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Meet Toshiba's Thrive

Toshiba Thrive Review: The Swiss Army Knife Of Tablets

With the exception of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1, all of the Android-based tablets we've tested thus far have been thick, chunky, and heavy compared to the iPad 2. We continue to write this off as a consequence of first-generation designs bound to slim down the next time out. Unfortunately, the Thrive is another victim of growing pains; it's reminiscent of a huskier Motorola Xoom. Though, at 0.6" thick and 1.6 pounds, Toshiba's Thrive is actually closer to the A500 in size.

Either way, this is by no means a thin or lightweight tablet. We're hoping the company is pleased enough with its core functionality to work on the aesthetics, assuming a second-gen iteration.

Thickness Compared to AA Battery and iPad 2 (top)Thickness Compared to AA Battery and iPad 2 (top)

While it looks and feels a lot like the Xoom, the Thrive's exterior is made of rubberized plastic with deep grooves for added texture. This gives it a rugged feel, making it a pleasure to use without having to worry about buying a protective case, too (by now, the back of our original iPad is badly marred by scratches from uneven surfaces).

iPad 2 (3G)
XoomIconia A500
Eee Pad Transformer
Galaxy Tab 10.1
Length 9.5"9.8"10.2"
Screen Size9.7"10.1"10.1"
Aspect Ratio4:316:1016:10
1.33 lb.1.5 lb.1.65 lb.
1.5 lb.
1.3 lb.
1.6 lb.

The iPad/iPad 2's 4:3 screen was specifically picked for its similarity to a pad of paper (hence the name). Conversely, we have yet to see an Android-based tablet with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Google and its hardware partners all seem focused on video content, given the 16:10 displays on all of the other tablets in the chart above. As a result, you'll feel compelled to hold the Thrive in landscape mode. 

Don't be pressured to hold it like that, though. If you flip the tablet over, you'll see Toshiba's logo oriented such that it's readable in portrait mode, which also explains the placement of both cameras. Hold the Thrive like an iPad, and its front- and rear-facing cameras both wind up at the tablet's top edge. There, you can easily use them for Skyping and taking pictures.

True road warriors will be delighted to know that Toshiba gives you an easy way to extend battery life: swap in a spare. Toggling the unlock switch on the left side and popping off the back cover facilitates access to the internal six-cell power supply. That's the good news. The bad news is that a spare battery costs another $75, and there's no way to charge it outside of the tablet. As a result, you have to charge each battery, installed, if you want to go on an extended trip without the AC adapter.

The power, headphone, full-sized USB (external storage), HDMI, and miniUSB (syncing) ports are all located on the tablet's right side; USB, HDMI, and miniUSB connectors all hide between a protective rubber cover.

Turning the Thrive on is easy enough. Just hold down the power button located on the top of the tablet.

The volume rocker, immediately to the right of the power switch, may take some getting-used-to. On most tablets, the scale for volume increases from left to right, which matches what you see on the screen. But because Toshiba's Thrive is optimized for portrait viewing, turning the volume up happens when you press to the left instead, corresponding to "up" in portrait mode.

Top (Left to Right): Power, Volume, Screen OrientationTop (Left to Right): Power, Volume, Screen Orientation

Beyond its removable battery and strangely-oriented volume rocker, the Thrive also sets itself apart by supporting full-sized SD cards. Other tablets might compel you to purchase a microSD card specifically to increase storage capacity. But many other mobile devices only accept SD cards, and using a microSD adapter to move between multiple pieces of hardware is an extra inconvenience. Toshiba wisely allows its customers to share an SD card between cameras, notebooks, and its Thrive tablet, hence the full-sized SD card reader.

Bottom: Docking Connector (Behind Rubber Cover)Bottom: Docking Connector (Behind Rubber Cover)

Like most Android-based tablets, the camera hardware on Toshiba's Thrive is better than Apple's iPad 2. Unfortunately, it's missing a flash, though, limiting its use to well-lit environments. That's a big letdown because the Thrive is nearly on par with Acer's Iconia A500 everywhere else. But Acer at least employs a single-LED flash.

Now, don't get it twisted; even with a flash, no tablet is a substitute for a $200 point-and-shoot camera. But it's nice to have a tablet that can take decent pictures, since you're more likely to have your tablet at the ready than your camera.

CameraiPad 2
XoomIconia A500
Galaxy Tab 10.1
0.3 MP (640 x 480)
2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)
2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)
0.7 MP (960 x 720)
5.0 MP (2592 x 1944) 5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)3.0 MP (2048 x 1536)
5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)
Dual-LED flash
Single-LED flash
Single-LED flash
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