One of the biggest obstacles Toshiba faces with the Thrive is that the company has no Android presence to help the company gain a foothold. They have no track record of Android phones or tablets to speak of and nothing reputable to bring to the table. At $429 the 16GB version is roughly $70 less than its Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 counterpart. Is it worth paying the extra money for Samsung’s 10-inch tablet? That depends on what’s most important to you. Do you want a functional tablet with great hardware and function? Or do you need to look cool and hip with the slimmest, sexiest tablet on the market?
Samsung has a history with Android, even if it’s not the best. We know from experience that the company has solid Android hardware and a decent record of providing software updates. Toshiba may have the best intentions with the Thrive and future Android tablets but this is a gamble that some may not be willing to take. On a positive note, Toshiba did do a good job of acknowledging a wake/sleep issue for the Thrive and issued a software patch in somewhat timely manner. Another good sign was releasing the tablet with Android 3.1 not long after it was made available. If they can continue to listen to their users and provide consistent updates, then Toshiba could earn valuable Android street cred. Unfortunately we could be six months away from Toshiba establishing a solid reputation either way.
Does it Deliver?
On paper, the Thrive is as good as its competition, if not better. The full-sized USB, HDMI, and SD card slots give it an edge over the XOOM and Galaxy Tab 10.1. Tossing in a 30-pin dock connector and mini-USB port and Toshiba leaves the door wide open for expanded functionality and added benefit. The 3.1 release of Honeycomb allows for the Android Open Accessory protocol so I imagine there should be problems supporting hardware from outside sources.
The 5-megapixel camera is good, not great, and the speakers are as loud and clear as we’d like them to be. It’s very easy to go “tinny” with speakers mobile devices and Thrive is occasionally guilty of sometimes shrill audio. Generally speaking, however, we were impressed with sound quality of the tablet. Getting back to the camera, the pictures and 720p video are impressive providing you have the right lighting. Low-light scenarios presented a challenge at times, making for a grainy experience, especially in video. This is not a necessarily a deal-breaker for me as, for whatever reasons, I typically don’t use the cameras on my tablets. I tend to prefer to use the camera on my phone instead as it’s more convenient and substantially more portable.
As thick and as heavy as the Thrive is, it’s still portable enough to toss in a bag or backpack for a daily commute or long-term trip. The “problem” of being heavier than its competition is really only obvious when you compare it directly to another tablet. I handed it to a couple of people who have yet to spend time with any tablet just to hear what their initial reaction was. Nearly every single time, the remark was something to the effect of how light it was. Turning the Thrive on its side, these test subjects would generally remark at how nice it was to see the ports. “So I can toss my SD card in here and review my photos and media?” I suspect that this tablet gets the same reaction in stores, just as long as it’s not sitting too close to a slimmer, sexier tablet.
Toshiba does throw in a number of applications and games but they’re not as bad as one might expect. Some are definitely a value and would come in handy for the business-minded user, while others come across as generic. LogMeIn Ignition, Quickoffice, and Kaspersky Tablet Security might save you upwards of $100 should go out and hunt them down yourself. A handful of additional titles (Angry Birds, The New York Times, and NFS Shift) are popular downloads whereas some feel crammed in for no good measure. I really enjoyed the File Manager and PrinterShare apps and look forward to seeing more implementation along these lines. The Toshiba store is virtually useless for someone who is a seasoned Android veteran however it’s a decent way to hold the hands of a new Android user.