The Toshiba Thrive – A Hands On Review

The Toshiba Thrive - A Hands On Review 1I took delivery of my spanking new Toshiba Thrive tablet in December 2011 and the first thing that hit me was, “Men, this thing is big!”. The thickness of the Thrive is, conservatively, about twice that of the iPad 2. And the 10.1 inch screen is noticeably larger than iPad’s 9.7 inch screen.

At the moment, I am torn between using or dispensing with the case that I bought along with it. The case does not do too much justice to the aesthetics of The Thrive. It makes it even more noticeably bulky, with its width about that of a regular netbook computer.

My choice of Toshiba Thrive over other tablets was not without a lot of mental exertion.

For the records, and strictly a personal opinion, the iPad still remains the most widely accepted tablet because of its quality build, quality of apps, popularity, the perceived status symbol it confers and, well, as a fashion accessory to some.

However, for the serious-minded geeks out there, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the iPad is not in the least functional. From simple tasks like attaching multiple files to emails (not even the premium app Goodreader can attach more than a file at a time) or viewing flash enabled sites (which unfortunately is not going away anytime soon) to more serious tasks like accessing the iOS file system, nothing comes easy or straightforward on the iPad.

It really was a very long search, no thanks to the endless streams of tablets coming into the market. However, my search was being guided by 6 key considerations, based on my present circumstances and needs:

1. COST : A budget of $400
2. ACCEPTABLE BATTERY LIFE
3. SCREEN SIZE : Preference for 10.1 inch tablets. I read a lot of A4 formatted PDF files.
4. 3G CAPABILITIES
5. APPS : Acceptable availability of apps for the OS platform of choice
6. EXPANSION PORTS : Presence of any or all of the following ports; MicroSD, SD, mini or full HDMI and mini or full USB.

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At the end of the day, the following tablets made the first cut based on possessing at least 4 of the criteria listed above:

– Samsung Galaxy 10.1
– Archos 101 G9
– Lenovo Ideapad K1
– Acer Aconia A500
– Toshiba Thrive

It is very common place to find a lot of these tablets touting very similar features (1Ghz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor; 2MP and 5MP front and rear facing cameras; 1GB RAM, etc) and only differentiated by brand names and inconsequential features. However, two of these tablets were able to separate themselves from the pack, thereby making my second cut:

The Toshiba Thrive - A Hands On Review 21. Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (a.k.a Beauty)

Regarded as the iPad of the Android world, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is indeed a fantastic device and undoubtedly, the Android tablet with the best user experience.

Slim, light and quite pretty, the device compares very favourably with the iPad 2 and possesses very similar design and features (no wonder Steve Jobs was pissed!). And with a 10-hour battery life, it tips the scale in probably being one of the best Android device around.

Unfortunately, just like the iPad, it lacks expansion ports. None at all!

2. Toshiba Thrive (a.k.a. The Beast)

Weighing in at 1.66 lbs and with 0.62 inches thickness (almost twice the thickness of iPad 2), the Toshiba Thrive makes no pretences at being slim or pretty. It was intended as a near laptop replacement, thanks to its array of expansion ports; Full HDMI out, Full and mini USB, Full and mini SD (max 32GB), SDHC and SDXC (max 2TB).

With the Thrive, the possibilities and expandability of the full USB port are almost endless. It accepts your regular keyboard and mouse (wired or wireless), flash drives, portable drives,etc. And to top it all, the tablet is about the only one that has a user replaceable battery!

Simply put, the Thrive is for those that expect a lot more than an iPad.

Probably the only snag with this tablet is the relative limited battery life. The max you can probably squeeze out of it is about 8 hours.

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Since I pride myself as a geek, I guess it wouldn’t come as a surprise that I settled for The Toshiba Thrive.

I will not bother with a detailed review of this “big boys’ toy,” as it is already awash on the internet. However, I can not help but mention again that the the Thrive comes second to none in terms of port expandability. Of course, this is the reason for its bulk.

Full Expansion

It has a full HDMI port, SD slot, full USB and mini USB slots. Thankfully, there is a well stocked computer accessory store in my neighbourhood where I made a quick purchase of a USB flexible keyboard, USB optical mouse and a USB game pad. Since the Thrive has only one full USB port, I also got a USB hub to connect my multiple USB peripherals.

I am sure that the wireless keyboard option too would work, but let’s just say that I am watching my pennies at the moment, so I didn’t buy it.

The keyboard and the mouse work like a charm, simultaneously, via the USB hub. I was so emotional about this, so much that I felt like shedding a tear.*sniff*.

Game Pad

However, I was not so lucky with the game pad. I read somewhere before now that the device is a little bit choosy about game pads. I also understand that there is a need for game developers to incorporate necessary codes into their games for USB game pads to work with them. However, I heard the Xbox console works well on it though.

The key advantage here is that the Toshiba does not require any specialized or proprietary accessory to work with. Your regular PC USB peripherals would do just fine! However, these peripherals should not be used too extensively except when the Thrive is connected to a power source as they may cause just a little more drain on the battery.

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I do not intend to “root” (“jailbreak” in Apple parlance) this device just yet, but that is the only way Android OS would recognize NTFS hard disk file system. However, I had no problem assessing my FAT formatted flash drive or the exFAT formatted external hard drive.

exFAT is the preferred filesystem format for mobile devices and it supports hard disk size of up to 512 Terabytes (in theory). From experience, for drives with high capacity, I would advice the use of powered external drive against USB powered ones because the USB port my not have enough voltage output to power this category of drives.

Wireless Connectivity

Though I strongly wished the Thrive has a 3G modem built in, however, the speed of my Cobranet powered home Wi-Fi provided even better browsing and download speeds for use on the tablet. I was able to make a number of device software updates quite smoothly, including that of the stock OS from Android honeycomb 3.1 to version 3.2.1 in a few minutes.

There is a “thriving” community on the net for the Toshiba Thrive at www.thriveforums.org. I am hoping that the community would come up with a way to use regular USB 3G modems on the thrive as it is one of the few USB peripherals not yet supported.

It is great having the feeling that I OWN this device, with no Apple-like restrictions. I can actually tinker with it to my heart’s content.

Over the next few weeks, I will be exchanging my views on this device and Android OS in general.

Stay tuned.

19 thoughts on “The Toshiba Thrive – A Hands On Review

  • February 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm
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    I’ve only got one question on my mind. Why did you just get a netbook? With all this attachements you’ve practically turned this device into a geeked out laptop.

    Ain’t no way I’m spending my dough on a tablet sha! I’d rather get a netbook and maintain my QwErty keyboard comfort 😀

  • February 2, 2012 at 3:51 pm
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    Nice overview, but the part that interest me the most is that feeling that this device you actually paid for really belongs to you, something that is always lacking in iOS devices and now Windows Phone 7 devices.

  • February 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm
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    @Udegbunam Chukwudi Good point Doc! However, i am not sure i can answer that question objectively. Funny thing is, i own two netbooks; an Asus Eee PC and a Samsung N110. In fact, the N110 can rival a lot of tablets with its over 7 hours battery life and it has a screen size of 10.1 inch, just like the Toshiba Thrive. I think the point is, a device with a hinge that lacks a touch screen may not give the same user experience as a slab/tablet with such features and can easily transform to a netbook-like device when need be. Amazon and a lot of other shopping sites is awash with tablet cases incorporated with keyboards. Meaning that, most people still have a need for a convenient device with a laptop form factor but still want the freedom of a tablet. What is the best way to “marry” these two needs?

    @ muyiscoi No official word of an ICS update for the thrive but rumor has it that there might be a possibility of a February rollout.

  • February 3, 2012 at 9:02 am
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    Where was it purchased,in nigeria or abroad. Bcos we all know that the price of things broad generally increase in 9ja. Am looking into this tablet stuff and I would want to be well versed

  • February 3, 2012 at 10:41 am
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    @Wale: I still don’t get what’s all the fuss with this touchscreen of a thing. I’m just way too comfortable with my QWERTY. If I eventually decide to get a tablet, it would have to be a BlackBerry Playbook so i can use my darling BIS 😀

  • February 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm
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    I was also in a bit of dilema when I needed a tablet badly – just because I needed a mobile ‘e-reader’ that could deliver more.
    Toshiba Thrive poped up as one of my options – but I think the weight was going to be an issue for me and the lack of inbuilt 3G. I eventually went for the SGT10.1 – pure bliss I must say 🙂

  • February 4, 2012 at 7:34 am
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    good review . I never bothered myself about the thrive only because of its bulky nature. The new transformer prime seems a better alternative. Has is all and still slim. Though the ports are on the keyboard.

  • February 4, 2012 at 10:39 am
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    @good :Whichever way, all these gadgets come in from overseas. The pricing is usually dependent on how greedy or otherwise the vendor is. You can mail mobility@mobility.com.ng for a competitive pricing of any product you are interested in.

    @Udegbunam Chukwudi: Doc, many believe the future of computing is the mobile platform, especially tablets and i do believe so too. Yomi’s post seems to confirm this (http://goo.gl/WnMxd). While many, if not all the tablet OS we have around today are not quite there yet to warrant a radical shift to that form factor, i do believe Windows 8 would redefine how tablets are viewed and used. Also, there are talks of Apple merging its IOS and OSX platforms, which will see the iPad device becoming even more functional.

    @Ife: Pricing was a consideration for me. For most tasks, the thrive sufficiently replaces the laptop with no need for me to shell out extra cash for some accessory. The Samsung Galaxy did not leave room for this. The bulk of the thrive can be a bother most time, but a successor in the works has shed some of this weight problem.

  • February 4, 2012 at 11:53 am
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    Wale, i am so glad you took the jump and went for Android and not for thet toyboy Apple device! Honest, i dumped my ipad last year and picked up the Galaxy Tab 10.1 aka beauty. No wonder Apple did its level best to sabotage these guys in germany and Australia… the TAb 10 beats the Ipad 2 hands and feet down!

    Why? cos ANdroid makes the device oh-so-usable; with a $30 adapter, i can use USB drives on my Tab10… i can attach files to emails (try that on any ios device, ha!)… i have oodles of battery life.. my GPS works like a charm (yes, the entire Lagos has been Google-mapped!).

    Dont be too bothered that you made the wrong choice on the Thrive. Man, devices are meant to BE USABLE and not for showing off to everyone! For me, the decision by Steve Jobs not to (1) open the Ipad for USA access and (2) LIMITED MULITATSKING, are decisions that have crippled the Ipad into a good, but not great device.

    Now, as for them people that say Ipads are outselling Android devices, i refer us to the latest figures as gleaned by BBC… follow this link http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/android-apple-ipad-tablet-285086

  • February 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm
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    @funwakinmade, wow… this is the first time I am seeing an ipad user dumping his ipad for and android tablet. most ipad users just go ahead flaunting their apple gadget everywhere despite its plenting limitations.

  • February 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm
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    Excellent provoking writeup.I am suprised you didnt include the asus transformer prime.though ther has been some minor complain of itd GPS low sensitivity

  • February 6, 2012 at 10:07 am
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    @belushi.. Thanks. Truth is – 80% of them Ipad users (and i stand by that figure!) only use the device to either surf the web or take notes! Its nothing more than a status symbol! The odd thing is that people now carry 3 devices around…. Phone, tablet and laptop. Truth is, they are all convering into ONE device…. The Tablet.

    And Android is way ahead of the curve….

    Its much more of laptop replacement, it can make calls quite easily, run GPS, and its much more functional in every way. The biggest misconception being bandied is that there are more apps foe IOS than Android. Haha! Nothing could be further from the truth… I moved effortlessly from ipad to Samsung Tab10 like 5 months ago…. All ipad apps are available on Android – all except the indefatiguable Goodreader, but numerous alternatives exist.

    I can categorically say that, as long as Apple wants to maintain a closed door approach, THE FUTURE BELONGS TO ANDROID!

  • February 6, 2012 at 4:33 pm
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    This guy is Huge

    1. COST : A budget of $400 (But iPad starts at just $499)
    2. ACCEPTABLE BATTERY LIFE (iPad does 10hrs)
    3. SCREEN SIZE : Preference for 10.1 inch tablets. I read a lot of A4 formatted PDF files. (is the difference that much)
    4. 3G CAPABILITIES (iPad has 3G too)
    5. APPS : Acceptable availability of apps for the OS platform of choice (iPad has the best apps)
    6. EXPANSION PORTS : Presence of any or all of the following ports; MicroSD, SD, mini or full HDMI and mini or full USB. (An sure iPad will never have these ports, anyway, there is a special flash rive for iOS devices)

    I need to recheck that again, Samsung Tab 10.1 has no Micro SD slot.

    The Toshiba Thrive (a.k.a. The Beast) has so much Slot that it qualifies to be called the Slot Tab.

    8HRS battery life is not bad at all.

    @Wale Falade
    However, I heard the Xbox console works well on it though. (I believe you mean the Xbox Game pad works well with it)

    Not bad at all, I love the options on board.

    But I find my self having the best experience on a Laptop so I personally prefer to add an iPad to my ever loving fully powered Windows PC.

  • February 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm
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    Hi Bosun

    The review was never meant to be a comparison between an ipad and android based devices. I had an iPad for just 6 months and i did push it to the extreme but it just wasnt for me. I never considered an iPad. To most, iPad is tops. To me, NO.

    @funwakinmade: No, i do not regret buying the thrive. Its bulk is not out of the ordinary really. At 1.66 lbs, It is comparable to the Motorola Xoom at 1.6 pounds, Asus Eee Pad Transformer at 1.5, the HP Slate at 1.7, HP Touchpad at 1.6 and the Acer Iconia A500 at 1.7. However, the bulk of the Thrive is more excusable, in my opinion, than the others because of its extras, if that is your preference.

    @Belushi: Many have dumped their iPad for Android devices and vice versa, its circlic. But the truth is, many using the iPad have a lot of more reasons why they can not make the device a laptop substitute. If only Apple can slow down on the restrictions,i too will probably be back on board.

  • February 7, 2012 at 8:21 am
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    @ Wale
    if I may Recollect, correct me if I’m wrong, you had a certain blog post not sure if its on mobility or your blog, where you mentioned that the iPad is simply the best Tablet there is and other Tablet rivals it.

    so what changed?

  • February 7, 2012 at 10:16 am
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    @bily: You are very correct. At different times i had written and made comments on mobility and on Diary of a Geek (artwales.biz) about the superiority of the iPad. Nothing has changed. Dont let anybody tell you otherwise, iPad is the numero uno. Forget all their hype and razzmatazz, they are still truly the first!

    However, you will notice on my bio at the end of the write up where i mentioned that i have no allegiance towards any particular brand. That is true.

    At that time, the ipad suited me perfectly. However, with time, the restrictions on the ipad became a very big nuisance to me. For God’s sake, i paid for the device and not that i rented it. Why tell me what to do or what not to do with it? Until i connect to a PC before i can carry out simple tasks like moving files?! Additional expense in buying accessories that give only limited functionalities?

    As of last count, i had over $500 worth of apps on the ipad. I was willing to forgo all to jump on the android ship.

    And who said the honeycomb 3.x platform dont have apps?! Zillions of them! Also, if you can cope with the stretched android 2.x apps on your tablet, then you even have much more to play with.

    Of course, i am still very inclined to move back to the IOS platform if only they can loosen up a little.

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