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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  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    It's meant as "four to five hundred dollar range", which I'm sure you know, but I'll update it just for clarity.
  • cjs150 - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    As these things get cheaper and cheaper I start wondering whether they can double as a really capable intelligent remote control device.

    Consider: I have a relatively simple AV system, TV, AV receiver, Blu ray player, cable box and am intending to add a small basic computer to it (media streaming from NAS, internet browsing and email device, maybe a little light and casual gaming - Zotac Nano AD10 or the new Via Artigo 1150 looks ideal). That will mean 4 remote controls and a media keyboard/mouse. Now I could buy an intelligent remote (use a Logitech Harmony in another room which is not bad but a bit clunky with the cable box). One of the top of the range remotes costs about same as this tablet (or Kindle fire)

    Surely taking a low end tablet would work better, just needs IR blaster, can double as both keyboard and mouse, programmable with lots of "activities" to switch things off and on.
  • therealnickdanger - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    I picked up a few Acer A100s on Black Friday for $189. Great little Tegra 2 tablets. Anyway, I paired one up with the Logitech Link device. Any Android device on our network can use the Harmony app to control all our AV gear.
  • doggod - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Do any of the tablets come with ir built in, it would save having to have extra hardware to do the conversion.
  • Roland00Address - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    The sony s series tablets have IR built in and a preload app for remote control
    The samsung galaxy 7 plus also has an IR built in. The samsung galaxy 10.1 does not have IR built in.
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - link

    Thanks everyone for the input. Definitely worth me looking more closely, maybe waiting until the prices come down a bit
  • therealnickdanger - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Like was posted by someone else, Sony has one.

    I can't speak to your exact need, but for my home theater needs, a stationary IR device is preferred. My experience with other universal remotes, even Harmony remotes, is that they often mess up complex IR requests due to angles or device reception.

    The benefit of the Link is that it works with any PC, Android or iOS device, whether it's a $600 Sony or a free smartphone.
  • Crono454 - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    I'm not sure I understand all the Kindle Fire fan boys. There is no way I recommend that to anyone over the new nook. It is garbage and has been unanimously covered as medicare mediocre
  • tzhu07 - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    There is a huge design flaw. The perimeter bezel surrounding the display should be as clean as possible. This tablet is all dark, but then there's a chrome piece hanging off to one side. Very distracting.
  • VivekGowri - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - link

    The chrome webcam surround is literally the single worst thing about the design. If it was a matte black plastic and there wasn't a door hiding the ports, I'd like the Thrive about 50% more.

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