly HP TouchPad is a good 2.5mm thinner. This tablet is way, way thick, like MacBook Air thick. It’s only half a millimeter thinner than my Dell Adamo 13, a laptop that's nearly three years old now. You want a really telling stat? The Thrive is three millimeters thicker than the Samsung Series 7 Slate, and that’s packing a Core i5. Yeah, a real Windows Tablet PC. 

The weight is also up there, just 5 grams behind the Xoom and TouchPad for the title of heaviest tablet we’ve tested thus far. However, due to the sheer size and bulk of the Thrive, it doesn’t actually feel that heavy—it’s not particularly dense like the TouchPad or the original iPad. The reason for this is actually pretty simple—the Thrive isn’t particularly well built. 

There’s a fair amount of flex throughout the chassis, especially in the battery cover, enough to be a bit disconcerting. Even the screen has a bit of give, and the entire device is susceptible to torsional flex in a way that the class leaders aren’t. Even Acer, never reputed to have the most solid systems in the world, did a better job here with the aluminum-bodied A500. It’s a bit of a shame, because otherwise the Thrive is actually a relatively comfortable tablet to use.

The Design
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  • wapz - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    I would imagine the 7" Kindle Fire is a more interesting buy for the money if you want to get a sample of tablet for a budget. And it will run ICS very soon thanks to a lot of dev-support.

    This will have hardly any dev-support due to probably low sales, and because it runs Tegra, and nVidia still hasn't released HALs and userspace drivers for Tegra open source which means there is a fair amount if reverse engineering to be done to properly make a custom rom based on AOSP.

    Try harder, Toshiba, this isn't good enough.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    I like the cheap replaceable color cases. I like the full size ports... A LOT!!!! The hardware is way above the bare minimum level that is acceptable. Still, build quality matters. I'll be recomending amazon kindle fire or Transformer still. As far as the thickness goes, I REALLY don't care, do whatever you have to do to use full size ports. I don't care so much about full size USB but full size SD card and HDMI are pretty much required.

    *rant:
    Personally I still don't see the appeal of these things. I bought the Asus and used my new toy for like 2 weeks. Then a couple months later noticed I hadn't touched the thing so I sold it off. I have a laptop, which goes anywhere in my house easily and I can take it on the road easily, and I have a desktop. I honestly do not understand the appeal of these things. You're giving up functionality and not really saving any money. I just do not understand. I have the Clevo P151 laptop, not light or thin. I have no issues moving it around. I have a laptop bag and power adapters so battery life is a non issue. I type a lot, and it has a BEAUTIFUL screen. Again, I see ZERO appeal in owning a tablet. Especially when you often get suckered into paying 100+/month to use the damn thing on wireless networks. You can't run ANY windows apps or games, again, I don't get it. I am baffled that anyone buys these things at all. A 4 inch "smartphone" that you can use as a GPS and Mp3 player, I get that... you know, for 50 bucks/month or less. But anything bigger isn't any more portable than a laptop. Baffling. Virgin mobile has a 25/month plan for a smartphone, you can tether anything to it. That seems like a fair deal. But as soon as you start slaping 2GB 4GB 40GB/month bandwidth limits, no matter how big 250GB/month it's instantly worth nothing. Either, you NEED that bandwidth, or you don't. If you do you get charged INSANE amounts of money to use it. And if you don't you're already paying INSANE amounts of money for that bandwidth. If you use 1GB/month of wireless data you should be paying next to nothing. This infuriates me, that people pay it. Because it's never going to change until people say enough. Cell carriers could easily charge 25/month for "access", meaning EVERYTHING in unlimited quantities and still make BILLIONS of dollars/year. Yes ATT you would have to build out your wireless network. Guess what? THAT'S THE FRAKKING BUSINESS YOUR IN!!!!
    Reply
  • LancerVI - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    I agree. My wife loves the Asus Transformer I bought for her.She goes everywhere with it.As for me, I can't stand using the damn thing!!! Reply
  • sprockkets - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    It's simple, for those people who hate installing software, issues with windows, etc. Reply
  • Belard - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Each to their own. A few years ago I bought my first notebook... The concept was... Why bother. My needs didn't warrant the purchase. But going to court and needing a reliable way to show evidence or burn a disc made the $500 purchase worth it. So it was used only a few hours out of it's first year. I use it more when I need mobility but my desktop is my main baby. We bought an iPad for business promotion at a major international convention where any notebook or Netbook would have failed.

    Just like the notebook, some people or application works best for that formfactor.

    Tablets are used like books, far more comfortable than a notebook in bed or sofa. Not for heavy work. When sharing information with people on the con floor, a tablet blows the door off any notebook. Show me a notebook that weighs about a pound, easy to use, with instant on Internet access, 8-9 hours of battery usage? Carrying extra batteries and power brick, etc means weight and space. A real keyboard would have been in the way and awkward to hold when showing clients system operations and materials. Show me a $400 notebook that can be turned on in 1 second and have wifi access in 1-3 seconds... There is nothing else. A 4" screen phone is a personal communications device... Not a sales tool.

    ( typed on my bed from my iPad). Even thou I have a quad core desktop available...
    Reply
  • rpmurray - Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - link

    *rant

    Personally I still don't see the appeal of laptops. Desktops do the same and more and are generally cheaper to boot. Laptops can't be upgraded (other than memory and hard drive and you pay through the nose for both), have batteries that you need to keep charged, have cramped keyboards and the screens are so tiny compared to the ones you can get for a desktop. Again I see ZERO appeal to a laptop. Even budget desktops have faster CPUs. You can get so much more done with a desktop than a laptop in the same amount of time. And that doesn't even cover all the crap you have to lug around with you when you have a laptop (charger, spare battery, cables and dongles for the ports and any external hardware you use with it, carrying case to haul it all around in). And the INSANE amount of money you have to pay for a laptop in the first place compared to a desktop, even before you get all the add-ons.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Take notice.

    Take the 1280x800 IPS panels from these tablets and put them in little netbooks.

    Brazos E-450 based netbooks. Done, I'd buy it.

    I'm not buying a 16:9 netbook, simple as that.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    You really gotta wonder why no one's done this already, the panels can't be that expensive if they're going into $350 tablets. Even if it raises the price of such a netbook past $550 there'd probably still be a market for it.

    One of the several reasons I bought my TF is the display itself...

    Oh and btw, it took ASUS for-freaking-ever but they finally released their 40-pin to USB/SD adapters the full size ports on the Thrive aren't much of upside anymore. Sure it's one more little thing to carry but if you wanna use gamepads, hard drives, or thumbdrives without the kb dock then it's well worth it.
    Reply
  • A5 - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    The simple answer is that the tablets (especially the iPad) have killed the netbook market.

    The other reason is that an ARM SoC + Free OS (Android) is cheaper than an Atom CPU + Chipset + Windows license, enabling manufacturers to spend more on the screen.
    Reply
  • melgross - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Microsoft has a standard for what is called a netbook for the purpose of selling Win7 Starter (and the earlier versions) to manufacturers making netbooks.

    The main points are:

    1. 10" screen
    2. 1024 x 768 max resolution
    3. atom CPU.

    If a manufacturer moves out of those basic specs, it's no longer a netbook, and they can't buy Starter, they must buy one of the regular versions.
    Reply

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