Hands-On With Toshiba's New Android Tablets: Stunning Specs But Shocking Design

By Chris Mills on at

Toshiba's just launched a trio of new Android Excite tablets, and on paper they look pretty sweet: a budget £250 machine, and a more interesting pair of Tegra 4-powered tablets that are gunning after the high-end Android tablet market, all powered by sweet sweet stock 'Droid. In the flesh, though, they don't exactly live up to their promise. In fact, they're all-round a little disappointing.

First up is the Excite Pure. At £250, it's the budget baby of the line-up, sporting a really-good-in-2011 1280x800 10.1" screen, Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of RAM.

The design is certainly built to a price point: a hard, slightly-creaky plastic is the order of the day here, while the front is a "hard coated glass display" (not Gorilla Glass). To be fair, it's refreshingly thin and light, but at the cost of feeling tacky -- the back makes that disappointing plasticty Vauxhall-Nova-dashboard noise when you run your fingers over it, and it generally doesn't seem all that well put together.

Performance-wise, the Pure hums along more or less as you'd expect, handling simple games like Temple Run 2 with aplomb, though we'd expect more graphically intensive games to tax it. The Pure (and, in fact, the whole Excite range) will ship with basically-stock Android 4.2, with just a couple of Toshiba apps contributing to the world's bloatware pool.

The Pro, on the other hand, is a bit more interesting. The screen gets bumped up to 2560x1600 (while staying at 10,1"), which puts it on par with the Nexus 10 or Retina iPad. In order to handle the more pixelicious screen, a Tegra 4 has been whacked under the hood, and the RAM is bumped up to 2GB. As you'd imagine from Nvidia's cutting-edge chip, performance was pretty blazing (although, this being a pre-production sample, the games we were playing with crashed a fair bit--that's to be expected). The screen is pretty damn good, with colours popping well even under soul-destoying strip lighting.

Sadly, the design on the Pro is shamefully similar to the Exite -- that is, not good. Put simply, it doesn't feel at all like a premium tablet. To be fair, it's a pre-production sample, but there'd have to be one hell of an improvement for this thing to stand up to the likes of the Xperia Tablet Z, or even the Nexus 10.

The third tablet, the Excite Write, is visually and internally identical to the Pro -- as the name betrays, this one gets a stylus (and a Gorilla Glass 2 screen). Handwriting recognition in Toshiba's note-taking app is okay, but honestly nowhere near worth the £500 asking price.

Battery life is promised at 9.5 hours on all the tablets, though obviously we didn't have time to verify that. What we can say, though, is that the Tegra 4-packing tablets get uncomfortably hot when you start pushing them, far more so than any other tablet we've played with before.

All the machines will be available in the UK in Q3, being initially retailed through PC World. To be brutally honest, none of the tablets are really worth the money. The Excite series can certainly play with the best of the current generation of tablets, but with new stuff like the Galaxy Tab 3 and the HP Slatebook X2 coming out in the next few months, I suspect the Excite range will be dead on arrival.

Toshiba also refreshed its laptop range, revamping the Satellite line of budget and high-end machines with Haswell chipsets, surprise surprise.