Toshiba Thrive Tablet Mostly for Work, With Some Play

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-07-22

Toshiba Thrive Tablet Mostly for Work, With Some Play

I began using the Toshiba Thrive Android 3.1-based "Honeycomb" tablet last week with some reservations after all the negative attention the 10.1-inch tablet garnered over what I'll call SleepmodeGate.

I've been using this hefty WiFi-only device (my version was the 16GB model, with 1 GB RAM) for over a week, and I haven't experienced the surely annoying experience of having to reboot every time I want to wake the device from sleep mode. But dozens of Thrive owners are experiencing this.

Let me tell you what I have experienced with the Thrive, which weighs 1.6 pounds, is over .06 inches thick and which I will compare against my thinner, lighter Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Thrive is speedy as powered by the Nvidia Tegra 2 1GHz dual-core processor. It's also got a solid but not great LED backlit widescreen display.

Thrive boasts 1280 by 800 resolution like the Tab 10.1, but the Thrive screen is not as crisp as the Tab 10.1 display; I played several YouTube videos and movies side-by-side and the Tab won every time.

One area where the Thrive whips the Tab 10.1 (and even the vaunted iPad) is the availability of ports to let users connect their Thrive to other devices for content sharing and device-to-device communications.

The Thrive has a USB port for connecting to a PC, peripheral or other device, a mini USB port for connecting to phones and other peripherals, an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port for putting content on bigger screens, and an SD card slot for flash memory cards.

There is also a docking connector to enable users to attach their devices to a Toshiba Multi-Dock ($59.99) with HDMI to let users port Thrive content to an HDTV or LCD monitor. The Toshiba Standard Dock with Audio Out has a 3.5-mm stereo audio port that connects to external speakers or headphones for $39.99.  

In other words, the Thrive is very PC-like. It even has an AC Adapter included with the tablet. Yes, the Thrive comes with a laptop-style power cord.

Toshiba really showed its enterprise-leanings with the Thrive by including on one of the five customizable home screens its proprietary File Manager and PrinterShare applications.

The File Manager is useful for people storing, managing and accessing lots of content. I put photos, documents and videos from thumb drives onto the Thrive and accessed them with the File Manager.

PrinterShare enables printing via Android phones. The LogMeIn remote desktop and QuickOffice productivity applications were also preinstalled on this home screen.

Conversely, Toshiba also wants to be consumer-friendly, offering proprietary Toshiba Start Place news aggreggator, a Book Place digital bookstore, and an App Place application store that is pretty poor and ugly, mixing both enterprise and consumer applications. Stick with the Android Market for applications.

YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the new Google+ mobile application rendered well. The stereo speakers worked well for music, video content and games, such as NFS Shift from EA, which is included on the Thrive. Switching between applications was super simple, as Google intended Honeycomb to be.

Toshiba Thrive Is Too Rubbery

Typing on the virtual keyboard was a breeze, and I used Gmail quite a bit on the Thrive to compose messages or respond to Google+ comments. You'll get used to the clacking keyboard sound, I promise. Swype gesture technology is available for folks who prefer it.

The Thrive has a standard 5-megapixel rear-facing camera for average pics, though the 2MP front-facing Webcam will give users a nice face-to-face video chat session, as my testing with Skype Mobile showed.

My biggest issue with the Thrive is the hardware. I strongly dislike the ruggedized, rubberized and texturized Easy Grip removeable cover. I don't care that you can swap out the battery with this feature; it feels like a military-grade machine.

In fact, I moved recently and I showed the AT&T U-Verse installer the Thrive and joked that it would go great with his work Panasonic Toughbook. He agreed. You can drop it, kick it or sit on, it and you won't hurt it. (However, I wouldn't do it to this test model; I break it and I buy it.)

Seriously, I'm okay with the idea of a removable cover, but this plastic shell feels awkward on or off. Moreover, the cheap metal camera bezel on the cover is an eyesore. I wish it were rubber, too.

Speaking of rubbers, you can buy Blue Moon, Raspberry Fusion, Lavender Bliss, Silvery Sky and Green Apple covers for $19.99 if you don't like the black one with which it comes.

Here's a smaller, more niggling point. While I appreciate all the various ports and the way they're rendered in the Thrive's hardware, I believe you should never clutter the power button. It must be pronounced and easy to access.

No dice here; the Thrive's power button is grouped with the volume buttons and a screen rotation lock in a rubber bezel on the right side of the device (when in portrait mode). Try manipulating these in the dark or without looking. They're not pronounced enough in my opinion.

Battery life averaged five to six hours of solid use each day I tested it-not as good as the Tab 10.1 or the iPad at all-even though Toshiba professes 11 hours on a full charge. Really? With Thrive, you need to make sure that the tablet switches off WiFi when you're not using it or you will drain power fast.

In conclusion, I found the actual software experience of the tablet enjoyable, but I'm not comfortable with the Easy Grip removable back cover.

I appreciate what Toshiba was going for, but I don't want a tablet with removable parts. I don't take the cover off my laptop; why would I remove my tablet's cover? For fashion's sake? Pshaw.

At 1.6 pounds, it's also too heavy for my tablet experience. I couldn't use the Thrive as my primary device for media consumption, but that's me.

There are plenty of people who like the look and feel of it. And it's hard to beat the user interface and user experience of the Android 3.1 software, assuming you're one of the Android aficionados who doesn't hate the Honeycomb experience.

The 16GB Thrive I tested costs $479, but if you're feeling less storage hungry, go for the 8GB model for $429.99. More greedy customers can buy a 32GB monster for $579.99.


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