Toshiba Thrive  

Oh, Toshiba Thrive, where do you fit in this sea of tablets? Having succeeded where the Folio 100 fell short, there are still the doubters and the skeptics, brushing off your bulk as the ultimate design faux pas.

Fortunately, there's more to the Thrive than it's bigger backside, and a lot of it is worth mentioning. In the world of ultrathin and uberlight tablets, the Thrive dares to be different, and that's not a bad thing.

And since Android is all about choices, it never hurts to have a new kid on the block, even if it's not for you. But it might be. Join us after the break to see if Toshiba's newest foray into the tablet market is worth your time or was a second-best from the moment it moved here.

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Initial hands-on

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Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive

At first glance, the Toshiba Thrive is quite the looker. The top of the box is all black, with a slick looking picture of the front of the tablet. It's all very dark, mysterious, and thin looking. Black is a thinning color, after all.

The kicker is when you actually take it out of the box. Then you see it's not thin. Well, not thin compared to what's out there already.

Toshiba Thrive

That picture might give you the impression the Thrive is skinny. Compared to Apple's offering, and the current gold standard for thin and sexy, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Thrive looks a bit chunky, coming it at 272 x 175 x 16mm.

In the grand scheme of things, 16mm is actually quite small. When your thinnest competitor is a sleek 8.6mm, though, you're without a doubt the bigger of the two, by almost double. Despite the thickness, the Thrive still feels great in the hands. Yes, it's thicker. Yes, it's a (little bit) heavier. No, it will not dramatically ruin your experience. To say otherwise is hogwash.

Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive

The front of the Thrive is one smooth slate, save for the slightly raised silver semi-circle that surrounds the front-facing camera. The standard Honeycomb configuration is present, so there's not a physical button to be seen, front-side. If you're holding the tablet in portrait mode, your power, charging, and Wi-fi notification lights are on the right bezel.

Toshiba Thrive

The screen is the standard 10-inch resolution (1280 x 800), and while Toshiba didn't rattle any cages by maintaining the status quo, they made a great decision in going with an IPS display. The colors have been really vivid in all my time spent browsing and toying around (the white wallpaper seen above illustrates the point) and I'm definitely impressed with it.

Toshiba Thrive

The Thrive is also sporting rounded corners, a la every-new-Android-device-that's-coming-out-these-days, and also has a grip-textured back instead of any matte finishes or completely plastic designs. What the leaves you is nothing but glass on the front and ribbed, gripping material on the back. It's a smart move, especially considering that there's more material to get your hands on and a bit more weight, so giving you something to really latch onto and feel secure while handling your device is superb.

Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive  

The top bezel is fairly simple, holding the reflective plastic, clasp-looking thing that houses both cameras. On the right side you've got a sliding lock to prevent the back cover from being taken off. Typically, I'd probably keep this locked, but because of that nasty wake-lock issue, I found myself having to battery pull a couple of times. Fortunately, even if you move into landscape position, there's still nothing you'll be regularly using here.

Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive

The right-hand bezel has our more oft-used functions, like the volume rocker and the power button. This is also where the aforementioned status lights are, if you're looking at the front of the screen. The volume rocker has a nice, clicky feel to it, as does the power button. It also works well in portrait (press up for more volume), but when rotated into portrait, the volume rocker becomes opposite the on-screen indicator. Is it a deal-breaker? No, but it's a little difference, and spending five minutes with it in landscape will get you trained, but it's there so I had to mention it.

Due south of the volume rocker is an orientation lock. For a while, I never bothered with it, but when I accidentally slid it into lock position and couldn't figure out why my tablet wasn't rotating our of portrait, I did some investigating. It's a nifty addition, if you're in a position where you're getting a lot of accidental rotation, I guess.

Toshiba Thrive

Slide towards the opposite side of this bezel and you'll meet one of the Thrive's first specialties: the SD card slot. No, not microSD. A full-size, ready-to-go, SD card slot. Click in an SD card (think similar to a digital camera) and you'll get a notification next to the clock, saying your card was detected. You might require a reboot for your storage to show up on the "Storage" menu in the settings, but it's definitely there and it works.

Exploring with a file manager showed the SD card, ready and waiting, which was awesome. Unfortunately, you can't move things on and off the SD while it's in the tablet (say, if you plugged the Thrive into a computer), but as we all know, that's a Honeycomb limitation, not a Thrive one, so don't let it tarnish your opinion on the Thrive's functionality.

Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive

At first glance, the bottom bezel is pretty boring. Uncovered, you've got your charging input and a headphone jack. If you'll notice, though, there's what seems to be a removable panel to the right of said headphone jack. And removable it is.

Toshiba Thrive

Pop that sucker open and you'll see three of the Thrive's biggest selling points: a full-sized USB port, an HDMI port, and a mini-USB port. The full-sized USB port works like a charm. Plug in a thumb drive and watch it get detected. If you don't like the SD card route, you've definitely got options. The HDMI port is so standard these-a-days, but it's nice to not have to grab an adapter just to use it.

And the microUSB? I imagine it's suppose to work with the included PC-sync cable, and in that regard, it does, mostly. I'm not sure if this is a widespread issue or if my unit is just a little out of whack, but if I tried using the tab at any point while it was plugged into my computer, the cable would jiggle loose and disconnect. My only way of syncing was leaving it flat on my desk, and while it's not terrible, I'd love to hear this is unique to me and not something everyone can expect.

Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive

Move onto the last bezel of the four and you'll see two speakers (one on each end) and what looks like a suspiciously removable cover. This cover is actually a huge pain to take off, requiring really long nails and/or something longer and skinnier to actually complete the task once you've got it about halfway but your not-even-fat fingers keep pushing it back down, but I digress...

When you've finally got the cover off, there's a connecting port staring back at you! For what? Accessories, I'm hoping. Give me a keyboard I can use with this while it's in landscape mode and I'll be a happy man. That's not to say the virtual keyboard isn't good, I'm just a product of the tactile feel generation, and not having to lean the Thrive on my legs would be a huge boon.

As for those speakers, they're good, but not great. Muse sounded pretty good in my sound tests, and while it's not really bass-heavy, it's workable. Why Toshiba opted to put the speakers on the bottom is beyond me, but since you can rotate any which way you'd like, you can totally have them pointing upwards and your screen will adjust accordingly.

What's under the hood

The Toshiba Thrive launches with the same processor as every other Android tablet out there, the NVIDIA Tegra 2, clocked at 1GHz. Yeah, it's stock, but those two dual cores are still fast, and I've got no problem with it. It seems especially responsive, and while I'll admit I've only had limited use on a Galaxy Tab 10.1, the occasional screen lag between quick swiping seen there hasn't presented itself once on the Thrive. Is it a bit of optimization? Hard to say, but the performance is completely there, and that's what matters.

The unit that arrived on my doorstep is a 16GB version, but there's also 8GB and 32GB versions as well. For those worried about running out of space, remember the hardware: where there's a will spare SD card or USB storage device, there's a way.

The battery is listed as 23 W-hr, but a quick look at the actual battery says 2030 mAh. It might not seem like much (and maybe it's all part of Toshiba's plan to have you buy more hot-swappable batteries), but it performs well. I've been getting a day of use out of it without problem, simulating moderate use. Checking email, web surfing, and Twitter aren't really big battery wasters, so it'll be alright.

If you opt to watch Netflix all day, you're probably going to have to plug in, charge more often, or buy a battery. But leaving mine on overnight and having it still with plenty of battery left so I can Tweet my heart out the next day is almost enough for me.

The software

Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive

The Thrive launches with Android 3.1 on it, with all of it's goodies like Google Videos. Toshiba's also been pretty proactive about system updates, with a pre-release update and not one but two system updates while I've had the unit in my possession.

Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive

As for Google Videos, no, there's still no tablet app in the Market, but the workaround menno uses still works. As long as you use the web browser, you can rent and watch movies without issue. Limitless played without issues, for those interested.

There also are couple of Toshiba-specific apps, like App Place and Book Place, which are just what they sound like.

Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive

App Place is Toshiba's app store, and it definitely bears some striking resemblances to our own beloved Android Market. I definitely appreciate a 60-day trial (instead of an outright purchase), but if you look closely, you'll notice it's not a trial at all, but a "60-day trail." Yes, it's a little niggle, but something I'd still definitely fix in an OTA.

Book Place looks to be Toshiba's entry into the e-books market, and it seems pretty clean and functional. You can hit up the latest promotions to see all the books under $4, and you're also given a few sample books to toy around with as well.

Toshiba Thrive

Probably the best Toshiba-branded app of the bunch is their file manager. The Toshiba file manager has a clean, intuitive interface, much like any of the HD, tablet-centric file managers in the Market, but also has options to view your USB or SD card's storage as well. In my experience, checking what's on external storage works like a charm. Other than that, there's not anything revolutionary, software-side.

The cameras

The Thrive's 5MP camera is pretty similar to everything you might expect from a camera on a mobile device. It shoots in 720p, takes some decently clear pictures in bright sunlight, doesn't include a flash, and rapidly loses quality as you lose sources of light.

That being said, I'll let the pictures do the talking for me. (Yes, Longhorn Gnome did lose some of his hat.)

Toshiba Thrive Camera Demo Toshiba Thrive Camera Demo Toshiba Thrive Camera Demo Toshiba Thrive Camera Demo Toshiba Thrive Camera Demo

There's also a front-facing camera, rocking a full 2-megapixels, that isn't half bad. There's also the included Honeycomb effect options, in case you feel like making yourself look worse than you already do.

Toshiba Thrive Camera Demo Toshiba Thrive Camera Demo

For video recording, the Thrive will come through in a pinch, but it wouldn't be my go-to device. Even in pretty lit conditions, the quality isn't high enough to warrant repeated use, and I experienced some stuttering on playback that I haven't seen on other devices. Simply put, it's ok, but not quite good enough.

Other odds and ends

Seeing as how we've got the whole hot-swappable battery thing, I had to at least mention the hot-swappable backplates. You pop off the backplate to get to the battery, but because Toshiba is all about making money you being you, they also let you purchase different colors of backplate to truly personalize the tablet experience.

Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive

By default, your Thrive comes with black, but I was lucky enough to have one called "Blue Moon" included with my shipment, so, blue being my favorite color, I slapped that on in a heartbeat. It's not a big deal, but in the world of white/black and white/grey, it's a nice touch, barring you don't mind spending a little extra dough.

Toshiba Thrive Toshiba Thrive

And the battery? It's locked into the back of the case by two locks. Sure, they're slider locks, and they're easy to undo (which is good for the consumer), but they're locks nonetheless. The batteries don't come cheap ($70-$90, depending on where you look), but it's nice to see someone giving us the option to be free from power cables.

The wrap-up

It's still hard to quite place the Thrive. Toshiba calls it a "more complete tablet experience." But is it? Not exactly. It's not that the Thrive is a bad tablet, it's just not breaking new ground by adding a removable battery and ports.

As far as tablet functionality goes, I think the Thrive is right up there with the best of them. The Xoom, the ASUS Transformer, or the Galaxy Tab 10.1, to name a few, all are close enough to one another (and the Thrive) that personal choices are going to determine what model you go for.

Is it a bit thick for some? I guess so. Compared to the standard-bearers of Android tabletness, the Thrive is bigger. Is it heavy? No, and I think everyone who says it's "too heavy to read with" or "too heavy to watch movies on" is fooling themselves. But if you want the feeling of something a bit more substantial in your hands, something that doesn't feel like it'll readily slip and fall, or something with a nice, grip-textured back, the Thrive is right up your alley.

Would we change anything? The thickness, maybe, but then you're looking at every other Android tablet out there right now. Accessories coming down the pipeline (soon) would be exciting, but Toshiba at least dared to be different, and that's commendable.

Maybe the Thrive isn't for you. But it's the tablet for somebody. And as well as it performs, it should be.


Reader comments

Toshiba Thrive review


Using the hard to access accessory port for a keyboard wouldn't be bad, but it would have to be a Thrive specific accessory.

As a Thrive owner, I can tell everyone that if you want a full-size keyboard, just plug one into the full-size USB port and you are good to go.

Want to use a mouse instead of the touch screen? Plug a USB mouse in to that USB port. BTW, I even tested it with a Logitech cordless mouse and it worked just fine.

Great job Toshiba!

We were about 30 seconds off between each other on our comments. LOL But yes I agree with what you wrote. Cordless also worked for me.

Did you mention you can plug in a USB Mouse/Keyboard, even an xbox 360 wired controller to do some controlling. The 360 has limited functionality but it works. Personally I like the fact that it has a FULL Hdmi connection. No need to scramble to the store for a mini-HDMI to regular HDMI Cable. Also it outputs to 720p almost immediately during initial boot up.

Granted what drew me to this tablet was the fact about its full sized USB Connector which I thought would give you more functionality. The Motorola XOOM doesnt have this but you can 'hack' it to give it the functionality via a USB cable converter.

I have a Logitech Unifying Keyboard and Mouse. I pluged that little guy into my Acer A500 and had Keyboard and Mouse together with out a Hub. Might be worth a shot with the Thrive as well.

The Thrive is freakin' awesome; if I weren't waiting for the (probably much more poorly-made but still cool and worth it for the keyboard) ASUS EEE Slider, I would've picked up the Thrive instead.

Typical AC review "Well it's not perfect...but what is? . . . It may not be the device for some but it may be the device for other..." . . .

Never anything conclusive... whatever. I know this is an Android site but please.... What we need are numbered scores to know how the reviewer would RATE the Device COMPARED to other the devices in its class.

Ive had this tablet for 2 days and I have to say I love it, the accessories are at best buy already, i have the docking station, Toshiba leather cover.

all the ports make this tablet amazing and Honeycomb works great, coming from having the original Samsung Tab 7, i wouldnt go back to Samsung to save my life.

I love the plug and play, SD card, it has connected to my tv, projector, external drives, flash sticks.

I couldnt be happier.

Can anyone tell me if it has active GPS, I know the Galaxy Tab will handle GPS without a Wifi connection but the Xoom won't. Just wondering if GPS (ie Google Mapping) would work on the Thrive without a wifi connection ?

So does the 32GB model come as a SD card or is it internal and then you can add an SD card for added storage on top of the 32GB? What is the max size SD card does the Thrive support? I'm on their site, but no answer.

8,16, or 32g is internal storage. Then add a 32gig class 10 sdhc card for about $'s pretty sweet.

I honestly fell in love with this tablet when I first saw it. Everything a tablet should be with all the ports and stuff.
Not everyone's cup of tea but I like this tablet.

After comparing all of these in store next to each other - the thrive has a giant needless black border around the screen and the screen isn't as bright as the other tablets. And the whole thing feels like a giant piece of cheap plastic. That was my problem w the transformer and even the super light weight galaxy tab, just felt super cheap. Yeah it has a ton of ports, but so did the a500 which even with a little added weight I ended up choosing over the rest. And knowing the a500 has gorilla glass - it's mentioned no where about it here and on their web site, so I was curious because I'd hate to see such a large screen get easily scratched.

Here's what an Amazon reviewer says about the Thrive screen brightness FWIW: "When I first saw the Thrive at my local electronics store, I was a bit concerned the screen wasn't as vibrant as the Galaxy. But then I remembered Thrive has an auto brightness feature, so I was wondering if that was limiting the saturation in some way. I was easily able to find and navigate the setup menus right there in the store, turned off auto-brightness -- and voila! -- the Thrive's screen was every bit as vibrant and rich as the Galaxy!"

This thing is on sale at Groupon and I'm seriously considering it.

Sorry, I need advice. I excitedly got a Toshiba Thrive with the 8GB because i got a really good price. Now I am worried about how many Apps I can actually use on it! I know i can used SD cards for movies, music and such, but if I want alot of Apps, will an 8 gb be enough. I know it is actually more like 6 gb or less too...they don't really give you the full amount. I just didn't think about this!
Does anybody have an idea about the actual amount of gb you actually get and how many, on average apps it would get? Any thoughts would be helpful...while I have time to send it back! Ack! Help, anyone.I have a bad feeling about this...

I have had a thrive for 2 weeks. The glass breaks if you pick it up with one hand. Toshiba says it is abuse. Use 2 hands ro pick it up. I told toshiba if it is supposed to be portable,they should put handles on it on make better glass. They don't seem to care.--Steve