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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  • doggod - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    How is what Microsoft wants, come into the net books argument at all. None of the tablets people are buying come with a Microsoft OS so you would imagine that manufactures would jump on having net books with android installed which negates any licensing costs.

    Personally I dont get their use either, apart as a toy. And an expensive toy.
    Portability is negated by having to type on the screen( which if you haven't left the tablet down on a surface you have to do one handed)
    Websites have to be zoomed to read properly
  • mathew7 - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - link

    "How is what Microsoft wants, come into the net books argument at all. None of the tablets people are buying come with a Microsoft OS so you would imagine that manufactures would jump on having net books with android installed which negates any licensing costs."

    Please research before you talk. Just a hint: tablets are not sold with Windows because there is no way to run it. The CPU from the tablets has nothing in common with what you have on a netbook or desktop. It's like diesel vs. gasoline engine: they both take you somewhere, but how they make power is completely different (you cannot run and/or you will damage either engine if you put the wrong fuel).

    So tablet designers take no attention to MS Win Starter limitations. But netbook designers, even if the tablet will be sold with Win7 HP, it's still designed for Win7 Starter because of HW sharing between models.
  • DanNeely - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Viewing angles? IPS vs TN?
  • Hrel - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    I can't beleive someone who reads anandtech has to ask this. TN maxes out at about 170 degree viewing angles, marketed, not practical application. IPS is basically 180 degree, ie you can always see it and it always looks good. IPS has significantly longer response times though. Pretty much all flat panel LCD tv's are IPS.
  • Aloonatic - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Why bother to read anandtech at all, when you know everything already?
  • mjcutri - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    I made the mistake of buying a Thrive for my wife when they first came out in July. It was one of my worst tech purchases ever. I liked the idea of the dock and full size ports, but the flaws just don't make up for what I perceived as advantages.

    The screen takes next to nothing to break it and Toshiba knows it. They charge over $300 to replace it. Initially you could get a replacement screen and spend 4 hours trying to fix it yourself, but there was such a run on them (since the screen is so crappy) that they ran out of stock quickly. Since then, they have increased the price from $80 to $160 for the replacement screen, which now isn't worth it.

    I'm getting her a Transformer when the price drops on those.
  • mjcutri - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the incredibly buggy software.
    The well known problem of not waking from sleep has still not been fixed. (You have to turn it completely off and then back on again.) The screen randomly turn on by itself. (which is really annoying when you're trying to sleep.) The screen randomly doesn't go to sleep when you press the power button. (It just flashes black and then back on again.)
  • VivekGowri - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    There was an update to fix the sleep-wake problem, I never encountered it after that...As for the screen, yeah - because it's plastic, it's easier to break/scratch/damage. I really, really wish Toshiba would have gone the extra distance and gone for Gorilla Glass or some other kind of chemically treated glass covering for the screen.
  • mjcutri - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Yeah...that update...didn't fix crap...
    And the screen is glass, just not gorilla glass.
  • TexasAg03 - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    "...eventually settling in the $4-500 range."

    Could you please let me know where the $4 tablets are?

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