Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

Summary: The Toshiba Thrive won't win any beauty contests. But it should be on the top of your list if you are considering a full-size Android tablet.

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The Toshiba Thrive won't win any beauty contests. But it should be on the top of your list if you are considering a full-size Android tablet.

Another day, another Android Honeycomb tablet. They're all the same, right? Same nVidia Tegra 2 reference hardware, same general specifications on screen size and resolution. BOR-ING.

That's what I thought when I heard Toshiba was introducing its own tablet, another "me too" in the Android space, the Thrive.

I mean, we've already got the Motorola XOOM, the Acer Iconia A500, the Asus Transformer, and now the ultra-sexy and thin Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which is generally regarded as the front-runner out of all of these devices and the only one of this group that currently presents any real challenge to Apple's iPad 2.

There are a couple of things that made this particular "Me too" stand out, however. It's... the least sexy of the entire bunch. And that's good.

To put this in perspective, I give you this classic scene from the 1990 comedy film Crazy People, starring Dudley Moore, Paul Reiser and a still very in her prime Daryl Hannah.

Dudley's character, an advertising executive who undergoes a nervous breakdown, recruits a bunch of people in an psychiatric facility to help him come up with unique advertising pitches for difficult products to sell.

Volvo, the Swedish automobile company is stuck with an image problem of being a safe but boring car, gets this "Truth in advertising" treatment from his team of lunatics. What do they come up with? "Buy Volvos. They're boxy, but they're good."

I'm gonna throw the same pitch at you. Buy the Toshiba Thrive. It's Boxy, but it's good.

What Toshiba has done is take their experience with manufacturing laptops and apply it to Android tablets. Unlike the other tablets listed in this article, the Thrive has a user-removable 6-cell Lithium Ion battery pack which is easily accessible by snapping off the rear of the tablet.

This large replaceable battery pack gives the device excellent battery life, but it also makes the device thicker and heavier than all of its competitors. It makes it boxy.

Like the Acer Iconia A500 and the Motorola XOOM, the Thrive uses a proprietary barrel connector to charge using the included 2 amp power brick/cord.

Like the XOOM and the Iconia, the Thrive has a 2MP camera in front and 5MP camera in the rear.

The shipping unit comes with a black rear plastic casing which has a nice grooved contour on it that will help prevent the device from slipping out of your hand, which is an example of good practical industrial design.

You can also get the rear cover in other colors to make it more stylish, but I think thats probably a frivolous accessory for $20.

The Thrive is ugly, and I don't see any purpose in trying to make it less so. You're better off trying to find a decent carrying case for it.

Other good things about this device: Screen has excellent brightness and clarity, which is to be expected from a Japanese firm like Toshiba. Application performance is identical to what you would see on a Motorola XOOM or on a Galaxy Tab or any other Tegra 2-based tablet.

Speakers are adequately loud in terms of volume but can sound a bit tinny at times. The headphone jack produced really good results with streamed and locally played music using good quality headphones.

While Toshiba has more or less left Honeycomb unmodified with the exception of a few curated utilities (such as an integrated file manager) they have added SRS multimedia controls into the Honeycomb system settings which I found useful and improved audio quality.

The device is manufactured in China, but I think a lot of Japanese sensibility made its way into the device. For example, instead of just a MicroUSB port, the device also has a full-size USB port.

This allowed me to connect my Apple Mac keyboard to it, which has an integrated USB port on it, along with a PC mouse, and actually use it as a pseudo-PC and do real writing on it. It also allows you to connect any number of other regular USB peripherals to the tablet such as external hard drives and thumb drives.

Toshiba also offers a Bluetooth keyboard and also a docking port for the device, but I haven't had a chance to test these accessories yet.

In addition to the full-size and micro USBs, the device also has a full-size, standard HDMI connector. This is great if you have a big screen HDTV and want to mirror the device's display, which happens automatically after connecting the HDMI cable. I tested this on my 27" Samsung LED monitor this morning and it looked fantastic.

You could literally hook the tablet up to a large screen, mouse and keyboard and turn this thing into an Android PC.

In addition to the full-size HDMI, for storage expansion the Thrive uses a regular SDHC/SDXC slot, not a MicroSD slot.

This is especially useful if you just want to pop a storage card out of your camera and view the photos you've just taken on your tablet, or if you have a bunch of these standard SD cards already. For example, I was able to use 4GB, 8GB and 16GB Sandisk SDHC cards and even a 64GB Lexar Media SDXC card in the device without any problems.

Toshiba has licensed proprietary drivers that permit exFAT-formatted media to be used on the device, even though the Linux kernel doesn't support Microsoft's exFAT filesystem yet.

Where I did run into some issues was using MicroSD cards that I had previously used with other Android tablets in the Thrive's SD slot using SD adapter sabots.

I had purchased a bunch of inexpensive 16GB Sandisk MicroSD cards from Amazon which came with SD adapters.

The problem was that I couldn't initally get the Thrive to recognize them. After some trial and error, it turned out that the particular adapter that one of the chips came with had some sort of compatibility issue with the tablet, even though my PC USB card reader from Lexar was able to use it on my Mac, my Windows 7 PC and my Linux workstation just fine.

After trying a different adapter from the same batch of chips I ordered, the MicroSD chip I had used previously worked fine.

My recommendation? If you get a Thrive, stick with regular SD cards.

Other minor nitpicks with this otherwise very good Android tablet -- during the initial setup process, the Wi-Fi network search hangs and I had to exit the setup process and manually "wake up" the Wi-Fi adapter by toggling it on and off. This seems to be an issue that presents itself occasionally, and Toshiba is working on a fix for this.

One thing to nitpick about this otherwise excellent tablet is that like the Acer Iconia A500, the wireless chip only supports 2.4Ghz bands.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Motorola XOOM (as well as the iPad 2 and HP's TouchPad) support both 2.4 and 5Ghz bands, which is good if you want to use a different frequency range to try to get better reception in your house or office, but all of these tablets generally have one antenna and you can't take advantage of the 5Ghz Wireless-N MIMO throughput on your router without multiple antennae and 40Mhz "Turbo" channel width on the device.

Additionally, I have encountered an issue where the tablet goes to "sleep" after putting it aside for a few minutes or an hour and when you try to wake it up with the power button, it doesn't wake up and you have to do a full reboot of the OS. Again, a minor issue, but Toshiba is working on a fix.

These otherwise minor issues should not sway anyone looking in the Android space for a tablet from considering the Thrive.

It fills an interesting niche in that it is priced aggressively ($429 for the 8GB version) and that it has some key differentiating features that allow it to compete nicely with the other players in the space, and where practicality, battery life and connectivity/data exchange is a more important consideration for the consumer than slim/weight.

Are you considering the Toshiba Thrive? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Laptops, Android, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets, Toshiba

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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Talkback

23 comments
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  • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

    This is an interesting tablet design. But here is the "64 thousand dollar question".

    Would a consumer be better off with a "tablet/laptop" hybrid like this new product or just go with a classic laptop design?

    Personally, I would go with a tablet design that strives for lightness and thinness (Several on the market right now and using different OS software) and then maximize my laptop choice with a computer dedicated towards those classical laptop functions. (I suspect long time readers might anticipate which laptop design I would choose. Hint .. it will debut next week.)

    At any rate, I am not knocking the Toshiba tablet in any way. For many consumers, this will prove the right choice among many different designs.
    kenosha77a
  • Thrive is boxy... but - it's better for business than the others

    Love it, love it. Have given three presentations this week from the Thrive - HDMI to a 42" LCD. Clients love the presentation, I loved the tool. Been looking for a nice transitional table for business. This is it. Own a first generation Ipad as well. Love the IPAD. BUT - really loving the Thrive. Kudos to Toshiba. Used Acers tablet as well. Thrive gets the job done better!
    firstpagedominator
    • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

      @firstpagedominator
      Right yea and I just flew to Europe on my iPad last week...
      Hasam1991
    • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

      @firstpagedominator
      Try the ASUS.
      I've played with them all now and still like the Transformer the best (personal opinion). Use it for work fairly routinely.
      rhonin
  • Now that there are several good tablets out there

    I take it we'll start seeing ZDnet Tablet apps soon.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

      @goff256 You can install ZDNet on iOS and Android. :)
      jperlow
      • I have the ZDnet app

        But it feels like a phone app, ya know?<br><br>But I saw a distinct lack of ability to post here from it. *hint hint*<br><br>I'm not saying "Grrr, I demand one", but I feel the heightened screen real estate would be a waste to not use. And I would love to be able to just use the app instead of having to open the browser, click on ZDnet, make sure I'm still logged in, and so forth.<br><br>I do love the mobile app, though.

        Edit: I'd even be willing to PAY for that sort of app. XD
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

        @goff256
        Agree.
        I dumped the app and just put a bookmark on the home screen. The app is kind of "dud" even for my phone.
        :(
        rhonin
      • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

        @rhonin<br><br>It'd be sufficient if all I wanted to do was consume information and then move one, but that's not all I want to do.<br><br>I use my Xoom for... the types of things I use my notebook for. Its really irks me to have to go through the process when there could be a nice application that could make it easier. That's one of the reasons why I spent 600$ on a tablet, after all.<br><br>Ease of use.

        edit: Also the current app seems to be Force Closing quite often.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

        @jperlow <br><br>I'm glad someone brought this up, actually. I find it quite silly that the ZD Net apps squelch the most engaging and interactive part of the entire experience... the ability to read and reply to follow-up comments.<br><br>Meanwhile, the rapidly spreading Tapatalk app for both iOS and Android, manages to condense entire discussion FORUMS into an easily manageable format that works flawlessly on even phone screens... so I don't see any reason the ZD app can't do the same with user comments.<br><br>If the issue is a concern for lack of ad revenue from the desktop site, I'd have no problem with ads on the mobile app, so long as I could read and reply to comments. Nothing is free.
        Playdrv4me
  • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

    No. I am waiting for the Playbook to be able to download the Android apps.
    hayneiii@...
  • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

    Hopefully, Toshiba will introduce the Thrive here in Manila, PHL. It's an underdog Android tablet but promising and I would like to take it for a spin!!!
    erichmercado
  • I always love how things not working are just &quot;minor issues&quot;

    I guess when your expectations are low...
    fr_gough
    • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

      @fr_gough
      They'll fix it in the next release, real soon now.
      dhmccoy
  • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

    I've now gone through all the major Android tablets (including the Nook).<br>Of these I like the Samsung 10 for looks, the ASUS for functionality, and the Xoom for feel (holds in the hand really well). <br>I guess at this time my "envisioned" tablet would be the look of the Samsung 10, the feel of the Xoom and works like the Transformer. <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/grin.gif" alt="grin"><br>The Thrive did not impress me as much as I had originally hoped.<br>Bummer......<br>I run two different wireless networks in my house. The Thrive could see and connect to my 2Wire g class device but could not connect to my Netgear n class.<br>I did have the SD card issue Jason saw. I used a Centron Class 6 SD Micro chip with adapter. The ASUS had no issue with the Micro version but the Toshiba did with the adapter. Price was a pain. It was priced to the more expensive side compared to other tablets.<br>Overall it was very similar to the other tablets; kind of middle of the road. Nothing really grabbed me to "BUY THIS".<br>
    rhonin
  • I think I may just buy one!

    I definitely love the idea of the full size ports. This seems like the one for me. The file manager is my kind of mod. The only thing I'm worried about is the battery life, but since I can swap batteries, I'm fine!!!
    Hameiri
  • WAIT FOR THE ZUNE!

    ZuneSlab is coming!

    http://stevefakeballmer.wordpress.com
    stevefakeballmer
  • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

    Been using xoom ever sinceit came out and i can say that its a solid product, this tablet seems to be good also but i have not tried it yet. Im looking into geting my wife a tablet also and try as i may i cant seem to find a better one that the xoom, and now that the price has just come down its an even more likely candidate.

    Its not spam its an opition
    Aztec
  • RE: Toshiba Thrive: Boxy, but it's good.

    for SD cards stick with sandisk.

    and this tablet looks awesome. I love the full ports. I wanna be able to plug in my pen drive and use it with the file manager which is an awesome addition as well.

    In a sea of droid devices this one sticks out as a redeeming one. and the SRS controls are a plus as well. I love my music to be rich and detailed and I love the DSP effects.

    I wish I had the money for this one!!!
    remixedcat
  • No issues yet for me

    I just got an 8GB Thrive from Newegg. Haven't experienced any of the sleep issues . . . yet. I do love the versatility of the thing. I got it mainly for traveling -- I needed something I could download my camera video/pic SD card to for sending to safekeeping in "the cloud" (a lost or stolen camera is awful, let me tell you), and to check-in online (as well as recreational browsing), AND not have to take out of my carry-on and but in a separate bin (we'll see how long it'll take TSA to start requiring that for tablets, too, though). With the USB ports, I can also carry around small portable keyboards or mouses, if I want, too. This really is like the Volvo of tablets.
    Xandersun