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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  • Aquila76 - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - link

    I was one of the lucky ones to get this Black Friday from Amazon for $199. At that price, this is an amazing value. I got it for my Dad since he needed something portable for his line of work. I completely agree about the chrome ring around the cameras; it makes this look toyish. That was actually a plus, as it makes it a little less likely to be stolen. Overall, I was really impressed with the Thrive and it's connections. have a good selection of root guides and alternate ROMs. They just released a Honeycomb 3.2 rooted ROM.
  • combustication - Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - link

    I purchased my thrive last month and have not used my notebook ever since. It's definitely not as durable as my notebook which I have been able to treat like a redheaded stepchild and I didn't feel comfortable traveling with it until I got a case. I was also worried about the screen but after seeing a screen test someone posted on youtube (linked below) those are gone. I agree the chrome around the camera and Toshbia name plate lack style but the rubberize backing is a nice touch. The navigational abilities of the thrive (and all tablets I assume) has blown me away, I can't see my self going back to a notebook. Being a news junkie my favorite app has become Pulse which is a match made in heaven for tablets. It has allowed me to consume more news in a timely and efficient manner than ever before. I also really like that I can throw an AVI file onto my thrive, attach a HDMI Cable from it to my TV and I'm set to go. I'm looking forward to being able to control my home sound system with my thrive and perhaps even the lights down the road.
  • briwayjones - Saturday, December 17, 2011 - link

    It seems that everybody mentions that they have yet to have a reason to use the rear facing cameras on a tablet. I understand it's not the most usable thing. I just wanted to mention one reason I've used the rear facing camera on my tablet.

    I deal with about ten different properties that the company I work for manages. I have each property entered as a contact with it's information. I like to take a picture of what the property looks like and use it as the profile picture in the contact so I can remember which property is which. Also if need be I could also use it to take a picture of something inside a property that needs to be fixed for example.

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