Something just feels right about Toshiba’s new Thrive tablet. The comfortable device based on the Android 3.1 Honeycomb operating system is so simple to use that you don’t need to bother with the user’s manual.
Let’s start with the basics: The Thrive measures about 11 inches long and 7 inches wide. The aspect ratio is thus a little larger (narrower and wider) than other tablets, which led me to use it mainly in the landscape orientation. The 10.1-inch backlit LED screen boasts 1280x800 pixels. At about 1.6 pounds and more than half an inch thick, it’s on the heftier side of the tablet pool, but still comfortable in one hand or propped on your lap. The tablet features the Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset for strong performance.
Toshiba’s tablet comes with dual cameras: 2 megapixels in the front and 5MP in the rear. The cameras and the 720p HD video are serviceable but nothing to write home about. For business applications — for example, taking shots of homes for property assessments — the device works just fine.
The Honeycomb OS has a natural feel. Multiple applications can run simultaneously with just a flick of a finger. The applications scroll nicely, and the navigation controls in the lower right corner of the device make it easy to find menus or return to the previous screen. Overall, everything was very simple, to find and to do.
I’ve found that there are two kinds of tablets: those meant to be used by consumers with little in the way of enterprise support, and those designed for the enterprise that lack many of the features users have grown to love. The Thrive is the first tablet I’ve tried that is both.
Toshiba pre-installed Kaspersky Lab’s Tablet Security and built-in encryption. Unless a user types the right personal identification number, the data on the device cannot be accessed. Toshiba’s File System Manager allows users to move files on and off the device without going through a third-party application manager. Users can even back up their settings to Google’s cloud storage.
But where the Thrive really shines is the quality of the ports available on the device. It has not only a mini-USB connector, but full USB, HDMI and SD card ports that are easily accessible on the top or side of the tablet. These ports are hidden behind rubberized plugs to keep them clean. The rubberized back can reduce slippage (and hence breakage), but can be removed to expose a user-replaceable battery.
Wireless connectivity is available through 802.11 a/b/g/n or Bluetooth. There’s currently no 3G/4G option, but one could easily tether a card through the USB port or use Bluetooth to connect to a mobile phone.
While Toshiba does provide both video and audio enhancement, the sound quality is a bit inferior to other tablets. And for some reason, the volume rocker control on the top of the Thrive is counterintuitive. To the left is louder, to the right softer, and the on-screen volume bar is reversed. It makes more sense if you hold the tablet in the portrait position, so perhaps this was simply a design choice.
I also found that when the tablet was plugged in and charging, it had trouble coming out of sleep mode. This is a known issue that Toshiba says it will solve with a software update.