It’s estimated that about 80 percent of tablet computers sold to date have been iPads. But have you noticed how many non-Apple tablets are suddenly out there competing for a piece of the action?
Take the Toshiba Thrive, for example. It’s a 10-inch (10.1″ diagonal measure) tablet with a 1280 x 800 WXGA widescreen, multitouch display that runs the Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) operating system. To give you an idea of how crowded the field has become, there are at least four other tablets sharing those same basic specs, including the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, the Acer Iconia, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and the Motorola Xoom.
Will any of these upstarts be able to lure away a significant chunk of potential iPad buyers? Based on the solid performance and hardware features of the Toshiba Thrive, I think some of these Android tablets definitely have a shot.
The first thing that I noticed upon unboxing the Thrive was its relative chunkiness. It weighs over 1.6 pounds and is .62 inches deep, making it about .3 pounds heavier and nearly twice as thick as the iPad 2. Then I noticed the reason for some of that extra heft: The Toshiba Thrive sports some pretty serious hardware, including both mini and full size USB ports, an HDMI output for big-screen viewing, a 3.5-mm headphone/audio line-in jack, a docking port, side-mounted stereo speakers, front- and rear-facing cameras, and an SD card slot. The Thrive supports the newest SDXC memory cards, too, so you can add whopping amounts of additional storage.
Having two USB ports and access to the file system makes it easy to connect the Thrive to a computer, ereader, or other outboard device for easy drag-and-drop file sharing. That sure beats transferring files to and from an iPad via iTunes.
Speaking of ereaders, the Thrive’s 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio makes it an excellent reading platform. I really enjoyed using it in portrait mode to read passages of novels in the lengths I’d expect to see on a printed page instead of the few paragraphs that display on a typical six-inch ereader screen. In landscape mode, it’s perfect for reading colorful children’s books and periodicals where the illustrations often span across a two-page spread. Plus, there are plenty of free ereader apps out there in the Android market, including Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and lots more, so you can shop around for ebooks and read them in the way you prefer.
The screen is also perfectly proportioned for movies and the Thrive has full Adobe Flash support. I found I could expect six to seven hours of continuous use per charge with the WiFi turned on. Since the Thrive has a user-serviceable battery and a removable back cover, users could opt to carry a spare.
If you’re looking for a tablet that has Flash support, enhanced audio and video, and plenty of ports for easy connectivity and sharing, consider the Toshiba Thrive. Sure, it’s no iPad, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.