We have reviewed several tablets here at AVForums, from the iPad3 to the Asus Transformer TF300T and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1). All offering different options and price points for the discerning tablet consumer in what is becoming a very crowded and competitive marketplace. The tablet market is now huge and increasing year on year with Apple, for example, selling 25% more iPads in Q4 2012 than they did in the same quarter of 2011. Total tablet sales just in Q4 2012 were approaching a whopping 52 million units which is an increase of 75% from the same quarter in 2011. Tablets are now the fastest growing consumer product on the planet.
Apple are still the king of the tablet world by a long way, with a massive 43% share of the market, although that has dropped from 51% in the previous year. To put that in perspective, Samsung are a long way back in 2nd place with a 15% share, although this is up from 7% in the previous year. With so many manufacturers now fighting for share, we are starting to see three distinct tablet categories. Firstly, the budget sub £150 tablets, usually running on Android, then to the mid range £150-£350 tablets, again on Android and then finally the iPad and other tablets in the £350+ price range. You can usually immediately notice a difference between the budget tablets and the others but quite often the mid range tablets present an excellent alternative to the iPad and other top end tablets, offering very similar performance for a considerably lower price.
The tablet under the microscope today is the Toshiba AT300-101, which is firmly in the midrange tablet market with a typical selling price of just £249.99. It offers a 10.1" 1280 x 800 resolution screen, 16GB internal storage, the Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad core CPU running at 1.3 Ghz, 1GB DDR3L system RAM and all running on the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. Can this tablet compete with others of a similar price point such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or even with much more expensive tablets such as the iPad or Asus Transformer tablets? Read on to find out.
Design and Build Quality
The Toshiba AT300 10.1" Tablet is reasonably well gifted in the looks department, to the front it has a thick black bezel surrounding the screen with sleek curved edges and the rear has a silver honeycomb effect with a thin silver frame and thicker top silver border. The thicker bezel on the front offers you a place to rest your thumbs when using it, so they don't encroach on the screen and the buttons are all to the left hand side and easily accessible from just your left hand with the stereo speakers located to the bottom of the device. This presents you with quite a snazzy looking tablet that feels very comfortable to hold and easy to use plus with that honeycomb effect on the back panel gives you a surface you can easily grip. Similar to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, the screen has the much preferable 16:10 ratio, compared to the iPad with it's 14:9 ratio. The build quality feels good, but the tablet does have noticeable flexing and the back panel does push in quite a bit. Toshiba have kept the weight under control with this one, weighing in at just 595g which is a good deal lighter than the iPad and helping to give it that overall comfortable to use feel.
Features and Specification
The AT300 comes with the excellent NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad Core Processor running at 1.3 Ghz. The Nvidia Tegra 3 version available to Android devices also has a 5th Battery-Saver Core which is used to just handle the lower powered activities such as active standby, music, and video. Our review sample is the AT300-101 version which has 16GB internal storage, 1GB DDR3L RAM and is Wi-Fi only, but both a 3G (AT300-105) and 32GB (AT300-100) versions are also available. This presents you with a very well specified tablet and as was seen here with the Asus Transformer TF300T, the Tegra 3 chip is very impressive indeed. Everything appeared to run flawlessly and loaded very quick with no stuttering noticed or frame rate issues - rather impressive in this reviewer's opinion.
During testing, going from the home screen to fully loading the AVForums homepage took just 8 seconds which is the same as the iPad3. More impressive was loading Angry Birds which took just 7.5 seconds to get to the start menu compared with 11.5 seconds on the iPad 3 and 10.1 seconds on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. This tablet will not disappoint you in the performance department and this becomes more apparent when you fire up a few Nvidia Tegra optimised games. We couldn't use our normal test game of Six Guns as it was saying the Toshiba tablet was not compatible, which we understand to be an issue with the developer Gameloft restricting certain devices from downloading it.
We did however test it with many other games that looked glorious and ran perfectly and it is quite amazing just how good current games look and run on a modern tablet. Titles such as the beautiful looking Dark Meadow, Heroes Call, Air Attack HD and non Tegra 3 titles such as Soulcraft all give a great indication of just what this tablet is capable of. If you need further convincing just download Nvidia's Glowball 'interactive demo' which gives you full idea of exactly what power the Tegra 3 chip has and what delights it has in store.
The tablet comes with a pair of reasonably decent cameras. To the rear we have a 5MP camera with auto focus and LED flash and to the front we have a 2MP web camera with built in microphone. Both cameras are capable of taking still pictures and video, with the rear camera capable of HD quality videos. It includes the same easy to use interface as previous Android tablets we have reviewed and the same quick access from the lock screen and not forgetting the ability to take a still picture whilst recording video and also take a panoramic still picture. The rear camera did take decent photos and the flash helps in poor light conditions that saw the comparatively poor 3MP camera in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 really struggle. As far as the camera goes on this tablet, we couldn't find any real complaints.
The Wi-Fi is the standard 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4 GHz only, as with other tablets we have reviewed a 5 Ghz option would have been a great addition but is omitted here. A side by side test with our iPad 3 on the Speedtest.net app showed a download speed of 16.9Mbps on the AT300 compared to 18.12Mbps on the iPad. These speedtest apps are not the most reliable and should only be used as a rough guide but downloading of programs such as the free 540Mb Dark Meadow game was as fast we were expecting on our broadband connection, taking just under 5 minutes to download. As to the Wi-Fi signal quality, it was consistent with other Wi-Fi devices we have tested in this review location, losing signal in the same areas as our other devices normally do. Our review sample is Wi-Fi only, but a 3G version (AT300-105) is also available.
The last two items to mention in this section are on the keyboard and the Haptic feedback. Firstly the keyboard interface uses the increasingly common Swype which is where you swipe (get it) your finger over the keyboard instead of typing, only lifting your finger between words. This is a feature that we just could not get on with at all, reports say that once you have used it for a while it is far superior than the normal keyboard interface, but for us, we did persevere but quickly reverted to the usual typing method instead. The auto-correct function is also particularly annoying as it doesn't really ask you first before changing words, you have to choose your word from a list before it automatically changes it to something completely different and even more annoyingly it occasionally wants to do this when entering usernames and passwords.
Finally onto the Haptic feedback. Our very first impression once we had turned the tablet on for the first time was one of abject horror and thoughts that this was going to be an awful device to use. Every time you swiped across the screen, typed, opened an app or anything that involved contact with the screen it would make an annoying sound and vibrate. It's probably just this reviewer and most people might like this feature, but a huge sigh of relief was let out once we had found where to disable both the vibration and the related sounds.
The AT300 comes fully equipped with both a micro HDMI port and a mini USB port, making connecting to your PC or home cinema a lot easier than a certain fruit related product. The micro HDMI port supports Full HD 1080P meaning you can use this tablet to stream HD video to your TV or other display. The full sized SD card slot can also be used to easily transfer files from PCs, cameras and other devices and as we mention later on in this review, it provides a very cost effective way of expanding the tablets storage. Unfortunately neither a micro HDMI adaptor or a mini USB adaptor were included with our review sample, so we were unable to test just how effective these two connections were. But if they live up to the promises, it should make for a very easy device to connect and integrate into your home media centre.
The screen is Toshiba's TruBrite WXGA TFT High Brightness scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass display which is certainly a mouthful, but should allude to the fact that you are getting a quality display. The aptly named Gorilla glass display is apparently scratch proof (although we are not testing that particular point) and can resist damage from daily abuse (not sure what they are referring to there!). Offering 1280 x 800 resolution and a pixel density of 149 ppi, similar to the Galaxy Tab 2, this puts it just above the iPad 2 (132ppi) but considerably behind devices such as the New iPad (264 ppi) and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD 8.9" (254 ppi). You only need to look at the price to see why, with the Toshiba AT300 available for at least £100 less than the cheapest iPad 4. The usable screen size measures 217mm x 136mm.
The text quality when viewing text and web pages seems particularly good and as you can see from the two images above (cropped from the same photo) the brightness is very similar and the quality difference isn't immediately obvious apart from the wide screen format of the AT300 on the left.
Home Screen, Interface and Pre-installed Apps
The AT300 initially came with the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich but within the last few days the over the air upgrade to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean was made available which was installed with ease. The home screen, as shown in the picture below, presents you with your program icons, which can be positioned anywhere you like along with the pre-installed Toshiba Places, which is basically Toshiba's own version of the Google Play store offering an alternative place to buy music, games and video. It is always worth checking both the Play Store and Toshiba Places prior to a purchase as they often differ in price. Along the very bottom left you have the back button, the home screen button and a button for the current apps you have open. The bottom right shows you any apps currently updating or apps with notifications, the time, your battery life and any Wi-Fi information.
We have mentioned this before (and will probably do so again) but the Android tablets do present you with a system that updates your apps with the minimum of effort. Once you have said yes to automatic updates, any apps you have will update themselves automatically (although the odd few require manually updating for some reason). I much prefer this approach compared to the iPad, where you have to go into the app store and then enter your password every time an app gets an update (although under iOS 6 you no longer need to enter a password, but you still do have to manually update them). This also applies to free apps, where a click on the accept button will download and install the app straight away without having to enter a password. Apple in our opinion are behind on this one and should have their apps automatically update too without any input from the user.
There are several reasons why some people may prefer Android devices over Apple, apart from those that have an inbuilt hatred to Apple, the main one is probably the customisability of the whole system. You can create folders by dragging apps or shortcuts onto each other and you can also have interactive widgets on the home screen to give live information on emails, weather and social media, for example. There are also a vast array of apps you can download from the Google Play Store, allowing you to customise the tablet to pretty much whatever you desire. We found the app selection to be very similar to the range available on the iPad but most appear to be priced rather more reasonably than their Apple equivalents. Some are even free, such as Angry Birds, although you do have to suffer adverts to get this popular app gratis. One negative that we noticed with Android Tablets is that you are unable to see if an app is optimised for a tablet or phone before you have downloaded it, which if you have paid actual money for an app only to find it's a phone one, could be rather annoying.
The AT300 comes pre-installed with the usual apps such as a browser, camera, YouTube and Google Maps; there's also Gmail, multimedia players, Google+ and a book reader. Along with Toshiba Places as mentioned above, there is also a Word, Excel and Powerpoint equivalent application and McAfee Mobile Security. As with all these kind of devices, it's all about the apps and there are many thousands to choose from via the Google Play and Toshiba Places stores.
This tablet comes fitted with a 3700 mAh Li-ion battery. Toshiba claim a battery life up to 10 hours for video and 36 hours for music, although they make no claims when it comes to games. The 5th battery-saver core feature of the Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU should certainly help in extending the battery life when not doing anything too intensive. Similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (with a 7000 mAh battery) it took about 4 hours to reach 100% from flat when charging.
After an hour of solid gaming the battery life had dropped by just 30% which would suggest that you have a good 3 hours constant use for gaming between charges, which is surely enough for anyone! This was tested with several Tegra optimised games to give it a good workout. The display was set to medium brightness, but it obviously reduces the battery life if you like the screen as bright as it can be. The battery life in this AT300 tablet is almost identical to that in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 which has a 7000 mAh Li-ion battery so Toshiba have obviously worked some magic to get the same life out of a battery with an mAh rating almost half that of the Samsung. Compared to the iPad for example, 3 hours gaming between charges is something you can only dream about!
The speakers in this tablet are a pair of stereo speakers mounted to the bottom either side of the power connection. We've struggled with hideous quality speakers in previous tablet reviews, particularly the speakers in the Galaxy Tab 2 which were just plain awful. It seems clear to us now after several tablet reviews that the manufacturers obviously don't put a lot of effort into the speakers, assuming that most people prefer to use headphones, so they push any funding that would be spent on the speakers into other parts of the tablet. Toshiba haven't done anything to change our opinion as the pair of speakers are very tinny and not particularly high quality. Decent enough for gaming, but definitely not for audio, although not as bad as the speakers on the Galaxy Tab 2 were. It's no comparison to the iPad's speaker, but then neither is the selling price. We'd definitely recommend headphones here if you like a good quality sound.
As with the iPad and its App Store, there are also plenty of apps available from the Google Play store and the Toshiba Places store and the following apps are of particular relevance to your home cinema and media centre. One of our favourites is ‘Mobile Mouse’ which turns the tablet into a wireless remote and mouse for your PC.
Should you have a current generation TV, you will not feel hard done by from most of the major manufacturers. Samsung, LG and Sony for example all have free apps to control their TVs and in Sony's and Samsung's case, you can control their Blu-ray players too. Apps are also available for other devices such as Logitech's Squeezebox and AV amplifiers such as Onkyo, Denon and Marantz. A bonus here from the Android store is that you will find most of these are free when the same on the Apple store incurs a fee.
It it particularly impressive coming from an iPad user background to see the large number of apps now available for Android devices, although as we mentioned previously it would be very helpful if the apps did state if they were optimised for tablets or not before you download them! Comparing apps between Android and iOS you do notice many are free or cheaper than their Apple equivalents. You can even get an Android app to remotely control iTunes, although why you would want the restrictive iTunes when you don’t have an Apple device is another matter entirely. There are also interesting apps for purchase, such as the £5.64 ‘Splashtop Remote Desktop HD’ which its makers claim to be the only remote desktop app that streams the whole PC or Mac screen to the tablet with smooth high-res video and audio. A particularly useful addition if you want to get that new game you have just bought on sale from Steam downloaded and installed before you get home from work.
Our review sample was the 16GB version, although a 32GB version is available (AT300-100). Prior to installing any additional apps and games the usable space was 12GB with the system reporting 0.92GB used for the pre-installed apps, pointing to about 3GB of reserved space for the system use. 12GB should be a good amount of storage for several games, photos, audio and video but probably not a huge amount though. With the iPad for example, when you run out of space that it's, you either buy the next iPad up or delete a load of stuff that you probably would prefer to keep. This is where certain Android tablets have a big lead on Apple as should you start to run out of space, just fit an SD card (Up to 32GB is supported with the correct SDHC card) and you have immediately expanded your tablet's storage capabilities. No need to change the tablet or delete your favourite games. The typical purchase price difference between the 16GB and 32GB AT300 is about £40 whereas a 32GB SDHC card can be found for as little as £13, so it's definitely worth bearing this in mind when deciding which version to go for.
- Great value for money
- Very powerful Tegra 3 processor
- Excellent for gaming
- Lightweight, comfortable and thin design
- Good battery life
- Full sized SD card slot
- Poor sound quality
- Build quality could be higher
Toshiba 16GB AT300 Tablet Review
With the iPad losing it's dominance ever so slowly, Android devices now offer a solid alternative at all price points, from basic generic tablets right up to iPad equivalents and beyond; meaning whatever price you can afford, there's a tablet for you. What this means to manufacturers in such a popular market place is that a tablet needs to offer something special to stand out amongst the crowd. Whether that's in price, performance or specification. The Toshiba AT300-101 certainly offers an excellent list of specifications, representing very good value for money at a superb £249.99.
For starters you get a 10.1" tablet with a 1280 x 800 resolution screen, which whilst it clearly isn't up to the iPad's Retina display, still holds its own offering excellent visuals for web pages, gaming and video. The aptly named Gorilla glass technology also works superbly well, offering a tablet that is both scratch proof and damage resistant. Added to this you have the excellent Nvidia Tegra 3 processor running at 1.3 Ghz which offers the capabilities for truly amazing visuals on a tablet and games that run smoothly, fast and offering the quality you probably won't find even on an iPad. In the games we tested during our review, all ran without any problems and titles such as Nvidia's Glowball 'interactive demo' show just what the Tegra 3 processor, and this tablet, are capable of - which is a considerable amount!
Other features are the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system, 16GB of storage, which is expandable up to an additional 32GB via the SD card slot, 1GB of memory and the usual front and rear facing cameras. Although compared to the 3MP camera on the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, the rear camera with this tablet is a much better 5MP, not a world beater by any means but it does allow you to take decent quality photos and also record HD video. The connectivity truly puts the iPad to shame with its restrictive architecture, a micro HDMI port is present for outputting 1080P to your TV or other compatible devices and a mini USB port which allows you to easily connect to a PC or even connect an external HDD to the AT300.
It's not all good though. The build quality is questionable as you can feel definite flexing from the tablet and the back panel depresses in several places which doesn't give it that solid feel of other tablets. In terms of audio, the pair of stereo speakers are very tinny and sound very low quality, clearly headphones are preferred here. But putting those few negatives aside, Toshiba have come up with a very well specified tablet at a price point that is highly competitive. It's closest rival in cost terms is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 but this comes with a far inferior dual core processor and much lower quality front and rear cameras. We therefore feel very comfortable in awarding the Toshiba AT300-101 an AVForums Recommended badge.
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