Performance and Horsepower
The Toshiba Excite 10 runs on a quad core NVidia Tegra 3 CPU clocked at 1.2GHz with multiple cores active. It can run at 1.3GHz when one core is active. We assume this is the T30L Tegra 3 since it clocks at 1.2GHz. The tablet has 1 gig of DDR3 RAM like the Transformer Pad TF300 with the T30L (the 1.3GHz T30 Asus Transformer Prime and Acer Iconia Tab A510 have DDR2 RAM). The tablet is available with 16, 32 and 64 gigs of storage and the 16 gig was the first available at launch. The tablet feels quick; in fact it feels the fastest of the Tegra 3 tablets currently on the market. It also benchmarks well, with comparable or slightly higher scores in synthetic benchmarks.
The tablet can handle Adobe Flash Player, 1080p MPEG4 high profile video and today's cutting edge TegraZone THD games. The Excite 10 has been our most stable ICS tablet; maybe the added development time helped vs. early release models like the Transformer Prime. It bogs down less often, can handle 15 simultaneous downloads from the Google Play Store without stalling or lagging and we never see those annoying "wait/force close" error messages where an app takes long enough to respond that the OS thinks it's hung (it's not). The tablet keeps its cool when gaming for extended periods unlike the Acer Iconia Tab A510 that gets a bit toasty on the back.
The Toshiba has a 1280 x 800 pixel capacitive multi-touch display with good brightness and wide viewing angles. Honestly, we don't miss IPS here at all, and we're comforted by the protection Gorilla Glass affords. The display has rich, natural colors with a neutral color bias vs. the slightly cool color temperatures of the Transformer Pad TF300 and Acer Iconia A510. It's a pleasure to watch movies on the Excite 10, and it gets plenty bright for extremely well-lit rooms. Outdoors the display fades but is readable. If you want a super-bright outdoor display, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime and Motorola XYBoard 10.1 are your best choices.
The bad news? The Excite 10 has plenty of light bleed. It's as bad as our Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime and Asus Transformer Pad TF300. What's light bleed? It's areas on the display near the bezel where backlight shows through too strongly in patches, and it's noticeable when you're watching video with letterboxing or other media with black borders. The Acer A510 is the only ICS Tegra 3 tablet we've tested that had absolutely no light bleed.
The tablet ships with Android OS 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich. Toshiba doesn't load any custom UI software, so you're looking at pure Android here. Most manufacturers don't customize ICS on tablets all that much, but Samsung does add their TouchWiz UI for a skinned experience and Acer adds their Ring launcher to the Iconia A200 and A510. We're surprised that Toshiba doesn't even add custom widgets here, though you'll get a variety of apps including their usual collection of card and board games, QuickOffice HD Lite (view but not edit or create MS Office documents unless you opt for the paid upgrade), Toshiba Print, Toshiba's file manager, LogMein desktop remote access, Zinio, Kaspersky anti-virus, Toshiba's Book Place (Blio eBooks), Toshiba News Place, WildTangent games (portal to purchase games) and Amazon MP3. We're a bit disappointed that Toshiba didn't include a full MS Office compatible suite for the price, but you can upgrade QuickOffice HD Lite or purchase another Office suite for $20 to $25 on the Google Play Store.
The full suite of Google apps are on board including the Store, Google Books, web browser, email, Gmail, Music, Videos (with rental and purchase), YouTube, Gallery, Maps and Navigation. Adobe Flash Player is just a free download away on the Google Play Store.
USB Host and Peripherals
We love tablets that have USB host ports, yes we do. Toshiba does one better by making the USB port separate from the dock connector (Asus, Samsung and Acer merge the two into one port on most models). That means you can charge or dock the Excite 10 and use USB peripherals at the same time. That's handy if you're using high drain USB accessories or if you're using the tablet for demanding tasks like gaming with a USB game controller.
The Toshiba has a multi-function micro USB port that works with the standard USB cable to transfer data to and from a computer. It also works with a USB host cable (micro USB to USB OTG short cable) for USB flash drives, keyboards, mice, game controllers and portable hard drives. Since USB host cables are hard to find in stores, we wish Toshiba had included on as Acer did with the Iconia Tab A510, but alas like most manufacturers, they leave it to you to find one online. They're rarely in bricks and mortar stores, but you can find them online.
We also wish the Excite 10 had NTFS support like Asus Android tablets and recent Acer models. Instead you get FAT32 only, which is fine for flash drives and SD cards but won't work if your external hard drive is formatted NTFS. Toshiba gains a point back for providing a USB Ethernet driver like Asus, so you can use the tablet with wired networks.
WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS
The Toshiba Excite 10 has single band WiFi 802.1b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 and a GPS. In our tests WiFi had good range and speeds, and we saw no speed degradation 30 feet from our AirPort Extreme 802.11n router with a wall in between. Bluetooth didn't reduce WiFi reception and the GPS worked without help from WiFi on a road trip. Note that you'll need to pre-load maps or use your phone's mobile hotspot or a MiFi to download map data when away from WiFi.
The Toshiba Excite 10 has a 2 cell 25Whr Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. That's a fairly standard capacity battery among Android tablets, and only the Acer Iconia Tab A510 beats it with a 36Whr battery. The Toshiba averaged 7.5 hours of actual use on a charge, which translates into 3 days of moderate use (2.5 hours/day actual use time). That's thoroughly average among the Android competition, and only the Energizer bunny Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, Acer Iconia Tab A510 and Asus Transformers plus the optional keyboard dock beat it by a significant margin among recent Android tablets.
The tablet comes with Toshiba's very robust charging cable and a 5 volt 2 amp charger that's close to the iPad charger's 5 volt 2.1 amp specs so third party iPad external battery packs and chargers should work. The tablet charges over USB, which isn't terribly common among tablets since their large batteries draw significant current from computers
The Excite 10 has a front 2 megapixel camera that works with Skype, Google Talk video chat and other VoIP apps. We tested Skype and it worked well, and the 2MP camera managed fairly sharp video and reasonable colors. We were particularly impressed with the built-in microphone's ability to transmit clear voice while rejecting ambient noise.
The rear 5 megapixel camera delivers thoroughly average photos and video by tablet standards, and the LED flash does help when taking photos in dim to dark rooms. The camera can shoot 720p video and shoot photos simultaneously, which is a treat. Videos look decent with good color and frame rates, though it can't compete with today's better 8 megapixel 1080p camera phones.
The Excite 10 has a micro HDMI port that can output to HDMI-equipped monitors, HD TVs and projectors. It can play 1080p video and it has 5.1 audio out, though we found our usual test MPEG4 1080p with 5.1 audio files played only through the center channel and subwoofer through our Sony AV receiver (the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime also had issues with proper channel output for 5.1 clips). When we hooked the tablet up to our HD TV over HDMI, we got stereo sound through the built-in stereo speakers in our TVs. Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services performed well in our tests.
The Toshiba uses SRS audio, and it offers a variety of sound enhancements and a volume boost that really improved audio volume through the built-in stereo speakers that fire from the far ends of the bottom edge. Separation is good given the speakers' locations, and volume is adequate to fill a room. Sound is good, and certainly better than the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime and Asus Transformer Pad TF300, but not as full as the Dolby Mobile Acer Iconia Tab A510. The Excite 10 has DLNA wireless media streaming over WiFi.
For those looking for a straight Android tablet rather than a convertible netbook style tablet, we can easily recommend the Toshiba Excite 10. It has the fastest CPU currently available in tablets and the latest OS. It's very fast and stable, and it's thin and light. As a premium product its materials and design stand ahead of the Asus Transformer Pad TF300 and Acer Iconia Tab A510. Happily, the metal back doesn't interfere with WiFi and GPS performance as it does on the metal-backed Transformer Prime. Toshiba's biggest challenges are its confusing product names and keen price competition, but we suspect some folks are willing to pay more for a thinner and lighter premium tablet.
Price: $449 for 16 gig model, $529 for 32 gigs and $649 for 64 gigs.