Surprise, surprise, the Toshiba Thrive Android 10" Honeycomb tablet is sneaking out at retailers a bit early. The Thrive has a personality of its own, and that's a very good thing. Rather than attempt to copy the iPad or other tablets on the market, Toshiba built on their strength as a laptop and computer manufacturer, and made a tablet with a heck of a lot of computer DNA. In fact, it even comes with a notebook style small brick charger. It's not slim, it's not sexy, but it is handsome in a rugged sort of way (think of it as the Android tablet version of the Motorola Defy). It feels durable enough and has plenty of weight at 1.68 pounds. This 0.62" thick tablet runs Android OS 3.1 Honeycomb and has WiFi 802.11b/g/n and no 3G or 4G. It's available in 3 storage capacity versions: 8 gig for $429, 16 gig for $479 and 32 gigs for $579.
Internal storage is at a premium on devices like the iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 since they lack SD card slots or built-in storage expansion options (optional USB dongle adapters are available for separate purchase). With the Toshiba Thrive, you get a full size USB port with USB host capability (that means you can plug in peripherals like flash drives, keyboards, mice and portable hard drives but not cell phones or optical drives). You also get a full size SD card slot for further expansion possibilities. Sweet! And better yet, this is the first mobile OS tablet with a removable battery. In fact, you can swap the textured black back for one of 5 colored ones that will set you back $20 apiece.
The Thrive also has a full size HDMI port, so you won't have to hunt for micro or mini HDMI cables and adapters. With these ports and expansion possibilities, the Thrive gives the Asus Eee Pad Transformer with keyboard dock a run for your money. Granted, the Thrive is relatively bulky and thick and can't but turned into a neaty, tidy and portable netbook like the Transformer, but it has plenty of appeal for power users.
Above: the Toshiba Thrive and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
The Toshiba Thrive runs on the usual 10.1" Honeycomb formula: 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core CPU, a gig of RAM, a 1280 x 800 LED backlit display that's decent but not super-impressive, Bluetooth 3.0 +HS, a GPS, WiFi, a front 2MP and rear 5MP camera sans flash. It performs well and benchmarks at 1660 in Quadrant. Video playback of locally stored MPEG4 content is good, and is oddly better if you turn off Toshiba's upsampling video enhancing software that's turned on by default. The stereo speaks with SRS software sound pretty good and are reasonably loud for a tablet.
Here's our 25 minute Toshiba Thrive video review. We test out the custom software (Toshiba BookPlace, App Place market and a news app), play Adobe Flash and MPEG4 video, compare it with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Asus Eee Pad Transformer and test out the USB port with peripherals. Our full review will be here in a few days.