I 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.
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:
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.
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.
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*.
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.
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.
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.