Toshiba's Enhancements: Controlling The "Experience"
Every tablet bears a few vendor-specific enhancements intended to set it apart from the competition. However, Toshiba's Thrive takes an extra step "out there" by trying to cash in on the software side using its own version of Android Market called App Place. Unfortunately, Toshiba doesn't really provide any incentive to purchase through its store; app prices are the same as what you see in Market.
In the real world, two competing stores would be a boon for the consumer, driving down prices to attract business. That's not how this works, though. Two app stores don't give you options for cheaper apps, nor do they help you track the software you've already purchased on the alternative storefront. Android Market and App Place don’t sync with one another. As it is, Market is great because it keeps track of purchased apps, facilitating installation on the new tablets we test in the lab. Using App Place, compatibility is limited to Android-based products from Toshiba.
Book Place isn’t even Toshiba’s own software. It just so happens to have Place at the end of its name. However, it’s installed by default on the Thrive because it functions similar to the Kindle app.
Unfortunately, there's nothing particularly noteworthy about this program. Yes, it's a storefront and ebook reader, but ebook prices are the same as what you see at Amazon for the Kindle. Furthermore, Book Place only works on Windows and Android. The Kindle app works on Mac OS X, iOS, Android, and Windows. Again, there's no compelling reason to use Book Place over better options.
Start Place is basically a glorified RSS reader with a UI that's oddly reminiscent of what we're expecting from Windows 8's Metro.
Thankfully, Toshiba provides a native file management program. This makes it easy to interact with data on your USB mass storage device or SD card.
Our last experience with a tablet featuring a full-sized USB port wasn't great. On Acer's A500, it was possible to manage data using OI File Manager when the tablet debuted with Honeycomb 3.0, but that solution took some digging on our part. As a result, many people had to wait for the Honeycomb 3.1 update to get third-party support for USB storage devices. The Thrive suffers from no such quirk, and it works right out of the box without the need for any third-party workaround.
While it doesn't affect performance or productivity, it's worth mentioning that Toshiba distributes over-the-air (OTA) Honeycomb updates through its Service Station app. On other tablets, you'd normally just perform an update through Android, similar to how Windows Update is integrated into Microsoft's desktop OS.